Posts Tagged ‘The Smiths’

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The circumstances surrounding its creation have always undermined the impact of The Smiths’ final album, “Strangeways, Here We Come”. Less enlightened critics dismissed it as a damp squib following the big bang of the monolithic The Queen Is Dead, and the album’s supposedly fraught recording sessions are often given as the cause of guitarist Johnny Marr’s departure – and the band’s subsequent split – prior to the album’s release on 28th September 1987.

Divorced from the times, though, Strangeways, Here We Come (its name referring to Manchester’s notorious prison) cries out for reappraisal. Far from the runt of a spectacular litter, it’s arguably the band’s most sonically adventurous album and, in reality, the sessions that produced it were lively and harmonious.

Holed up at Tears For Fears’ studio, The Wool Hall, in Bath, The Smiths worked closely with co-producer Stephen Street and, aside from the puritanical Morrissey, who reputedly preferred an early night and his Sylvia Plath anthology, they often partied during down-time. In his 2016 autobiography, Set The Boy Free, Johnny Marr recalled the Wool Hall sojourn with fondness. “I was in my element,” he wrote. “I didn’t need to know what was going on in the outside world or see anyone other than the band and [my girlfriend] Angie… and I loved the new songs.”

The Mancunian quartet’s recent singles – the dense, anthemic Shoplifters Of The World Unite and the glam rock-inspired Sheila Take A Bow – served notice that The Smiths were keen to break new ground. Morrissey and Marr were of a mind that Strangeways, Here We Come would help The Smiths slough off their reputation as purveyors of jangly indie-pop.

Prior to the sessions, Marr had absorbed envelope-pushing albums such as The Walker Brothers’ early singles and The Beatles’ “The White Album”, and his desire for his own band to broaden their horizons was all too apparent on Strangeways, Here We Come’s opening cut, A Rush And A Push And The Land Is Ours. Though Morrissey’s lyric revisited familiar themes of unrequited love (“Oh, don’t mention love/I’d hate the strain of the pain again”), the song’s sparse, otherworldly backing track provided a notable departure, with Marr’s eerie piano motifs replacing his trademark layered guitars.

When Marr did pick up his guitar, he often played with the level of aggression he’d first displayed on The Queen Is Dead’s storming title track. I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish was driven by his serrated, glam-rock riffs, while he dropped a metal-handed knife onto his Telecaster to enhance his arsenal on the rousing Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before. Bassist Andy Rourke and drummer Mike Joyce, meanwhile, demonstrated their own dexterity during the slow, menacing build of Death Of A Disco Dancer, while even Morrissey threw some atonal, yet strangely effective piano licks in for good measure as his comrades went for the burn during the song’s hypnotic, Can-esque final coda.

However, while Strangeways, Here We Come captured The Smiths embracing new sounds and textures, they hadn’t entirely fallen out with classic guitar pop. Indeed, the album included several of the band’s defining moments, courtesy of Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me, Paint A Vulgar Picture and I Won’t Share You. Buoyed by swirling strings and one of Marr’s most dashing arrangements, the majestic Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me took The Smiths’ traditional bedsit angst and repurposed it with a cinematic splendour worthy of Ennio Morricone. It was topped and tailed by one of Morrissey’s finest vocals – reputedly nailed in one take – yet the abject loneliness in his lyric (“No hope, no harm/Just another false alarm”) and the absence of the singer’s usual bon mots only added to its potency.

Morrissey’s singular performance also significantly elevated the anti-music biz rant Paint A Vulgar Picture. It’s not unusual for aggrieved artists to launch verbal daggers at their labels, but lines such as “Best of, most of, satiate the need/Slip them into different sleeves, buy both and feel deceived” found The Smiths’ frontman laying into arcane industry practices and the idea that death sells with a cleaver-sharp accuracy that still stings.

By contrast, Strangeways, Here We Come’s peak was surely its gentlest track, the closing I Won’t Share You. With Morrissey’s vocal accompanied by a discreet Rourke bassline and Marr picking out the melody on an ancient lyre found in a forgotten corner of the studio, this tender, wistful postscript (“I’ll see you somewhere/I’ll see you sometime/Darling…”) immediately took on an extra poignancy after Marr quit the band during the summer of 1987, citing a combination of exhaustion and disaffection with a variety of business and management-related issues.

Inevitably, the story of the 80s’ most influential British guitar band losing their primary sonic architect dominated the UK press, and while denials were briefly issued, The Smiths publicly announced their split before Strangeways, Here We Come hit the streets. Sadly, the fallout from the band’s demise overshadowed the fact that they’d bowed out with a fantastic record that should have opened their next chapter instead of providing their premature epitaph.

Regardless, Strangeways, Here We Come did reap sizeable commercial rewards. It peaked at No.2 in the UK Top 40 and went gold on both sides of the Atlantic. It’s never had the same critical cachet as the seemingly unassailable The Queen Is Dead but, in recent years, discerning voices have trumpeted its quality, with Consequence Of Sound proclaiming, “Strangeways, Here We Come may not receive as much acclaim as its predecessors, but it should,” Once the dust settled, both Johnny Marr and Morrissey agreed their beloved band had split on the back of their best album.

“We’re in absolute accordance on that,” Morrissey said in 2007. “We say it quite often. At the same time. In our sleep. But in different beds.”

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In August 1982, Johnny Marr and Steven Patrick Morrissey went into Manchester’s Decibelle Studios to record the first two songs they’d written together, “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle” and “Suffer Little Children,” both of which would appear on The Smiths’ debut two years later.

They were aided by Dale Hibbert, a recording engineer who worked at Decibelle — often misspelled as Decibel — and briefly played bass in The Smiths, including on the “Hand that Rocks the Cradle” recorded that day (though not on “Suffer Little Children,” according to Simon Goddard’s definitive “Songs That Saved Your Life: The Art of The Smiths 1982-87”). The drummer on the session was Simon Wolstencroft.

A couple weeks ago, a YouTube user named Domu Kafe — identified by the Morrissey-solo fan forum as Hibbert himself (that’s also the name of the coffee house Hibbert owns) — began sharing parts of those sessions, writing, “I will slowly upload the Decibelle demo, isolated vox tracks and cassette recordings.”

After a few teases, Hibbert on New Year’s Eve uploaded the full, spindly 6-minute, 30-second demo of “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle” and has since added Marr’s isolated guitar track and backing vocals, as well as Morrissey’s isolated vocals from that song.

In “Songs That Saved Your Life,” Goddard writes of the demo:

The Hand That Rocks The Cradle’ featured a grumbling low Morrissey vocal, typical of the group’s formative recordings, while Marr soaked his sketchy, central riff in a shallow flange-pedal wash. Surprisingly, the surviving demo also reveals Marr’s shaky attempt at a backing vocal harmony. … At seven minutes plus, the Decibel ‘Suffer Little Children’ is a much longer prototype than that which was finally to appear on 1984’s The Smiths. Though Wolstencroft’s pattering rhythm was discernibly different from that later applied by Mike Joyce, Marr’s basic melody was intact, if less pithy. So too was Morrissey’s stirring baritone, utilising wraithlike reverb for added drama (the only lyrical difference being the surplus lament from Myra Hindley’s conscience, ‘oh, what have you done?’). The mock Hindley voiceover was also more explicit, cackling haughtily and audibly crying out the victims’ Christian names: ‘Lesley! Edward! John!’.

Hibbert has yet to upload the full demo of “Suffer Little Children,” though he has shared a few pieces of that song’s recording, including a piano outro that’s quite reminiscent of future B-side “Asleep.”

Below, you can hear the full “Hand that Rocks the Cradle,” uploaded by Hibbert

The original Decibelle recording. Brings back so many memories. Thanks to Philipe Delcloque, one of the many unsung heroes of the late 70’s, early 80’s Manchester music scene.

Warner Records will issue a four-disc deluxe edition of The Smiths‘ 1986 album “The Queen Is Dead” this week.
The album is generally considered to be the band’s best work (although “Strangeways, Here We Come” gives it a good run for its money) and the album features the classic “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” (only a single in France at the time, fact fans). This reissue represents the first time that The Smiths’ back catalogue has been revisited in such a way. The album features several of the band’s finest moments including the title track and ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’, as well as the iconic singles ‘The Boy With The Thorn In His Side’ and ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’.

There are three physical formats for this release – which as you will note has updated artwork – a 3CD+DVD deluxe includes the remastered album, a bonus CD of demos, alternates and b-sides, a further CD: Live In Boston (recorded at the Great Woods Center For The Performing Arts on August 5th, 1986) and a DVD featuring the 2017 master of the album in 96kHz / 24-bit PCM stereo. The DVD also includes The Queen Is Dead – A Film By Derek Jarman.

A five-LP box set includes all the audio listed above, and a two-CD edition pairs the remaster with the bonus disc of demos etc.

LIMITED EDITION BOXSET WITH ADDITIONAL LIVE RECORDINGS! Widely considered to be both The Smiths‘ finest work and one of the greatest albums ever made, The Queen Is Dead has cast a significant influence over subsequent generations since it was first released in the summer of 1986. This five LP boxset contains a newly mastered and expanded version of the album, including the “Live In Boston” recording. “You cannot continue to record and simply hope that your audience will approve, or that average critics will approve, or that radio will approve,” says Morrissey. “You progress only when you wonder if an abnormally scientific genius would approve – and this is the leap The Smiths took with The Queen Is Dead.” Johnny Marr adds, “The Queen Is Dead was epic to make and epic to live.”

All formats of this The Queen Is Dead reissue will be released on 20th October 2017.

Released 31 years to the day before this release. “The Queen Is Dead” appears here for the first time on a single, and is a rare edit which omits the sing-along intro (a sample of “Take Me Back To Dear Old Blighty” from 1962 film The L-Shaped Room). We don’t have much info on the extent to which Morrissey and Marr were involved in this, but it contains all the trappings of a typical Smiths release.

Gorgeous portrait nicked from a film still on the front (in this case, Margherita Caruso portraying the Virgin Mary in 1964’s Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo), poly inner sleeve, cut nice and loud at 45rpm in classic Smiths styled vinyl 12” style. Even the font on the center label looks an awful lot like the original Rough Trade styled label . The b-side contains The Smiths only three instrumental tracks ever recorded , all of which have appeared as b-sides on original Smiths singles but never before on the same record, until now. Also available as a 7″ picture disc with “I Keep Mine Hidden” on the b-side. Both are extremely limited and essential for any Smiths completist.

CD Track List:

  1. Panic – Kitten
  2. Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before – The Rest
  3. What Difference Does It Make? – Joy Zipper
  4. Shoplifters of the World Unite – Tanya Donelly w/ Dylan in the Movies
  5. Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want – William Fitzsimmons
  6. I Won’t Share You – Sixpence None the Richer
  7. Well I Wonder – Sara Lov
  8. Half a Person – Greg Laswell
  9. Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me – Dala
  10. Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others – Chikita Violenta
  11. Sheila Take A Bow – Telekinesis
  12. Is It Really So Strange? – Solvents
  13. Hand In Glove – The Wedding Present
  14. How Soon Is Now? – Mike Viola and The Section Quartet
  15. There Is a Light That Never Goes Out – Trespassers William
  16. Rubber Ring – Girl in a Coma
  17. I Know It’s Over – Elk City
  18. What She Said – Katy Goodman (La Sera, Vivian Girls)
  19. London – Cinerama
  20. Reel Around the Fountain – Doug Martsch (Built To Spill)

On vinyl for the first time ever!!! Remastered Collectors Edition. Exclusive one-time run on Powder Blue Vinyl. Double-LP, Dual Gatefold Jacket, Download Card. Only 500 are being pressed.


“An awesome cover-compilation!” –Paste

“An outstanding and highly varied assortment of Smiths covers” –Consequence of Sound

“A worthwhile tribute that reinvents the songs while retaining The Smiths glorious spirit.” –NME

“A wonderful 20-song, double-LP blockbuster!” –The Big Takeover

The Smiths’ 2017 Record Store Day 7-inch release came with a not-so-secret message to the U.S. inscribed on the record’s A-side: “Trump Will Kill America.” While I can’t say enough great things about this awesome stunt, it is a rather depressing reminder that this becomes truer every day.

The 7-inch itself is a mix of two previously unreleased demos for “The Boy With the Thorn In His Side” and the flipside features “Rubber Ring” recorded at Drone Studios in Chorlton where the band recorded a bunch of demos back in the 80s. Actor Albert Finney, seen in the “Angry Young Man” phase of his long career, is pictured on the cover.

The news was widely spread across social media by Record Store Day shoppers who discovered the etching on the run-out groove on the A-side

The Smiths – The Boy With The Thorn In His Side (7″ Vinyl)
Includes a previously unheard version of the single along with an early version of ‘Rubber Ring’, the original b-side to ‘Boy With The Thorn In His Side’.


photo by kris fuentes cortes

Car Seat Headrest have shared an acoustic cover of the Smiths classic song “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore.” A representative for the band have confirmed the legitimacy of the recording. In addition to his own output singer-songwriter Will Toledo has covered some of rock’s biggest names. Last year, alongside his stellar album “Teens Of Denial” album, he offered updates on David Bowie’s “Blackstar” Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android, and Sufjan Stevens’ “Impossible Soul” .

Take a listen below. The song originally appeared on the Smiths’ second album, Meat is Murder, released in 1985. Last month, Car Seat Headrest toured the UK behind their excellent 2016 album “Teens Of Denial” , which was one of our best albums of 2016 .

The good folks at American Laundromat Records are to release a special tribute to The Smiths including the contributions from Kitten, Doug Martsch (Built To Spill), Katy Goodman (La Sera/Vivian Girls), and Girl in a Coma. Each artist in the collection offers a uniquely illuminating interpretation of one of their favorite tracks by The Smiths.

It turns out we share a mutual admiration for a good cover. In fact, they’ve been releasing wonderfully curated tribute records over the past few years including tributes to iconic artists such as Elliott Smith, Neil Young, Pixies, and The Smiths. When we learned that some of these albums, including their excellent tribute to The Smiths, had never seen a vinyl release, we knew we had to partner with them to get some of this music out there on wax for the very first time.

So, yeah, for this month’s vinyl we’ve pulled four standouts from that excellent tribute to The Smiths .


On the a-side, Kitten tackles the iconic single “Panic.” The original was released by The Smiths in 1986 as a 7” single through Rough Trade Records and lambasts the pop music of the time (which, Morrissey lamented, “says nothing to me about my life”). It’s followed up by Built To Spill front man Doug Martsch offering a jangly and sparkling acoustic take on the opening track, “Reel Around The Fountain,” from The Smiths’ 1984 self-titled debut album.


The b-side opens up with an exquisite, stripped down version of “What She Says” by La Sera mastermind Katy Goodman. With lush harmonies and a dusty vibe, it’s beautifully atmospheric and floating. Finally, Girl in a Coma offer up a version of “Rubber Ring” that’s both foot-stompingly rugged and raggedly exotic. It’s simply dripping with snarl and ominous mystery.

We’ve pressed 525 standard copies on bronze colored vinyl alongside a special edition of 175 copies on bone colored vinyl with bronze and beer colored splatter exclusively for gold club members. To get one you just have to subscribe to either the Pairings Box or our coffee and vinyl subscription service. Fair warning, less than a dozen copies remain.

On this day in 1987 Rough Trade released two collections of singles and B-sides by the Smiths. The U.S. audience saw the release of Louder Than Bombs, which collected 24 assorted tracks. British fans were handed The World Won’t Listen, with 16 tracks. Most ardent fans of the band obviously gobbled up both releases. The 13 shared tracks across the two albums are “Panic,” “Ask,” “London,” “Shakespeare’s Sister,” “Shoplifters of the World Unite,” “Asleep,” “Unloveable,” “Half a Person,” “Stretch Out and Wait,” “Golden Lights,” “Oscillate Wildly,” “You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby,” and “Rubber Ring.” That means there are three tracks here that aren’t included on Louder Than Bombs, and there are 11 tracks on Louder Than Bombs that aren’t included here. Going into the merits of the tracks isn’t necessary; there’s not a clunker to be found in the Smiths‘s discography. The funny, annoying, and/or incredible thing about both the Smiths and Morrissey is that so many songs (singles or B-sides) make appearances on so many different albums. Any die-hard fan of the Smiths is going to want or need both albums, just to have a complete collection of releases (not songs).

Even then, there’s going to be much repetition across the actual full-length albums and best-of collections. If an album called “The Bombs Won’t Listen” or “Louder Than the World” was to be released tomorrow, there’d be an audience for it; granted, it would be a smaller audience than in the heyday of the Smiths. Many people consider the Morrissey/Marr duo to be the last great songwriting team; any release by the Smiths is indispensable to this audience. A casual fan in the U.S. might due well to simply pick up Louder Than Bombs, since The World Won’t Listen‘s additional tracks (“Bigmouth Strikes Again,” “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out,” “The Boy With the Thorn in His Side,” and “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore”) are all found on the major, full-length releases of the band, thus paying for the price of the import might not be justified.

The CD sleeve for The World Won’t Listen is based on the cassette version of the sleeve layout; the original album featured a larger picture of a 1950s fairground scene, of which this is a crop. The sleeve was designed by Morrissey, using a photo by Jürgen Vollmer from the book Rock ‘N’ Roll Times: The Style and Spirit of the Early Beatles and Their First Fans.


Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde track “Just Like a Woman” is much disputed — for its mysterious but likely famous subject and for whether or not its lyrics are misogynist — but rarely does the beauty of its warm yet aching melody come into question.

And it’s hard to think of a singer’s voice that can better be described as warm and aching — across their body of work  than Jeff Buckley’s. (Incidentally, the link between Bob Dylan and Jeff Buckley in this very piece comes from the fact that  as with Kurt Cobain or Amy Winehouse  the singer’s public body of work continues to be exhumed, stretched, re-released, and remastered decades after his death). And so, Buckley’s just-shared cover of the Bob Dylan song (from the upcoming collection, You and I) is of course stunning — despite the fact that some might be skeptical of yet another album of early/rare recordings. (Buckley himself only ever released one studio album, 1994’s Grace.)

Buckley’s cover slows Dylan’s song down, and allows the singer to revel in the swelling and androgynous quality of his own voice, rendering the track somewhat more self-reflexive than the original, which was delivered more like a series of enamored insults, subtly underscored by heartache. (There’s certainly nothing subtle about the heartache in Buckley’s delivery.)

You and I will be released on March 16th, It also includes covers of Led Zeppelin, The Smiths, and Jevetta Steele.

The Smiths cover by jeff buckley