This month marks 30 YEARS since The Smiths released debut single, “Hand In Glove” – can you believe it?
The working partnership of Morrissey/Marr has been long dead and buried, but the impact of their music is inescapable. Their legacy lives on in some of the biggest bands to date; Oasis, The Killers, Kasabian and The Libertines, to name but a few. Tribute is paid by The Smyths; currently on tour commemorating three decades of the Manchester-based band and reminding audiences why we fell in love with The Smiths in the first place.
Frontman, Graham Sampson tells us what it’s like to be Morrissey . . .
How did The Smyths initially come together?
Our bass player, Simon, was someone I’d been with in original bands a decade before we formed in 2003. At that time he was in a Beautiful South/Housemartins tribute along with our original Craig Gannon, a chap called Chris Bounds. Chris suggested to Simon that given how much they loved the Smiths, why not do a Smiths tribute? Chris asked Simon if he knew a suitable Morrissey – and he did – Me. I’d be well known for my vocal likeness of Morrissey as well as my ability to act in his own voice. Andy – our Johnny Marr was an ocassional player in the BS/Housemartins tribute as well as having been in a Velvet Underground tribute, so Simon and Chris approached him. They then asked Andy if he knew a drummer and he knew Tom. Chris left after 18 months to be replaced by Will. He plays around 50% of our shows – when he plays we can play “How Soon Is Now”, that requires two guitarists! Our first rehearsal was at London Bridge in June 2003 and from the off we knew we had something special. Ten years on, this band continues to amaze me as to just how good they are as a live unit. I’m humbled to be part of that.
Of all the bands to pay tribute to, why them?!
It was not done for the sake of being a tribute band. We all LOVE the music of the Smiths and wanted to recreate the feel of the Smiths live.
Is your performance a carbon copy of The Smiths or your own personal interpretation?
It’s our personal interpretation, it’s rather as one would approach any great theatrical role. Is it Hamlet the part or is it Daniel Day Lewis’ Hamlet etc. That may sound pompous, but we are very honest that our Smiths show is soulful and not limited to the shackles of not being able to express ourselves. After 10 years, we have seen that many of our fans who come over and over are fans of both the music and us as a band in our own right – something I couldn’t have expected. I like to think that is testament to our being a fantastic live act re-enabling the greatest British band of all-time.
What is your favourite song to play live?
For me personally, it’s “I Know It’s Over”. It’s a vocal tour-de-force and is also a spotlight song for a singer. As a unified band song, a wonderful thing happens whereby at any one particular show, a certain song may be performed better than it ever had been previously. A few shows back everything clicked on “Shakespear’s Sister” and again, weeks later “London” – these had always been well played but suddenly they became turbo charged. “How Soon Is Now” is always enjoyable – we are unable to play it at every show because playing it as we do (without samples or triggered sound effects), we require our second guitarist, Will, who only plays around 70% of our shows.
What is your typical audience? Do you think your tribute has introduced a lot of younger people to The Smiths music?
Our typical audience is made up of “I saw the Smiths” to “My Dad (or Grandad) loves the Smiths and I grew up loving the music”. The ages range from 14 to 80 – typically we’ll have students and six formers mixing with a great number of people in their 40s and 50s.