Music History

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

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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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Josiah M. Hesse
Contact: Josiah M. Hesse