“The Jewel in the Crown” (2004) remembers Morrissey when he was less controversial

By on June 14, 2018

These days, when you mention Morrissey’s name, you’re never quite sure what kind of response you’re going to get, so we thought it might be a good idea to have another look at the 2004 UK documentary Morrissey: The Jewel in the Crown, which gives a pro-Morrissey perspective on British indie rock’s elder statesman back when he was less controversial.

You’ll find it streaming, along with other music documentaries, over on Night Flight Plus.

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Who are kidding with that headline, Morrissey has always been controversial!

Morrissey: The Jewel in the Crown takes a look back on Morrissey’s solo career, and attempts to tell the story of his life and music, his influence as a performer, songwriter (particularly what has inspired him to write the songs he’s written) and cultural icon.

The doc delves into how, over the years, he’s been “worshipped with a near-religious intensity by his fans, while suffering vitriolic abuse from non-believers.”

That’s a quote from the back cover of the DVD, which sets the tone for what you’ll be seeing here.

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Here’s more:

“Adored by vegetarians, Mexicans and J.K. Rowling, loathed by judges and a musician or two, here is his story.”

Morrissey: The Jewel In The Crown documents how he hit the big-time first with the Smiths and later as a solo performer. It details his battles with both the media and the people he has worked with, after his big mouth struck again and again. It tells the story of his exodus from the grey UK to sunny L.A., and how after seven years hibernating, Morrissey achieved such a triumphant comeback.”

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Nearly everyone interviewed here — including Stephen Street (producer), Tony Wilson (owner of Factory Records, Vini Reilly (guitarist, who claims to have written music, uncredited, for Viva Hate), Jonny Bridgwood (his former bassist), Craig Gannon (ex-Smiths), Grant Showbiz (the Smiths’s soundman) and Mark Simpson and David Bret (two of Morrissey’s biographers), among others — all seem to have mostly nice things to say about the man, which certainly isn’t something you’d see should you be watching a documentary about the Smiths (due in no small part to his conflicts with guitarist Johnny Marr).

We’ve got a few of those Smiths docs, too, should you want to check out The Smiths: Under Review and The Smiths: Still Ill.

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This documentary, of course, is wholly and completely unauthorized and features no actual contributions from Morrissey himself.

As his fans surely already know, Morrissey is well-known for condemning former friends and colleagues when they do participate in, or are responsible for, what he considers a breach of his personal trust.

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That said, there are in-depth interviews here with those who worked closely with Morrissey during his career at some point, so we’re mostly talkin’ archival chats which weren’t done during around the time this UK doc was being assembled.

It begins with the break-up of the Smiths and follows his story in a straightforward and chronological way right up to his debut as a solo artist with the release of “Everyday Is Like Sunday,” straight through to his triumphant return with You Are the Quarry, his seventh studio album, and his 2004 appearance on The Jonathan Ross Show.”

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Morrissey on “The Jonathan Ross Show” in 2004

Along the way we learn about Morrissey’s working methods during the Viva Hate sessions, as well as his evolving from indie rock band frontman to solo artist.

Midway through we’re hearing about the problems Moz had with the British press (particularly New Musical Express) around the time of Your Arsenal, a period in his career which culminates with his infamous concert at Finsbury Park, supporting Madness.

The doc also touches upon the recording of Vauxhall And I, his 1995 Spring tour, as well as his ill-fated tour with David Bowie, as well as his unsuccessful Maladjusted album.

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If you’re a Morrissey fan — and you’ve read this far, thank you for that — you may also want to check out My Life with Morrissey, which follows an obsessed Morrissey fanatic named Jackie who finally gets to meet her idol one night in a deserted parking lot.

Read more about Morrissey below.

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These days, Morrissey’s mouth filter doesn’t always seem to be working all the time, and he’s been getting himself into trouble by saying a wide variety of quotable things, like telling Germany’s Der Spiegel that President Donald Trump is “vermin.” (Actually, we agree with that).

When asked if he was able to push a button that would kill Trump, Morrissey said:

“I would, for the safety of humanity. It has nothing to do with my personal opinion of his face or his family, but in the interest of humanity I would push.”

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Moz also told Der Spiegel that he felt Kevin Spacey may have been “unnecessarily attacked,” implying that perhaps the molestation allegations against him were not entirely his fault.

Der Spiegel later released audio proof that Moz had not been mis-quoted, which sent Morrissey into a tizzy.

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In an attempt to clear things up, Morrissey posted a new interview on his own website, expressing his opinions about a whole range of topics, including his thoughts on Brexit, voting, listening or not listening to the Smiths, not mourning David Bowie’s death, racism, animal abuse and animal welfare, religion, murder, kosher food preparation, vegan diets, television, happiness, songwriting, health, etc. etc.

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Watch Morrissey: The Jewel in the Crown, My Life with Morrissey, The Smiths: Under Review, The Smiths: Still Ill, and other music documentaries over on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.