The death of The Smiths is one moment in British music history that still acts like a sore point for music lovers. The band were so influential during their short run that the calls for a money-making reunion between Morrissey and Johnny Marr have been near-constant since their disbandment in 1986.
Since then Morrissey has moved out of the shadows of the band and forged his own, sometimes controversial, career path with decades of richly lyrical and highly emotive music, all crafted in Moz’s image. However, his first solo show was visited by the past.
In March 1988, Morrissey released his first solo album Viva Hate six months after The Smiths Strangeways here We Come and began to stamp his authority on his creative output. But it would take another nine months before Morrissey would take the stage on his own. Perhaps a little nervous to perform without the band he’d made his name with, Morrissey invited along Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke to share the stage.
It made for a mini-reunion of The Smiths, despite not including the mercurial musician behind so much of their canon, Johnny Marr, and offered Morrissey a smooth entrance into the cold waters of solo stardom. Naturally, he would take his first icy bath on December 22nd at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall.
With three-quarters of the band on stage, it was a surprising yet foreshadowing moment as Morrissey only played three of the band’s songs. Instead, he leaned heavily on the new album including a debut of one of his most notable solo expressions, ‘Suedehead’.
That’s the track you can find below. Easily recognisable as one of Moz’s best, the song was released in February 1988 and bore all the trademarks of a Smiths release. Perhaps as a way to highlight his input into the band, Morrissey continued in this vein, aligning himself with the past, both on and off stage.
Months after the Wolverhampton Civic Hall show, bassist Andy Rourke, drummer Mike Joyce and Gannon backed him on the singles ‘The Last of the International Playboys’ and ‘Interesting Drug’. But it wouldn’t last as Morrissey soon changed his mind, “The unhappy past descends upon me each time I hear their voices,” he wrote in his 2013 memoir, “and I decide to not invite them to any further recording sessions.”
That decision began a length and embittered legal battle after lawyers acting on behalf of Mike Joyce wrote to the singer and threatened legal action unless Mox signed over an extra share of Smiths royalties. Morrissey alleged in his memoir that the legal action would also desist if he included Joyce as a permanent member of his “Morrissey Band.” But the dame is not for turning and the singer refused to bow to his demand meaning the below 1988 performance was the final time they shared a stage.
Morrissey and Marr continue to bat away ideas of reunions and as both of their careers continue to flourish, it’s hard to blame them. While Marr continues to work on film scores, Morrissey’s new album arrives next month. For now, take a look back at Moz’s first steps on to the stage as a solo artist, with ‘Suedehead’.