It is all too easy these days to observe cancel culture and quickly delete all notions of your now-disgraced former idol. So while we will most certainly concede that Morrissey’s recent retreat to the far right-wing is not something to be championed, we also feel it’s important to remember the moments when you fell in love with Morrissey. For us, it was when we came across this footage of The Smiths performing a quite superb set at Manchester’s legendary super-club, The Hacienda in 1983.
The setlist was the stuff of legend. It featured all but one of The Smiths songs and came just a few short hours after their first ever Top of the Pops. As the capacity of The Hacienda continued to swell, flowers brought in from the crowd as a mark of respect to their new heroes, girls reportedly being treated for Beatlemania-style-fainting, it would be one of the bands best ever performances and it started with “Hello you ugly devils!” as Morrissey and co. launched into ‘Handsome Devil’. Swiftly followed by iconic tracks ‘Still Ill’ and ‘This Charming Man’
The smirking intelligence of Moz didn’t stop there either, “Does anybody have anything to say? Speak now… (song titles and stupid remarks are shouted)… So nobody has anything to say…” and he, again, launches into his next song, completed with absolute aplomb. As they finish ‘You’ve Got Everything Now’ the band depart with a simple “Goodbye! Stay handsome, thank you… bye!”
Of course, that would not be the end. The band would return for two encores. With ‘These Things Take Time’ and a second rendition of ‘This Charming Man’ before again departing only to return with ‘Accept Yourself’ and ending with ‘Hand In Glove’, completing a marathon set. Morrissey struggled to stay on stage throughout the show as fans desperate to touch the man himself continued to try and bring him down into the swell of the heaving crowd. When the gig was finally done he snapped the necklaces he was wearing and cast them into the crowd.
It’s hard to argue against The Smiths, at least on this performance, the band deliver an absolutely stunning set. It’s complemented by the wit and poetry that Morrissey undoubtedly added to their performance. While Marr can be credited with the foundational work on The Smiths building it’s fair to say that Morrissey painted all the murals and finished off the topiary. This was Morrissey at his best, cavalier, clever and ultimately thoroughly entertaining.
So, yes, Morrissey’s constantly bemusing rhetoric on horrors of liberal attitudes is at best annoying and at worst a symptom of a society which both breeds and feeds on hate. But while that fact is undeniable, so is the fact that once upon a time Morrissey and The Smiths were the best band in the world, by a country mile.
What’s that saying again, it is better to have loved and lost than to have never heard ‘This Charming Man’
Setlist, 24th November, 1983
This Charming Man
Pretty Girls Make Graves
Reel Around The Fountain
This Night Has Opened My Eyes
What Difference Does It Make?
Hand In Glove
You’ve Got Everything Now
/These Things Take Time
/This Charming Man
//Hand In Glove
Source: Passions Just Like Mine