In 1987, at the tail-end of The Smiths’ five year lifespan, a call went out to fans: apply now to be featured in the music video with lead singer Morrissey. Among those chosen was Hector Hazard, who talks to Helen Lehndorf about his memories of the day, and shares some never before seen photos of the shoot.
Hector Hazard – filmmaker, cycling enthusiast, raconteur – is possibly best-known in New Zealand for his stint running the iconic Chicks Hotel in Port Chalmers, near Dunedin, but that’s just one of the many interesting things about him. Thirty years ago he starred in The Smiths video ‘Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before’. (Here’s the video, and that’s Hector in the red cardigan.)
I met Hector Hazard a while ago. We have a mutual friend who for years had been telling me “My friend Hector was in a Smiths video. You have to meet him one day.” I felt too awkward to make contact with him just on the basis of his association with Morrissey, but then my friend rang me. “Hector needs a place to stay in Palmerston North this weekend. If you let him crash in your sleep-out, he says you can interview him about the Smiths video.”
He turned up, a small satchel his only luggage. He was hitchhiking his way to the East Coast to finish a film assignment.
Hazard is from Leigh, Greater Manchester, and has a warm lilting northern accent. He’s a funny and affable guy, who tells a good tale and once we started the interview at my kitchen table we soon became immersed in mutual Smiths geekery. A couple of hours soon slipped by.
In 1987, when ‘Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before’ came out I was 15, living in a small town in Taranaki, where I’d discovered The Smiths a year earlier. I was heavily into punk music and assumed their album Meat is Murder would be hardcore punk, based on the title and cover. So when the stylus hit the vinyl, I was at first disappointed, then confused, then entranced, then in love…a love which has never ceased.
As for Hector, in 1987 he was 20 and living in Manchester…
Helen Lehndorf: When the ‘Stop Me…’ video came out I was in the peak of my Smiths obsession. I had a peroxide-blonde quiff and dressed like Morrissey, kind of asexually, so I obsessively watched that video – I feel like I know every frame – because I felt like I WAS one of the people in the video. I was trying to look like Morrissey and wanted to be totally immersed in his world. It was kind of… anthropological for me, visual evidence of the The Smiths tribe. It was also a close look at Manchester, the streets and the terrain the music had sprung from…
Hector Hazard: Interesting. I was never that impressed with the video itself…
Yeah, its not the most exciting video, but if you are a Smiths fan, it was a really close look at other fans. Tell me a bit about you around the time of the video.
I became a Smiths fan quite early on. It was a big deal that The Smiths were from Manchester. I knew Amanda Joyce at school, her uncle was Mike Joyce from The Smiths, the drummer. That was 1983; I was fifteen or so.
She said “Watch Top of the Pops, my uncle’s on it tonight.” So we all watched it and honestly I went “What the fuck?” I was shocked by Morrissey’s antics: the hearing aid, the gladioli… so I wasn’t impressed the first time, it was a little bit too much. I was at a Catholic school where the worst thing you could be called was a poof, so there was this kind of… expected masculinity, which Morrissey flew in the face of.
I got really into them around Meat is Murder, the terrific guitar-playing and the song structures. Morrissey was annoying to me at first, but that changed as I got familiar with the lyrics. He’s so funny! Laugh-out-loud stuff.
I liked Morrissey’s rebellious, smart-arsed, chisel-chinned vibe… his op-shop clothes – amazing! He was a breath of fresh air. Plus the lyrics all pertained to Manchester – aesthetics of cobbled streets and old black and white movies. I started going charity-shopping in central Manchester every weekend. There’s a place (it’s still there) called Affleck’s Palace which was an old mill turned into a gigantic market selling alternative records, clothes… good times. I’d spend all my money on records and clothes. I was into all the Manchester bands – Joy Division, New Order, Buzzcocks, The Fall.
How did you come to be in the video?
I have one brother, Neil, he’s three years younger. It was 1987 by this stage, and I’d been a Smiths fan for a few years since ’84. My brother was following in my footsteps and really into The Smiths as well. He was part of a fan club called Smiths Indeed. They had a ‘zine – it was really good writing, the editor had talent. A few thousand people bought and contributed to it.
So the Rough Trade Records casting agent thought it would be a good idea to get Smiths Indeed to find the talent for the Smiths video. It was in the ‘zine: “If you want to be in celluloid history and be considered for a Smiths video, then send in a letter and a passport photo and Morrissey will pick ten of you.” My brother did it and then about two weeks later told me about it. His actual words were “Hey, I’m going to be in a Smiths video.”
I said “I’m going to enter too” and he said “No, it’s too late, the deadline was yesterday.” So the prick had purposefully not told me! But I checked and he’d got the date wrong so I still had two days! I sent in a letter and a photo in which I kinda looked like [Moors Murderer] Ian Brady with NHS glasses on.
At the time I had a shit job, my first job. I’d flunked my A-levels. I was working for the Keep Britain Tidy group as an accounts assistant. So the phone goes at work, its for me and it’s Jo from Rough Trade Records, all chirpy: “Hi! You’ve been chosen to be in The Smiths video! So if you could turn up next Sunday at the Britannia Hotel, Central Manchester, 9 o’clock. Bring a bicycle and wear a Smiths t-shirt and some jeans. We’ll send you a letter…congratulations!”
I was stunned. I put the phone down, gazed around the office at all the plebs and thought ‘FUCK YEAH!’
I went rushing home that night “Neil! Did you get a call today?” I just assumed he’d be called up too.
“No” he said.
I said “You’re not going to believe this, Neil…”
Has he ever forgiven you?
We’d fought like cat and mouse growing up, constant war, but even so this was… harsh. He just walked out of the room. It was dark and rainy day, as it always is in Manchester… and off he went. Just left and didn’t come back for hours.
What about now? Has he forgiven you now? Because I don’t think I would.
Yeah, of course he has. He’s all good now. He’s a brilliant artist. He’s never had to work for anyone else. He’s got his shit together. He overtook me in some ways.
So he’s OK. We don’t have to worry about him.
He’s fine. His life’s good. The Smiths thing? Who cares?
So tell me about the day the video was made.
So we turned up. There were all these other Smiths fans, a mixed bag. Everybody had the Morrissey haircut. There was one guy who looked more like Morrissey than Morrissey did! They hadn’t gone for the most attractive, handsome, James Dean lookalikes – everyone had their own look. We actually had no idea that The Smiths had just broken up! This was October 18th – I remember because it was the day after my birthday – and Strangeways, Here We Come had just come out.
It’s funny that I was on a bicycle in the video because later I became a bicycle courier in London and Australia, for years! We bought our own bicycles along to the shoot.
It was a total Smiths day. A Sunday and an autumn day. We were all sat in this white van and then one of the film crew came up and chucked these jackets in. Three denim jackets and they were Morrissey’s! Recognisably Morrissey’s. One an American friend had given him, a Levis with a massive embroidery of Elvis…
I remember that from the video!
So that got chucked in, and a white one with the Hatful of Hollow cover…and there was a frenzy!
To get a jacket?
Everyone was like “OMIGOD! Check the pockets!!” and then I remember turning around and looking out of the van and there was Morrissey standing on the street!
I had this little Olympus so I jumped out of the van and got a photo. Morrissey saw me and posed… and everyone was totally excited.
The whole day, we went from location to location. We started off in Moss Side. We were pretty separate from Morrissey for the shoot. He’d come cycling over occasionally… I remember when he came over the first tim everyone was not quite sure what to say, including him. He was just like… (pulls a pained face) “Hi.”
Later when I got home, the South Bank Show was about The Smiths that night, which was odd. So it was a totally immersive Smiths day for me.
I got home and put Strangeways… on and it had never sounded so good. My feet weren’t touching the ground. I had a signed t-shirt, the poster from off the fence in the video, other bits and pieces and I just felt so… like I wanted to share the love. Like, the experience was enough, and if I kept the t-shirt, I’d go to hell. It was almost too much. So… I had this French pen friend…
Are you telling me you didn’t give the t-shirt to your brother?
No. We were still at war.
I sent it to my French pen-friend who I didn’t even really know… I just thought it would be amazing for her. She was made-up. Back in the time when people still wrote letters…
So did Morrissey talk to you during the filming at all?
He just turned up for his shots… and over the day, gradually, a kind of conversation started. He was a bit awkward.
Well, he is, isn’t he?
There was ten of us staring intensely at him… and he was just… pulling faces. He was a bit of a geek. I remember the conversations. The first one was, that for the new single there was an icon on the t-shirt. It’s a lady with a flowery hat on… and he said “Does anyone know who this is?” and no one did and we were all like “Damn! Damn!” (It’s actress Avril Angers on the cover of the single ‘I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish’.)
In his bike basket he had an Oscar Wilde book, we talked about that… so there was this slightly muted conversation going on.
At Strangeways Prison we got heckled by the prisoners. We could just see shadows moving behind the bars, that was interesting.
He would just hang around on the edges with… I don’t know if they were record executives? Jo from Rough Trade Records was there, and there was a hairdresser, so he’d be standing under an umbrella and someone would be playing with his hair.
We ended up at Salford Lads Club, there were rows of terraced houses all around, which are all gone now. One of the guys making the video had an odd bowl haircut, and looked quite androgynous. He turned out to be a guy who had worked with Derek Jarman a lot, as his cameraman. They had big film cameras, digital hadn’t happened yet.
Everyone was taking lots of photographs of Morrissey. He was looking really good at that time, I don’t think he ever looked better.
Yes, he is gorgeous in that video.
In those few years, he had gotten really cool. So during the day, I took some pictures. He was kind of taking me on. He’d be staring me down, pulling faces…
Posing for you?
A little bit, yeah. And I got my picture taken with him, and with the guy who looked more like Morrissey than Morrissey. So in the picture we’re flanking him, and posing… and he’s giving good pose as well.
I stayed friends with that guy. Letter writing was still a thing then, so we exchanged letters for a while and went out to a gig together a bit later. He was a student at Manchester University and in the halls of residence. He showed me his room. It was plastered ceiling to floor with Smiths posters. People would come to be in his room because it was like a church of The Smiths. He was totally obsessed, and obsessed with looking like Morrissey, too.
When I got back to my Keep Britain Tidy job, I spent a week at work making a photo album with a Smiths lyric pertaining to each photo.
At the end of the shoot he was signing autographs for us all. He was like our mate by then. We were all gathered around, we all got given a t-shirt and he signed mine on the back and drew a picture of himself. And I gave it away to my French pen-friend. Gah!
What were the other fans in the video like? Were they cool?
Yeah, they were…for celibate vegetarians. At lunchtime the crew came back with a load of Wimpy Burgers, half meat and half vegetarian, but I was the only one who ate a meat one. I was a Smiths fan but I wasn’t you know… full nerd.
In the afternoon, we were travelling around in the white van and Morrissey was in the car in front. We had radio contact with the car, so we all sang ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’ to him through the radio. That was a cool – he loved it.
So in the video, which one is you?
I’ve got a bright red cardigan on, which I’d bought the day before on my birthday from Affleck’s. It was such a good decision because everyone else is wearing denim and I stick out. There are three or four shots that I’m in. If you blink you’ll miss it, so just look for the red cardigan.
How was it for you when it aired on TV?
The whole next few months were insanely exciting. I would go out into town with my red cardigan on, just in case – although I wouldn’t pair it with a Smiths t-shirt. It wasn’t necessary.
So people recognised you?
Yeah. Yeah. Which was cool, being a little bit famous for a bit.
Was it good for getting girls?
Yeah, it was. My mates would take the piss. We’d be at a bar with a bunch of other people and one of them would pipe up, unprompted, “Just because you were in The Smiths video…” So there was all that piss-taking as well.
When it aired, it was a different song to the one we’d made the video to! We made it to ‘I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish’ but that got changed because there’s a lyric about a mass murder, and a mass murder had just happened in Hungerford. A guy went on a rampage and so they thought it was inappropriate timing so they quickly re-edited the footage to fit ‘Stop Me…’
Afterwards, Rough Trade sent us all some photographs from the shoot, group shots.
I do remember getting my own photographs developed and I was looking at them on the bus and just going ‘Oh my god, oh my god…that really happened.’
Can you remember anything Morrissey said to you or the others that day? Or was it all just awkward mumbling?
We communicated through cheeky face-pulling a lot, almost like The Two Ronnies or something.
Morrissey claimed to be celibate and assexual at the time. Did you get any sense on the day that he was flirting with anyone, or there was anything like that going on?
Other than me…not really.
You think he was flirting with you?
There was a kind of… he and I had the face-pulling thing going on. He wasn’t doing that with anyone else. He was awkward, but when he saw I had a camera he definitely struck poses for me. I don’t know…I thought he was handsome and he looked really good… his hair, his chiselled jaw…
How often do you watch the video now?
Well, I didn’t watch it for about ten years…maybe even fifteen?
So you wouldn’t do an annual watch, or whatever?
No. But when I re-opened Chicks in Port Chalmers, and got immersed in the music scene again we got bands from all over the world, which was remarkable considering it was a grotty old pub in the middle of nowhere. So there was this new generation of Smiths fans, for whom this anecdote was really impressive, especially for New Zealand people because it’s such a long way, and a long time ago. So there’s been a resurgence of interest lately.
I let it slip occasionally. Who would have thought that it would become more of thing now than it was at the time? I guess because they’ve become so iconic. At the time, Morrissey said “this is the end of pop music, now that The Smiths are gone” and I thought he was conceited to say that but he was totally spot-on. There hasn’t been a pop band anywhere near as original and cool, who’ve had that kind of impact since. There’s been no bands which have gotten into the top of the charts which are as interesting.
Did you go and see him when he last played Wellington (2012)? I did. It was cool how many Smiths songs he played, aye? I thought ‘even if he plays one Smiths song I’ll be beside myself’ but I think he played… five?
Yeah, I did. He came on to ‘Shoplifters of the World’.
I spent a lot of that gig in tears.
Yeah I know what you mean. It was emotional. I got a piece of his shirt! He threw his shirt in and it was a massive grab. I was on the fringe of it… there was a ripple effect and we all fell over. But the tussle over the shirt went on through the whole gig! These people pretty much missed the gig because they were scrapping! Then I saw one of them in Cuba Street the next day and I said “Did you get the shirt?” and he said “I ended up with a sleeve and one panel…” I said “Oh, so common-sense prevailed?” and he said “Yeah someone produced scissors and we cut in into four.” Then he offered me a swatch of it! So we went around the corner to his flat and he cut me off a piece!
Do you ever miss living in Manchester?
I miss that time…being young, spending Saturdays in town going around buying records and clothes. I went back in the late 90s and lived there again for a while. Ot was still abandoned cotton mills and huge chimneys then, I could see them out my flat window. But they are all gone now, knocked down…
Manchester’s changed. Everything went a bit… damp. Grim. Cold. Lost the sense of something positive happening that it had in the 80s and early 90s.
Yeah, its hard going back to somewhere you once loved.
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