On St. Patrick’s Day, 1985, I went to my first ever gig, The Smiths at the Birmingham Hippodrome for the princely sum of £5. That was the expensive seats too. I was in a box at the theatre with two other people, one a close schoolfriend, the other someone from school who barely spoke to anybody ever.
From the box we had an aerial view of the venue and we were very close to the stage albeit vertically away from the action. Support act James played technically the first live performance I ever saw / heard and they did a good job warming up the stationary crowd.
If my memory serves me well, (and my long-term memory is fine, just my short-term memory is a bit poor) The Smiths came onstage to Prokofiev as the Hippodrome swirled with black and white strobe lights.
The volume was the loudest thing my 15-year-old ears had ever heard. Then, that visual excitement as the band took to the stage. The crowd surged and it was a juxtaposed view watching people carrying daffodils surge in a near violent manner. The security looked momentarily lost and the bulk of the crowd lucky enough to be downstairs forced their way as near to the stage as possible.
I looked to my left and saw the balcony all stand. Most naturally and involuntarily I stood too. This was more exciting that football! Those moments changed my life in some ways.
With hindsight I saw The Smiths at the near perfect time. Yes, The Queen Is Dead is cited by some fans as the bands best album but I differ here. This gig was essentially tied in with the release of the Shakespeare’s Sister single and loosely promoting the Meat Is Murder album – which is a far better album than it is given credit for.
To me The Smiths greatest moment was the Hatful Of Hollow album. An album of radio sessions and the like that hit such a perfect spot and captured the band with accidental beautiful accuracy.
From the box I could not see Johnny Marr. He was obscured by the P.A. My only glimpse of him was as he kicked in the drum kit at the end of the last song. It had finality to it and ended what was a very special first gig for me.
Today, a friend posted a link on Facebook to a live recording of The Smiths at The Fighting Cock’s Pub in Moseley Birmingham from 1983. I have always thought the gig was fictional. There was some kind of symmetry to discovering the gig did indeed take place on the same date 28 years later than when I saw them in 1985.
The Smiths clearly were a great and unique band. As a kid growing up I was always attracted to Punk and I practically hid the fact that I thought The Smiths were a great band – this is obviously just daft. Quite recently I have been listening to a lot of Siouxsie & The Banshees, as, y’know, things go in circles. After watching and listening to ‘The Banshees, particularly the John McGeoch era when the band simply shone I was very pleased to read The Smiths acknowledge their clear influence. Listen to the guitar in ‘The Banshees link below for evicence if required, hell, just listen to it anyway.
Two great bands, different, but similar and really marking their respective times at the forefront…