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Listen to the Smiths’ Pablo Cuckoo Tape

A new recording of a Smiths rehearsal has surfaced online. The Pablo Cuckoo tape is a 39-minute demo recorded on the floor of Manchester’s Crazy Face, the warehouse owned by Smiths manager Joe Moss, in May 1983. It was recorded for Troy Tate, the original producer of the Smiths, as a sampler of the band’s sound. So, what difference does it make, you ask?

While the sound quality is obviously a bit scratchy, it can’t destroy the fact that the band is at top form. The four bandmates had, even in rehearsal, an intuitive musical relationship. This selection of songs is so tight that, except for the recording, this plays almost as well as the studio recordings. Most of the elements of the songs were in place, but it’s the little details that make them most remarkable. Suffice it to say, this sounds really good for a rehearsal tape.

We can tell that the Smiths had fully fleshed out this handful of songs that would later be recorded for their debut studio album or as various sessions. Obviously the Smiths were going to be an immense force to be reckoned with based on the quality of these songs. Johnny Marr’s guitar is a little less jangly, a little more blistering, and the rhythm section is impressively tight. Their general sound is slightly rawer. Most breathtaking of all is the purity of Morrissey’s voice. ‘Accept Yourself’ has the same intensity as the David Jensen session occurring nearly a year later and featuring on the Hatful of Hollow compilation. Despite some lyrical changes and odd noises, ‘What Difference Does It Make?’ sounds much like the final product. ‘Reel Around The Fountain’ has a more distinctive rhythmic foundation. Different lyrics alert! ‘You’ve Got Everything Now’ opens with a roll of machine gun drumming courtesy of Mike Joyce and alternate lyrics in the first verse. The demo ends with my personal favorite, ‘Handsome Devil,’ and an ambitious take on ‘Miserable Lie.’ Perhaps my biggest complaint as a fascinated fan is that the intersong discussions are barely discernible. As an earlier sample of their work, the Pablo Cuckoo tapes gives us a fresh angle on the Smiths and is another intriguing puzzle piece in the history of one of the most influential bands of the last fifty years.

The demo was originally posted on YouTube by hipsterdisco, who has the best Smiths channel on the website. The Smiths’ record label has been successful at having this removed before, so better act fast if you want to hear this!

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Britpopping since I first heard 'Animal Nitrate' in 1993

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