A letter to the NME in which Morrissey criticises The Sex Pistols for their scruffy image has emerged and it appears that even at the age of 17, the future Smiths star had already developed a sharp wit.

In the 1976 missive, he describes a Pistols performance he had attended in Manchester as one of "discordant music and barely audible audacious lyrics".

"The bumptious Pistols in jumble sale attire had those few that attended dancing in the aisles despite their discordant music and barely audible audacious lyrics, and they were called back for two encores," he says in the letter, which has been uncovered by Letters Of Note blogger Shaun Usher.

Writing under his full name of Steven Morrissey, the Hulme humanist was a frequent correspondent in the letter pages of the then-thriving music inkies in his teen years, often extolling the merits of his favourite band The New York Dolls, Malcolm McLaren's New York forerunners to The Pistols.

Indeed, Morrissey questions the Pistols' claim that they were not influenced by the New York music scene in his letter, comparing Johnny Rotten to "both Iggy Pop and [New York Dolls singer] David JoHansen [sic] in their heyday".

He does praise Rotten and co's similarity with The Dolls but closes his note with the words: "I'd love to see the Pistols make it. Maybe then they will be able to afford some clothes which don't look as thought they've been slept in."

Morrissey recently cancelled the remaining 22 dates on his current American tour due to bad health and money problems.

“The obvious conclusion stares back at me from the mirror, and the wheels are finally off the covered wagon," he wrote on fansite True to You. "Cancellations and illness have sucked the life out of all of us, and the only sensible solution seems to be the art of doing nothing.”

Moz watchers say that this is the 53-year-old's strongest hint yet that he may be about to retire.