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The Smiths naturally kicked off the Meat Is Murder tour in the UK. It was a huge success, parallel to that of the newest album which went to #1 in the British charts. Most dates were quickly sold out.
A concert scheduled for March 10 in Southend was cancelled at the last minute because the venue was deemed unsafe.
More than half of the "Meat Is Murder" album had already been introduced to audiences on live dates in late 1984, but three more songs from it were introduced and performed regularly throughout the Meat Is Murder tour: the title track, "The Headmaster Ritual" and "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore". So all songs from the newest album minus "Well I Wonder" were staples on this tour.
"Shakespeare's Sister", which was released as a single in the UK halfway into this leg of the tour, was also played every night. Its b-side "Stretch Out And Wait" was performed on the first three dates then dropped for a week and a half. It then returned as a regular for the remainder of the British dates.
Other regulars in the set were "How Soon Is Now?" and standard set opener "William, It Was Really Nothing" from 1984 as well as older songs "Still Ill", "Miserable Lie", "Handsome Devil" and "Hand In Glove". "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" started off as a regular, slotted midset, but was dropped halfway into the tour. It returned after a week's break and was then slotted as an encore until the end.
"Reel Around The Fountain" was included in the set during the short period when "Stretch Out And Wait" wasn't. "You've Got Everything Now" was played during the short time when "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" was dropped and also served as an encore filler on a few dates. "This Charming Man" and "These Things Take Time" were performed once each, they also served as encores.
Here is the number of times each song was performed on this leg, in descending order of frequency.
Hand In Glove - 23
See here for more tour statistics.
In "Meat Is Murder" Morrissey sang with a passion that probably made a few fans turn vegetarian. The live version was so much more powerful than the album version that it was considered shortly after this tour as a possible lead track to a live EP. At the end of the song Morrissey sang "who cares if animals die" instead of "who hears when animals cry", a change that would be heard often over this song's live life, even in Morrissey's solo years.
Morrissey took liberties with the lyrics of some of his older songs. The best example is "You've Got Everything Now" in which he often sang the usual live changes "You've got nothing now", "No I never had a job because I've never even had an interview" or "I've never had a job because I'm too sensible". He also introduced "I know you can smile, but can you throw back your head and laugh?".
Johnny also started adapting some of the older songs musically. This was notable in "Miserable Lie", "Handsome Devil", which was given a rockabilly-ish edge or "This Charming Man", which lost the breaks in its rhythm. "Rusholme Ruffians" was performed by itself on this tour. In late 1984 it had been played in a medley with "This Charming Man" and from later in 1985 to the end of the Smiths' live career it would be segued from an intro of the Elvis song "(Marie's The Name) His Latest Flame".
Johnny wasn't the only one to make changes in "Miserable Lie". For a few weeks during the period covered here Morrissey echoed the endings of certain lines such as "you have corrupt my innocent mind, innocent mind", "what do we get for our trouble and pain, trouble and pain?" or "how much I love your casual way, casual way". He also often changed a line to "I'd really like to see your underwear" and sometimes another one to "and life is just a miserable lie".
"Shakespeare's Sister" was released as a single halfway into this leg of the tour so Morrissey often introduced it as the band's newest release before going into it. He took the opportunity at the same time to comment on the song's lack of airplay and/or success in the charts. He also needed to introduce that single's b-side, "Stretch Out And Wait", which was just as unfamiliar to most of the audience. The latter song was done exactly like the released single version. Later in the year Morrissey would start playing around with its lyrics.
Echo was used in "Barbarism Begins At Home" to beef up Morrissey's grunts. Perhaps the most interesting thing retrospectively is that in his mumblings near the end of that song Morrissey sang "...a crack on the head because of all the silly little things that you said, and you said the queen is dead..." Those last words were mumbled on certain nights, but were clearly sung on others. The song "The Queen Is Dead" was to be written before the end of the year, so perhaps Morrissey was already putting together its lyrics. It's also possible that those words were somehow autobiographical and singing them gave him the idea to write a song around them.
As he had started to do in "Reel Around The Fountain" at the end of 1984 Morrissey added a funny "buddum buddum" at the end of the line "You can pin and mount me like a butterfly". In "Handsome Devil" he often changed a line to "I know what teeth are for, and I'd like to help myself". Besides making the usual change "If I were you I really wouldn't bother" in "Still Ill" Morrissey also sometimes sang "There are brighter sides to life and I should know because I've seen them... once!" and "Under the iron bridge we kissed and although I ended up with two lips". Instead of singing "but we have something they'll never have" in "Hand In Glove" he usually sang "we have something they never had". The second occurrence of "the sun shines out of our behinds" in the latter number was replaced with a repeat of "the Good People laugh" line.
Another great bootleg was produced from the 16 March concert in Hanley, so just two days before Oxford. The recording is fanmade, but the sound is still surprisingly good for an audience one. The set is very similar to Oxford (plus "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now", minus "You've Got Everything Now"), the band gave a great show and the enthusiastic crowd engaged in some singalongs to their favourite songs.
Many other shows from this period are in circulation, but none of them offer anything interesting not available on "Same Day Again". Soundwise the next best options would be the radio broadcast of Manchester and an excellent nine-song audience recording of Northampton. Content-wise the only other interesting options are the latter Northampton subset for the only performance of "This Charming Man" on this leg and one of the two audience recordings of the London Brixton Academy show which features the short-lived "William, It Was Really Nothing" with extended intro and the only live performance of "These Things Take Time" in 1985 (which also happens to be the final performance of that song).
For completist collectors here is a rundown of the other shows in circulation, in complete or incomplete form, and in varying levels of sound quality: Chippenham, Guildford, Reading, Poole, Brighton, Margate, Ipswich, Nottingham, Birmingham, Oxford (audience recording, not the radio broadcast mentioned above), Sheffield, Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Liverpool (full or incomplete set), Bradford, Bristol and London-Royal Albert Hall.
All of the above is also found in digital format on the internet.