Watch The Smiths tear through ‘This Charming Man’ in Madrid, 1985
The Smiths had the world firmly at their feet following the release of Meat Is Murder in 1985. The Manchester troupe’s most commercially successful album and one that introduced them to a wider international fanbase, the material had propelled the group critical acclaim and they took this confidence on the road with them to prolific effect.
The string of live dates which accompanied the record was one of the final run of shows for the band before proceedings started to turn sour. With interband relationships soon starting to diminish little by little, this footage taken from their show at Madrid’s Paseo De Camoens catches them at their uncompromising, barnstorming best.
Morrissey and Marr may have only worked together for a short number of years but the magic that they created in unison truly did get the best out of the other, their two different styles juxtaposing each other somehow unlocked another level in their individual performances.
In 1985, it would be difficult to name anyone who was operating on the same level as The Smiths, a group that had elevated themselves to another dimension as they pioneered a new form of alternative music which would go on to become indie music as we know and love it today.
‘This Charming Man’ was like a slice of heaven when it featured on their debut self-titled effort in 1984 and it quickly became the track most synonymous with the group because it encapsulated everything which The Smiths represented. The killer jangly guitars courtesy of Johnny Marr coupled with Morrissey’s sexually ambiguous lyrics which were left open to interpretation which all led The Smiths to be the voice of the youth who previously felt like they didn’t belong but now they finally had a voice.
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 the music to ‘This Charming Man’: “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,” he said. “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 The Smiths’ swashbuckling performance of ‘This Charming Man’ in Madrid, below.