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This was the first tour of North America for the Smiths who had only been to the USA once before, in New York City on New Year's Eve of 1984. A tour had been planned in late 1984 to promote the debut album, but those plans had been scrapped. The band was received with great enthusiasm by the Americans as well as the Canadians.


Billy Bragg as a one-man band.
Drag queens were hired to warm up the audience for the first night in Chicago, but they were booed off stage. An African-American drag queen opened in Oklahoma. The opening act for the first Los Angeles show, if not both, was Dainty Adore O'Hara, a 300-pound drag queen in a frilly yellow dress who sang operetta.


A programme was specifically printed for this American leg of the Meat Is Murder tour, a brown variation on the programme sold on the recent UK leg, featuring Viv Nicholson on the cover. The back was corrected to feature the American tour dates (view).


The Smiths' "Oscillate Wildly" might have been included.
The overture to Prokofiev's "Romeo And Juliet" was the last song on the intro tape before the Smiths entered stage.


The setlist length for most of the tour was of 18 tracks, but a few lucky cities were given one or two extra songs. No new song was introduced to the public.

The track selection was very similar to what it was on the recent British and European dates. The "Meat Is Murder" album was represented by "Nowhere Fast", "What She Said", "I Want The One I Can't Have", "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore", "Meat Is Murder" and "The Headmaster Ritual". "Rusholme Ruffians" was also a regular, but it was replaced by "Reel Around The Fountain" on the two final dates. "How Soon Is Now?", which should be mentioned in this paragraph as it was included on "Meat Is Murder" in North America, was also a regular. "Barbarism Begins At Home" was added one third into the tour, as one of the few replacements to "Handsome Devil".

Recent UK/Europe single "Shakespeare's Sister" as well as its b-side "Stretch Out And Wait" were also played regularly, despite the fact that the latter song was not released in North America. The back catalogue supplied "Still Ill", "Miserable Lie" and "Hand In Glove" as well as two more tracks unreleased in the USA (but available in Canada): "William, It Was Really Nothing" and "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now". "This Charming Man" which had been neglected on the British leg but reinstated for the European dates was also played in North America. "You've Got Everything Now" was played once only, in Washington.

"Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want" which hadn't been performed in the UK or Europe on this tour was scheduled for most of this portion as an encore, despite not being available for purchase in the USA otherwise than by import from Canada or the UK. It was dropped after San Diego. "Handsome Devil" was played on the first five dates then dropped in favour of "Jeane" and "Barbarism Begins At Home". It would never be played live again. Finally "Reel Around The Fountain" was played a few times only on these dates.

Here is the number of times each song was performed on this leg, in descending order of frequency. This is based on 12 concerts for which the setlist is known, plus 1 for which it is partially known.

How Soon Is Now? - 13
I Want The One I Can't Have - 13
Miserable Lie - 13
Nowhere Fast - 13
Shakespeare's Sister - 13
Stretch Out And Wait - 13
That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore - 13
What She Said - 13
William, It Was Really Nothing - 13
Hand In Glove - 12
Meat Is Murder - 12
Still Ill - 12
The Headmaster Ritual - 12
Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now - 11
Rusholme Ruffians - 11
This Charming Man - 11
Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want - 9
Jeane - 8
Barbarism Begins At Home - 7
Handsome Devil - 5
Reel Around The Fountain - 3
You've Got Everything Now - 1

See here for more tour statistics.


"William, It Was Really Nothing" was the standard opener for the first two thirds of this section, it was then replaced in that spot by a slow and passionate "Meat Is Murder". Before that move the latter had been always slotted as the standard main set closer and after that was replaced in that position by the fan favourite "How Soon Is Now?".

The returning "Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want" was played the same way it had been done in Ireland in November 1984. The second verse was repeated and the song ended abruptly without the instrumental outro. However, these renditions were much better than the earlier ones. Johnny also took certain liberties with older songs. For example, "This Charming Man" didn't include the breaks in the rhythm, thus returning to the way it had originally been written. In "Jeane" he included the intro bars from the Beatle's "Day Tripper" halfway into the song. At the very end of the latter Morrissey yelped loudly instead of singing "Oh Jeane!".

When "Barbarism Begins At Home" returned to the setlist, it was always as the final song of the evening, and ended in a jam that extended the song to 10, 12 and even 15 minutes on the very last date. Echo was still used in its latter half to beef up Morrissey's grunts. This was to be that song's goodbyes, as it was never to be played after this tour. Perhaps the most interesting thing - retrospectively - is that in his mumblings near the end of the song, Morrissey sang "...a crack on the head because of all the silly little things that you said, and you said the queen is dead..." Those last words were mumbled on certain nights, but were clearly sung on others. The song "The Queen Is Dead" was to be written before the end of the year, so perhaps Morrissey was already putting together its lyrics. It's also possible that those words were somehow autobiographical and singing them gave him the idea to write a song around them.

During the encores, as he usually did, Morrissey took liberties with certains songs. In "This Charming Man" he sometimes sang "It's gruesome that someone so ugly should care" and in "Miserable Lie" he changed a line to "I'd really like to see your underwear", or even "I'd like to be your underwear". In "Hand In Glove", Morrissey still sometimes replaced "but we have something they'll never have" by "we have something they never had", but not as often as before. However the second occurrence of "the sun shines out of our behinds" was still always replaced with a repeat of "the Good People laugh". The last line of "Meat Is Murder" was usually changed to "and who cares if animals die." Besides these changes Morrissey often made the usual ones in "You've Got Everything Now".


The first of the two Los Angeles gigs was supposedly recorded for radio broadcast. "Shakespeare's Sister" from this concert was made available on the promo version of a compilation titled "Rarities: volume 2" released in 2004. It was intended to appear on the version available in stores, but the song was pulled off at the last minute and is therefore only available on the promo version.


At this point in time, there is no visual souvenir of this leg of the Meat Is Murder tour.


Nine and a half concerts from this portion of the "Meat Is Murder" tour are in circulation at this point in time. Soundwise and performance-wise the best option is definitely the scarcer recording of the full set of the second New York date. Collectors should be aware however that they might not want the more common inferior and shorter recording circulated for the same date under the title "I Suffer". Performance-wise, the Boston and the first New York dates are also very good, but the sound quality is slightly inferior.

The other available dates have minor setlist variations that might make them appealing to the collector who wants more. These dates are Toronto gig includes "Handsome Devil" and Washington includes both the latter and "You've Got Everything Now", but those concerts took place before "Jeane", "Barbarism Begins At Home" and "Reel Around The Fountain" were added to the setlist. "Headmasters" from Laguna Hills is interesting for the 15-minute and last ever performance of "Barbarism Begins At Home" and the rare performance of "Reel Around The Foutain", but it doesn't include "Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want" nor "Rusholme Ruffians". "Forever Ill" from the first Los Angeles gig does include "Rusholme Ruffians" and a 10-minute version of "Barbarism Begins At Home", but not "Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want" or "Reel Around The Fountain". Finally the recordings for the Oakland, San Diego and second Los Angeles gigs don't have many highlights or sound just poor, but might still be of interest to completists.

Besides the above, 3 songs from the first New York date were tagged at the end of the "Go Glasgow" and "Kiss The Girls" bootlegs produced around the 25 September 1985 gig in Glasgow. But, as mentioned above, the whole concert is available on an untitled cd, so these three songs are non-essential to the fan who might already have the Glasgow gig on a different bootleg.

Everything mentioned above is also circulated on the internet, although some recordings are more easily found than others. Incidentally the best recording mentioned above is scarcely found on the internet at this point in time.