Reading the deluge of interviews and reviews surrounding the release of Ringleader of the Tormentors, you could be forgiven for thinking the album was made solely by Morrissey opening his mouth with the sound of guitars popping out for Visconti to mould.
It's hardly news that the media ignore Morrissey's band, but this is despite his insistence in interviews that he feels part of a band and has done since the days of Your Arsenal. He's had Boz and Al with him all that time, with Gaz for a large chunk of it, and Spencer for seven years. There was not even a small flutter in the press when Deano Butterworth made his exit and joined Good (Bad?) Charlotte, and Jesse is merely "new guitarist, used to play for Alanis Morissette, is Texan." Apparently he played guitar for a few weeks in 1993 in the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, which is certainly an odd thought as he barely looks old enough! And Mikey V. Farrell? Despite his keyboards appearing on most of Morrissey's recent tracks, and this being the first time that Morrissey's had an ivory-tickler full time before, does anyone even know what 'V' stands for?
It's damaging, this constant void in Reporting Morrissey. It skews the way his album has been reviewed, for one thing. The differences between Ringleader and Quarry have been accounted for by journalists saying "Moz is in Rome, and Visconti produced him" (and anyway, don't they mean them?). The fact that he has a new co-writer for many of the Ringleader tracks has barely been mentioned. What new aspects has Jesse brought to the album? Does having a full-time keyboard player change the way songs are written? But nothing is said - it's as if Morrissey's band doesn't exist.
It's hardly unnoticeable that Mojo and Q have focussed on sex in Morrissey's new album - they both declared the fact on their front covers. Titling an album review with "Morrissey moved to Rome - and got laid" is, frankly, tacky. And when have Morrissey's lyrics not been about sex? "Pin and mount me like a butterfly", indeed. Yet all this obsession does (apart from demonstrate they haven't been paying attention over the years) is to obscure, yet again, the impact each of his band members has on his work.
The press don't mention how great it is that, despite not being on most of the Quarry tour in 2004 because of one thing or another, Alain Whyte was in the studio for Ringleader and co-wrote some of the tracks. And they certainly won't grant any room to talk about Red Lightning or Boz's rather off-the-wall project, The OneThree. Which is daft, as surely it would open the way for them to see what each band member contributes. This isn't to say, of course, that fans aren't curious about Morrissey's bandmates: livejournal.com boasts communities devoted to Alain, Boz, Gaz, and even Spencer (the Deano community wasn't, alas, very popular after he joined Not-Very-Good Charlotte). Red Lightning and Boz both have pages on myspace.com with thousands of members (even Lyn Boorer has one too, and it's rumoured that other band members do as well), and Alain has a fanzine devoted to him, and not for the first time one for Boz is in the pipeline. One reason for setting up this very website was to provide a place where Morrissey's co-conspirators would receive the credit they deserve, and in fact it seems that the internet is the only place to find out anything about the chaps in Morrissey's band. Only when fans ask Morrissey questions on true-to-you.net do we find people asking about "the lads".
But the echoing silence of the mainstream media and the curiosity of the fans, has left the way open for unscrupulous charlatans to cash in: the Side-Men cd is one instance. Spencer will probably be relieved he's not on it, but this is most likely because not being a 'side-man' anymore, he doesn't have the same money-magnetism as the bequiffed ones on Quarry and Ringleader.
It's all a great shame, really, because the chaps in Morrissey's band who write and play the music he sings to, are there for a reason - they're bloody good at what they do. But the media is mostly lazy - it's far easier for them to waffle on about whether or not Morrissey is celibate, as if they're Melody Maker and this is the mid-1980s, than to step back, take a deep breath and actually think for a moment about what they're listening to. Some of them carry on as if they're surprised to find some bloke called Boz on guitar instead of Johnny Marr.
The fans know, of course, and are as devoted to Morrissey's bandmates as they are to The Man Himself - whatever the halfasleep mainstream media might think.
Photos used in this article were found in various places on the internet. Ahem.