Wednesday, January 25, 2012

1983: Should care

Just back from a brief and snowbound sojourn in New York. At the airport looking for something to read on the flight, and with no patience to start novels these days, I bought a MOJO special on The Smiths and the whole C86 indie scene of the Eighties. Oh how it took me back.

It's the Christmas holidays 1983, and I'm in London going to stay with a friend in Swiss Cottage. I'm a bit early so I detour to Oxford Street to do a bit of record shopping. IIRC Selfridge's record department was tucked away in a corner of the ground floor, and was awash with ex-chart hits at knockdown prices. Nestling among the Hold It!'s and Flaming Swords was This Charming Man.

I'd been intrigued by The Smiths since I'd seen Morrissey on TOTP doing this song, gladioli in the back pocket of his washed out jeans, big quiff and loose shirt and thought they were my kind of band. I didn't get round to buying the single when it was actually released but now was the time.

When I arrived at my friend's house we popped it on the stereo, loudly. It's such a wonderful tune, it's jingle-jangle rockabillyness is just made for dancing round the room like a loon. I've been doing it ever since.

New York, once awash with Tower Records, Sam Goodys, HMVs and Virgins is now barren of record stores. It's Barnes & Noble only, and there only seem to be two of those in the whole of NYC if you want something new. There are plenty of excellent second hand shops in the West Village and beyond, but we didn't get that far this time so it was off to B & N to reacquaint myself with The Smiths' back catalogue. Despite the less than comprehensive selection, I got what I needed.

I'm glad I did. They're not everyone's cup of tea, and Morrissey has proved himself to be a first class arse, but you've got to love the band. They changed everything.


  1. I saw them live at Leicester Poly in November 1983, and thought Morrissey was an absolute tosser, though I loved Johnny Marr's guitar playing. I didn't know much of their material and hadn't listened to any of the lyrics, so it wasn't until I'd bought the records (which I'm surprised that I did, given how tepid my reaction to seeing them was) that I grew to love them.

    I wasn't remotely prepared for how seminal (not a word I use often or lightly) they would become. Or what a void they would leave once they split up. But I still think Morrissey's a tosser.

  2. I couldn't bear him at the time - or the leagues of Mozza-likes with mopey faces, quiffs and cardies that followed. Musically I've never been a fan of the jingle-jangle guitar sound whether it's The Byrds, The La's or The Smiths. Mrs M loves them though

    And how did someone who was such a New York Dolls avid and first wave punk spectator end up wearing Dad-style decorating outfits: baggy shirt, overly loose jeans?

  3. That band was far, far, far more about Johnny Marr than Morrissey, as amazing as Steven Patrick (sometimes) was. This Charming Man is a work of art as much musically as it is lyrically. The noises Marr produces on How Soon Is Now? make a mild bit of foot-stamping whineyness from Morrissey sound like eternity.

    In the 1980s Morrissey came across in magazine interviews as such a pompous, sneery twatster that I found them all hard to like - he was *such* a focal point and teen mags wanted to know about him and his ludicrous opinions than they did about Marr's musicianship, and as a result the other band members didn't get a look-in on the praise front.

    Morrissey remains a first-rate knobhead and, for what it's worth, as a solo artist he misfires much more than he scores. I would go see a reformed Smiths now, however (though I'd far rather see a reformed Housemartins; neither will happen).

  4. I just can't get past his voice - it grates on me. Musically I've always liked what i heard, but when the vocals start I have to depart.