British indie icon and legendary provocateur Morrissey has never been shy about challenging the status quo with his pointed lyrics and edgy music videos. From his time fronting The Smiths to his current reign as a solo cult hero, Moz has consistently spoken his mind on everything from gender roles and animal rights to royal hypocrisy and political corruption – and his fans wouldn’t have it any other way.
Morrissey’s uncompromising point of view takes center stage at his live performances, and his upcoming shows will be no exception. Pick up your tickets today, and get warmed up for the concert with this look at his 10 most provocative music videos.
“The Queen Is Dead” (1986)
No exploration of Morrissey’s iconic videos would be complete without a look at his early work with The Smiths. This expressionistic 1985 short film by avant-garde British director Derek Jarman is a total trip – vandalizing teens and flaming flowers are intercut with decaying symbols of the British monarchy and an androgynous girl in a nightgown waving a Union Jack in front of an abandoned industrial building. The overall effect is one of discord – a disillusioned populace and crumbling infrastructure at odds with the gleaming media portrayal of the British royal family so often the focus of Morrissey’s expressive critique.
Morrissey’s debut solo single featured a pair of themes all too familiar to Moz fans – romantic obsession and love lost. The video sees Morrissey venturing to James Dean’s hometown and hanging out at his grave, revealing a morbid fascination with the legendary actor’s tragic life that is left unexplained.
“Everyday Is Like Sunday” (1988)
Few videos encapsulate Morrisey’s trademark mix of ennui and activism quite like this one. An androgynous girl sulks around a small coastal town, visibly annoyed by the mundane activities of the townsfolk and disgusted by the meat in the butcher shop window. She scrawls “meat is murder” in her notebook before handing a pair of elderly ladies a postcard that says “cruelty without beauty” and freeing their dog from its leash. Her shirt? A drawing of cartoon animals with the caption “I Don’t Eat My Friends.” Yeah.
“Interesting Drug” (1989)
The video for this UK Top 10 hit features prep school boys wearing high heels, pictures of women in fur coats juxtaposed with seals being killed for their skins, and a gang of misfits freeing a bunch of rabbits from a testing lab. Gender nonconformity and animal rights would become common themes in Moz’s later work.
“November Spawned a Monster” (1990)
For much of his career Morrissey described himself as celibate, and his videos often favored social and political commentary over matters of sex. But there’s something undeniably racy about the music video for “November Spawned a Monster,” which sees Moz slinking around the desert in a revealing mesh shirt, dancing suggestively, and stripping down.
“We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful” (1992)
The song’s frank title is classic Morrissey, and the video is equally provocative. The scene is familiar for Moz fans – a group of tough-looking boys kicks around in an abandoned building, rough housing and giving the camera hard looks. A particularly unsettling moment is when one of the thugs coyly eats an ice cream cone, leaving the viewer to wonder what’s really underneath the fierce facade.
“You’re the One For Me, Fatty” (1992)
The video for this unlikely UK Top 20 hit features an average Joe and his lover as he picks her up for a date and feeds her sweets in the park. It’s irreverent and light in tone rather than offensive, but it ruffled some feathers nonetheless.
“Alma Matters” (1997)
Morrissey’s lyrics often criticize extreme political movements in Europe and the UK, but his videos also show a curious fascination with violent subcultures. The video for “Alma Matters” features a group of thugs fighting, and in typical Moz fashion his relationship to them is left ambiguous.
“Earth Is the Loneliest Planet” (2014)
The video for this characteristically melancholy single from Moz’s 2014 album World Peace Is None of Your Business sees Morrissey hanging out on the top of Hollywood’s Capitol Records building with actress Pamela Anderson. Hollywood does look quite lonely from above, and the mysterious presence of the infamous starlet helps drive the song’s message home.
“The Bullfighter Dies” (2014)
The video that plays in the background during Morrissesy’s live performances of this song features gory footage of toreadors getting mauled by angry bulls. The song’s chorus – “Hooray, hooray, the bullfighter dies” – makes Moz’s stance on the controversial sport crystal clear.