Various editions of “This Charming Man” single release (including the Francois Kevorkian remixes on the left) courtesy of Share Some Greased Tea With Me.
So there I was, casually browsing through some Johnny Marr-plays-guitar videos on YouTube, when the thought struck me that remixing the Smiths in a dub style (essentially stripping Morrissey’s warbling right back and pushing Marr and the rhythm section up to the front) would be a wonderful thing.
You see, I may rag on the Smiths a lot (to me they represent everything that can be deemed wrong about “indie” or “alternative” music) but there’s a niggly wee corner of my teenage heart that will always belong to them. Those years we spent together were beautiful indeed, around the age of thirteen or fourteen, but then I grew up a bit and discovered sex and drugs. And a whole bunch of other music that was way more exciting, dramatic and sexy.
As the years have gone by, on the odd occasions that I feel brave enough to confront my embarrassing teenage angst and revisit the Smiths, I have fallen more and more in love with Johnny Marr’s incredible playing (in direct relation to falling further and further out of love with Morrissey’s “unique” vocal style.) Hence the idea of the Smiths in dub - a silly, facetious notion for sure, taking one of the whitest bands of all time and daring to process them through a hash-clogged Black Ark desk.
You can imagine my surprise then to find out that this actually once happened.
The acclaimed New York-based dj and producer Francois Kevorkian produced two dub remixes of “This Charming Man” for a limited edition release at the tail end of 1983. Unsurprisingly Morrissey hated the mixes (“hang the dj” and all that) and apparently so did Marr (though I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt: after all he later went on to form the dance supergroup “Electronic.”)
Thanks to that miracle of the modern age, the Internet, once this was brought to my attention I was able to go online and track these elusive remixes down straight away. Both have been uploaded to YouTube by TheStaticAirwaves, who adds some more info in the description box:
In December 1983, DJ François Kevorkian released a “New York” mix of the single on Megadisc records. Kevorkian geared the song for nightclub dancefloors, and the track was intended to be pressed in limited numbers for New York club DJs.
However, Rough Trade boss Geoff Travis liked the mix and gave the release wide distribution in the UK. Morrissey publicly disowned the mix, and urged fans not to purchase copies. Travis later claimed, “it was my idea, but they agreed. They said ‘Go ahead’, then didn’t like it so it was withdrawn.” He also said, “Nothing that ever happened in The Smiths occurred without Morrissey’s guidance; there’s not one Smiths record that went out that Morrissey didn’t ask to do, so there’s nothing on my conscience.”
How exactly this record escaped my notice I don’t know. Francois Kevorkian (aka Francois K) is a legend in disco and deep house circles, both for his early remix work for the classic Prelude label, but also for his own tech -and-house productions for his own label Wave. That’s not even mentioning his legendary all-night dj sets that are a fixture of clubs around the world.
While I can’t really imagine what clubs this would have been played in at the time, I can easily see the “New York Instrumental” remix of “This Charming Man” closing a classic John Hughes 80s-teen movie that never was.
Apparently John Peel once played this version of the song at the end of his Festive Fifty (a show where the public voted on their favourite songs, and “This Charming Man” had been voted number one song of the year.) Needless to say the Smiths fans were not amused.
But then, are they ever?
The Smiths “This Charming Man (Francois Kevorkian New York Instrumental Mix)”
The Smiths “This Charming Man (Francois Kevorkian New York Vocal Mix)”
Thanks to Neil Francis