Are Mormons responsible for saving Morrissey’s solo career? Kind of. Maybe. One might be.
Morrissey’s admiration for the New York Dolls is well documented (And even well documentary-ated, see the excellent New York Doll for details.) But the bassist for the New York Dolls, Arthur Killer Kane, only became LDS long after the glory days of the New York Dolls, after he was found via door to door tracting by a pair of sister missionaries. And Morrissey loved the NY Dolls as young man, probably influencing his first band, the Smiths, more than his solo career.
But in a new interview with Uncut magazine, Morrissey sheds light on another LDS* figure who had a direct impact on a vital period of Morrissey’s solo success: Mick Ronson. Mick had already played a key role in history of rock several times, as David Bowie’s guitarist throughout the 70 including on untouchable classics Man Who Sold the World, Hunky Dory, and Ziggy Stardust and Spiders from Mars. In his spare time, he co-produced Lou Reed’s best solo album, Transformer, played guitar on Bob Dylan’s Hard Rain, and released a series of solo albums. In 1992, Morrissey asked Mick to produce his third solo LP, Your Arsenal.
Here’s Morrissey: “I’d released a slightly pallid LP, Kill Uncle, and I knew that one more similar slip and I’d be rightly hanged on a hook through the tongue. Mick saved me. I’d always pushed the vocal against the structure of the melody, and I didn’t know how long this could work. Mick said “You haven’t even started.” He’d learned all the writing systems, tunings, and chord combinations the best way–by ear, which is usually the secret of great music. But he took me aside one night and said, ‘You realize your drummer can’t actually play?’ and I said, ‘Yes. But it isn’t always a problem.’ Mick could have used this as a stick to beat me with, but his only instinct was to save all of us – drummer included – from the snake pit. There wasn’t a single moment when Mick wasn’t patient and understanding, we all absolutely loved him.”
Not only Bowie’s golden age, not just Reed’s solo masterpiece, but Your Arsenal, the best** Morrissey album, all brought to you by a Mormon.
*Ronson was a private man who was born into the LDS church. His funeral was held in an LDS church. And not much more is known for sure about his level of church activity throughout his life. There are rumors that he was inactive and there are rumors that he was faithful throughout his life.
**Tied with Vauxhall and I, fight me in the comments.