Later this month, the phenomenon that is Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess’ Twitter Listening Parties will feature The Smiths’ 1986 classic ‘The Queen Is Dead’ – with none other than the band’s drummer Mike Joyce set to act as host.
In addition to guiding fans through the band’s most acclaimed LP as they listen back to it in real time, Joyce will also be marking the occasion by raffling off an incredibly rare piece of Smiths memorabilia.
— Tim Burgess (@Tim_Burgess) September 2, 2020
“It’s an extremely rare piece of music memorabilia and as such, it’s virtually impossible to quantify what it’s worth, as this is the very first time such a unique item has ever been offered to the public,” Joyce tells NME.
All proceeds from the raffle will go to Manchester-based charity Back On Track, who work with those who have experienced homelessness, drug addiction, mental health issues and more – offering training courses, one to one guidance and work experience.
Tickets for the raffle will cost £5, with details of how to buy them to be shared soon. “I decided that it would be a better idea to have a raffle rather than an auction as
that means everyone that buys a ticket has a chance of owning it,” Joyce continued.
To find out more about the raffle, the listening party, as well as some of his fondest memories of recording the all-time classic, NME gave Joyce a call.
It’s said that the platinum ‘The Queen Is Dead’ record you’re auctioning off is the only one in existence, can you tell us more about it?
Mike: “A couple of years ago I spoke to my manager at the time and said, ‘There must be some update on some of the sales on our records, some of them must have gone platinum!’ He contacted Warner and they said ‘yes we have,’ and I said ‘can I have one?’ I don’t know whether Morrissey and Johnny Marr and Andy Rourke have one, I haven’t spoken to them for some time.”
How long have you worked with Back On Track?
“They got in touch with me five or six years ago asking me to be a patron. They’re such a brilliant charity, it’s for people who’ve had problems in the past with drugs, alcohol, violence at home, anything that’s pushed them back. Some of them have done prison time and it’s not easy to come out of prison and get a job. Back On Track have so many things in place in terms of higher education as well as the mundane things like meeting up for a brew. A lot of people take that for granted but the normality of it is something that can be quite alien to a lot of these people.”
Where did the idea come from to raffle off the platinum record?
“I was speaking to them a few weeks ago because they’re really struggling like most charities are, because of a lack of funding but also because the centre was closed down during lockdown. For some people, when they don’t have their routine they can go back to a lot of their old ways which can be dangerous. I said ‘I’d love to find a way to get some funding together,’ and when Tim Burgess asked me to do the listening party I thought ‘if it’s for ‘The Queen Is Dead’ this could be a great opportunity for me to raffle it off.”
What was your reaction when Tim asked you if you’d like to revisit ‘The Queen Is Dead’?
“It’s not my favourite Smiths album, that’s ‘Strangeways Here We Come’, but ‘The Queen is Dead’, it’s not a bad album is it? I’m excited to hear it! I’ve not listened to it from beginning to end since we were in the studio. I used to have a CD jukebox and my wife said ‘Are you gonna put any Smiths in?’ I said ‘I don’t think so’ but she wanted one album, so we put ‘Strangeways’ in. Later we had some people round for dinner and ‘Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me’ came on, and they said ‘I thought your stuff was just jaunty pop songs!’ It sounded incredible, they were a bit thrown by it. So it’ll be interesting to revisit some of the songs on ‘The Queen Is Dead’ that I don’t hear that often.”
The opening of the album is probably the best-known piece of drumming from your time in The Smiths. What can you tell us about it?
“I’ll embrace anything that’s said about it, good or bad! I’m not a drummer’s drummer, I don’t go out doing clinics, no one says ‘Mike Joyce has really got that 9/8 time down to a T!’ I just go in there and sometimes it sounds stylish – I’ve been told – and sometimes it sounds quite pedestrian! With ‘The Queen Is Dead’, that was one of the first times we used studio techniques to record a track. I was always under the impression that if you have to do overdubs or separate tracks then it’s cheating, which I know now is fucking nonsense –look at the guitars on ‘How Soon Is Now?’, I think there’s about 30 on there.
“With ‘The Queen Is Dead’, it was sounding ferocious but then we kept on losing that fantastic rumbling tom sound when I started hitting cymbals. That’s when [producer] Stephen Street said, ‘Let’s just get the best sounding floor tom that’s ever been recorded, nothing else’. It’s actually just a Bo Diddley riff I’m playing, just filled out a bit more. It’s a great start to the album and it’s received a lot of plaudits. I’ll take them!
What else sticks out the most from ‘The Queen Is Dead’ sessions?
“Just the ease with which we played those songs. There were no histrionics, no ‘Woo hoo, high five, badass motherfuckers!’, it was very understated. It wasn’t like that with ‘Hand In Glove’, I remember listening to that thinking ‘Wow! What the fuck is this?!’ because that was the first time any of us had heard The Smiths on record. With ‘The Queen Is Dead’ we just went in and banged it out with a lack of realisation of just how great it was. I mean obviously we knew ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ is a great record, but it’s as time’s gone on that we’ve realised its importance. It’s not just kids that were around at the time that dig it. I was out walking with my grandkids and I saw a guy in a Salford Lads Club Smiths t-shirt. I said ‘that’s a nice shirt’ and he said ‘have you ever been to Salford Lads Club?’ I said ‘Well I am in that photo!’”
#TimsTwitterListeningParty for The Smiths’ ‘The Queen Is Dead’ will take place on September 12 at 9pm. Enter the raffle for the platinum disc here.