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Hear the Smiths, Young and Unsigned, in Rare, Raw 1983 Rehearsal Tape

The Smiths, 'The Pablo Cuckoo Tape,' Machester, 1983

As Smiths fans — whose ranks include Paramore’s Hayley Williams — worry again about Morrissey’s health, a treasure trove has surfaced that at least begins to make up for the latest bout of canceled solo tour dates. A tape recording of the Smiths rehearsing in a Machester warehouse in May 1983, when they were still an unsigned band, has hit YouTube, as Slicing Up Eyeballs reports. The Smiths’ drummer, Mike Joyce, called attention to the recording, tweeting that the YouTube link contains “an early recording you’ve probably never heard before.” 

Referred to as “The Pablo Cuckoo Tape,” the 40-minute set first surfaced on, where the uploader used the pseudonym “Pablo Cuckoo” for the person who shared the recording. The sound quality is understandably raw, but Smiths fans should be thrilled at the chance to hear these revealing, early versions of later classics such as “Hand in Glove,” “Reel Around the Fountain,” and “These Things Take Time.”

The foundations of the songs are surprisingly intact, though completists will no doubt catch a few variations. On our first couple of passes, a bird-like whoop on “Accept Yourself,” a relatively lesser Smiths track, stands out as one amusing twist. Also, “Hand in Glove” doesn’t yet have the “kiss my shades” lyric, but it does have a delicious, Spanish-tinged “rawr!” These things, though, do indeed take time.

Here’s the uploader’s account of the tape’s backstory:

In May 1983 (exact date unknown), while preparing to record their debut album, The band ran through & recorded a selection of songs at a rehearsal in band manager Joe Moss’ jeans warehouse (Crazy Face). The cassette tape was recorded for Troy Tate in order to give him something to work with before going into the studio. It’s pretty rough, but considering it was recorded on cassette with a stereo Mic pointing into the room, the quality isn’t too bad. Morrissey’s vocals are a bit distorted – maybe singing too close to the mic or maybe the cassette Mic was too close to the PA but everything else is surprisingly clear. There is some tape flutter at various points. I was lent the master cassette by a source close to the band who made the recording, let’s call him Pablo Cuckoo, in 1997 with a view of trying to put it out as a semi-official release. As it was recorded before the band had signed to Rough Trade, technically he had the rights to the recording. But a combination of poor sound quality & threats from Warner Bros. meant that the idea was shelved

The Smiths’ The Pablo Cuckoo Tape track list:

1. “You’ve Got Everything Now”
2. “Accept Yourself”
3. “What Difference Does It Make”
4. “Reel Around the Fountain”
5. “These Things Take Time”
6. “I Don’t Owe You Anything”
7. “Hand in Globe”
8. “Handsome Devil”
9. “Miserable Lie”