12 December 1986
Brixton Academy, London
Ask
Bigmouth Strikes Again
London/Miserable Lie
Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others
The Boy With The Thorn In His Side
Shoplifters Of The World Unite
There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
Is It Really So Strange?
Cemetry Gates
This Night Has Opened My Eyes
Still Ill
Panic
/The Queen Is Dead
//William, It Was Really Nothing
//Hand In Glove
This concert, put together as a benefit for the Artists Against Apartheid, was originally due to be held at the Royal Albert Hall on 14 November 1986 but it had to be rescheduled following Johnny's car accident. It turned out to be the last time the Smiths were on stage together, bar a few television appearances. The gig was a much more personal and lively affair than the previous Brixton Academy concert in October when the tensions behind the scenes and the exhaustion of touring could not be hidden. There was a great complicity between the members of the band, nothing hinted that within a year the Smiths would be no more. During "Still Ill", Johnny moved next to Andy and Morrissey joined them. They could be seen smiling and laughing, as if they were in on some inside joke.

What makes this gig even more special is that it turned out to be the only time songs like "Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others", the upcoming single "Shoplifters Of The World Unite" and the "London"/"Miserable Lie" medley were ever performed by the Smiths. "This Night Has Opened My Eyes" which hadn't been played in a long time was also done. Finally, "William, It Was Really Nothing" and the live staple "Hand In Glove" which had been dropped on the recent British leg of the "The Queen Is Dead" tour also returned.

Mike teased the audience with the drum beat to "Panic" then Morrissey said hello before the band launched into "Bigmouth Strikes Again". The latter song was again extended with a slightly longer intro. The audience was surprised to find that at the end of "London", soon after the usual live change from "he really goes!" to "my God he goes!", the band moved from the song's bridge into the fast-paced outro to "Miserable Lie". As they switched from the former to the latter, Morrissey wildly whipped the microphone cord in loops. Instead of singing "I'm just a country mile behind the world", he returned to the early lyric "I'd run a hundred miles away from you". The medley was extremely well received, the crowd roared in appreciation and Morrissey thanked them by saying "You have incredibly good taste..."

"Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others" was the only song from "The Queen Is Dead" which had never been played live before. It was therefore performed here for the first and last time ever. Morrissey added an extra verse to it, it went "On the shop floor, there's a calendar, as obvious as snow, as if we didn't know". This new verse and the song's acoustic adaptation made it one of the highlights of the evening. Morrissey replied to the loud applause that number received by growling loudly "Hello!". A few songs later, the soon to be released "Shoplifters Of The World Unite" was introduced with the announcement "This is our new single..."

After the latter song Morrissey picked a letter from the floor and placed it on the drum rise. He then picked a flower, crumpled it, threw it away, and placed another one inside his jacket, hugging it next to his heart before sending it back into the crowd. As was tradition at that point in time, he didn't sing the repeated title chorus at the end of the crowd favourite "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out". The singer acknowledged the audience's unfamiliarity with the following song by following its performance with the introduction "Thank you, that song was called 'Is It Really So Strange?'." He reversed two lines at the beginning of it and sang "Oh yes you can me and you can kick me". A line was wittily inverted in "Cemetry Gates" to "We stonely read the graves". Morrissey also sang "They were born, they lived, they died" instead of the usual longer line. In "Panic" he highlighted the "hang the DJ" lyric by swinging a noose around.

Returning to the stage for the first of two encores Morrissey told the audience "Thank you, we love you" then launched into a roaring version of "The Queen Is Dead". He waved a board around during the latter number, but instead of saying THE QUEEN IS DEAD like it did earlier in the year, the board now had the words TWO LIGHT ALES PLEASE on it. The man also made a slight lyric change in that number when he sang "hemmed in like a boar between arches" instead of "stuck like a boar between arches". At this point fans started to climb on stage. There would be about a dozen of them making it up there throughout the two encores. After this first encore Morrissey threw his shirt into the crowd and the band left the stage again. They soon returned for a final two-song encore. Morrissey roared loudly "MORE!?", paused a bit, then teasingly added "No?!". Final song "Hand In Glove" ended with Morrissey wailing in a high pitched voice for about 20 seconds. No one knew this at the time, but with its final line "I'll probably never see you again", "Hand In Glove", the band's first ever release, couldn't have been a better way of saying goodbye to their audience.

Tickets were 8, 7, 6 and 5.

Do you have information about this concert? Or do you own an uncirculated recording of it? If yes please contribute and get credited.

 


Pete Shelley.

 


Information needed. The merchandise was presumably similar to what was sold on the recent British leg of the "The Queen Is Dead" tour. The only confirmed item was a mug with the words "Free Nelson Mandela" on it (or something similar).

 


A T-Rex compilation of some duration was played between Pete Shelley and the Smiths. It is unclear whether something else was also played. However the last song before the Smiths entered stage was a near complete recording of "Take Me Back To Dear Old Blighty", not only the short snippet heard at the beginning of "The Queen Is Dead" on the album of the same name.

 


Alain Delon, as seen on the cover of the "The Queen Is Dead" album.

 


This date's unique performance of "Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others" was released as a b-side to the "I Started Something I Couldn't Finish" 12" and cassette single in the UK and the "Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before" single in other parts of the world. It was later reissued on cd on the rare French freebie cd-EP "Handsome Devils" and the more common 1992 cd-single reissue of "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out".

 


Thanks to Steve from Soundsville International this historical concert is available on bootleg video and DVD. This recording of the complete concert is of reasonably good quality for an audience one. There are three versions out there. All feature the same footage, but vary in quality and have different audio tracks. The most circulated version was transfered from VHS and features the original recorded audio. A second version has the same footage but has the better sounding "Somebody Waved Goodbye" audio bootleg (read below) dubbed over. Fans will prefer the third version. It was transfered to DVD straight from the master (so no VHS in the lineage) and has the best available audio recording mentioned below as the audio track.

 


There are two fanmade audio recordings of the complete concert circulated on various titled and untitled bootlegs at this point in time. The most common one was taped by Mark T, working for Big Al aka Fat Alex, and is usually referred to as the BigAl recording within the trading community. It includes the near-complete "Take Me Back To Dead Old Blighty" pre-entrance song. The only downside is that all circulated versions of this show have a recording of "The Queen Is Dead" from a different date in its place. The master has since been lost so whatever imperfect or incomplete version of that song it might have held is now lost. The best version of this recording out there is from a very good transfer from a first generation tape to lossless digital format (FLAC). A version very close in quality is more commonly found on both cd and digital format under the title "Somebody Waved Goodbye". It was also very likely produced from a first generation tape because the content is exactly the same as the digital transfer mentioned above (same alternate "The Queen Is Dead", same pre-entrance song fade-in, etc).

The other recording was brought to us thanks to taper DJ. It is much scarcer than the other one because until 2010 it was in the hands of only the most hardcore collectors. It sounds slightly inferior to the BigAl recording, but it has the advantage of featuring "The Queen Is Dead" from this show, not from another one.

"Never Had No One Ever" was produced from the BigAl ecording and is an interesting alternative to "Somebody Waved Goodbye". It also features the complete concert with that version of "The Queen Is Dead" from another date. However the sound quality is slightly inferior, particularly on the first few songs, probably because it was produced from a higher generation tape copy. Also, only 30 seconds of the "Take Me Back To Dead Old Blighty" intro are featured (instead of the 80 seconds found on "Somebody Waved Goodbye"). The bootleg was originally released on a double LP paired with 8 tracks from Madrid 18 May 1985. The reissue on cd only includes one song from the latter date, "Handsome Devil". However better bootlegs exist for that earlier gig. Click on date for full details.

The bootleg cd "The Final Gig" is slightly less interesting. It features the complete set but the sound quality is clearly inferior to the above two titled bootlegs. This also features the band's final session on John Peel's radio programme.

"Royal Command Performance" was first released on a red vinyl double LP and later reissued on CD with more or less the same artwork. This bootleg's sound is rather muffled and the set lacks "Ask", "Bigmouth Strikes Again", "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" and "Is It Really So Strange?". The double LP set is paired with 12 song from the Manchester G-Mex concert on 19 July 1986 as well as live versions of "Jeane" and "Girl Don't Come" by Sandie Shaw on her own. The compact disc only includes 9 songs from that G-Mex gig. Click on date for full track listing details.

The "A Nice Bit Of Meat" mixed content bootleg released on CD and LP includes this gig's "This Night Has Opened My Eyes" only. Click on links for full track listing details.

"Wilde About The Smiths", a factory pressed cd in digipack, and its vinyl reissue "Hang The DJ (Thrice!)" both feature "The Queen Is Dead" from this concert with many other live tracks, rarities and radio sessions. As the source for the latter song may have been the BigAl recording, this means that this bootleg may actually not feature a song from this show.

The exact content of the bootleg "I Know It's All over" is unknown.

Digital transfers of all the bootlegs mentioned above except for "Wilde About The Smiths" are available on the usual file sharing networks.

The existence of a soundboard bootleg of this concert is rumoured and some traders advertise the recording they own for this date as being soundboard, but what they have is actually the first version listed above. This mislabeling is due to the fact that Big Al - the original distributor of this recording - labeled it as being from the mixing desk because the quality was very good.