Earlier this week, Morrissey announced plans to play a seven-night Broadway stand at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater. According to a press release, the show will be “an intimate yet exciting exploration of Morrissey’s expansive career from his early days to his upcoming new record California Son: a collection of 1960/70s classic covers.” While this is unlikely to shatter Broadway records like Springsteen on Broadway, Morrissey fanatics are likely to descend on New York in droves and it’s easy to imagine more shows being added to meet demand.
If he sticks to his basic setlist of the past few years, expect no more than two or three Smiths songs in the show. And while that may annoy some of his old-school fans, it’s easy to understand, since the Smiths represent a mere four years of his 36-year career. He began his solo journey in March 1988 with the release of Viva Hate, but he didn’t perform live until December 22nd of that year when he played the most unique gig of his post-Smiths career at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall in Wolverhampton, England. None of the Smiths played on Viva Hate, but he still invited the former members, minus Johnny Marr, to serve as his backing band for the evening.
In many ways, this was a farewell concert to the Smiths even if he only played three of their songs. Here’s video of “Suedehead” from that night. He’s played the song well over 300 times, but this is the very first time. Anybody with a Morrissey shirt was allowed into the show for free, which caused an absolute mob scene outside the theater. The Smiths hadn’t played in nearly two years at that point, so the hunger to see Morrissey in any capacity was tremendous.
This Wolverhampton show seemed to mark the beginning of a Morrissey solo career where he’d basically continue the Smiths with their former touring guitarist Craig Gannon taking the place of Johnny Marr. That still felt like the case months later when bassist Andy Rourke, drummer Mike Joyce and Gannon backed him on the singles “The Last of the International Playboys” and “Interesting Drug,” but Morrissey soon had a change of heart about the arrangement. “The unhappy past descends upon me each time I hear their voices,” he wrote in his 2013 memoir, “and I decide to not invite them to any further recording sessions.”
Not long after that decision, lawyers for Mike Joyce wrote Morrissey and threatened legal action unless he signed over a larger chunk of Smiths royalties. According to Morrissey’s book, they indicated that he wouldn’t take action if he made him a permanent member of the “Morrissey Band,” something that Morrissey claims doesn’t even exist. Morrissey wasn’t going to be blackmailed into keeping the ex-Smiths in his band, and he hasn’t played with any of them since that lone 1988 show.
Morrissey stands to make a fortune if he ever changes his mind about playing with his old bandmates, but it’s a pretty safe bet at this point he’s never going to do that. And here’s a good tip going forward: If you want to play drums for somebody, don’t have your lawyers send them a threatening letter to make it happen.