SmithsBusters: Did a Smiths fan really hold a Denver radio station hostage in 1987?

Categories: Untold Stories

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Update, 2/22/13: So this story of the Smiths fan who held a station here hostage in the '80s? It's true...well, sort of. We caught up with former station employees and found the news coverage. Everyone has a different recollection it seems.

"In 1987 a distressed young man in Denver, Colorado, held his local radio station hostage insisting, at gunpoint, demanding they play nothing but Smiths records. This they did -- for four hours," writes Mark Simpson in the biography Saint Morrissey. "Eventually, the police besieging the building persuaded the unhappy young man to give himself up."

See also:
- The story of Smiths fan who held a station here hostage in the '80s? It's true...sort of
- The Smiths '80s radio station takeover: What really happened according to the police report
- Morrissey's quiet desparation and romantic worldview continues to connect and inspire fans

It's a really great story, and would be even better if it's true. The biographer believes it happened, and he's not alone. Reportedly, there are plans for a movie to be made about the whole ordeal, and outlets like The Believer and IndieWire have all reported this supposedly true story as historical fact.

We have to admit that when we first came across it in Saint Morrissey, we were thrilled by the notion that something so incredible had even occurred in the first place, let alone here in Denver. But then we wondered why we had never heard the story before. If the story were true, you'd think that it would have become a well-known piece of Denver history, like the tale of DIA's Blue Mustang killing its creator, or of the Stanley Hotel inspiring Stephen King to write The Shining.

After finding no evidence of the overzealous Smiths fan incident in our archives, we spoke with a few veterans of 1980s Denver, all of whom pretty much reacted the same way we did: That's a great story, but I've never heard it. The story does have some presence on the internet, but never does any reporter detail the name of the gunman or the radio station. Fearing it to be another bloated tabloid hoax -- on par with Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull's "Mars Bar" fetish, or Marilyn Manson's auto-fellatio rib removal -- we contacted Saint Morrissey author Mark Simpson.

"I can't remember now what my sources were, except for some online bits and pieces back in the late '90s, early noughties," he says. "It seems rather unlikely the event did actually happen if your paper didn't report it. As you say, it may all be apocryphal. But obviously, it was such a great story for my purposes that I didn't really want to know if it didn't actually happen. Though I will keep on pretending it did, probably because I could easily have done something similar myself back in the day."

"This may be one of those apocryphal tales," agrees Gil Asakawa, Westword's first music editor, who covered the scene at that time. "I never wrote about that, and I hopefully would have been all over it -- because I hated the Smiths so much. The only radio station that I can imagine would have had enough Smiths music to play for any extended amount of time would have been KTCL, which, at the time, was based in Fort Collins, not Denver."

Continue reading for more on the story.

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4 comments
myvillainy
myvillainy

The incident is documented in Simon Goddard's "Mozipedia" ("Fans" entry, p. 125 in my edition), including the fan's name, the radio station he menaced, and his arrest in Jefferson County.  The real story has different details (no pun intended) than the ones supplied by Simpson-- there was no "siege"-- but Morrissey's original comment had a factual basis and his point, that the incident should have garnered more attention, sticks.  I'm surprised nobody consulted, y'know, a book.   

Will_
Will_

I was an early twenty-something around that time, listened to KTCL and 'alternative' music, and I can't remember that ever happening; doesn't mean it didn't happen, who knows.


I'm wondering if it got mixed up in the telling and re-telling. There was an incident around the same time, maybe as late as '88, where a kid hitch-hiked up to Broomfield and basically bribed KBDI to let him be a VJ on Teletunes for an hour or so. He kept ranting about which music was 'real' and what wasn't. There was a lot of Smiths and the Cure involved if I remember correctly.

Designby4
Designby4

Didn't he take the albums with him and hand them to the receptionist. Then made her take him to the booth... 96 KPKE?

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