Morrissey played his first concert of 2020 on March 6th at the First Direct Arena in Leeds, England, where he treated fans to a reworked setlist. It featured not only the first performance of the Smiths classic “The Boy With the Thorn in His Side” since 2013 but also the first “At Amber” since 2002 — plus live debuts of “Jim Jim Falls,” “Once I Saw the River Clean” and “Love Is on Its Way Out” from his upcoming album I Am Not a Dog on a Chain.
But he saved the big moment for the first encore when he broke out the Smiths 1987 obscurity “Half a Person” for the first time in 20 years. The song was released as the B-Side to “Shoplifters of the World Unite” and later appeared on their compilation Louder Than Bombs. It was never played at a proper Smiths concert, although they did perform it at a BBC John Peel Session on December 12th, 1986. Morrissey began playing it at his solo shows in late 1999 and it was a mainstay all across 2000, but then it vanished until this month.
Morrissey and Johnny Marr wrote the song while standing face-to-face in the stairwell of a recording studio. “The best songwriting moment me and Morrissey ever had,” Marr said. “We were so close, practically touching. I could see him kind of willing me on, waiting to see what I was going to play. Then I could see him thinking, ‘That’s exactly where I was hoping you’d go.’ It was a fantastic shared moment.”
When Rob Sheffield ranked all 73 Smiths songs in 2017, he listed “Half a Person” at Number Two, topped only by “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out.”
“Any 10-second snippet of this song has more joy and anguish than most bands’ careers,” he wrote. “The Smiths tucked it away on a B-side. Keats, Yeats and Wilde would all be proud.”
Morrissey is releasing I Am Not a Dog on a Chain on March 20th. He is playing at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom on March 20th and then the Apollo Theater on March 21st. In late June and early July, he’s playing five nights at The Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.