THE SMITHS : 15th February 1984 - Rock City, Nottingham (Cassette recording).

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Not the very first gig I ever went to, but definitely one of the first half dozen...

Taped a week before their debut LP was released, The Smiths were surfing the crest of an extraordinary wave of adulation at this point - genuine affection & admiration too, not mere music press hype - & it remains the only show I've attended where I've witnessed mass delirium tantamount to early Beatlemania. What struck me on the night was that virtually the entire audience knew the words to all of the songs - despite their album not quite having reached the shops - due entirely, of course, to the widespread copying & circulation of their early demos &, crucially, their remarkable sequence of Rough Trade 45s & John Peel sessions. Though they also appeared on David "Kid" Jensen's show during this (r)evolutionary period, his mid-evening broadcasts were of inferior Medium Wave quality & consequently far less people listened to (or recorded) the handful of songs they played for him. Of course, most of the tracks they performed for the BBC were rounded up later that year for their prerequisite Hatful of Hollow compilation - considered by many (myself included) to be preferable to The Smiths' debut proper.

Improbable as it may now sound, it was still quite disconcerting to hear the phrase "Oh let me get my hands on your mammary glands" on the radio back then: "The singer is totally mad. On the first number, he hits students over the crust with dead daffodils & goes on to wave the things around in some mystical respect for the cover of Power, Corruption & Lies. He is, simply, the successor to previous Devoto. Most of his word-packed lyrics are about child-molesting, & more mature sexual experimentation. He hates women with a vengeance, but he is still The Intellectual." (Dave McCullough, Sounds)

My abiding memory, other than of the emotionally overwhelmed semi-conscious fans (male & female) who were laid out at the edge of the crowd to recover, is of Johnny Marr leaning down between songs to gave me a flower. Gulp. I wish I still had it.

Needless to say, it was something of an epiphanic, pivotal evening for me. This night has opened my eyes, you might say... but I'd rather you didn't.



  1. I never got to see The Smiths live. I still vividly recall seeing the video to This Charming Man on The Tube for the first time. The 1983-84 sessions for the Beeb capture that indefinable something that their more polished commercially released counterparts didn't. Hatful still remains my favourite, along side the still unreleased Troy Tate sessions.

  2. I remember being horribly depressed when I heard how they'd messed up "Reel Around The Fountain" on the debut LP - the BBC session is staggering good, while the Rough Trade attempt sounds like it might morph into a Squeeze b-side at any second... yecch.

    I don't think they made a REALLY good album until Strangeways tbh - heresy of that magnitude may get me kicked off the internet, of course!

    n.b. Apologies for the seriously shitty sound quality btw!

  3. It's often the case that great singles bands makes so-so albums. Aside from the maudlin version of "Reel..." there's also Miserable Lie - a good song spoiled by overindulgenge of falsetto whining.

    Meat Is Murder would have been the classic if it hadn't been drenched in reverb/delay and included How Soon Is Now, as later cd editions did.

    Conversely, I never really cared much for Strangeways...Great singles but some of the album tracks sounded like Smiths-by-numbers.

    By the time The Queen Is Dead came out, The Smits seemed a tad old hat to me and I was by then well seeped into the C86 thing. It was a good decade or so later that I came to fully appreciate the album. Ruined only by ending with "Some Girls..." rather than "There Is A Light...".

  4. Funny you should mention "Miserable Lie", I was talking to somebody about that song in the pub last weekend - the Peel version is fantastic, & it was one of my favourite early Smiths' songs (despite the falsetto overload!) until the dreary Rough Trade totally butchered it. There's even a very obvious vocal fuck-up on the LP take, God knows how that got left in, very disappointing. The Troy Tate version is a corker too. Hmph!

    I'm with you, re: your unfortunate "old hat" scenario - I'd lost interest in them by the time The Queen is Dead appeared, & they became one of those bands whose progress I was content to monitor c/o TOTP or Oxford Road Show, etc & to record off of Peel. Sonic Youth turned my head in late '84, & thereafter it was full steam ahead into the dischord vortex - A Witness, Big Flame, Membranes, Bogshed, Swans, you now who I mean! - I found The Smiths' music awfully conservative by that point...

  5. Anonymous18.7.13

    So you "love total destruction"...? Well, than you shall/should destruct yourself! Please therefore press the button!


  6. You're the boss.

    See you on the other side...

  7. I was there. It was an extraordinary night.

  8. Anonymous23.1.15

    That photo of Morrissey with the flowers hanging out of his arse pocket is my copyright and it was taken at UEA .
    I know as it's my copyright image so can you take it down from your blog please?

  9. Can you send me non-anonymous proof please? Thanks.