Hear The Smiths’ Newly Unearthed First Recording
Let’s go back in time — way back, to a time before Morrissey’s embrace of nativist fascism and proclivity for cancelling live shows came to overshadow his legendary musical output, before any of that output had even come to pass. Let’s go all the way back to August of 1982, to his first known recording as part of the Smiths.
We can go that far back now thanks to Dale Hibbert. As Slicing Up Eyeballs points out, Hibbert — a recording engineer who briefly played bass in the Smiths before being replaced by Andy Rourke — posted full-length audio of Morrissey and Johnny Marr covering the Cookies’ “I Want A Boy For My Birthday” to YouTube on Sunday, originally captured by Marr’s TEAC three-track cassette recorder in preparation for recording a demo with Hibbert at Decibel Studios. A lo-fi snippet of the cover has been making the rounds for years, but Hibbert’s upload captures all three minutes with a bright new clarity.
Slicing Up Eyeballs also helpfully provides this background from Simon Goddard’s Songs That Saved Your Life: The Art Of The Smiths 1982-87:
The earliest known surviving document in the recording history of The Smiths stems from those very first attic practice sessions with Morrissey, Marr and Hibbert. It was for the latter’s benefit that the singer and guitarist taped a simple arrangement of “I Want A Boy For My Birthday,” a 1963 B-side by New York girl group The Cookies, on Marr’s TEAC machine so that Hibbert could learn the melody in preparation for The Smiths’ first demo session. The cover was Morrissey’s idea. “I’d never heard it before,” says Marr, “but I thought, ‘Great, this’ll really freak ‘em out!’ I was really happy to encourage it.”
According to the book, Hibbert kept the recording and was the one who uploaded the excerpt back in the ’90s before selling the tape to a collector. The Smiths performed “I Want A Boy For My Birthday” at their debut concert on Oct. 4, 1982 at The Ritz in Manchester and once more before abandoning the song to history. They didn’t even end up recording the cover for their demo — perhaps not surprising given that Hibbert, who got them the session, allegedly left the Smiths partially because he took issue with the band’s “gay” aesthetic (a charge he denies in his own book Boy Interrupted: Memoir Of A Former Smith).
Now that original homemade demo is online for our enjoyment. Listen below.