The space was a narrow alley of books, filled with folding chairs. Every chair was full by the time I sat down, glass of wine in hand, to listen to Tony Fletcher read. In other cities, Tony has arranged for performances of the Smiths’ music by local artists, but there wasn’t room for that here in the tiny second floor space. Green Apple Books, on Clement Street in San Francisco, held this reading in the Philosophy section. It was intimate, but it worked.
Tony read several sections of his biography of the Smiths, entitled “A Light That Never Goes Out,” after asking the audience how many of us were fans and how many had actually seen the Smiths live. He allowed that we would have to be at least 40 in order to have been around when the Smiths were touring, in the mid-80’s. The crowd at the reading was a mix, but we were all interested in the details Tony had to share.
Tony read about the first meeting between Morrissey and Marr, as well as about their first and second American tours, giving us detailed background of the people he knew and their roles in the Smiths’ story. His voice, which hasn’t lost the English accent, despite more than two decades of living in America, took me there, into the recording studio and the hotel rooms on the road.
The biography is long and dense, but the narrative shines through. Tony tells the story with an authenticity and an understanding of the reader’s interest. This isn’t a dry, purely academic tale, which is not to say that it isn’t thoroughly researched and footnoted. But Tony is interested in digging deeply into the reasons for the Smiths’ popularity, for their near immaculate conception, as well as their excruciatingly sudden dispersal.
I have only dipped into the book so far, reading scattered sections, but there is so much there, that I will go back and enjoy it more fully. And when I do, I will hear Tony’s voice in my head, telling me his story.