21st Century Appearances: 2004 Main Stage
The Defining Reading Moment: Walking out onstage after a seven year absence from the festival circuit, opening with “How Soon Is Now?”, and being greeted like an indie legend.
When Morrissey disappeared into the abyss he had reached a career low, Maladjusted limped into the charts at number eight, while he’d faced a bout of criticism for his romanticised nationalist tendencies. Rather than churning out meaningless records and persevering, Morrissey simply disappeared in 1997.
He returned in 2003 amid considerable fan fare from the critics and TV programmers, but one question was left unanswered: did the public still care? Well you better believe they did. You Are The Quarry flew into the charts at number two, and Morrissey dominated the charts with four top ten singles, two of which, “English Blood, Irish Heart” and “First Of The Gang To Die”, where played constantly on MTV and VH2. In short Morrissey was back, but would the younger generation still accept him?
When Morrissey walked out at Reading he was treated like a returning hero, running through a mix of hits new and old, The Pope Of Mope unleashed a career retrospective with his typically dismissive wit. Radio One was booed, “How Soon Is Now?” was cheered, relentlessly, Caversham council was slated, and “Shoplifters Of The World Unite” provided the perfect crescendo, a beautifully sung, and poignant masterpiece. And, just because he could, he opened with “How Soon Is Now?”, an unforgettable Reading moment, the perfect comeback. David Hayter