Everything but the Smiths: Morrissey Comes to the Fillmore

by E. "Doc" Smith on September 21, 2007

Back in the day, my man Dean Preston had a radio show in college called “Everything but the Smiths”, so the title of today’s column is my special nod to his final day here at the THC and BeyondChron! Love them or hate them, for me, bands like the Cure, Depeche Mode and the Smiths, still conjure memories of late-night raves, sloshing good times, smokey pool-halls and broken hearts. Of those halcyon groups, none of them crooned better than Morrissey, the ex-lead singer of the Smiths. Morrissey and his legion of fans return to the Fillmore for four nights beginning Sunday the 23rd, 24th, 26th and ending on the 27th. “Moz”, as he is affectionately known by his fans and Moz-bloggers like “Artful Dodger”, claims this may be his “last tour for the foreseeable future”, and has chosen venues like the Fillmore so he can, “see the eyes of everyone in the audience and those in attendance can be in the thick of it.” The line-up for this extended and perhaps his final US tour, is Boz Boorer (guitar), Jesse Tobias (guitar), Michael Farrell (keyboards, trumpet), Solomon Walker (bass), and Matt Walker (drums).

Morrissey’s most recent album was Ringleader of the Tormentors, which debuted at number one in the UK album charts. The album cover is an allusion to the iconic Deutsche Grammophon record cover logo and design, with Morrissey posing as a violinist after the classic photos of Jascha Heifetz or Yehudi Menuhin. Recorded in Rome, it was released internationally on April 3 of last year, and one day later in North America. The album was produced by Tony Visconti, who had also worked with T. Rex and David Bowie. The subsequent 2006 international tour included more than two dozen gigs in the UK, including concerts at the London Palladium on three consecutive Sundays.

In 1982, Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr formed The Smiths, widely regarded as one of the most influential bands of the alternative rock movement. Morrissey’s dark and witty lyrics, combined with Marr’s melodic writing propelled the band to success in the UK, Ireland, and Australia, and grew into a cult phenomenon here in the US, with hit’s like “How Soon Is Now?” and “Panic.” The Smiths broke up in 1987 after Marr and Morrissey fell out over musical differences. Allegedly, Marr grew tired of the 60s pop fixation, didn’t wish to perform cover songs of 60s British pop stars, and wanted to experiment with a wider array of styles in the Smiths’ music. Morrissey grew even more rigid in his recording methods, often recording his vocals alone, after the music tracks had already been laid. The band released four proper studio albums and several compilations between 1984 and their breakup, including 1986’s The Queen Is Dead, which has been placed highly on a number of critical “greatest album” lists.

Following The Smiths’ split, Morrissey’s first solo album, Viva Hate, came out in 1988. To create the album, Morrissey teamed up with former Smiths producer Stephen Street, Vini Reilly of Durutti Column, and drummer Andrew Paresi. The prevailing sound of the album is jangle pop, similar to that of the Smiths, though Reilly’s guitar work adds more abrasive and atmospheric elements to the work. Viva Hate reached number one upon release, supported by such strong singles as “Suedehead” and “Everyday Is Like Sunday.” Bona Drag (1990) collected these early singles along with further non-album cuts such as “November Spawned a Monster” and “Ouija Board, Ouija Board,” along with the b-sides “Hairdresser On Fire”. Mark Nevin’s songwriting services were employed for the studio follow-up to Viva Hate, titled Kill Uncle. The album continued in a similar musical vein.

The band Morrissey assembled in 1991 for his Kill Uncle tour went on to record 1992’s hit album Your Arsenal. Composition duties were split between guitarists Boz Boorer and Alain Whyte, who have been the core of Morrissey’s band ever since. Your Arsenal was produced by former David Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson, and earned a Grammy nomination for best alternative album.

1994 brought Morrissey back to number one in the UK, with Vauxhall and I. One of the album’s songs, “The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get,” enjoyed chart success as a single, reaching number eight in the UK and number 46 in the US. That year, he also released a single “Interlude” in duet with one of his all-time favourite singers: Siouxsie of Siouxsie & the Banshees. Further albums Southpaw Grammar and Maladjusted were less well received critically and commercially. These albums included the songs “Reader Meet Author” and “Trouble Loves Me,” both of which are still occasionally included in live set lists.

Morrissey’s album You Are the Quarry was released on May 17, 2004 (one day later in the US). Guitarist Alain Whyte described the work as a mix between Your Arsenal and Vauxhall and I, and the album received strong reviews. The first single, “Irish Blood, English Heart,” was released internationally on May 10, 2004. The single reached number three in its first week of sales in the UK singles chart. This was the highest placing chart position for Morrissey in his entire career as both a solo artist and the lead singer of The Smiths (the 2006 release “You Have Killed Me” also debuted at number three in its first week in the charts).It has sold over a million copies, making the album his most successful one, solo or with The Smiths.

Morrissey has eschewed the ’80’s reunion-band path, in favor of this solo vehicle and it’s served him well. If you hated the Smiths, this isn’t your show, however, if you loved them, and the man who sang so beautifully alongside Marr back in the day, pick a night and head to the Fillmore.

Morrissey with Kristeen Young
September 23rd, 24th, 26th, and 27th
The Fillmore, 1805 Geary Boulevard
Doors: 7:00 pm | Show: 8:00 pm

E. “Doc” Smith is a musician and recording engineer who has worked with the likes of Brian Eno, Madonna, Warren Zevon, Mickey Hart, Brian Ferry, and John Mayall among others. He is also the inventor of the musical instrument, the Drummstick“, and can be reached at myspace.com/edoctorsmith

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