Friday, 1 May 2009

Meat Really is Murder: One of my Final Major Project Submissions

Morrissey, a devout vegetarian, used music to crusade against the traditional English thinking of meat and two veg meal forcing a generation of young people to question what they ate. But was Steven Patrick Morrissey extending this righteous attitude into a popular trend which dissolved when the Smiths did, or was he a modern day saint-prophesising the treacheries associated with carnivorous values?


Vegetarianism was closer to Morrissey’s heart than the ‘MARRY ME’ scribbled across his chest. As passionate advocate of animal rights, The Smiths swayed teenagers towards vegetarianism through the message ‘MEAT IS MURDER’. Most didn’t succumb to Mummy’s Shepherds Pie and instead happily digested their iceberg lettuce feeling bloated by their sudden ingestion of ethical attitudes and values – well at least until 1987 when their conscious fizzled away, just like The Smiths.


Throughout the Sixties and Seventies vegetarians mainly lived in communes together and the majority chose not to eat meat due to spiritualist reasons. Led by the face of vegetarianism herself – Linda McCartney, whose motto ‘Live and Let Live’ gave this cause, the much needed wings for it to soar.


The Eighties saw vegetarianism surge throughout the western world. The ideological spirit of the Sixties gave way to the individual’s concern for ethics, body image and health anxieties. But, like most things in the Eighties, the commercial opportunity of this cause was soon the latest marketing opportunity with over 90% of British restaurants eager to accommodate the ever-growing vegetarian pound. 


John Grummer, the UK’s Minister of Agriculture during the early 1990s believed that vegetarianism was becoming a ‘religious substitute’ with the individual seeking enlightenment through their dietary choices. And like every religion, members needed icons to worship. Who better for vegetarians than Linda as their God and Morrissey as their eternal virgin?


Akin to religion, few people have experience of the slaughter of animals themselves, instead relying on the sermons provided by their leaders to instruct them. Throughout the Eighties, vegetarianism had become the scenesters’ latest fashion accessory spurred on by the recitals given by ‘Saint’ Morrissey whilst looking down at crowds from his lectern – the stage. The vegetarian war he was declaring was more important than any war that was being fought especially the Falklands happening at the time.


Morrissey a vegetarian since eleven, wanted to command an army; a legion of troops who believed in animal rights and would act as agents of his message through the boycott of butchers. Did he achieve this? In short – No. Whilst Morrissey was reeling out his ten commandments from ‘Meat is Murder’ the masses were merely worshipping their ‘false idol’, obeying his orders so that he would not turn into their angry God.


But like every little message and image conjured up through the music created by the Smiths, vegetarianism was not supposed to be a fashion accessory but a prophecy warning society of the future perils it faced. Flash forward twenty years and the prophet whose messages were shunned by the working class slaves he was trying to free seem to be haunting our society.


Throughout the period AS (after [The] Smiths), meat related issues have been plaguing newspapers in a number of different guises, these have forced non-believer faddy vegetarians into questioning their routines and rituals. Morrissey’s apocalyptic prophecy was coming true.


The outbreak of BSE in the 1990s was the first major impacting event that made people cautious about eating meat. Better known as Mad Cows Disease, BSE was the cause of fatalities in cattle all over the country. The disease spread through infected food given to the cows which was subsequently banned in 1997. However once the disease was passed on to humans through infected carcasses it proved fatal, it’s killed 164 people so far within the UK. “The outbreak of BSE changed farming all together.” George Gurney, a farmer in Buckinghamshire recalls, “it changed livelihoods and the way people ate and view meat.”


With the reputation of meat as battered and bruised as a dead carcass, people were beginning to question what they were eating and how this was impacting on their bodies.


This doubt was stretched even more when fast food corporations like McDonalds (who grew faster than you could say ‘Quarter Pounder with Cheese’) were accused of making the nation obese. Over the past decade McDonalds has faced great criticism for grooming children into munching on processed chicken and beef through the offer of free toys. Childhood obesity has reached epidemic levels with children weighing an average of 30% more than in the previous decade. National Geographic magazine (2007) states vegetarians are leaner and healthier than those who consumed a meat based diet where 30% of the daily calorie intake is meat. This also leads to further issues in later life caused by (blood) red meat such as cardiovascular problems and even cancer. If Morrissey is society’s savior then Ronald McDonald is Satan trying to tempt us.



The advent of the new millennium has seen The Smiths psalms come back to haunt us in a way that could spell doomsday if not adhered to. The future of the planet relies in the hands of the vegetarians, not least because the global climate problems are attributed to meat eating. A kilogram of beef is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than driving for three hours while leaving all the lights on at home. A Government press release was sent out in February 2009 from the government trying to convert society to go vegetarian in order to save the planet by saying ‘eat less meat to tackle climate change-warming’ with the vegetarian society backing them up by offering cookery classes and clubs, ‘if it can make people start thinking about what goes in to their bodies, we’ll do it,” Su Taylor from the society says, “switching to vegetarianism is one of the single most effective lifestyle changes an individual can make in improving their lives and mitigating global warming”.


However, all is not lost and the meat filled revelations publicized since the demise of the Smiths has seen people’s attitudes towards vegetarianism evolve. Gone are the faddy-meat based vegetarianism ideologies of pescitarians (only eat fish), weekend-a-tarians (only eat it at the weekend) and veggie-everything-except-for-bacon-roll-a-tarians. The modern day vegetarian seeks a sustainable palette analysing every ingredient to ensure there are no animal traces. Society is more focused than ever with people going beyond the means preached by Morrissey to embrace more radical regimes like veganism and fruitarianism. Today’s consumer is more focused than ever on sustainability, cause-related purchases and well being to all of mother nature with the end result being shoppers throughout the world uniting to complete the crusade begun by their idol twenty years earlier.


The Band That Saved His Life: An Interview with Simon Goddard

Simon Goddard, author of The Smiths: Songs That Saved Your Life and the soon to be published Mozipedia offers his perspectives on music, life in general and how it changed forever.


 My first proper emotional Smiths memory would have been about February 1984. I was 12. It was a Sunday night and I was dreading going to school the next morning. I heard What Difference Does It Make? On the radio and the sound of the music and the terror in Morrissey’s falsetto singing at the end struck a chord,” Simon Goddard recollects;  “From that point forth they became the soundtrack to my teenage anxiety, and later my teenage euphoria. It was less a case of me choosing The Smiths as The Smiths choosing me. Whoever was to blame, they chose well.”


Simon, a music journalist, who occasionally likes to write about other ‘stuff’ as he likes to call it, has dedicated the majority of his life researching, writing, and loving The Smiths. His attention to detail is remarkable. For example, in The Smiths: Songs That Saved Your Life he details and encapsulates a fascinating picture of one of the 1980’s most influential bands through detailed analysis of their songs and recording sessions. 

With Songs that Saved your Life on its third revised and expanded edition, now, seems like the right time for a new exploration into all things Smiths related, “Mozipedia is my way of correcting the mistakes in the old book and starting again on a bigger canvass”, Simon explains, “The mixing of The Smiths with solo Morrissey in one volume is initially something I resisted and at first I was going to isolate everything in a sequel book in 2004 to be called More Songs Than They Can Stand. But the years pass, the goal posts shift, the heart softens and here we are with Mozipedia.”


Mozipedia, which Simon describes as, “An insane book and an insane task,” places great focuses on Morrissey alongside anecdotes about the rest of the band. It documents everything Simon has collected over the years - every song, every album, and every co-writer. Moz’s favourite films, records and authors and snippets about food, sex and tea, compacted into a single volume.  “The intention allows the reader can form their own picture of Morrissey by dipping in and joining whatever dots they wish.” Simon explains.   “It was either ‘throw it all in the skip’ or ‘throw it all in a book’ and, for my sins, I chose the latter.”


Two years down the line (“A self-imposed sentence, unlike poor beloved Oscar” Simon chuffs). Mozipedia is ready. When asked if he feels close to Morrissey, Simon admits,  “So close that if I were him I’d take out an astral restraining order.”



Having partaken in this major Smiths pilgrimage, where does the “quest” take him now? “If it is “a quest” then I think Mozipedia is the end. I’m getting near forty and there’s a lot of life to live. The Smiths taught me enough not to spend my forties and beyond watching the same films, listening to the same records and reading the same books I read when I was sixteen.”


To Simon, The Smiths are a “triumph of art and beauty.” Will there ever be another band like them? “Put it this way: Do you think there has been or ever will be a painter like Van Gogh again? Do you think there has been or ever will be a writer like Dickens again?” he asks in all seriousness. “There’s your answer, Van Gogh. Dickens. Beethoven. The Smiths. That was the whole point of The Smiths: to prove that pop music is as serious and valid an art form as any other. Their legacy rests upon it". 

Mozipedia is published on 9th August 2009 through Ebury Press


The F Word

As summer 2009 approaches us, it’s time for fashion forecasters to admit defeat. As the same trend yet again crops up in all its dishevelled denim hot pant glory. Lets face it; you wouldn’t have questioned the Topshop trilbies in the beer queue at Woodstock. Emily Loughlin talks fashions dreaded word: Festival. And how it all is a pile of…chic.


Prehistorically, men and women dressed accordingly for comfort in the hot weather, and evidence has been found that prehistoric women had a passion for fashion, through the findings of carvings. "According to the figurines we found, young women were beautifully dressed, like today's girls in short tops and mini skirts, and wore bracelets around their arms," archaeologist Julka Kuzmanovic-Cvetkovic said in an interview with ABC news in 2007.


The stereotypical image of cave men and women walking round in cloths seems far from the truth when hearing Cvetkovic’s results, however this false image is being emulated by teeny boppers centuries later, teamed with their best pout and spending Daddy’s hard earned cash on threads which, literally, have been strung together.


People like Sienna Miller, Kate Moss and Lilly Allen are the modern day cave girls who have moulded festival fashion and made it into a fully-fledged trend. Creating designer style nightmares that their latest silhouette or tailoring goes amiss come S/S, when real clothes are abandoned in favour of band T-shirts (has that fifteen year old really heard of The Rolling Stones?) wellies and hot pants. The truth is from a fashion perspective the trend lacks originality, skill or craft. The lack of passion makes it, quite frankly, boring.


In its umpteenth year, girls, like a pack of lionesses, parade themselves in front of potential mates. Luring them in with their Topshop wellies and ‘vintage’ jumpers. But what is it about looking like you’ve fallen through a bush backwards that has become chic? And why must we succinct to the fashion weeklies year after year with the same “Hot New Trend?”


It was, once upon a time, a trend secluded to a music festival, and in festival terms the trend screams practicality. It’s easy wear- with the ability to face the tough conditions the festivalgoer comes across, rain, shine, or over populated beer tents. For the male species? The trend seems to escape them entirely, as they waltz around in their everyday attire. However for them, it’s an excuse to ruin your best clothes rather than look good in them.


For girls the trend has it all. Hot pants: easy, mud can be removed far easier from flesh than a pair of Diesel jeans. Un-brushed tangled locks show that one has had a bloody good time- far too good to bother with their un-kept tresses.  However, the look is not so suitable walking around Waitrose like a ravenous cave girl, who looks like they need a good wash and an iron.


The British people are fantastic though, any weather conditions that occur throughout the year and we go into over drive. Now, automatically summer equals festival chic. The use of the word chic has made it into a full on fashion statement- not be taken lightly. And that also means, outside of the festival realm the F word is being used and is being accepted.



The sad thing is, the once gone festival eccentric, with fairy wings and bright body paint has been pushed aside, as middle class kids (with an allowance big enough to purchase the bloomin’ ticket in the first place) look down on them as if they are dressed as a fashion faux-ing nightmare. Now the place where one can be expressive with ones self (be that through narcotics, spirituality or fashionably) has turned into another corner of life where self esteem is knocked to the back of ones portable-festival wardrobe, and the pressure to look good haunts us more so than the loos.


Last year saw the start of what is now an institution for fans of festival fashion: Glamping, a form of camping for people who can’t survive a weekend without a few luxuries. Luxuries include portable hair straighteners, showers and sleeping eye masks. Glamping’s origins hark back from Africa and Thailand, and now all over Europe and America it has become a popular twist on the traditional leaky tent and ground mat. Inside the average glamped-up tent, presents a four-poster bed inside and a bug-free guarantee. The only down side is there’s no wardrobe or stylist to help plan ‘thrown together’ outfits. Bless.


Maybe I’m just bitter, that in my day the most important component for a festival was a pac-a-mac. It’s time to face that come July the only time you’ll hear chic is with the F word printed in bold letters in front of it. So, with reluctance we can either embrace it or continue to kick and scream at the possibilities summer fashion could be (I dream of a Prada Grecian gown!).



So this summer, the only time I’ll be embracing my inner cave girl will be in a field full of the rest of them listening to incredibly loud music. Although you won’t find me preening myself with a compact mirror, I’ll be in the beer tent; or sunning myself dressed in fairy wings with my DM’s; that I were bought for me, by my parents, for practicality back in 2003, not because they are SO this season, Darling.