So after a weekend that involved me posting nothing but Shakin’ Stevens, Bucks Fizz, Darts, Dire Straits and two other Mark Knopfler based tunes, I suppose I ought to drag this back round to something a little less mainstream.
Think about every time that you’ve been at, what for the purposes of this section we call an ‘Indie Disco’, and then think of the different songs by The Smiths that you’ve heard being played. “This Charming Man”, obviously. “Bigmouth Strikes Again” maybe. Occasionally “Hand in Glove”. “Panic” less frequently (DJ’s tend to get a bit nervous of playing that, given it’ “Hang the DJ” closing refrain). “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” often makes an appearance as an end-of-the-night dancefloor sing-a-long, signalling the fact that the lights are very much about to come on.
But today’s choice? Never, as far as I can remember, have I heard it played “out”, which given it has a shimmering extended funky disco-esque groove and a bassline that Nile Rodgers would be proud of, whilst still retaining it’s indelible Indie-ness, is a bit of a surprise.
Actually, that’s not quite true. I can think of one occasion when a DJ played it “out”, although I think you’d struggle to describe it as being at an ‘Indie Disco’.
This would have been around 1986, or maybe 1987, when I was at Sixth Form college studying for my ‘A’ Levels. Inexplicably, one afternoon my friend Richie and I are sitting in the Peterborough branch of McDonalds. This is inexplicable since Richie was definitely vegetarian at the time, and if I wasn’t one yet then I must have been very much on the cusp.
Possibly the reason we were in there was due to a second inexplicable fact: there was a DJ playing. Nobody famous, just some local Dave Doubledecks mobile DJ who had been hired in to provide something approaching atmosphere. I think we must have ventured in, intrigued and, more than likely, to take the piss.
We were definitely on our way somewhere, to a house party I think, as Richie had a plastic bag full of vinyl with him. As we sat there, the DJ, clearly bored with having to think of stuff to play all by himself, and possibly in a desperate attempt to alleviate his boredom by creating some sort of audience participation, went on to his microphone and boomed something along the lines of “If there’s a special record you want to hear whilst you eat, come on over and ask; as long as I have it, I’ll play it.”
We mischievously sidled over to him.
“Alright mate?” was my opening gambit of choice. “Play anything will you? Got any Smiths?”
“No, sorry mate” he replied.
At which point Richie stepped forwards, thrust a record into his hands and said “You have now. Title track please, it’s the last track on Side Two.”
Many of you will know that The Smiths only released four studio albums (compilations aside), and of those only two have title tracks: “The Queen is Dead” (and, similarly, you all know that the title song there is Track One, Side One) and the album that the DJ looked down to find he was now holding.
“You’re having a laugh, aren’t you?” he said, trying to off-load back to us the copy of “Meat is Murder” that he was suddenly, unwantedly, clutching. “I can’t play ‘Meat is Murder’ in a branch of McDonalds!”
“You just said you would!” I piped up. “‘As long as I have it, I’ll play it’. You just said it. And now you have it, so…if you don’t play it then I think you’ll find that technically that’s false advertising. Illegal. I’m sure the manager would be interested to hear about that, is he around….?” (I really was that much of an annoying, argumentative little git at that age. Some would argue that little has changed since.)
“Oh come on lads, don’t make me do this,” he pleaded, “I’ll either get fired or they’ll refuse to pay me….”
“You should have thought about that before you decided to take the corporate death machine’s dollar, matey,” Richie pitched in, in full Rik from The Young Ones mode.
“Look, how about I play the track before that, that’d be alright, yeah? A compromise?” It turned out to be a brilliant move by him; proving he knew today’s song and therefore probably the album too, it showed us that he was probably alright really: it saved his bacon’n’egg McMuffin.
And so it was that one Saturday afternoon in the late 1980s that Richie and I spent six and half minutes dancing to The Smiths in the Peterborough branch of McDonalds.
The Smiths – Barbarism Begins at Home
Footnote: I mentioned this in passing to Richie a while ago. He had absolutely no recollection of it whatsoever. I can’t have made it all up, can I….?