The Smiths Salford Uni

It was the day after the damp squib Festival of the Tenth Summer concert at GMEX… what a contrast!

We ordered a cab because we weren’t sure how to get to Salford Uni on the bus. Me and Alf had tickets but Dunc and Cliff didn’t. I persuaded them to come anyway because I felt sure they’d be able to get in (…the confidence of youth: I was 19 and they were 16-17.)

Term was finished and the campus was quiet apart from people heading to the gig; we didn’t know which building we were going to so we just followed the others towards Maxwell Hall:

The security was very relaxed; the bouncers let us leave the building and come back in with tickets already torn… which meant I could pass our torn tickets to Dunc and Cliff through the girls’ toilet window and they could walk in through the front door, claiming they’d been in already.

Two lads saw us do this and begged me to do the same for them; so I did, and all I asked was that they return our tickets once they were inside. Other people must have had the same idea because by the time the Smiths came on, the place was heaving.

We found standing room in the middle of the hall; we were being pushed by the force of the crowd but it wasn’t too bad… a bit like standing in the sea with the water up to your shoulders!

The Smiths – The Boy With The Thorn In His Side

The running order was:

Shakespeare’s Sister
Frankly, Mr. Shankly
Vicar In A Tutu
I Want The One I Can’t Have
Cemetry Gates
Never Had No One Ever
Is It Really So Strange?
The Boy With The Thorn In His Side
There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore
What She Said (with Rubber Ring intro and outro)
The Queen Is Dead
/Money Changes Everything
/I Know It’s Over
//Bigmouth Strikes Again
///(Marie’s The Name) His Latest Flame/Rusholme Ruffians
///Hand In Glove

It was mid-summer and I remember the hall being lighter than it appears in the video… I thought there was some natural light … but my memory must be playing tricks.

There were massive stacks of speakers on either side of the stage and the whole floor and stage were shaking with the movement of the crowd… the security guys were pre-occupied for most of the concert with physically holding the speakers to stop them from keeling over. In between songs they threw people off stage, but during the songs people were climbing up again.

What She Said / Rubber Ring – The Smiths

I let myself get pushed nearer the front until eventually I was up against the stage, on the left hand side… and then I began to get scared because I was stuck in the crush with no way out, and I felt weak.

I spotted one of the boys who had come in on our tickets, actually on the stage, right in front of me; he was crouching just by the speakers. I reached out and he tried to blank me! I was outraged! When he realised I wasn’t going to stop bugging him, he reluctantly pulled me on stage, where I perched in front of the speakers for the rest of ‘The Queen Is Dead’.

The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead

Instead of being elated to be on stage with The Smiths, I was just relieved to be alive. I never particularly liked this song and it seemed to go on and on; I remember thinking ‘I’m the only girl up here! I wonder if the others can see me?’

I was very aware of the stressed-out security guys, holding onto the speakers right next to us; they were eyeing us and I knew they would chuck us off-stage just as soon as the song finished. I thought… ‘I must savour this moment’… and I tried really hard to fully appreciate my view of Andy Rourke’s jeans and the sensation of the biggest speaker I’d ever seen, at full volume, 6 inches away from my head.

At last ‘The Queen Is Dead’ ended and the band left the stage. The crowd fell back just enough for me to jump down into a space and push my way out of there. I walked straight out of the hall, into the bar and bought a pint of lemonade. I was soaked with sweat, my head was a beetroot and my legs were like jelly. I watched the encores from the back!

His Latest Flame / Rusholme Ruffians / Hand In Glove

This was definitely the most intense gig I ever went to in my life! I wish I’d seen The Smiths earlier on at a smaller gig though, because this one was just so manic.

‘efsb’ commented on Flickr “This was the most mental gig of the Smiths that I went to (and I went to six).”

In a 2007 NME interview, when questioned about the best gig he’d ever played, Johnny Marr said: “Salford University in 1986 with The Smiths. The PA had to be tied down because the floor was bouncing up so high that the stage was practically falling to pieces. I’ve actually got that night on film somewhere. The Smiths were pretty full-on as a live band. Even the slow songs were full-on. I doubt we ever played a bad show.”

Johnny Marr returned to Salford University to give a public lecture as Visiting Professor of Music in November 2008, entitled ‘Always from the outside: mavericks, innovators and building your own ark’.

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  1. dennis hughes

    i was also there i got tickets from my dad who worked at salford university you can see me really clear towards the end of rusholm ruffians also seen them 6 other times but nothing topped seeing them play at salford i was brought up 10minutes walk away.i agree about the numbers because i went along with about 30 friends and only 3 of us had tickets but eveyone got in i also got on stage but i cant recall which track but i do remember holding Morrissey.great gig/great times happy memories

  2. tagishsimon

    I worked at that gig, and spent much of it standing stage-left behind the speaker-stack, trying to damp it and prevent it from collapsing forwrds onto the audience. I got a wry look or two from Mr. Marr.

    iirc, the normal stage was extended with a relatively light-weight tube-steel legged plaftorm, on which the speakers were stacked. The audience took it on itself to jump up and down as one throughout pretty much all of the gig – way more energy and enthusiasm than anything I’d ever seen at the Maxwell. The floor moved with the people, the stage extension bounced with the floor, the speakers tottered as if drunk. Downstairs, two pairs of massive double doors swung open and shut as the ceiling played the room like bellows. And that was the last such gig in the Maxwell for quite some time, owing to the University’s alarm over the potential or actual structural damage.

    • Simon what a fantastic description! Thank you!! I think I was on the other side of the stage from you! It sounds like we were all very lucky to emerge unscathed!!

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