He is known for his maudlin personality and the hit Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now. But it was a trip to Dundee 35 years ago which put a smile on music legend Morrissey’s face as he kissed fans and fed them grapes ahead of an historic Caird Hall gig. Gayle Ritchie takes up the story.
Plastic tumblers sailed through the air, coating music legend Morrissey in beer.
Old misery guts was not amused.
Skulking off the stage in a strop, he returned forlornly a few minutes later to once again be showered by cheap drink.
The Smiths gig, at Dundee University Union in March 1984, went down in music history as a “Morrissey moment”.
The incident was thought to have influenced the lyrics to the song, Panic, which includes the line: “But there’s panic on the streets of Carlisle, Dublin, Dundee, Humberside.”
It was little surprise that fans feared their cranky hero might never return to the City of Discovery.
However, 18 months later, on September 26 1985, Morrissey did indeed return.
As frontman of The Smiths, he was well-known for his bizarre behaviour – sporting NHS glasses and hearing aid (neither of which he needed) and carrying flowers around in his trousers.
Some folk thought he was “up himself”, took himself too seriously, and was away with the fairies, but true fans saw him as a legend to be worshipped.
His reputation as an artist rested on his outsider status, which chimed with teenage fans who felt similarly dislocated and alone. It was this, combined with the sublime beauty of The Smiths’ music, that led many to fall for This Charming Man.
When the band headed to Dundee in September 1985, they were in their prime, having just achieved a number one album with Meat is Murder.
The week of the gig also saw the release of their single, The Boy with the Thorn in His Side.
With tickets for the Caird Hall gig priced at just a fiver, it was a surprise the event didn’t sell out, but faithful fans flocked there in their droves.
It was part of a seven-date Scottish tour and they’d played Glasgow the night before.
When The Smiths came on stage, Morrissey greeted the audience with: “Nice of you to turn up!”
The band kicked off with the song, Shakespeare’s Sister, and introduced new numbers The Boy with the Thorn in His Side, Frankly, Mr Shankly and Bigmouth Strikes Again.
Morrissey sang extra lyrics during the extended instrumental outro to Meat Is Murder but most of them were said to be indecipherable.
Returning for the second encore, he proclaimed: “I never realised there were so many great people in Dundee, my!”
The finale was Miserable Lie.
“Morrissey kissed me on the cheek”
September 26 1985 wasn’t a day to be stuck behind a desk for Dundee teenager Joy Melville. It was set aside as a day of worship.
Joy was one of Morrissey’s biggest fans so of course, she had to skip school ahead of The Smiths gig at the Caird Hall.
“I headed to Groucho’s record store and bought the 12 inch single of The Boy with the Thorn in His Side and proceeded to wander around town,” recalls Joy, who was 14 years old at the time.
“I found myself in the city square where I came across Morrissey and bassist Andy Rourke.
“I couldn’t believe it! But rather than being star-struck (oh, the arrogance of youth) I bowled up and cheekily asked him for a kiss – which he gave me on my right cheek. I nearly died!”
Both Morrissey and Rourke then graced Joy’s record with their signatures and to this day, it’s framed and hanging in her hallway.
Joy had got into the Smiths two years earlier – aged 12.
“I followed every Morrissey and Smiths interview in magazines,” she says.
“I copied everything from vintage NHS specs – with the lenses removed – to beads and paisley shirts. I didn’t care what anyone else thought or said.”
I bowled up and cheekily asked him for a kiss – which he gave me on my right cheek. I nearly died!”
Fast forward to 2008 and Joy, who had been to concerts far and wide to see Morrissey, was at the O2 Festival in London’s Hyde Park where her idol was headlining.
While wandering around, she bumped into a man handing out flyers that read: “Have you met Morrissey?”
Joy, a housing manager, couldn’t resist telling him that yes, she had, and that he had kissed her!
She was then asked to email her recollection and a photo to Dickie Felton, the author of a yet-to-be-published book.
“The book is called The Day I Met Morrissey and it turns out I have a double-page spread with my story and picture!” says Joy.
In 2011, she met Morrissey a second time, when he was rehearsing at the Caird Hall.
“I heard he was there, dashed home, got my book, then hung around at the stage door for a few hours – no one else was there.
“It was then that I met him for the second time in my life and he signed the book.
“I couldn’t speak due to being in awe. He didn’t speak – I guess he was saving his voice.”
Being a veteran of many Morrissey gigs, Joy has collected a variety of his shirt pieces, caught and torn to bits by fans when the star has lobbed his shirts into the audience.
She also has set lists, plectrums and a very unusual Morrissey bobble head statue.
“I’ve made many friends over the years through the gigs. I nicknamed myself Mozette years ago and often wear a T-shirt saying that on it.”
While still a Smiths and Morrissey fan, Joy says she “can’t stand” the singer’s right-wing views, adding: “If he would stick to singing not speaking that would be great!”
Misery guts fed fans grapes
Gayle Anderson was the pop editor for Jackie magazine in 1985 and was lucky enough to meet stars galore – including Morrissey.
She was slightly anxious about meeting The Smiths legend, fearing he would live up to his reputation for being moody.
Gayle, from Dundee, was delighted to be proved wrong, finding him to be the epitome of This Charming Man.
“I managed to arrange for one lucky reader to meet The Smiths backstage at the Caird Hall,” she recalls.
“I’d done lots of these ‘Meet Your Favourite Pop Star’ features in the past with people like Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and Paul Young. To be honest, I was a little nervous about this one.
“The Smiths were achingly hip at the time and Morrissey had already developed a reputation for being a bit of a grump – the Victor Meldrew of pop.
“I needn’t have worried, though. He was so friendly and welcoming to our reader.”
Gayle remembers the singer sitting on a chaise longue backstage and allowing photographs to be taken of him with the winner.
“There was a bowl of fruit on the table and he himself suggested some shots of him feeding the girl grapes,” she recalls.
“It was so cheesy but so great. I would never have suggested it myself as I wouldn’t have though he would have been up for that at all.”
Gayle also remembers guitarist Johnny Marr being “super-friendly and super laid-back”, adding: “He was just sitting strumming his guitar and throwing in a few wise-cracks in Morrissey’s direction every so often.”
But the thing that stays with Gayle is that about half an hour before the gig, Morrissey said: “Right, I’d better get into my work clothes”.
“He disappeared and returned in old baggy jeans, a flowery shirt and wearing a hearing aid and clutching a huge bunch of daffodils. He’d been conservatively dressed up until then,” she reveals.
“I was pretty young and naive and hadn’t stopped to consider that this look he had going was actually a costume. That’s the memory that stays with me. That and the fact that it was a stonkingly good gig.”
He disappeared and returned in old baggy jeans, a flowery shirt and wearing a hearing aid and clutching a huge bunch of daffodils. He’d been conservatively dressed up until then.”
While Gayle says these memories are wonderful, she points to the fact that they are, in fact, from 35 years ago.
“I’m not a supporter in any way, shape or form of Morrissey’s controversial comments, quotes and opinions over the intervening years and find them deeply offensive,” she says.
“My name was Steven”
An edition of Jackie in 1985 ran a series of pictures of Morrissey with associated statements he had made.
They included: “I’m as miserable as everyone thinks! I don’t believe in putting on a brave face for the sake of it – and I am unhappy. I get fed up with things most of the time.”
Another of his statements was: “I’m always reluctant to recall my past before The Smiths. My name was Steven – he’s the person I was. The way I see it, he’s dead and buried. When I see things that remind me of the past, I feel quite depressed.”
He has also frequently said he finds it impossible to make friends and trust people.
“People accuse me of being contrived – but this is just the way I am. People say: ‘Why do you do these peculiar things? Why do you have flowers sticking out of your back pocket? It becomes difficult to explain something that’s been with you for a very long time.”
Perthshire cycling personality Scot Tares well remembers the ”big buzz” around the 1985 Caird Hall gig.
He was 15 years old and a pupil at Harris Academy at the time.
“The song Meat is Murder had been released in February that year and I was in the process of trying to go vegetarian, much to the opposition of my parents,” he says.
“So to have a band come along and push a belief that I was striving for so blatantly was a revelation for me.”
Scot remembers Morrissey throwing flowers around the stage and to the crowd, but his main memory is of his 15-year-old mate’s wild behaviour.
“He was resplendent in an untucked, flowery shirt, with a bunch of daffodils hanging out of his back pocket leaping onto stage with a crowd of other fans,” says Scot.
“He leapt around dancing along to one of the tracks and I don’t remember security removing anyone from the stage.
“My friend went down in class legend for months afterwards for being the one who got up on stage with Morrissey and the Smiths.”
After wearing a hearing aid on Top of the Pops in 1984 – there was nothing wrong with his hearing – Morrissey was accused of mocking the afflicted.
It transpired, however, that rather than an act of mockery, Morrissey was sending a sign to a deaf fan – which was big of him, because many bands, with aural sensation being their business, wouldn’t admit to having a fanbase among those who couldn’t hear.
There was also nothing wrong with Morrissey’s eyesight but he wore specs.
In fact, he made strange, cheap, clunky NHS glasses cool; on the head of a fan, they worked to enhance pulling power.
Morrissey is also known for performing on stage with flowers, usually swinging them in his hand or shoved down the back of his trousers.
He’s been quoted saying that flowers are “simply innocent and beautiful and have never caused strife for anyone.”
Set list: The Smiths, Caird Hall, Dundee, September 26, 1985
- Shakespeare’s Sister
- I Want the One I Can’t Have
- What She Said
- What’s the World
- The Boy With the Thorn in His Side
- Nowhere Fast
- That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore
- Stretch Out and Wait
- Frankly, Mr. Shankly
- Bigmouth Strikes Again
- Still Ill
- Rusholme Ruffians
- Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now
- Meat Is Murder
- This Charming Man
- Hand in Glove
- William, It Was Really Nothing
- Miserable Lie