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Smiths, The 1986-10-15 Civic Hall, Wolverhampton [DVD0128] | jonmower.com

Smiths, The 1986-10-15 Civic Hall, Wolverhampton [DVD0128]

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Civic Hall, Wolverhampton - 15 October 1986

The Queen Is Dead
I Want The One I Can't Have
Vicar In A Tutu
There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
(Marie's The Name) His Latest Flame/Rusholme Ruffians
Frankly, Mr. Shankly
The Boy With The Thorn In His Side
What She Said (with Rubber Ring intro and outro)
Is It Really So Strange?
Never Had No One Ever
Cemetry Gates
Meat Is Murder
I Know It's Over
/The Draize Train
/How Soon Is Now?
//Still Ill
//Bigmouth Strikes Again

In 1985 we acquired our first video recording equipment ... a camera and a separate 'portable' (not by today's standards) recorder. We tried it out at the Glastonbury and WOMAD festivals, and also recorded 30m of one Smiths show (Irvine). But, frankly, it just wasn't up to the job. While the picture quality was good, the audio was terrible. The tapes and the battery only lasted 30 minutes at a time, and the size the recorder + camera meant that there was no way you could film surreptitiously.

But in 1986 the first camcorders became available. Still quite big by today's standards, but much lighter and more compact that what we had. Paul bought a Sony Video8, and we took it down to Glastonbury to try it out. We had acquired an advance cassette of The Queen Is Dead, which wasn't out yet, and played it constantly through the festival (we had a stall). The Video8 tapes would record for 90 minutes, and the batteries would also last at least that long. We recorded quite a few bands, and found the camera easy to use and that it gave good results, both with video and audio. In July Paul tried sneaking it in to a concert hall ... the Salford show. He said he stuffed the camera down the front of his trousers, but unless he was wearing extremely baggy ones, I find that hard to believe. He filmed from the balcony, and the results were inspiring.

Inspiring enough for me to get my own camera. I bought a Canon. Don't remember why I didn't get the Sony too, but in retrospect I do prefer the picture of the Canon. The sony tends to give the picture a bluish tinge, whereas I think the Canon gives a more realistic colour balance. I tried it out at various shows in London, some small pub type shows - 1000 violins (what a great band!), Primitives, Shop assistants - some larger shows like New Order. All with great results. So When the Queen is Dead Tour Started I was ready.

The camera was too big to hide underneath clothing, so I carried it in inside a bag, and just hoped I wouldn't be searched. Security wasn't as tight as it is today, and you quickly worked out which venues were no problem. But we'd never been to Wolverhampton before, so all bets were off. Luckily we'd picked up a couple of Access All Areas passes from the Meat Is Murder tour. While they were not strictly valid, the house security wouldn't know. We arrived at the Civic Hall just after the doors opened, and watched people going in. Security were checking bags, but they were obviously House security, and they weren't checking everyone. So off we went, in through the doors together striding purposefully past the security ... who saw my bag, and motioned towards it. I flashed my pass long enough for him to see the Access All Areas, smiled and kept on walking. As I entered the hall I looked round and he was busy with new people coming in. This was the first time we'd tried to use the passes ... I was glad they worked.

The Civic Hall was typical of that type of building. The Hall was medium sized, with a balcony running right round the outside. Downstairs was all standing, and the balcony was all seated ... although there were no reserved seats. You just had a ticket to enter, and you could go upstairs or stay downstairs. I went upstairs. For previous recordings I'd always arrived as early as possible to ensure I could grab the ideal position to film from. Tonight we had waited a while to suss out getting in, so there were already quite a few people seated in the balcony. There was still room at the front however, and I grabbed a pretty good position about half way down the left side balcony. Paul and the rest of our entourage were downstairs getting a good standing positions, so I was stuck upstairs saving my seat waiting for the support to start ... the lonely bootlegger. Eventually they came and went, and soon the Romeo & Juliet intro tape started up.

It was a great show to film. The lighting was great (the old camcorders are not great in low light), and I had a pretty good shot of the whole stage. I couldn’t quite see Andy most of the time ... but that was better than missing Johnny from the other side. In fact the natural shot from my position captured both Morrissey and Johnny together most of the time, which was ideal. The crowd were really up for it, and the Smiths rose to the occasion magnificently ... probably the best show of the tour in retrospect. Perhaps that's why Morrissey chose this venue for his first solo show? Mostly I had no problems filming ... although there were occasions when people would clamber next to me and lean out over the balcony to wave their arms about and partly block my shot. Still, overall I was pretty pleased with my efforts.

I transferred the video8 tape to computer using a Digital8 camera, which will play Video8 tapes and uses fire wire. So digitally transferred to computer and captured using Vegas as avi. I don't know of any audio recording of this show. Not quite sure why Paul didn't record it ... but he didn't. So I've done what I can with the video's audio using Wavelab ... but there's still very little bass. I experimented with video correction, but although I thought some of the chroma correction might improve things, I wasn't sure, so I've left it as is. I've done subtle reframing of some shots too. Rendered to mpeg by Vegas, and the DVD authored using DVD architect.

Not sure how much of an improvement this is over the best video copies. It looks a bit ropey to me after crisp DV bootlegs ... but I guess that is inevitable. I haven't made video copies of this since the late 80s ... perhaps a very few in the early 90s. Those would have been done from the Video8 camera, through the RF out to a VHS recorder, which I think was a pretty basic Panasonic, which was mono. So hopefully this will be an improvement.

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