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The Smiths

The Smiths were the definitive British indie rock band of the '80s, marking the end of synth-driven new wave and the beginning of the guitar rock that dominated English rock into the '90s. Sonically, the group was indebted to the British Invasion, crafting ringing, melodic three-minute pop singles, even for their album tracks. But their scope was far broader than that of a revivalist band. The group's core members, vocalist Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr, were obsessive rock fans inspired by the D.I.Y. ethics of punk, but they also had a fondness for girl groups, pop, and rockabilly. Morrissey and Marr also represented one of the strangest teams of collaborators in rock history. Marr was the rock traditionalist, looking like an elegant version of Keith Richards during the Smiths' heyday and meticulously layering his guitar tracks in the studio. Morrissey, on the other hand, broke from rock tradition by singing in a keening, self-absorbed croon, embracing the forlorn, romantic poetry of Oscar Wilde, publicly declaring his celibacy, and making no secret of his disgust for most of his peers. While it eventually led to the Smiths' early demise, the friction between Morrissey and Marr resulted in a flurry of singles and albums over the course of three years that provided the blueprint for British guitar rock in the following decade.

Before forming the Smiths in 1982, Johnny Marr (born John Maher, October 31, 1963; guitar) had played in a variety of Manchester-based rock & roll bands, including Sister Ray, Freaky Part, White Dice, and Paris Valentinos. On occasion, Marr had come close to a record contract -- one of his bands won a competition Stiff Records held to have Nick Lowe "produce your band" -- but he never quite made the leap. Though Morrissey (born Steven Patrick Morrissey, May 22, 1959; vocals) had sung for a few weeks with the Nosebleeds and auditioned for Slaughter & the Dogs, he had primarily contented himself to being a passionate, vocal fan of both music and film. During his teens, he wrote the Melody Maker frequently, often getting his letters published. He had written the biography/tribute James Dean Isn't Dead, which was published by the local Manchester publishing house Babylon Books in the late '70s, as well as another book on the New York Dolls; he was also the president of the English New York Dolls fan club. Morrissey met Marr, who was then looking for a lyricist, through mutual friends in the spring of 1982. The pair began writing songs, eventually recording some demos with the Fall's drummer, Simon Wolstencroft. By the fall, the duo had settled on the name the Smiths and recruited Marr's schoolmate Andy Rourke as their bassist and Mike Joyce as their drummer.

The Smiths made their live debut late in 1982, and by the spring of 1983, the group had earned a small but loyal following in their hometown of Manchester and had begun to make inroads in London. Rejecting a record deal with the Mancunian Factory Records, the band signed with Rough Trade for a one-off single, "Hand in Glove." With its veiled references to homosexuality and its ringing riffs, "Hand in Glove" became an underground sensation in the U.K., topping the independent charts and earning the praise of the U.K. music weeklies. Soon, Morrissey's performances became notorious as he appeared on-stage wearing a hearing aid and with gladioli stuffed in his back pockets. His interviews were becoming famous for his forthright, often contrary opinions, which helped the band become a media sensation. By the time of the group's second single, "This Charming Man," in late 1983, the Smiths had already been the subject of controversy over "Reel Around the Fountain," a song that had been aired on a BBC radio session and was alleged to condone child abuse. It was the first time that Morrissey's detached, literary, and ironic lyrics were misinterpreted and it wouldn't be the last.

"This Charming Man" reached number 25 on the British charts in December of 1983, setting the stage for "What Difference Does It Make"'s peak of number 12 in February. The Smiths' rise to the upper reaches of the British charts was swift, and the passion of their fans, as well as the U.K. music press, indicated that the group had put an end to the synth-powered new wave that dominated Britain in the early '80s. After rejecting their initial stab at a first album, they released their debut, The Smiths, in the spring of 1984 to strong reviews and sales -- it peaked at number two. A few months later, the group backed '60s pop vocalist Sandie Shaw -- who Morrissey had publicly praised in an article -- on a version of "Hand in Glove" that was released and reached the Top 40. "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" reached number ten, becoming their highest-charting single amid a storm of controversy about its B-side, "Suffer Little Children," which was about the notorious Moors Murders. More controversy appeared when Morrissey denounced the hunger-relief efforts of Band Aid, but the group's popularity was not affected. Though the Smiths had become the most popular new rock & roll group in Britain, the group failed to make it outside of underground and college radio in the U.S., partially because they never launched a full-scale tour. At the end of the year, "William It Was Really Nothing" became a Top 20 hit and Hatful of Hollow, a collection of B-sides, BBC sessions, and non-LP singles, went to the Top Ten, followed shortly by "How Soon Is Now," which peaked at number 24.

Meat Is Murder, the band's second proper studio album, entered the British charts at number one in February of 1985, despite some criticism that it was weaker than The Smiths. Around the time of the release of Meat Is Murder, Morrissey's interviews were becoming increasingly political as he trashed the Thatcher administration and campaigned for vegetarianism; he even claimed that the Smiths were all vegetarians, and he forbade the remaining members to be photographed eating meat, even though they were still carnivores. Marr, for his part, was delving deeply into the rock & roll lifestyle and looked increasingly like a cross between Keith Richards and Brian Jones. By the time the non-LP "Shakespeare's Sister" reached number 26 in the spring of 1985, the Smiths had spawned a rash of soundalike bands, including James, who opened for the group on their spring 1985 tour, most of whom Morrissey supported. However, all of the media attention on the Smiths launched a mild backlash later in 1985, when "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore" was pulled from Meat Is Murder and failed to reach the Top 40.

"The Boy with the Thorn in His Side" revived the band's fortunes in the fall of 1985, and their third album, The Queen Is Dead, confirmed their popularity upon its release in the spring of 1986. Greeted with enthusiastic reviews and peaking at number two on the U.K. charts, The Queen Is Dead also expanded their cult following in the U.S., cracking the Top 100. Shortly before the album was completed, former Aztec Camera guitarist Craig Gannon became the band's rhythm guitarist, and he played with the band throughout their 1986 international tour, including a botched American tour. The non-LP "Panic," which was criticized as racist by some observers for its repeated refrain of "Burn down the disco...hang the DJ," reached number 11 late in the summer. A few months after its release, Marr was seriously injured in a car crash. During his recuperation, Gannon was fired from the band, as was Rourke, who was suffering from heroin addiction. Though Rourke was later reinstated, Gannon was never replaced.

The Smiths may have been at the height of their popularity in early 1987, with the non-LP singles "Shoplifters of the World" and "Sheila Take a Bow" reaching number 11 and ten respectively, and the singles and B-sides compilation The World Won't Listen (revamped for U.S. release as Louder Than Bombs later in 1987) debuting at number two, but Marr was growing increasingly disenchanted with the band and the music industry. Over the course of the year, Morrissey and Marr became increasingly irritated with each other. The singer wished that Marr would stop playing with other artists like Bryan Ferry and Billy Bragg, while the guitarist was frustrated with Morrissey's devotion to '60s pop and his hesitancy to explore new musical directions. A few weeks before the fall release of Strangeways, Here We Come, Marr announced that he was leaving the Smiths. Morrissey disbanded the group shortly afterward and began a solo career, signing with Parlophone in the U.K. and staying with the Smiths' U.S. label, Reprise. Marr played as a sideman with a variety of artists, eventually forming Electronic with New Order frontman Bernard Sumner. Rourke retired from recording and Joyce became a member of the reunited Buzzcocks in 1991.

Rank, a live album recorded on the Queen Is Dead tour, was released in the fall of 1988. It debuted at number two in the U.K. A widely criticized, two-part The Best of the Smiths compilation was released in 1992; the praised Singles compilation was released in 1995. Joyce and Rourke sued Morrissey and Marr in 1991, claiming they received only ten percent of the group's earnings while the songwriters received 40 percent. Rourke eventually settled out of court, but Joyce won his case in late 1996. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Singles

1. Hand In Glove

3. What Difference Does It Make

4. Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now

5. William, It Was Really Nothing

6. How Soon Is Now

7. Shakespeare's Sister

8. That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore

9. The Boy With The Thorn In His Side

10. Bigmouth Strikes Again

11. Panic

12. Ask

13. Shoplifters Of The World Unite

14. Sheila Take a Bow

15. Girlfriend In A Coma

16. I Started Something I Couldn't Finish

17. Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me

18. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

x

Track List: Rank (Live)

1. The Queen Is Dead (Live)

2. Panic (Live)

3. Vicar In A Tutu (Live)

4. Ask (Live)

5. Rusholme Ruffians (Live)

6. The Boy With The Thorn In His Side (Live)

7. What She Said (Live)

8. Is It Really So Strange? (Live)

9. Cemetry Gates (Live)

10. London (Live)

11. I Know It's Over (Live)

12. The Draize Train (Live)

13. Still Ill (Live)

14. Bigmouth Strikes Again (Live)

x

Track List: "Strangeways, Here We Come"

1. A Rush And A Push And The Land Is Ours

2. I Started Something I Couldn't Finish

3. Death Of A Disco Dancer

4. Girlfriend In A Coma

5. Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before

6. Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me

7. Unhappy Birthday

8. Paint A Vulgar Picture

9. Death At One's Elbow

10. I Won't Share You

x

Track List: Louder Than Bombs

1. Is It Really So Strange?

2. Sheila Take A Bow

3. Shoplifters Of The World Unite

4. Sweet And Tender Hooligan

5. Half A Person

6. London

7. Panic

8. Girl Afraid

9. Shakespeare's Sister

10. William, It Was Really Nothing

11. You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby

12. Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now

13. Ask

14. Golden Lights

15. Oscillate Wildly

16. These Things Take Time

17. Rubber Ring

18. Back To The Old House

19. Hand In Glove

20. Stretch Out And Wait

21. Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want

22. This Night Has Opened My Eyes

23. Unloveable

24. Asleep

x

Track List: The Queen Is Dead

1. The Queen Is Dead - Take Me Back To Dear Old Blighty (Medley)

2. Frankly, Mr. Shankly

3. I Know It's Over

4. Never Had No One Ever

5. Cemetry Gates

6. Bigmouth Strikes Again

7. The Boy With The Thorn In His Side

8. Vicar In A Tutu

9. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

10. Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others

x

Track List: Meat Is Murder

1. The Headmaster Ritual

2. Rusholme Ruffians

3. I Want The One I Can't Have

4. What She Said

5. That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore

6. How Soon Is Now?

7. Nowhere Fast

8. Well I Wonder

9. Barbarism Begins At Home

10. Meat Is Murder

x

Track List: Hatful Of Hollow

1. William, It Was Really Nothing

2. What Difference Does It Make? (BBC Version)

3. These Things Take Time (BBC Version)

4. This Charming Man (BBC Version)

5. How Soon Is Now?

6. Handsome Devil (BBC Version)

7. Hand In Glove

8. Still Ill (BBC Version)

9. Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now

10. This Night Has Opened My Eyes (BBC Version)

11. You've Got Everything Now (BBC Version)

12. Accept Yourself (BBC Version)

13. Girl Afraid

14. Back To The Old House (BBC Version)

15. Reel Around The Fountain (BBC Version)

16. Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want

x

Track List: The Smiths

1. Reel Around The Fountain

2. You've Got Everything Now

3. Miserable Lie

4. Pretty Girls Make Graves

5. The Hand That Rocks The Cradle

6. This Charming Man

7. Still Ill

8. Hand In Glove

9. What Difference Does It Make?

10. I Don't Owe You Anything

11. Suffer Little Children

x

Track List: The World Won't Listen

1. Panic

2. Ask

3. London

4. Bigmouth Strikes Again

5. Shakespear's Sister

6. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

7. Shoplifters of the World Unite

8. The Boy with the Thorn in his Side

9. Money Changes Everything

10. Asleep

11. Unloveable

12. Half A Person

13. Stretch Out And Wait

14. That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore

15. Oscillate Wildly

16. You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby

17. Rubber Ring

18. Golden Lights

Comments

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heffalump322
I wear red on the outside caus that's how I feel on the inside.
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martinezjr.p a t r i c k
I'm hungry
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never skip any of their songs either, I started recognizing them even if it was a song I hadn't heard �� they make me so happy and giddy, can distract me from sadness for a while ����
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❤❤❤❤❤
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One of my favorites...
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Never skip any of The Smiths songs, even if I don't know it.
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Melt-cassie
Report as inappropriate

But don't forget the songs
That made you cry
And the songs that saved your life
Yes, you're older now
And you're a clever swine
But they were the only ones who ever stood by you

Report as inappropriate
pinkiowagirl
When you say it's gonna happen now
Well when exactly do you mean?
See I've already waited too long
And all my hope is gone
Report as inappropriate
michellecb73
Great song and great memories!
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HS senior year!!!
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I'm not happy and I'm not sad
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Aye yo ;-;you should like follow me ;-; I follow back cx...
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xtnktss
Best album ever, flashback to high school sweetheart.
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Okay, so I saw a very recent interview with Morissey, and he said the cancer is all good now. (cancer of the esophagus). He suffers from depression (really? I couldn't tell) and he doesn't take any meds for it. He just deals with it. Mornings are very hard for him. I've loved this band for many, many years. Marr and Morissey were a weird duo, but it worked...
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Love this album. Brings back great memories. Esp my h.s days with the love of my life. ;)
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I hope they get into the Hall of Fame before Morrissey dies of cancer. He was diagnosed a few years ago.
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:) love this song , just love it
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kevin-burns9
My lord the smiths girl afraid he'll great tune!!!pkb45
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moleculematt
My mom loves your songs. I wish I was born in 80's.
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Call me morbid ,call me pale just call me!
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packers2002
Whale song
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critics are calling Cult Choir the Smiths of this generation
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matthewgray1 9 8 8
i never really got into morissey's singing very much, but his lyrics are great and no one can play guitar like johnny marr.
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Their debut album is everything to me
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So much in the :Morrissey
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concordgrape d o n
Hey Pumpkin, Morrisey LIVES ��❤️��
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Hey alderipu396. You are an a**.
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Please, Please, Please...... . . . . t h e song that made me fall in love with The Smiths!
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MozVida
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The best British band ever��
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Who are all you people?
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gclegg55
dedicate the song "accept yourself" to Dan Howell
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jheckaz
Girlfriend in a Coma... love it
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Forever young The Smiths...
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Smiths fo-eva nuggggaaaa!! ! ! ! !
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markhall87
I heard he's got kids he dreams of stabbing
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They had numerous hits on the Alternative charts, but not many at all on pop top 40! # "God save the Queen!"
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Of all the songs that The Smiths spat forth, I'm amazed that you find their most mainstream single to be their best work. No matter, they're all beautiful in the end of the evening :*)
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O I forgot my luv
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Stop me ,I still luv u........... . . !
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She said I know you and you cannot sing I said that's nothing you should hear me play piano
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m3rtak11
Wondering why they don't at least have 50,000 likes...
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m3rtak11
Too bad they never completely reached their full potential
Report as inappropriate
There only making plans for Nigel. ..
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littlemeowth
I❤️the smiths
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nigel006
In fact, I'm going to listen to it now.
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nigel006
The 12 inch How soon is now is one of my favourite songs.
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Never was a big fan of
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Why aren't there one hundred thousand likes for the smiths.....
Show more

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