In 1983, over thirty years ago now, The Smith’s released their second single called This Charming Man. The music video for which (see below) was one big flower-fest. Morrissey can be seen waving gladioli above his head, while the floor is carpeted, and the band strewn, with cut flowers. These floralisms were apparent in The Smith’s live performances too, and when not holding them, Morrissey would stick them in his back pocket, creating one of the iconic pop images of the eighties captured famously by photographer Stephen Wright (see featured image). The flower symbolism was not lost on the audience either, who brought them to concerts to throw on stage.
Johnny Marr said in a piece for the Guardian in 2011 “Everyone remembers the flowers Morrissey took on to the show. I’d been very aware of how powerful Top of the Pops could be visually, from my childhood watching T. Rex. We’d first used gladioli onstage at the Hacienda about a year before, to counteract the all-encompassing austere aesthetic of Factory Records. People assumed it was an Oscar Wilde homage but that was a bonus. The flowers made the stage very treacherous if you were wearing moccasins, but they became emblematic, iconic. Morrissey was using those gladioli in a way that was far from fey, almost brandishing them. Morrissey provided flamboyance, the rest of us wore sweaters and provided a streetwise, gang aspect. We’d had a year of rejections, getting in the trenches; nothing had been handed to us on a plate and we were ready.”
Morrissey himself is allegedly quoted as saying “flowers are innocent and beautiful and have never caused strife for anyone“.
For a time at least, flowers became synonymous with this excitingly original band who inspired a generation with their melodic, poetic music and charismatic delivery.