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Ask Me, Ask Me, Ask Me: 10 Smiths Facts You Probably Didn’t Know
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List & Guides

Ask Me, Ask Me, Ask Me: 10 Smiths Facts You Probably Didn’t Know

Think you know everything about indie-pop’s most charming men? Here are ten surprising Smiths facts which may change your mind…

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Like all legendary artists, The Smiths have a backstory that’s almost as fantastic as their music. However, while much of Morrissey and co’s career has been well documented, that doesn’t mean you’ve got everything now. Far from it, in fact, for there are still plenty of fun, quirky things to learn about the indie-pop icons. It’s time the tale was told, so here are 10 Smiths facts you probably didn’t know…

Listen to the best of The Smiths here, and check out our ten surprising Smiths facts, below.

1: The Smiths played their first gig before their classic line-up fell into place

The Smiths played their first live show on 4 October 1982, supporting Blue Rondo À La Turk at Manchester’s Ritz Ballroom. Guitarist Johnny Marr hadn’t yet invited Andy Rourke to join the group, so for this gig only, Morrissey, Marr and drummer Mike Joyce played with their initial bassist, Dale Hibbert. Morrissey’s friend James Maker also appeared onstage with the band, dancing and shaking maracas.

2: EMI Records rejected The Smiths – but later changed their mind

In a story echoing The Beatles’ failed audition at Decca Records, The Smiths’ second demo found its way into EMI staffers’ hands. However, after listening to the tape – which featured an early version of the group’s future smash What Difference Does It Make? – the label passed on the band. Later on, however, the venerable imprint changed their tune, signing The Smiths to their roster early in 1987.

3: Morrissey first brought flowers onstage at Manchester’s Haçienda

Morrissey concluded The Smiths’ second show – at Manchester’s Manhattan Sound – by spraying confetti all over the stage. However, he first brought flowers onstage at the band’s third show, at Manchester’s Haçienda, in February 1983, slamming the bouquet into the floor at the conclusion of These Things Take Time. Before long, the singer would become synonymous with the gladioli he began throwing around during shows, and he gleefully wielded a bunch when The Smiths performed This Charming Man on Top Of The Pops.

4: The band’s relationship with BBC Radio 1 was essential to their success

As the Hatful Of Hollow compilation later proved, The Smiths’ BBC radio recordings sometimes bettered their official studio counterparts. The band recorded four sessions for Radio 1 DJ John Peel, and two more for David “Kid” Jensen, with the first Peel session broadcast on 31 May 1983. Morrissey told Jamming magazine in 1984, “Those sessions almost caught the very heart of what we did – there was something messy about them which was very positive. People are so nervous and desperate when they do those sessions, so it seems to bring the best out of them.”

5: The Smiths recorded their debut album twice – with different producers

Released in 1984, The Smiths’ self-titled debut album was eventually overseen by producer John Porter. However, the band had first attempted to record it with ex-Teardrop Explodes guitarist Troy Tate manning the console during the summer of 1983. After Morrissey and Rough Trade both rejected the record, the recordings were widely bootlegged as the “Troy Tate Album”, and have frequently been praised. In Tony Fletcher’s book, A Light That Never Goes Out, Mike Joyce even admitted, “I actually prefer those versions of the first album.”

6: Their concert intros reflected The Smiths’ catholic tastes in music

During The Smiths’ early tours, Cilla Black’s hit Love Of The Loved provided the band’s intro music as they prepared to hit the stage. However, while touring the Meat Is Murder album throughout 1984 and 1985, Prokofiev’s Dance Of The Knights (from the ballet Romeo And Juliet) played at blistering volume in order to signal the group’s arrival. During the same tour, The Smiths also warmed up backstage by listening to a compilation of Buzzcocks singles.

7: Vocal collaborator “Ann Coates” was actually Morrissey in a different guise

The Smiths invited Kirsty MacColl to sing backing vocals on their 1986 hit Bigmouth Strikes Again, but Johnny Marr felt but her harmonies didn’t work, so they were left off the final mix. Instead the backing vocals were recorded by Morrissey and altered to a higher pitch. This contribution was then credited to “Ann Coates” – a reference to the Manchester district of Ancoats, which was one of the city’s most bustling areas during Industrial Revolution.

8: The Smiths were actually very big in the US

Most people think of The Smiths as a quintessentially English group, but the Manchester quartet also built a huge following in the US, where they toured extensively in support of both Meat Is Murder and The Queen Is Dead. Along with tracks by New Order and Echo And The Bunnymen, the inclusion of Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want on the soundtrack to John Hughes’ box-office smash Pretty In Pink also significantly raised The Smiths’ US profile.

9: An incident involving a stingray prevented the band playing a sold-out New York show

The Smiths’ US tour in support of The Queen Is Dead was a great success, but it ended prematurely. The band still had four gigs left to play, including a sold-out show at New York’s prestigious Radio City Music Hall, but while they were in Tampa, Florida, Andy Rourke was stung by a stingray while paddling in the ocean during downtime – perhaps the oddest of all Smiths facts. Thankfully, Rourke survived, but he was in agony and, when a doctor insisted the bassist couldn’t put any weight on his leg for a while, The Smiths were forced to cancel their remaining shows. They never returned to the US as a band.

10: The Smiths’ final gig was an anti-Apartheid benefit show

They didn’t know it at the time, but The Smiths’ anti-Apartheid benefit gig at London’s Brixton Academy, on 12 December 1986, would be their final show. It was a belter, with former Buzzcocks frontman Pete Shelley playing a solo set in support, and The Smiths’ setlist including their upcoming single Shoplifters Of The World Unite and the only known live version of The Queen Is Dead’s Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others.

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