STUFF: RIP Tom Hibbert aka Black Type

I recently learned of the sad passing of the music journalist Tom Hibbert. Lord Hibbert of Hibbertsworth (as he wasn’t known) was  the “brains” behind the inspired lunacy that was the letters page in ver Hits (aka Smash Hits magazine) during the 1980s. As Black Type, he was an unlikely inspiration for my writing “career”.

Photo by Paul Rider

As well as developing much of Smash Hits’ unique lingo and trademark nicknames, he also interviewed most of the stars of the era –  most notably the Prime Minister of the day Margaret Thatcher (favourite song How Much Is That Doggy In the Window?) and Morrissey.

With apologies to both the original publishers and the person who painstakingly typed it out, here is the full interview with Morrissey from 1985.


That’s the message from Morrissey. A message he’s “madly serious” about. He’s so serious, in fact, that The Smiths are just about to release an LP called Meat Is Murder. Yet despite his health-giving vegetarian diet, The Smiths’ singer still turns up to be interviewed looking decidedly under the weather. Is he, we wondered, permanently peaky? Wouldn’t a good McDonald’s quarter-pounder have him back on his feet in no time? “I sincerely doubt it,” he tells Tom Hibbert.

Are you feeling better?
It’s quite a struggle.
What’s the matter with you?
Oh just a general mental decay – so many things, the list is fascinatingly long. I look ill, don’t I?
Yes, you look terrible, actually. Are you under the doctor?
I don’t believe in doctors, I believe in self-cure. I’ve seen very threadbare GPs and I’ve seen very expensive doctors and I find that they’re all relatively useless.
How long have you not been eating meat?
For almost a decade.
Can you remember that last time you ate meat?
I can’t really – but I didn’t like it the last time. I’m quite sure it was bacon because I had a moderate bacon fetish. And I can remember as it came to the end of my bacon period, I thought – oh, I don’t like the taste of this anymore. It was simply the realisation of the horrific treatment of animals – I had never been aware of it before. I suppose that I knew vaguely that animals died, but I didn’t know how and I didn’t know why. I think generally that people think that meat doesn’t have anything to do with animals. It’s like potatoes or something – it hasn’t got a cow’s face and it doesn’t moo, so people don’t think it’s animals. But of course it is – as I’m sure you’ve recently realised.
Yes, I did twig. Did you approve of the Animal Liberation Front’s Mars Bars hoax?
I wholeheartedly believe in hoaxes.
But would you approve if it weren’t a hoax?
Oh, yes. Completely. Yes, I would because I think we have to take these measures now because polite demonstration is pointless. You have to get angry, you have to be violent otherwise what’s the point? There’s no point in demonstrating if you don’t get any national press, TV or radio, or nobody listens to you or you get beaten up by the police. So I do believe in these animal groups but I think they should be more forceful and I think what they need now is a national figure, a national face – sounds like an ice lolly – I think they need some very forthright figure head.
Vegetarian pop stars don’t tend to be very militant types – Paul McCartney, Limahl, etc…
Yes, very effete figures, non-political figures who would never raise their voices which, of course, is pointless. Whenever vegetarianism has been covered in the popular press, it’s been whispered, nothing ever very forceful. Nobody really concentrates on the reasons why people don’t eat meat, instead this person eats blah blah blah…
Yes. Brown rice and here’s how to cook a nut cutlet in your Habitat kitchen…
Yes, so the brown rice becomes the centre-piece of this person’s stand – when, of course, it isn’t.
Why do you think being vegetarian is almost considered effeminate? Ozzy Osbourne, Ted Nugent, so-called “macho” people like that have to be real red-blooded meat-eaters.
Yes, I’ve never really thought about that. I can’t think of any reason why vegetarians should be considered effeminate. Why? Because you care about animals? Is that effeminate? Is that a weak trait? It shouldn’t be and I think it’s a very sad reflection on the human race that it often is.
What about your heroes? I’m sure Oscar Wilde enjoyed a nice leg of mutton.
Or a big rump steak. Yes. He was a hideously fat person so I’m sure he did indulge quite often – in fact he did but he is forgiven.
And James Dean probably enyoyed a tasty hamburger.
I’m sure he did. But we all have our weaknesses.
So it’s alright, is it?
No, it isn’t. Certainly not.
How far can you take this? What do you want to achieve?
Well, I’m very nervous about it because I’m deadly serious. It isn’t, you know, catchphrase of the month. It isn’t this year’s hysteria. I’m madly serious about it.
Did you have any pets when you were young?
Yes, I had a pet which I still have, in fact. I have a cat that is 23 years old, which makes him something like a thousand in cat years. He’s actually older than the other members of The Smiths, which is remarkable.
What’s his name?
His name – and I’m not responsible – is Tibby. It could be worse but I think that was a very popular cat name in the early ’60s. It’s quite extraordinary because we have family photographs of me when I was a day old and I’m clutching this cat and there he is today still hobbling around the house.
What do you feed him on?
Regrettably, cat meat. Sad as it is, he eats meat but nothing can be done now because he won’t eat anything else. Certainly if I bought a pet today, I’d feed it on non-meat products like Smarties and baked beans. It’s a shame that Tibby is glued to meat, as it were, because – in effect – he’s eating other cats.
But cats are natural carnivores. Wouldn’t it be a bit selfish to impose your views on a cat and turn it into a vegetarian?
No, because cat food is an animal. It’s a horse or it’s a cat or it’s a dog or whatever. So how can I be selfish by not allowing an animal to eat another animal? I’m simply looking after it. Animals can live without meat. We get violently upset when animals eat human beings, it’s horrific, it’s dreadful. So why shouldn’t we feel horror when human beings eat animals?
I do.
You do what? Eat humans?
No, eat animals. Which human would you most like to eat?
Well, now. This is tricky because I spent the last 18 months criticising people, putting them down, destroying them, and I’ve reached the point where I realise that there’s not any point. Because you meet these people and you find that some of them are really quite affable. Some of them are quite nauseating.
Is Limahl affable?
No, he’s certainly not in that category. But I’ve got a new policy. I’m not going to drag people down anymore. Everybody within this curious profession has to do their own thing, however obnoxious that may be. And nothing I can say is going to change that. Besides, I’ve too many enemies. It’s quite distressing. It’s a bit of a strain because one is welcome almost nowhere. I don’t want to go to parties or go skiing with Spandau Ballet or anything but still it’s become quite tiresome, this constant barrier of hate. Silence is the safest thing.
What do you eat?
I have a daily intake of yoghurt and bread.
Do you think that this might be responsible for your present state of ill-health? A good McDonald’s quarter-pounder would put you back on your feet in no time.
I sincerely doubt it.
If you died tomorrow, went up to heaven and met Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame, what would you say to him?
Words would just be useless. I think I’d resort to the old physical knee in the groin – “this is on behalf of all those poor animals who died simply because of you.”
That was a trick question. You should have said Colonel Sanders wouldn’t be in heaven.
OK. That’s the end.
Of what?
Of the interview.
Thank heavens for that. You didn’t ask me about Band Aid.
What about Band Aid?
Band Aid is the undiscussable, I’m afraid.
You brought it up!
Yes, and I finished the sentence. Full stop.

PS This article also appears online here and here

A full obituary appeared in the Guardian


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