The Smiths have two enduring legacies. Their music is the first, of course, particularly their run of perfect early singles, a collection of gloomy, fragile, almost hilariously depressed bummer-pop songs. The second is their singer’s gloomy, fragile, almost hilariously depressed public image. So, what’s the least likely place to find Morrissey in the summer of 1984? How about frolicking in a park with a gaggle of excitable children?
We are so far away from the time and place this video was first produced that it now seems like a warped parody of itself, like a hip late-night comedy sketch from some obscure corner of cable TV or a surreal dream you had after spinning all your Smiths albums and drinking straight gin all night.
This clip is from ITV’s breakfast television franchise TVAM in Britain, presumably from 1984. It aired during their Saturday morning kid’s line-up, SPLAT. “Charlie’s Bus” was a recurring segment on the program. It allowed kids to interview and interact with various celebrities. On this particular day, a bunch of bemused pre-teens mixed it up with The Smiths, who they have clearly never heard of. And why would they have? They weren’t exactly a kid-friendly band. I mean there’s a song on their first album about notorious kid-killers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, for chrissakes. But here we all are, on Charlie’s Bus on a sunny afternoon.
The kids want to know how The Smiths got their name. Johnny Marr explains that he wanted to call the band the Rolling Stones, but Morrissey thought that was too much of a mouthful.
Kid: “Where are we going?”
Morrissey: “We’re going mad.”
Kid: “I thought we were going to Kew Gardens.”
Amazingly, the soundtrack for their terminally dull tromp through the garden is the then-current Smiths hit “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now.” How perfect is that?
The Smiths’ 1984 “Heaven Knows I’m Miseable Now” single. And it was true.
It makes even more sense when they find a patch of grass to sit down in and 60s pop singer Sandie Shaw (“Always Something There to Remind Me”) pops up to sing “Jeane” accompanied by Johnny Marr on acoustic guitar. Sandie’s 1969 hit “Heaven Knows I’m Missing Him Now” was the inspiration for The Smiths’ similarly-titled single.
“Look!” exclaims Morrissey, fully committed to the ridiculousness of the moment. “It’s Sandie Shaw!”
Look! It’s really her!
I could watch that part all day. The 80s were mostly awful, but occasionally they were pretty fun!
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
‘I find them very depressing’: 80s pop tart Samantha Fox reviews The Smiths and The Fall in 1986