Call me morbid, call me pale, I’ve spent 28 years on your trail

The Smiths

30 years is a long time. I haven’t been alive 30 years yet, though I have been exposed to a band for almost that entire time. My father bought a first edition vinyl in 1984, 6 months before I was born, of a band that were relatively unknown at the time. He wasn’t prospecting – I don’t think- he just bought a lot of albums, a hell of a lot of albums.

The record was the self-titled debut from The Smiths, a quirky northern band fronted by a bespectacled, gladioli waving boy with a distinguishable voice. Their style was very different for the time – jingly jangly guitar riffs, heavy drums padding the background and bass solos to wrap songs about the moors murders and yearly fairs in Rusholme, an inner city area of Manchester. By contrast at that time Duran Duran were on boats with synthesisers singing about some Brazilian girl and Spandau Ballet were putting out an ode to a precious metal.

I now have this record, and I daren’t play it. Although it’s been played before, I stick to Spotify or the MP3 recordings I made of it through a USB turntable (the only time I’ve played it). I don’t want it to scratch or crack, I want to pass it on to my son one day, so he can get the same enjoyment out of it that I did, and still get – that is of course if record players can still be found in 15 years’ time anywhere other than on the landfill heap.

It’s said that the best things are the shortest lived, and this can be vouched for with examples like the TV show Fawlty Towers (only 13 episodes, but a world renowned classic) or the movie career of James Dean (3 movies, but forever immortalised). The Smiths were only together for 4 years, and in that time put out 4 albums, but they are culturally one of the best known bands and widely sourced as “inspirational”, and Morrissey voted 2nd “Greatest living icon” in a 2006 BBC Culture Show poll.

People that grab on to the media tagging of The Smiths – and Morrissey in particular – as “miserable”, “depressing” or “sombre” have clearly not listened to more than a few tracks, as in their short history they managed to produce songs that covered the entire emotional spectrum.

There’s a track for every mood. If you’re happy, The Boy with a thorn in his side; depressed, Asleep; feel like dancing, This Charming Man; silly, Vicar in a Tutu; anti-establishment, The Queen is dead - I could go on.

I will concede that The Smiths did put out a good dose of depressing, upsetting or just plain sad songs, but they managed to disguise a few of them well by mixing high noted guitar riffs with particularly unhappy lyrics, Girlfriend in a coma & Unhappy birthday.

But seriously, Frankly Mr Shankly - which is an attack song – is one of the happiest and funniest of the mid 1980’s (and since); without The Smiths my world, and the world in its entirety would be a much gloomier place.

The post title is a lyric from the song Half a Person

Why I think “Viva Hate” is the best debut album ever…

It’s because I can imagine buying the album – fresh, crisp and new – unheard – putting it on for the first time and the music starting, “Alsatian Cousin”; a new beginning, a phenomenally strong track which was Morrissey truly announcing “WORLD, I AM STILL HERE”. This launches, without a pause, into “Little Man, What Now?”, the story of a child star become irrelevant and insignificant, confined to re-living his glory days through daytime chat shows, a true marvel of songwriting finesse.

This has to be one of the best lines from any song, ever, and because it’s said with such gusto and knowing charm;

A note upon his desk:

“P.S. Bring Me Home And Have Me!”

Leather elbows on a tweed coat

- Oh! Is THAT the best you can do?

So came his reply:

“But on the desk is where I want you!”

To celebrate Record Store Day (today, April 23rd), EMI have re-released the “Suedhead” single (the Mael Mix). This follows hot on the heels of the re-release of Viva Hate on March 26th.

The Smiths Indeed – Indeed!

My obsession with trying to time portal back to the Hacienda on July 6th 1983 is seemingly endless.

Clwb Ifor Bach was taken over by quiff-sporting addicts looking for a way to get back, just like me. A Smiths tribute band is an odd phenomenon, the good ones will emulate particular eras of the bands brief history, using dress to map the time-line. The Smiths Indeed did not disappoint in this.

The first half of the show, “Morrissey” sported a trademark flowery shirt, no doubt picked up at a hospice care shop not unintentionally. This was the main part of the show, the reason The Smiths Indeed are on tour, to perform a full rendition of the epic album “Meat is Murder”. Released 25 years ago on valentines day, perhaps not totally ironically with romance inspired tracks like “I want the one I can’t have”, the band took on the challenge and succeeded in their attempt to beautifully emulate the great masters of the pencil and quiff. Their rendition of “Barbarism Begins at Home” was every bit as humorous and danceable as it was in 1985 when Morrissey and Marr did their amazing jig (see video), “Andy Rourke” captured it perfectly and I was certainly moving around in a very similar fashion, which may have looked very odd if to any other band.
Finishing off with the title track, the haunting “Meat is Murder” which was cut short, missing out the leading 3-minutes of abattoir noises which probably doesn’t work as well live the song was perfectly executed and a fitting tribute to a track that was so controversial 25 whole years ago.

After the break the band came back on to raucous applause, seeming to have completely won over the crowd. This half would be dedicated to the bands other work, with classics like “How Soon is Now?” and “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” and to my surprise, a song that was recorded as part of The Smiths very first recording sessions with Troy Tate but is not on any of the original albums (but which has since appeared on compilation albums), “Jeane”, this was a delight to hear.

So, overall a very good night and I would definitely recommend that any Smiths or Morrissey fan does not pass up the chance to see The Smiths Indeed if they come within 50 miles of their town during their tour, details of which can be found on their website, http://www.thesmithsindeed.co.uk