When The Smiths first took to the stage they weren’t arriving with the missteps of a young band, they arrived as an armoured vehicle built with a cannon of material ready to send a 10-tonne-truck down your throat. Their third ever show, conducted in 1983 at The Hacienda, saw The Smiths arrive as a fully formed unit.
Most bands will stumble through their first shows, falling over the pressure of live performance as well as the difficulty of pulling demos off your rag-tag cassette into the live forum—but no such issues faced The Smiths due in no small part to the powerhouse duo of Johnny Marr and Morrissey. Marr delivered the deeply layered sounds while Morrissey arrived with bubbling charisma that could not be contained.
The band’s first show had arrived four months earlier with Dale Hibbert on bass but, just a few weeks later, Marr’s close friend Andy Rourke had replaced him and completed the iconic line-up. It would see The Smiths open their live account at a gay club in Manchester known as Manhattan on January 25th. Just over a week later and with another thread of steel running through their set, The Smiths took to the stage at The Hacienda.
At the time of the show, the club—buoyed by its association with Factory Records—was fast becoming one of the only places to be in the alternative scene in Manchester. It offered The Smiths a chance to make their name relatively early in their career journey. It was an offer that Marr and Morrissey had always seen coming.
A young band, Morrissey was just 23 at the first show with Andy Rourke, Mike Joyce, and Johnny Marr all only 19, The Smiths could’ve easily been swept aside by the occasion by the group were strengthened by a plethora of complex and unique songs.
Morrissey and Marr had been recording music together since 1982 and by the beginning of 1983, The Smiths had an arsenal of songs ready to fire at the bow of the music industry. It’s a testament to Marr and Morrissey’s drive to create music that would resonate outside of the four walls they created it in.
The band’s live set in 1983 would see a host of Smiths stalwarts be brought out for the small crowd. The video begins with Morrissey introducing himself and the band, something he wouldn’t need to do ever again after the band’s debut ‘Hand In Glove’ landed at record shops across the nation. “Hello, we are the Smiths. We are not ‘Smiths,’ we are The Smiths,” he said.
With Morrissey’s instruction, the band then launch into ‘These Things Take Time’ as a precursor to the indie movement they were about to spearhead. The set also featured Smiths’ stalwarts, ‘What Difference Does It Make’, ‘Handsome Devil’, ‘Jeane’, ‘The Hand That Rocks The Cradle’ as well as ‘Miserable Lie’ and their debut single ‘Hand In Glove’. All performed with the same verve and virility that the band would champion during their short time at the top.
While the group would only last for four years, their last show at London’s Brixton Academy in 1986 a fitting send off with their influence on music is undoubted. Morrissey and Marr created some of the most intrinsically and literary British rock and roll to have ever been produced, something the tiny audience in 1983 couldn’t possibly have known but all would claim to have foreseen.
Watch below as The Smiths take to The Hacienda, their third ever show, to deliver a blueprint for stardom.