1983 – This Charming Man – The Smiths

1983 - This Charming Man

I could talk about having to move back in with mum and dad for a couple of months while the house we’d bought on a new estate in Swinton, Rotherham was being built. Plot 282 was for a three bedroomed detached house built by Ben Baileys, on what was to be called Celandine Rise and which would cost £24,000. Back at Mum and Dad’s we had to park the car round the corner in Mrs Vinall’s driveway (she was the old lady who used to cut our hair when we were kids).

But…

I could talk about going with our Neil to see U2 at Sheffield City Hall on March 17th, St Patrick’s Day, when they opened with an Irish piper before blasting into “Gloria”. Bono climbed on ladders to get up to the seats in the Grand Circle during one song and wielded a huge white flag while singing “Sunday Bloody Sunday”. It was all very theatrical and thrilling.

But then…

I could talk about starting my first proper club band called Special Mix (five piece boy/girl harmony band – so the adverts said in the Rotherham Advertiser club pages) and our first gig playing as a favour in a charity night at the Marr Club in Doncaster, using quite a lot of borrowed equipment. We had about five or six songs that featured four-part harmonies and guitar (me), keyboards (Grahame) and drums (Joe). The bass parts were either on the keyboard or, for some songs, I switched to bass guitar while Jean played some basic guitar. There was a booking agent there that night who rang us a couple of days later and asked if we’d be ready to play a full night in a club in three weeks time. We said yes, then spent almost every night desperately learning new songs – three half hour sets – about twenty four songs! The first paid gig was at Ossett Working Men’s Club, near Wakefield and we had a brilliant night where the audience were really friendly and extremely forgiving, recognising how new we were. The next night we played at Thorne Miners Welfare Club, near Doncaster, where the audience were unresponsive to the point of being hostile! However, we’d done it, liked the money and had a few weeks to buy some decent gear and get ourselves properly organised before the next booking.

But then The Smiths happened…

I heard “This Charming Man” by The Smiths on John Peel’s radio programme and everything else fell away.

It was the perfect combination of Morrissey’s intelligent, everyday poetry and Johnny Marr’s fluid guitar playing, set to a classic, joyous rhythm, in a song short enough to leave you wanting more. And more. “Why pamper life’s complexities when the leather runs smooth on the passenger seat?” Perfect. “I would go out tonight but I haven’t got a stitch to wear.” Genius.

Paul Morley reviewed the song in NME writing, “‘This Charming Man’ is one of the great singles of the year. A poor compliment! Of any year. Unique and indispensable.” He talks of Morrissey and, “The lost free way he sings…(sigh)…because he does harm to stupidity.”

“This Charming Man” is, to my mind, probably the best song ever written and started a life-long love of The Smiths.

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