Remembering the time a young Damon Albarn fired shots at Morrissey

Blur Damon Albarn at a hotel in Sendai, Sendai, November 1995 and Morrissey, singer, song writer and author enjoys a snack of fruit in his jacuzzi tub in Beverly Hills, California in August 1992
(Image credit: Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images/Eddie Sanderson/Getty Images)

When Blur emerged at the beginning of the ‘90s, it was pointed out more than once that there were similarities between them and The Smiths. Morrissey and Johnny Marr’s crew had split just a few years before and, in many ways, the Colchester quartet picked up the thread. There was the way they crafted succinct guitar-pop songs underpinned with a certain British melancholy, the way Graham Coxon picked at his guitar with a Marr-esque refinement, the charismatic, pin-up frontman who seemed able to capture the mood of a nation in melody-drenched, throwaway lines. And, of course, there was also the fact that Blur’s debut Leisure was being produced by The Smiths’ long-running studio foil Stephen Street.

But whilst Damon obviously drew some inspiration from the Manchester four-piece, he’d found some of Morrissey’s behaviour around the time a bit of a turn-off. Speaking to Select’s David Cavanagh in the run-up to the release of Leisure, he didn’t mince his words. “I actually see a lot of similarities between us and The Smiths,” said a young Damon. “But Morrissey, at the end of The Smiths, going on national television and saying that they had been the last group of any importance showed that the conceit of the man has made him oblivious to the plight of… well, never mind his own audience, the plight of us all.”

At the time of the release of The Smiths’ final album Strangeways, Here We Come, Morrissey wasn’t shy in airing his views of the musical landscape, as the interview at the bottom shows. Perhaps the frontman’s demeanour was even spikier than usual due to the fact that, by the time Strangeways, Here We Come was released, The Smiths had already disbanded.

It would take Blur a few more attempts to really hit their stride, but they hit the jackpot with 1994’s Parklife. It’s an album that made them huge and set them on the path to becoming one of the UK’s greatest ever guitar bands. As well as the fact it was again produced by Stephen Street, it’s also their most Smiths-y record, showing that whilst Damon was no longer enamoured by Morrissey the man, his music had certainly left its mark.

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.