Revisiting comical footage of The Smiths lip-syncing ‘This Charming Man’ television from 1983
The Smiths would play their first gig ever in October 1982 and, in the forthcoming year, they would lay the foundations for a career that would change alternative music forever. The hype around the four-piece had become so vast that The Smiths found themselves performing ‘This Charming Man’ on Belgian Television just a year after playing their first live show.
The footage of their appearance on the Belgian programme Generation 80 was never actually broadcast at the time for an unknown reason, but we do know that it was recorded at some point at the back end of the year. The episode was scheduled to be shown in Belgique homes on December 19th but the footage was never available until 2018.
It is abundantly clear that The Smiths are not playing live. Their iconic opening to the track begins before Johnny Marr has a chance to strike his first chord. IT would not be totally out of the question to suggest that the Manchester natives had seen how poor the footage was and pulled the broadcast. Or, similarly, the decision was made by the broadcasters given that fac that it is one of the least subtle pieces of lip-syncing you will ever see.
‘This Charming Man’ was a turning point in the lives of Morrissey and Johnny Marr, catapulting them from obscurity to the forefront of the national alternative scene. It was their second single following ‘Hand In Glove’ which only charted at 124 however, ‘This Charming Man’ would go all the way up to 25.
They made their Top Of The Pops debut in the November of 1983 and it had a huge impact on a wealth of impressionable youngsters watching at home, including a certain Mr Noel Gallagher from Manchester, who said: “None of my mates liked them—they were more hooligan types. They came into work and said ‘fuckin’ hell, did you see that poof on Top of the Pops with the bush in his back pocket?’ But I thought it was life-changing.”
Marr revealed to Mojo in 2008 that the success of Rough Trade label mates, Aztec Camera, had lit a fire in his belly to do one better and write this: “A couple of days before I wrote ‘This Charming Man’ I’d heard ‘Walk Out To Winter’ by Aztec Camera on BBC Radio 1, and I felt a little jealous. My competitive urges kicked in. I felt that we needed something up-beat and in a major key for Rough Trade to get behind.
“That’s why I wrote it in the key of G, which to this day I rarely do. I knew that ‘This Charming Man’ would be our next single.” Marr continued: “I did the whole thing in one go into this TEAC 3-track tape recorder that I used to write on. I came up with the basic chords and immediately overdubbed the top line and intro riff.”
Check out their lost performance of ‘This Chaming Man’, below.