Plenty of people love The Smiths, the 1980s English rock band (led by Morrissey) behind songs such as “This Charming Man,” “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out,” and “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want.” But in 1987, one teenage fan in Denver, Colorado took his love for the band too far. According to an urban legend, the 18-year-old supposedly drove to his local radio station and held the DJs hostage at gunpoint, forcing them to play songs by The Smiths on repeat.
The story makes the crazy antics of obsessed Beliebers look tame by comparison, but did it actually happen? Different accounts of the incident appeared in The Denver Post, Denver’s weekly newspaper; Westword; Details Magazine; a Morrissey biography; and inconsistent recollections from the radio station’s employees. In 2013, Westword got to the bottom of the urban legend, exploring the differing versions of the story and separating fact from fiction.
According to Westword, The Denver Post gave the first account of the incident. The brief report stated that a “last minute change of heart apparently averted the hijacking of a Lakewood radio station but left an Arvada teenage in jail Wednesday.” The write-up describes the wannabe hijacker as an 18-year-old—later identified as James Kiss—who said he was planning to take over the Top 40 radio station KRXY (Y-108). According to the police spokesman, Kiss surrendered his rifle to one of the station’s employees and asked the employee to call the police. The teen was then arrested in the station’s parking lot for attempted kidnapping and extortion.
The week after the incident, a column in Westword stated that Kiss, who was carrying a rifle, seven cassettes, and an album by The Smiths, was arrested after he entered the station. Seven years later, an April 1994 interview with Morrissey in Details Magazine referred to the incident, saying that Kiss held the radio station at gunpoint for four hours, “demanding that they play only Smiths’ songs.” Morrissey was surprised that the interviewer had even asked him about the incident because most people hadn’t heard about it. “’If it was any other artist, it would have been world news. But because it was poor old tatty Smiths it was of no consequence whatsoever,” he said.
A decade later, in the 2004 biography Saint Morrissey: A Portrait…
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