MOJO Time Machine: The Smiths And Sandie Shaw Go Hand In Glove

On 26 April, 1984 Sandie Shaw and The Smiths performed Hand In Glove on Top Of The Pops


by Fred Dellar |

26 April, 1984

Phil Collins, Lionel Ritchie and Duran Duran were in the top five, Simon Bates and Janice Long were hosting and, later on BBC1, Robin Day was presenting Question Time. So far, so normal. Yet the first act on tonight’s Top Of The Pops brought shock and awe in her wake. In at number 36, it was sixties barefoot pop princess Sandie Shaw, rolling and writhing on the studio floor as she belted out her version of The Smiths’ Hand In Glove. Her shoeless band? The Smiths themselves.

It was Sandie’s first hit for 15 years – twenty, after the first flush which sent (There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me and Long Live Love at number one. Her chart heyday ended with March ‘67s Eurovision-winning smash Puppet On A String: then the song started to describe her situation a little too acutely. Later, she’d march off a German television show because they played it, the Eurovision albatross around her neck. She soon bowed out, explaining, “I'd buggered up my career.” A decade-and-a-half hiatus followed, during which she found herself serving Andy Warhol in a Soho restaurant where once she’d once been his guest.

In 1983, things began to get back on track. She sang Anyone Who Had A Heart, closely associated with her old rival Cilla Black, on the BEF's Music Of Quality and Distinction (Volume One), and released her own album Choose Life. But her top 40 chart return came about after Smiths voice, guitar and songwriting partnership Morrissey and Johnny Marr sent her a letter in August ’83.

Both were fierce admirers of the Dagenham girl made good. Dispatched via Geoff Travis, founder of their label Rough Trade, the note suggested she cover their song I Don’t Owe You Anything. “Obviously the song was written with you in mind,” they panted. “It is an absolute fact that your influence more than any other permeates all our music… We feel that your future needs an injection of high spirit and vengeance.”

“Look, he’s sending me pictures of naked men with their bottoms showing!” 

Sandie Shaw

Sandie admitted to being initially uncertain. Tabloid controversy around The Smiths’ songs Suffer Little Children and Reel Around The Fountain didn’t help, while on receipt of a vinyl copy of The Smiths’ non-charting debut single Hand In Glove – whose sleeve image was taken from the 1978 book The Nude Male – Sandie exclaimed to her husband, “Look, he’s sending me pictures of naked men with their bottoms showing!” But she soon became convinced of their sincerity, and joined the group and producer John Porter at London’s Matrix Studio in early February 1984. It was a successful meeting: I Don’t Owe You Anything was a gorgeous, languid reprise of Shaw’s best sixties work, though it was a high-spirited take of Hand In Glove that was chosen as the A-side. Additionally, an acoustic version of Jeane was later recorded for the 12” single, with Sandie’s voice augmented by some prime Morrissey wails and yodels. Remembering the session in her autobiography The World At My Feet, Sandie recalled “the intense joy of singing with human beings who loved playing and respected me… when we worked together on Jeane, I felt (Johnny’s) life open completely to mine.”

Packaged in a sleeve featuring a shot of Rita Tushingham from Morrissey film favourite A Taste Of Honey, the single was released to maximum publicity on April 9. Having completed a long UK tour, The Smiths were ready to help promote it, with TV appearances and magazine features showing Sandie and Morrissey to be an entertaining, affectionate odd couple. “He used to write me fan letters,” laughed Sandie on Channel 4 show Ear Say, “I thought, what a weirdo. But luckily, I actually met him, and then I knew he was. No, seriously, I fell in love with him.”

“I think she thought I was this strange and perverse figure.” 


“I think she thought I was this strange and perverse figure,” Morrissey told RTE later, “but it seemed that we just immediately hit it off in a really positive way, and the whole experience has been really quite joyful.”

The single ultimately rose to number 27. Aside from an aborted plan for Sandie to record backing vocals for The Smiths’ 1987 single Sheila Take A Bow, they would not collaborate again, though in 1986 she recorded Moz tribute Steven (You Don't Eat Meat), prompting a bunch of white roses from its subject.

Sadly, Morrissey’s 2013 Autobiography seemed sour about the affair, suggesting Sandie had been insufficiently grateful to her chart saviours. The same year Metro asked her if she and her one-time devotee were still friends. Said Sandie, “Is anyone? I don’t know what goes on in the man’s mind nowadays. Although I didn’t when I worked with him.”

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