‘My childhood is streets upon streets upon streets upon streets. Streets to define you and streets to confine you, with no sign of motorway, freeway or highway,’ begins Morrissey’s Autobiography. Even the vaguest sentiment regarding his hometown exudes a certain lamp-lit melodrama. Morrissey’s lyrics undoubtedly bear a debt to the raw, post-industrial romanticism of Manchester and the tragic stories of the people who inhabited every corner of his world. It would have been utterly impossible to mistake the Smiths for a London band; they were Northern through and through.
Between songs that name-check notable places and iconic photo poses on their home turf, Morrissey’s Manchester has held a fascination for fans worldwide. Fans eager to experience life through the singer’s eyes have flocked to the music mecca. In recent years, walking tours and published guides to the Smiths’ Manchester have become more and more popular as fans search for a glimpse of the doleful drama about which Morrissey sings.
Here are our top five must-be-seen sights in the Smiths’ Manchester:
384 Kings Road
Photo: Niklas Pivic
You can’t get any closer to Morrissey’s origins than his childhood home at 384 Kings Road, Stretford, a suburb of Manchester. Morrissey moved into this council house with his family in 1969 at the age of ten, and his family remained in residence until 1989. This was, indeed, the site of the mythic meeting between Morrissey and Johnny Marr when the latter went round, uninvited, to ask him to form a band. Yes, one of the greatest moments of modern musical history was made on this unassuming site. Just imagine, in a cramped upstairs bedroom, Morrissey scribbled away short stories, essays, and acerbic letters to magazines. And, of course, here is where he wrote some of his earliest songs, sometimes in collaboration with Johnny Marr. While many make the pilgrimage to see where the bard spent his formative years, photo ops are strictly outside. Check out this account of the interior of the house and the surprises found in the garden, two places that are surely off-limits to curious passers-by.
The Ritz, Whitworth Street West, Manchester
The Ritz was, and still is, the longest continuously used popular music venue in Manchester. Located in the city centre, the venue has an illustrious history and has seen an impressive amount of legendary British groups perform on its stage, including the Beatles. The Ritz has certainly evolved since October 4, 1982 when the Smiths played their debut gig on its stage, opening for Blue Rondo a la Turk. The quartet included Dale Hibbert on bass and Morrissey’s friend, James Maker, as a high-heeled go-go dancer. Their first performance included three original songs, ‘The Hand That Rocks The Cradle,’ ‘Handsome Devil,’ and their only live performance of ‘Suffer Little Children.’ A cover of the Cookies’ ‘I Want A Boy For My Birthday’ completed their four song set.
Salford Lads Club, St. Ignatius Walk, Salford (Greater Manchester)
Photo: Camilo Ameijeiras
The hundred year-old Salford Lads Club has been named one of the most iconic buildings in Britain. It was established in 1904 as a recreational club for boys, but it now allows for both boys and girls. The club still organizes activities for local youths including football, boxing, dance, and martial arts. The building has been listed since 2003, and it has been noted that it is one of the most unchanged buildings of its kind. The club’s tiled interior is virtually untouched, and it still has its original fittings. Salford Lads Club stands, not only as a symbol of Manchester, but as the building most closely associated with the Smiths. The exterior of the club located at the corner of St. Ignatius Walk and Coronation Street can be seen in Stephen Wright’s iconic picture of the band which featured on the LP sleeve of The Queen Is Dead. The club encourages visits from Smiths fans. Certainly, the building is a prime photo opportunity, but the club even maintains a tribute room to the band. The Smiths Room is open throughout the year, but it is best to contact the club by email to arrange a visit.
The Iron Bridge
‘Under the Iron Bridge we kissed..,’ went the line in ‘Still Ill.’ Surprisingly, Morrissey was referring to a specific bridge which is located near where St. Mary’s Secondary School once stood. While Morrissey’s former school is now the location of a housing estate, the bridge still stands. The metal bridge laced with bright green grating offers a spiky entrance from the main walkway. Besides a good kissing spot, the bridge also displays much in the way of Smiths-related graffiti. The footbridge is located across the railway line between Kings Road and Renton Road, Stretford (Manchester).
Holy Name Church, 339 Oxford Road, Manchester
‘I was minding my business lifting some lead off the roof of the Holy Name Church’ was the shameful admission in the Smiths’ ‘Vicar In A Tutu.’ But with its soaring 185 foot spire, this Catholic church is perhaps too tall to scale for any reason. The Holy Name Church of Manchester was founded in 1871, and still continues to serve its local community. It’s located on Oxford Road (across from Manchester Academy) in the heart of the University of Manchester campus.