The Smiths

The Smiths were an English pop-rock band from Manchester that released four albums and two compilations of non-album material on Rough Trade between 1984 and 1987.

Members: Morrissey (vocals, piano), Johnny Marr (guitar, keyboards, mandolin, bass, harmonica, 1982-87), Steven Pomfret (rhythm guitar, 1982), Dale Hibbert (bass, 1982), Mike Joyce (drums, backing vocals, 1982-87), Andy Rourke (bass, cello, 1982-86, 1986-87), Craig Gannon (bass, rhythm guitar, 1986), Ivor Perry (guitar, 1987)


Background

The Smiths formed in May 1982 when teenage guitarist Johnny Marr visited the Stretford home of Steven Morrissey, a music writer of local repute. The two met once before at an August 1978 Patti Smith show at the Manchester Apollo.

Morrissey (b. Steven Patrick Morrissey, May 22, 1959) was born to Irish parents Elizabeth (née Dwyer, a librarian) and Peter Morrissey, who migrated from Dublin to Manchester in 1958 with Steven’s older sister, Jaqueline. The family lived in a council house on Harper Street, near Queen’s Square in Hulme, inner Manchester. This area was the site of multiple abductions in a series of 1963–65 child slayings dubbed the “Moors murders.”

As a teenager, Morrissey developed interests in music and literature. He idolized late Victorian Irish author Oscar Wilde and avidly watched Coronation Street, a long-running ITV soap opera about working class Mancunians. Morrissey pitched multiple fan-fiction plots to the show’s production company, Granada Television. His biggest source of lyrical inspiration came from the 1958 play (and 1961 film adaptation of) A Taste of Honey, a socially-charged theatrical work by English dramatist Shelagh Delaney.

Morrissey’s first record purchase was “Come and Stay With Me,” a 1965 single by Marianne Faithfull. As glam rock took hold in the UK, he followed the careers of David Bowie, Roxy Music, T. Rex., and the American cult figure Jobriath. He submitted artist write-ups and concert reviews to the UK music weeklies.

On June 1, 1974, New Music Express published fifteen-year-old Morrissey’s rave endorsement of Sparks and their just-released third album Kimono My House. In the letter’s column of the December 29, 1975, issue of Sounds, Morrissey praises the recently defunct New York Dolls, who he cites as paving ground for a new array of American acts, including The Tubes.

On June 4, 1976, Morrissey attended the premiere northern Sex Pistols performance at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall, where they headlined over Mandalaband. Recent Pistols converts Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto arranged the show, which drew a small audience that also included Granada TV music host Tony Wilson and future music-makers Mark E. Smith, Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner.

In late 1977, Morrissey met local guitar prodigy Billy Duffy, who just replaced (future Durutti Column) guitarist Vinnie Reilly in The Nosebleeds. Morrissey wrote lyrics for several Noesbleeds songs (“Peppermint Heaven,” “I Think I’m Ready for the Electric Chair”) and performed with the band in place of their departed singer, Ed Banger.

On August 31, 1978, Morrissey attended a concert by Patti Smith at the Manchester Apollo, where he first encountered Johnny Marr, a fourteen-year-old aspiring guitarist.

Marr (b. John Martin Maher, October 31, 1963) was born in Manchester to Irish parents who migrated from County Kildare. The Maher’s lived in Ardwick Green until 1972 where they moved to Wythenshawe, where John met numerous aspiring guitarists, including Duffy, whose band rehearsed across the street from the Maher household.

At thirteen, Maher formed his first band, the Paris Valentinos, with twelve-year-old aspiring bassist Andy Rourke (b. Andrew Michael Rourke, January 17, 1964), a classmate at St Augustine’s Grammar School in Sharston. In June 1977, they performed a set of Thin Lizzy and Rolling Stones covers at a Silver Jubilee party in Benchill. At fourteen, Maher modified his surname to “Marr” to ease pronunciation (and avoid confusion with Buzzcocks drummer John Maher).

In 1979, after a one-show spell with hopefuls Sister Ray, Marr and Rourke formed White Dice, which entered an NME demo-tape competition that won them a (fruitless) audition for F-Beat Records. In 1981, they formed the funk-inspired Freak Party with drummer Simon Wolstencroft. By early 1982, Marr dissolved the singerless band. He approached ex-White Dice singer Rob Allman, who reminded him of Morrissey.

Inspired by the legend of Leiber & Stoller — a songwriting partnership that Jerry Leiber initiated with a visit to Mike Stoller’s house — Marr dropped by Morrissey’s residence. In the four years since their last encounter, Morrissey gained employment with the music weekly Record Mirror and authored two titles for Babylon Books: New York Dolls and James Dean is Not Dead.

Marr and Morrissey bonded over their common music interests, which covered post-punk, glam rock, jangle pop, and sixties girl groups. They rehearsed as a duo inside Marr’s attic in Bowdon and completed their first joint composition, “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle,” on a TEAC three-track cassette. Morrissey named their band The Smiths because it rang like an ordinary surname.

Initial bassist Steve Pomfret cleared for Dale Hibbert, an employee at Manchester’s Decibel Studios, where Freak Party cut their demo. With drummer Simon Wolstencroft, they recorded “The Hand” and a second Morrissey–Marr number, “Suffer Little Children,” which deals with the Moors murders. Morrissey presented the tape to Factory Records, but label founder Tony Wilson showed no interest.

The Smiths found a permanent drummer in Mike Joyce (b. June 1, 1963), whose stints included punk bands in Manchester (The Hoax) and Belfast (Victim). They made their live debut in October 1982 at the Manchester Ritz, where they supported Blue Rondo à la Turk for a music–fashion event dubbed “An Evening of Pure Pleasure.” After that night, Hibbert cleared for Marr’s longtime colleague, bassist Andy Rourke.

In December 1982, The Smiths entered Drone Studios in Chorlton-cum-Hardy and cut a second demo composed of three originals: “Handsome Devil,” “Miserable Lie,” and “What Difference Does It Make?” They pitched the tape to EMI, but to no avail. In early 1983, Marr and Rourke traveled to the London office of Rough Trade founder Geoff Travis, who heard potential in their song “Hand in Glove.”

For their first album, Travis linked The Smiths with Troy Tate, an early Teardrop Explodes member. Unimpressed with his production, Travis had them re-record the album with John Porter, a longtime Bryan Ferry soundman.


First Three Singles

14 May 1983
A. “Hand in Glove” – 3:16
B. “Handsome Devil” (live, Manchester Hacienda, 4/2/83) – 2:53
Recorded 27 February 1983
Studio Strawberry, Stockport, England

Sep 1983 (Unreleased)
A: Reel Around The Fountain
B: Jeane

Oct 1983
UK 7-inch single, 1983 and 1992, and 1992 cassette singleNo. Title Length
1. “This Charming Man” 2:41
2. “Jeane” 3:02
UK 12-inch single, 1983No. Title Length
1. “This Charming Man (Manchester)” (Same as Original Single Version) 2:41
2. “This Charming Man (London)” 2:47
3. “Accept Yourself” 3:55
4. “Wonderful Woman” 3:08


The Smiths

The Smiths released their self-titled debut album on February 20, 1984, on Rough Trade.

1. “Reel Around the Fountain” (5:58)
2. “You’ve Got Everything Now” (3:59)
3. “Miserable Lie” (4:29)
4. “Pretty Girls Make Graves” (3:44)
5. “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” (quotation from “Sonny Boy” by Ray Henderson, Lew Brown and Al Jolson) (4:38)

6. “Still Ill” (3:23)
7. “Hand in Glove” (3:25)
8. “What Difference Does It Make?” (3:51)
9. “I Don’t Owe You Anything” (4:05)
10. “Suffer Little Children” (5:28)

Recorded September-November 1983
Studio Pluto (Manchester) and Strawberry (Stockport)
Eden and Matrix (London)

Paul Carrack – piano, organ (“Reel Around the Fountain”, “You’ve Got Everything Now” and “I Don’t Owe You Anything”)
Annalisa Jablonska – female voice (“Pretty Girls Make Graves” and “Suffer Little Children”)

Production
John Porter – production (except “Hand in Glove”), remixing (“Hand in Glove”)
The Smiths – production (“Hand in Glove”)
Phil Bush – engineering
Neill King – engineering

Design
Morrissey – sleeve
Caryn Gough – layout

“What Difference Does It Make?”
Released: 16 January 1984
2. “Back to the Old House” 3:04
3. “These Things Take Time” 2:20
Ireland (IRMA) 12
UK Singles (OCC) 12

UK Albums 2


1984-85 Singles

21 May 1984
7-inch RT156No. Title Length
1. “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” 3:34
2. “Suffer Little Children” 5:27
in original green sleeve
12-inch RTT156/CD RTT156CDNo. Title Length
1. “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” 3:34
2. “Girl Afraid” 2:46
3. “Suffer Little Children” 5:27
Recorded March 1984
Fallout Shelter, Hammersmith, London
Producer(s) John Porter

20 August 1984
7″ RT166No. Title Length
1. “William, It Was Really Nothing” 2:10
2. “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want” 1:50
in original green sleeve

7″ RT166No. Title Length
1. “William, It Was Really Nothing” 2:10
2. “How Soon Is Now?” 6:43
in lilac reprint sleeve

12″ RTT166/CD RTT166CDNo. Title Length
1. “William, It Was Really Nothing” 2:10
2. “How Soon Is Now?” 6:43
3. “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” 1:50
Recorded July 1984
Studio Jam Studios, London
Producer(s) John Porter
Ireland (IRMA) 8
UK Singles (The Official Charts Company) 17

28 January 1985
7-inch RT176No. Title Length
1. “How Soon Is Now?” (7-inch edit) 3:41
2. “Well I Wonder” 4:00
in original green sleeve
12-inch RTT176No. Title Length
1. “How Soon Is Now?” 6:46
2. “Well I Wonder” 4:00
3. “Oscillate Wildly” 3:24
Recorded July 1984
Studio Jam, London

Hatful of Hollow (comp, 1984)
12 November 1984

18 March 1985
7″ RT181No. Title Length
1. “Shakespeare’s Sister” 2:09
2. “What She Said” 2:40
12″ RTT181No. Title Length
1. “Shakespeare’s Sister” 2:09
2. “What She Said” 2:40
3. “Stretch Out and Wait” 2:37
Recorded January 1985
Studio Utopia Studios, Primrose Hill, London
Producer(s) The Smiths


Meat Is Murder

The Smiths released their second album, Meat Is Murder, on February 11, 1985, on Rough Trade.

1. “The Headmaster Ritual” 4:52
2. “Rusholme Ruffians” 4:20
3. “I Want the One I Can’t Have” 3:14
4. “What She Said” 2:42
5. “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore” 4:59

6. “Nowhere Fast” 2:37
7. “Well I Wonder” 4:00
8. “Barbarism Begins at Home” 6:57
9. “Meat Is Murder” 6:06

Amazon (Liverpool)
Ridge Farm (Surrey)
Morrissey – vocals
Johnny Marr – guitars, piano, slide guitar (“That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore”),[32] sound effects (“Well I Wonder”)[33]
Andy Rourke – bass guitar
Mike Joyce – drums, tambourine,[34] congas [35]
Production
The Smiths – production
Stephen Street – engineering, sound effects (“Rusholme Ruffians”, “I Want the One I Can’t Have”, and “Meat Is Murder”)[36][17]
Tim Young – mastering
Design
Caryn Gough – package layout
Paul Slattery – group photo
Toshi Yajima – Morrissey solo-shot

“Barbarism Begins at Home”
Released: April 1985
12″ RTD 021 T (Germany)No. Title Length
1. “Barbarism Begins at Home” 7:00
2. “Shakespeare’s Sister” 2:09
3. “Stretch Out and Wait” 2:37

“That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore”
Released: 1 July 1985
7″ RT186No. Title Length
1. “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore” (edit) 3:49
2. “Meat Is Murder” (live) 5:34
12-inch RTT186No. Title Length
1. “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore” 4:57
2. “Nowhere Fast” (live) 2:31
3. “Stretch Out and Wait” (live) 2:49
4. “Shakespeare’s Sister” (live) 2:12
5. “Meat Is Murder” (live) 5:34

UK Albums (OCC)[43] 1
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[41] 13 


The Queen Is Dead

The Smiths released their third album, The Queen Is Dead, on June 16, 1986, on Rough Trade.

1. “The Queen Is Dead” (includes “Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty” (medley)) A. J. Mills, Fred Godfrey, Bennett Scott 6:24
2. “Frankly, Mr. Shankly” 2:17
3. “I Know It’s Over” 5:48
4. “Never Had No One Ever” 3:37
5. “Cemetry Gates” 2:39

6. “Bigmouth Strikes Again” 3:12
7. “The Boy with the Thorn in His Side” 3:16
8. “Vicar in a Tutu” 2:22
9. “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” 4:03
10. “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others” 3:16

Jacob (Farnham, Surrey)
RAK (London)
Drone (Manchester)
Morrissey – lead vocals, backing vocals (“Bigmouth Strikes Again”; credited as Ann Coates)
Johnny Marr – guitars, orchestration (credited as The Hated Salford Ensemble), string synthesizer, harmonium, marimba (“The Boy with the Thorn in His Side”)[52]
Andy Rourke – bass guitar
Mike Joyce – drums
Production
Morrissey – production
Johnny Marr – production
Stephen Street – engineering (except “Frankly, Mr. Shankly”)
John Porter – engineering (“Frankly, Mr. Shankly”)
Design
Steve Wright – group photography
Morrissey – sleeve
Caryn Gough – layout

“The Boy with the Thorn in His Side”
Released: 23 September 1985
7″ RT191No. Title Length
1. “The Boy with the Thorn in His Side” 3:17
2. “Asleep” 4:09
12″ RTT191No. Title Length
1. “The Boy with the Thorn in His Side” 3:17
2. “Rubber Ring/Asleep” 7:56

“Bigmouth Strikes Again”
Released: 19 May 1986
12″ RTT192No. Title Length
1. “Bigmouth Strikes Again” 3:12
2. “Money Changes Everything” 4:40
3. “Unloveable” 3:54
“There Is a Light That Never Goes Out”
Released: 12 October 1992

UK Albums Chart[60] 2
Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[55] 11
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[58] 17
European Top 100 Albums[56] 19
Canadian Albums (RPM)[54] 28
Australian Albums (Kent Music Report)[53] 30
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[59] 39
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[57] 45
US Billboard Top Pop Albums[61] 70


1986 Singles

21 July 1986
“Panic” – 2:20
“Vicar in a Tutu” – 2:21
“The Draize Train” (Marr) – 5:10
Craig Gannon – rhythm guitar
Recorded May 1986
Studio Livingston Studios, London

20 October 1986
1. “Ask” (single version) 2:59
2. “Cemetry Gates” 2:39
3. “Golden Lights” 2:38

Recorded June 1986
Recorded at Jam Studios in London, England
Personnel
Morrissey – vocals
Johnny Marr – guitar, harmonica[10]
Mike Joyce – drums, percussion
Andy Rourke – bass guitar
Craig Gannon – rhythm guitar
Kirsty MacColl – backing vocals

Germany
John Porter – production

Steve Lillywhite – mixing engineer
Producer(s) John Porter
Ireland (IRMA)[7] 9
UK Singles (OCC)[6] 14

26 January 1987
1. “Shoplifters of the World Unite” 2:56
2. “Half a Person” 3:35
12-inch RTT195No. Title Length
1. “Shoplifters of the World Unite” 2:56
2. “London” 2:06
3. “Half a Person” 3:35
12-inch Wrong Version RTT195No. Title Length
1. “You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby” 3:34
2. “London” 2:06
3. “Half a Person” 3:35
Recorded November 1986
Studio Trident Studios, London
Producer(s) Johnny Marr
Ireland (IRMA) 7
UK Singles (The Official Charts Company) 12

13 April 1987
12-inch RTT196No. Title Length
1. “Sheila Take a Bow” 2:41
2. “Is It Really So Strange?” (Peel Session, 17/12/86) 3:04
3. “Sweet and Tender Hooligan” (Peel Session 17/12/86) 3:35
Recorded January 1987
Studio Good Earth Studios (London)
Ireland (IRMA) 3
UK Singles (The Official Charts Company) 10


The World Won’t Listen

23 February 1987

Louder Than Bombs (comp, 1987)

30 March 1987


Strangeways, Here We Come

The Smiths released their fourth album, Strangeways, Here We Come, on September 28, 1987, on Rough Trade.

1. “A Rush and a Push and the Land Is Ours” 3:00
2. “I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish” 3:47
3. “Death of a Disco Dancer” 5:26
4. “Girlfriend in a Coma” 2:03
5. “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before” 3:32

6. “Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me” 5:03
7. “Unhappy Birthday” 2:46
8. “Paint a Vulgar Picture” 5:35
9. “Death at One’s Elbow” 2:01
10. “I Won’t Share You” 2:48

Recorded March–April 1987
Studio The Wool Hall (Beckington, Somerset)
Morrissey – vocals, piano (“Death of a Disco Dancer”), handclaps (“Paint a Vulgar Picture”)[27]
Johnny Marr – guitar, piano, keyboards, harmonica, marimba (“A Rush and a Push and the Land Is Ours”), harmonium (“Unhappy Birthday”),[28] autoharp (“I Won’t Share You”), synthesised strings and saxophone arrangements, additional vocals (“Death at One’s Elbow”), handclaps (“Paint a Vulgar Picture”)
Andy Rourke – bass guitar, keyboards (“A Rush and a Push and the Land Is Ours”),[29] handclaps (“Paint a Vulgar Picture”)
Mike Joyce – drums, percussion, handclaps (“Paint a Vulgar Picture”)

Additional musicians
Stephen Street – additional drum machine programming (“I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish”, “Paint a Vulgar Picture”, “Death at One’s Elbow”), sound effects (“Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me”, “Death at One’s Elbow”)[30]

Technical
Johnny Marr – co-producer
Morrissey – co-producer
Stephen Street – co-producer, string arrangement (“Girlfriend in a Coma”)[31]
Steve Williams – assistant engineer
Tim Young – mastering
Steve Wright – photography

“Girlfriend in a Coma”
Released: 10 August 1987
12″ RTT197 / Cassette RTT197CNo. Title Length
1. “Girlfriend in a Coma” 2:02
2. “Work Is a Four-Letter Word” (Woolfenden, D. Black, C. Black) 2:45
3. “I Keep Mine Hidden”

“I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish”
Released: 2 November 1987
Cassette RTT198CNo. Title Length
1. “I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish” 3:46
2. “Pretty Girls Make Graves” (Troy Tate version) 3:35
3. “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others” (live) 5:03
4. “What’s the World” (live) (James) 2:05

“Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me”
Released: 7 December 1987
CD RTT200CDNo. Title Length
1. “Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me” (full-length version) 5:04
2. “Rusholme Ruffians” (John Peel session version) 4:04
3. “Nowhere Fast” (John Peel session version) 2:39
4. “William, It Was Really Nothing” (John Peel session version) 2:04

“Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before”
Released: 1987
12-inch and CD single (Germany, red cover)No. Title Length
1. “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before” 3:33
2. “Work Is a Four-Letter Word” 2:47
3. “Girlfriend in a Coma” 2:02
4. “I Keep Mine Hidden” 1:57
12-inch (Netherlands, grey cover and Australia, orange cover)No. Title Length
1. “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before” 3:33
2. “Pretty Girls Make Graves” (early cello version) 3:35
3. “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others” (live) 5:03
UK Albums Chart[37] 2
Swedish Albums[36] 13
New Zealand Albums[35] 14


Discography:

  • The Smiths (1984)
  • Hatful of Hollow (comp, 1984)
  • Meat Is Murder (1985)
  • The Queen Is Dead (1986)
  • Louder Than Bombs (comp, 1987)
  • Strangeways, Here We Come (1987)

Sources:

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