Tag Archives: marr

Strangeways, here we come

On September 28th 1987, The Smiths released their last ever album ‘Strangeways, here we come’. It’s hard to believe that this is almost exactly 24 years ago now as I can remember the day itself.

I was 17 and at Frogmore Sixth Form then, taking my A-levels. In those days new records and movies came out in London first and then dripped out to the provinces over the following days and weeks. Even though we were only just outside London, it would still be impossible to get a copy of the album on the day of release, so me and a mate – David Ovington – took off on a bus to London that morning.

We got out at Kensington High street and bought copies of the album at Tower records, before crossing the street and catching a bus in the opposite direction.

We both went directly back to the sixth form common room and played the new album, much to the interest of the other assembled teenagers who were impressed at our dedication to Morrissey.

I haven’t bought a physical album for years now. The last one I know that I bought was the Manic Street Preachers, Journal for Plague Lovers, and that was because I specifically wanted the artwork. Apart from that, everything is downloaded or streamed these days.

For that reason, it harks back to a very different age. A time when two teenagers would spend most of a day just travelling to get hold of a piece of vinyl on the day it is released – a romantic idea that is already history and to the kids growing up today will sound archaic and deluded.
Morrissey and flowers all over the pub...

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Smiths Indeed

I spent much of the 1980s listening to The Smiths. Today they are eulogised as one of the seminal English bands, the Beatles of the 1980s, the only band of the era that managed to combine incredibly poetic lyrics with a bright sound that was at odds with the pop music of the time.

But I have vivid memories of the Smiths, buying ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’ on vinyl the moment it arrived at Our Price records, taking a bus to London to buy ‘Strangeways…’ because it would be quicker to go to London, rather than waiting for the album to get to stores in Surrey and Hampshire, spending an entire holiday in France listening to the first album, especially ‘Suffer little children’… I just regret never seeing them live. I probably could have managed it, but I was only 17 when they split – maybe if I lived in London I might have seen them on the final tour, but it was never to be.

So, it’s always fun to see a Smiths tribute band. I’ve seen the Smyths several times now and they are very good – also doing a lot of Morrissey solo material as well as Smiths – but last night I went to the Shepherd’s Bush Empire to see ‘Smiths Indeed’. I had never seen them before this gig, but if they had the guts to book a 2,000-capacity venue as a tribute act then they had to be worth seeing.

They didn’t fill the venue. When I arrived it was still quite empty, maybe 100 people were in there and I was worried it might be a disaster. The crowd filled out eventually to something like 500-600 (my guess), which was good enough to fill out the standing area in front of the stage. By the end of the evening, the crowd were having so much fun, it felt as though the venue was packed to capacity. In a pub that kind of crowd would have been huge, a packed pub heaving to the rafters, but in this venue it felt a bit empty until the crowd really got into the gig.

The smaller crowd meant they cut back a bit on security – there were several stage invasions, which isn’t really much fun for the band or the fans who want to hear the band as some loon runs around the stage trying to grab the mic.

They were really good though. They should have sold out the venue and I’m not sure why it didn’t happen. Maybe it’s too close to Christmas. Maybe it’s because The Smyths had just played in London at the weekend, so old Smiths fans chose that gig instead because it was on a Saturday night. Maybe they just did not do enough promotion – it’s always tough to promote gigs and when the venue is much larger than normal that just makes it even harder.

BUT, forget my moaning about the venue size…

If you closed your eyes, it could have been Morrissey and Marr up there. All four of the guys were very good, but particularly the ‘Marr’ who did a great copy of Marr’s style, and ‘Morrissey’ who really captured the voice and affectations, even if he only bore a passing resemblance to Mozza. They produced a really nice rich sound that was well mixed and sounded a lot better than many bigger gigs I have been to recently.

I’d definitely go to see them again, it was a really great night out!

Smiths Indeed @ Shepherd's Bush