Well, he’s probably not getting a card from Stephen Morrissey today but we don’t care – we’ll wish Mike Joyce a happy birthday! The drummer from The Smiths turns 61 today.
Joyce, like the rest of the band, grew up in Manchester but like Andy Rourke, he wasn’t friends with Morrissey and Johnny Marr initially, which may have led to some of the famous discord within the remnants of the band later on. Marr and Morrissey actually used a drummer called Simon Wolstencroft on their first recording session; lucky for Joyce, Wolstencroft didn’t want to join the band. He’d later go on to be a member of The Fall. Which meant auditions for a new drummer, and Joyce was the pick. He was a full Smith in time for their first actual recording session when they had a contract and was thus the only drummer in their discography. As Music Radar correctly pointed out, “he wasn’t a flashy player, but his bits were absolutely vital to the music.” And he learned on the job, so to speak. He says, “when I started playing, I had three styles of playing : fast & loud, faster & louder, and fastest & loudest. (being in) The Smiths was a shock.”
Even though the band broke up in 1987 with a lot of acrimony between the two front men, Joyce remained on good terms with Morrissey… briefly. He actually played on a couple of Moz’s singles, including “The Last of The Famous International Playboys.” But Morrissey got irked, and said of Joyce as well as Andy Rourke, “the unhappy past descend(ed) on me each time I hear their voice” so he stopped using them on his records. And that was before the courts got involved.
Not employed by The Smiths nor Morrissey, Joyce did some work on Julian Cope’s successful album Peggy Suicide, and drummed for the Buzzcocks. But then he, and his pal Andy Rourke, went over some bank statements, it would seem and decided they were being ripped off by the two front men of The Smiths. They sued, with Joyce seemingly being the most determined and aggressive in the battle. They sued Marr and Morrissey for an equal share of performance royalties (which differ from the songwriting ones) and won. Marr paid Joyce something in the range of 475 000 pounds (about $1.5M today) and that was that. Not so the Moz, who paid Joyce some, then appealed. He lost and then failed to show up for court when Joyce added another suit, and the drummer ended up getting over 600 000 pounds from the singer. Last decade Morrissey complained that “because of the default judgments, he continues to take my royalties.” Showing once again, a good business lawyer can be as vital to a band as a good drummer or record producer.
Joyce has been in a few bands this century including one called Vinny Peculiar, with Bonehead, ex-of Oasis in it, and hosted live music nights at Manchester bars for some time. But now he is married and says “my clubbing days are pretty much over.” He watches his beloved Manchester City football games and works as an online radio host. He also loves to cook and has appeared on British food shows. His particular favorite, Indian vegetarian meals. He recommends The Sanskruti restaurant should you ever end up in Manchester.
Oh, and is favorite band from his city? Hold onto your hats… it’s not The Smiths. He picks The Buzzcocks, “my reason for wanting to play the drums in the first place.” He says he was “fortunate and honored” to play with them.