Last night, during his gig at Ironworks in Inverness, Morrissey commented that it’d been 26 years (not quite) since he’d been in town and he wondered whether the Germans had bombed a local landmark.
That landmark was the Eden Court Theatre, the site of The Smiths only ever gig in the city, which took place on 1 October 1985; a gig at which I was present. In fact I was at all seven dates on that Scottish tour. For a band to play out more than two or three gigs in Scotland on any tour was unprecedented, let alone a full stand-alone tour and The Smiths visited such far-flung holiday resorts as Irvine, Dundee, Aberdeen and Lerwick as well as Central Belt sparring partners Glasgow and Edinburgh. The last date of the tour was in Inverness. Morrissey replicates this tour on his current sojourn in Caledonia with stop offs in Perth, Inverness, Dunoon, Dunfermline (see you all there) and Hawick.
In September/October 1985 I took ten days off work and embarked on the adventure of a lifetime visiting every but and ben of The Smiths’ Scottish tour. In the heady days before Ticketbastard and their policy of fees for fees’ sake you could either queue up outside the local record shop (Ripping Records for the Edinburgh/Glasgow gigs) or simply send a cheque for the face value, along with a stamped-addressed envelope. As the pictures attached show, each ticket was £5 except for an exorbitant £6 in the case of the Clickimin Centre. It’s no wonder they only ever get Showaddywaddy and Barbara Dickson up there.
I recall one ticket coming from a record shop in Hamilton. All the tickets came back within a few days of each other. There were no gold tickets or pre-sales in those days just good old-fashioned first-come, first-served. Where’s the fun in spending several frustrating hours on a jammed phoneline trying to get through to a venue/booking agent when you could join several hundred like-minded souls camping out on the pavement outside a record shop or venue to ensure you get your grubby mitts on a pair of tickets to see The Smiths?
Having got tickets for all seven gigs – I felt like Charlie Bucket – I proceeded to tour the country by Citylink (or the local equivalent – Stagecoach hadn’t taken over the world then) through highland and lowland. Another £50+ was forked out for a seat on the 14-hour ferry trip from Aberdeen to Lerwick. A cabin was out of the question. I mean, who could sleep?
The order of the tour was Irvine (22 Sept) , Edinburgh (24), Glasgow (25), Dundee (26), Aberdeen (28), Lerwick (30) and, finally, Inverness. Each date of the tour seemed to have its own drama. In Irvine, I realised that I hadn’t actually taken down the address of the B&B I was staying at! I’d got there, dumped my stuff and fled to the venue, such was my excitement. It was only on the comedown from the high of the first gig of the tour that I realised that I didn’t know where I was staying! I eventually found it when I told the taxi driver that I thought it was on or near a cobbled street. Thankfully, he knew immediately where it was. A good job the gig wasn’t in Edinburgh or I’d still be looking for my stuff now. I was so keen to get to the venue, the Magnum Leisure Centre, that I hadn’t bothered with a minor triviality like the address or phone number. A lesson learned.
Although the seven-date tour took ten days I do recall going back to work for a day. The next gig, in Edinburgh, was accessible from home and wasn’t really as adventure-filled as the others. At the other gigs I’d meet new people from all over the world whereas on this ‘hometown’ jaunt I was accompanied by friends. I loved them dearly but wanted to get back to my adventures ‘on the road’. It was the only gig at which I missed the whole of Easterhouse’s set of powerful leftist pop. I regretted that because as glorious as The Smiths were this was a double-header tour for me; two great bands for the price of one. The Smiths always had a knack for great support acts, well, almost always, and Easterhouse are still a favourite. For the rest of the tour I made sure I watched all of their set, although I missed a bit of it in Aberdeen.
As much as I enjoy the Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow I don’t remember much about this particular visit there. I mean, in terms of the music, it’s well-documented elsewhere on the information super dual carriageway, but on a personal level the only thing that stood out was the hovel of a B&B that I’d booked in to. If I called it a shithole it would be unfair on shitholes. I knew it was bad when I saw the cockroaches leaving in disgust. Thankfully for me and the sake of the owners my memory of its name and location has been erased. I wish I could say the same for the smell.
Oh, you handsome devils!
Dundee was up next and that’s where I met a number of memorable people, not least the great man himself. One of my memories of that particular day was that I had a bad hair day, having run of “product”, which was probably VO5 mousse or that pink own brand hairspray Boots sold, which was perfumed or unperfumed – I wasn’t fussy – and came in industrial-sized cans. The photo above is evidence of my Capillus Horribilis. As I said, I met loads of people on the tour and I think, I say think, because it was a while ago you know, that I met Anne Hooper, Jane Hardwell and Angela Spray, a Bristolian triumvirate, as well as Amanda Hall (or was it Hill?) from the Midlands and an American called Blair Hill (or was it Hall?). There were also a couple of girls we – I now had a posse – rather cruelly dubbed “The Vicar’s Daughters”. I have a photo of them somewhere but I’ll spare everyone’s blushes. Apologies to anyone else I may have forgotten.
"Scratch my name on your arm with a fountain pen"
Now I don’t want to come across as some sort of “player” because I most certainly was not but there was another drama with a young lady at the Caird Hall. I was sat next to her and she dropped her camera and we ended up fixing it with a plaster but she was upset because it was her mother’s camera and her mother “would kill her”. I cobbled together a plausible story as to why it had become damaged and she cheered up. She then told me that she could never go out with me (not that I had asked you understand) because I was such a good liar! The last of the international playboys, I most certainly was not.
Since the late 1970s I’d supported Aston Villa from afar and had only recently taken to following Hibernian, a team who perennially take underachievement to new highs (or should that be lows?). A section of the Hibees’ support, known as the Casuals (almost every club had them) were amongst the most feared in Scotland, if not the UK. Aberdeen also had a “crew” to be feared, the imaginatively entitled Aberdeen Soccer Casuals. On the next date of the tour I found myself crawling through the back streets of Aberdeen trying to avoid them after hooking up with a Dundee-supporting Smiths fan. I personally hadn’t done anything to offend them. In fact it would be a whole month before I would attend my first proper match, the 1985-1986 Scottish League Cup final which saw Aberdeen thump Hibs 3-0. The Dundee fan, whose name escapes me, was now in ‘enemy territory’ and we took the long route to Aberdeen’s Capitol Theatre for fear of getting a kickin’. It seems he was known to them and if spotted he’d had got hit with more than a sponge and a rusty spanner. By association and virtue of being in the immediate vicinity I probably would have suffered a similar fate. I was a lover not a fighter; I could barely open the instruction leaflet to the Bullworker we had at home. Okay, I wasn’t exactly a lover then either, being an unworldy-wise 18-year-old from ‘the sticks’. This was why I missed some of Easterhouse’s set. Indeed, when we got in to the venue, frontman Ivor Perry was going walkabout in the aisles with the microphone.
Perrys' Cider, anyone?
The seat I’d purchased on the ferry from Aberdeen to Lerwick had been a waste of money as I spent almost all of the trip in the bar with fellow fans and support band Easterhouse, who hijacked the cabaret act to celebrate drummer Gary’s birthday (see below). The ferry left Aberdeen at 6pm and was due in to Lerwick at 8 am. Coincidentally the bar opened at 6pm and Easterhouse’s first great gesture was to buy a case of cider and plonk it on one of the tables for The Smiths’ (and now Easterhouse) fans to enjoy. God bless them. I briefly came to at one point in the early hours to witness the cleaners hoovered around the scattered bodies of Smiths fans in the lounge before resuming my cider-soaked slumber! I only spent ten minutes in that pre-paid seat and five of them were spent watching TV-AM (trust me, we had no choice), whose chosen pop video that morning was none other than The Smiths’ new single, “The Boy With The Thorn In His Side”. Moirae would have doffed her cap at such fatalistic fortune.
Ivor Perry shows Jane McDonald how it's done
The main highlight of the Lerwick gig, apart from seeing a sheep trying to get in through the revolving door of the Clickimin Centre, was meeting Morrissey again. I found out which hotel he was at (okay, there was only one) and asked if I could see him, fully expecting to be rebuffed. Instead I was told to come back in twenty minutes, which I duly did. He was sat in reception. Most of what I said was a blur but I did ask him to autograph three postcards that I was sending to friends and colleagues. One went to my friend Yanthe, one to a Madonna-mad girl I knew called Louise (McEwing?) and the last to my work colleagues, who I didn’t really like. The last card probably didn’t last a week and I don’t know where Louise is, let alone the card, but Yanthe, who I’m back in touch with thanks to Facecloth, assures me her postcard is still in existence. When she digs it out from behind the dusty SodaStream in the loft I’ll post a picture of both sides of it.
Shetland, So Much To Answer For
By the time I reached Inverness I had run out of money and after checking in to my pre-booked B&B I realised my monetary misfortune and did what any right-minded human would do. I asked for forgiveness. No, I didn’t; I scarpered.
Originally I had a seat for the stalls at the Inverness gig but swapped it for a seat in the Circle so I could be beside a girl. A number of Smiths fans were doing the whole tour and I’d met some earlier in the day at the back of the venue as we waited for the band to arrive. I met her there. She had run away from home, in the North East of England, to be at the gig. Sadly our blossoming romance (in my mind) ended where it began, in the Eden Court Theatre. Once an awkward bumbling romantic…
The Smiths’ Inverness gig was remarkable in that it was also the only time they ever played the song “Asleep” live. A beautifully, haunting ballad, it was also an unashamed paean to suicide. The band arrived to find a piano at the side of the stage that couldn’t be shifted so they took the opportunity to play one of the B-sides from the new single, with Johnny tickling the ivories.
My “bed” for the night was made at the train station although not before we followed the band’s tour bus to their hotel. We sat in the bar near some of the band and crew but daren’t speak to them. We were dumbstruck with awe (or is that awestruck with dumb?). We hadn’t thought this part of the plan through. I got a Citylink bus home the next morning after the greatest ten days of my young life.
I was fortunate enough to see The Smiths a total of twelve times, including their last ever gig at Brixton Academy in that there London on 12 December 1986, and not once did they fail to deliver. The same can’t always be said for Morrissey as a somewhat curmudgeonly solo act but he can knock out more good tunes than Jessie J has ever heard and he can still cut it with the best of them in the live arena, albeit at a premium rate. Monday night in Dunfermline (Dunfermline! Nobody plays in Dunfermline!!) will be the fifth time I’ve seen him. I saw him twice in 1995 on the “Boxers” tour and twice promoting “You Are The Quarry” in 2004 – the gigs spreadsheet never lies – and I must say, I’m really looking forward to seeing him. I may even become a fanboy once more and mooch around the venue in the afternoon in the pathetic hope I can gain a moment of his time. Whether he’ll sign my copy of “Mozipedia”, well, that’s a different story.
Morrissey plays Dunfermline on Monday 20 June and Hawick City Hall on Tuesday 21 June. Thanks to Simon Goddard and Jayne Chisholm for inspiration.
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