Episode 171: Best Songs: Smiths
September 7, 2017
All music in this episode by The Smiths.
- “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” The Queen Is Dead (Rough Trade, Sire) 1986
- “Girlfriend In A Coma” Strangeways, Here We Come (Rough Trade, Sire) 1987
- “How Soon Is Now” Meat Is Murder (Rough Trade, Sire) 1985
- “Rusholme Ruffians” Meat Is Murder (Rough Trade, Sire) 1985
- “Half a Person” Louder Than Bombs (Rough Trade, Sire) 1987
- “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before”Strangeways, Here We Come (Rough Trade, Sire) 1987
- “Panic” Rank (Rough Trade, Sire) 1988
OK folks, friends and neighbors, here is Bob Popik‘s rundown and ranking of all 74 (count ’em) officially released Smiths records. It’s quite a remarkable achievement and we’re very glad that he allowed us to republish his work here for all to see. Thanks Bob! Enjoy, friends
The Smiths: All “74” Songs Ranked From Least to Best, Bottom to Top
This list is in direct response to Rob Sheffield’s (Rolling Stone) list, which I deem as piss poor and very lazy. He doesn’t even do his homework of the fact that there has been “74” songs recorded and released by The Smiths, not 73, plus he plays the “critic” to much instead of celebrating their catalog. Thirty years ago the band broke up in July 1987 when Johnny Marr left the group permanently because he thought an NME article titled “The Smiths to Split” was planted by Morrissey, when in fact it wasn’t. I take considerable care with this list, obviously ranking “instrumentals” the very lowest because they do not include Morrissey, which Sheffield doesn’t.
My attempt to try and separate my personal feelings in trying to deliver “the best” has been challenging to say the least. I went through the catalog writing out each song on paper, separating and grouping songs to bottom, middle, and then top, and starting this project that way to keep me semi-sane, hahaha. Using this process I came up with 16 songs in the bottom, 24 songs in the middle, and 28 songs in the top which separates the catalog nicely for ranking purposes, then clicking and dragging each song into folders and pitting each song against themselves. I will list each song and the year of release along with a brief description, along with my favorite line from each song. I listened to each song again and had the catalog playing as I made this list. There are different versions of some of the songs, in this case I chose in my mind the most popular or when it appears first.
My story of the Smiths begins in earnest in the summer of 1985 — even though the Smiths are on my radar before 1985 — it isn’t until a beach party in Ocean City, MD, hosted by Sean Murphy that my love for the band is locked forever. A cassette of the album “Hatful of Hollow” plays all evening and when everyone is drunk and or passed out, I “stole” the cassette tape. The cassette remained in my car cassette deck for almost a year, I listened repeatedly until the car’s engine blew up, I could never retrieve the cassette from the player, it died with the car. Now, I’ve repeatedly apologized to Sean and even offered to replace the cassette in multiple formats, but Sean being such a wonderfully nice and kind man, refused , only stating “I’m so happy it has brought you joy over the years my friend”.
1985 also started my obsession with the record store Music Machine in Pikesville, MD, the only place I could find The Smiths near Baltimore. This list is for and dedicated to Sean Murphy and all fans of The Smiths.
74. The Draize Train (1986) Instrumental, appears as a b-side for “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others”, also performed for the live album “Rank”, and finally appears on the compilation of “The Sounds of The Smiths”. Nothing spectacular, I chalk it up to a band breaking up and Morrissey not being inspired enough to put lyrics to Marr’s music. Marr kind of steals from his own song “How Soon is Now?” with the guitar riff.
73. Oscillate Wildly (1985) Instrumental, piano driven song appears as a b-side for “How Soon Is Now?, depending on what part of the world you live, was a b-side for “The Headmaster Ritual, on the compilations of “The World Won’t Listen (UK)” and “Louder Than Bombs (US), and finally appears on “The Sound of The Smiths”.
72. Money Changes Everything (1986) Instrumental, appears as a b-side for “Bigmouth Strikes Again”, also makes the compilations “The World Won’t Listen (UK) and “The Sounds of The Smiths”. The song is given to Bryan Ferry by Marr for his album “Bete Noire (1987) and retitled “The Right Stuff” and it was his only top 40 hit off the album peaking at #37.
71. Golden Lights (1986) written by Twinkle (Lynne Annette Ripley). Interesting story, Twinkle wrote and recorded the song “Terry” which speaks of a dead boyfriend “drove off into the night, accelerated his motorbike”, it was an international hit but the puritans at the BBC banned it and labeled it in “bad taste”. Twinkle’s followup was “Golden Lights” but her career was ruined by the “Terry” controversy. Morrissey of course loved her music along with Sandy Shaw in the 1960’s, Twinkle retired at age 17 from the music business. The Smiths cover her song and it appears on the compilations “Louder Than Bombs (US)” and “The World Won’t Listen (UK)”, and also appears as a b-side for the single “Ask”. Morrissey chalks up Twinkle’s career as the trappings of fame and small minds at the BBC. Nothing catchy lyrically about the song.
70. What’s The World (1995) written by the band James, recorded live in 1985 in Glasgow by The Smiths, the live song is released as a b-side to “Sweet and Tender Hooligan” in 1995, eight years after the Smiths split. Nothing spectacular about the song, Morrissey’s voice is in prime shape for this cover originally done by James. Also appears on “The Sounds of the Smiths” compilation.
69. (Marie’s The Name Of) His Latest Flame (1986) performed and made famous by Elvis Presley. The Smiths use part of the beginning of this Elvis tune and at about the :57 mark to go into the Smiths song “Rusholme Ruffians”, it appears on the live album by The Smiths “Rank”. Nothing extremely great lyrically as Moz pays homage to The King. The interesting part about the song is that Johnny Marr openly admits that he stole the guitar riff from “His Latest Flame” to write “Rusholme Ruffians”, the guitar riffs are almost identical.
68. Asleep (1985) appears as a b-side for “The Boy With The Thorn In His Side”, also on the compilations “The World Won”t Listen (UK) , Louder Than Bombs (US), and “The Sounds of the Smiths” . The song is too real for me to listen anymore, heart wrenching, the song helped me through a very depressing time in my youth knowing someone in the world knew what depression was like and was singing so honestly about it. The reality of Morrissey’s lyrics are very raw. Some call it the “suicide anthem”. I believe it is one of the reason’s The Smiths/Morrissey get labeled wrongly as depressing. It is a depressing song. true, but looking at it as a aid or warning signs to depression and the song has actually helped people speaks volumes of the healing powers of Morrissey’s lyrics and put him in the company of the world’s greatest poets. Favorite Line: “There is a better world, there is another world, oh there must be”.
67. Unlovable (1987) Only appears on the compilation “Louder Than Bombs”. Not as dark as “Asleep”, but it’s in the same vein. But this song is more campy and Morrissey uses dark humor masterfully in this song, so many lines to grasp and enjoy it makes me chuckle. Favorite Lines: “I wear back on the outside because black is how I feel on the inside, and if I seem a little strange , well that’s because I am”.
66. I Keep Mine Hidden (1995) released as a b-side for “Sweet and Tender Hooligan” , also in some countries it was a b-side for the cassette release of “Girlfriend in a Coma”. It has one of the most marvelous lines ever in a Morrissey/Smiths song. Favorite Line: “I’m a twenty-digit combination to unlock.
65. Death At One’s Elbow (1987) released on the album “Strangeways, Here We Come”. Dark humor runs this song, it’s campy, funny , and disturbing. The song is nonsensical, makes no sense, hard to get any story out of this one. I think Morrissey was being lazy or maybe a part of being dried up lyrically. Favorite Line: Because there’s somebody here, who’ll take a hatchet to your ear”.
64. Jeane (1983) so many b-sides, released as a b-side for “Reel Around the Fountain” and “This Charming Man” . On the compilation “The Sounds of the Smiths”. Sandy Shaw and Billy Bragg recorded covers of this Smiths early recording. You can tell Marr cutting his teeth and is a start for one of the greatest guitarists ever. The song is about poverty for young couple trying to make ends meet and failing at doing so. Favorite Line: “There’s ice on the sink where we bathe”.
63. Never Had No One Ever (1986) Appears on the album “The Queen is Dead” The song is about Morrissey not feeling at ease in his hometown of Manchester, England , he states that he always felt like and outsider in an article to Melody Maker. Billy Bragg also covers this song perfectly and beautifully. There is an outtake version of Morrissey laughing hyterically throughout the song which is marvelous. My favorite line is Morrissey pinpointing the time of his birth to the day he started writing the lyrics to the song, hahahaha. Favorite Line” I had a really bad dream, it lasted 20 years, 7 months, and 27 days.”.
62. Shakespeare’s Sister (1985) Released as a single, it also played as a b-side to “How Soon is Now?” which was actually a live version and “Barbarism Begins at Home”. It also appears on three compilations “The World Won’t Listen (UK) , Louder Than Bombs (US) , and “The Sounds of the Smiths”. Song is a Romeo & Juliet kind of story , very campy. Favorite Line: “Young bones groan and the rocks below say, throw your white body down”.
61. Wonderful Woman (1983) Song released as a b-side for “This Charming Man also on the compilation “The Sounds of the Smiths”. Morrissey sings of a man in a boring and unfulfilling relationship with a woman. It is filled with hilarity, campy in nature. Intelligent, Morrissey first very intelligently written song. A young band finding it’s sea legs. Favorite Lines: “I’m starving of mirth, let’s go trip a dwarf” “and then to just pass time, let’s go rob the blind”.
60. Sweet And Tender Hooligan (1987) Appears first on the compilation “Louder Than Bombs” , also released as a CD single in 1995 eight years after the Smiths breakup. Never think much of this one, the music is so much better than the lyric with Morrissey continually repeating “Etc” , uuhhgg. Song is about a young murderer on trial. I think he was very lazy writing this one. Favorite Line: “Because she was old and she would have died anyway”.
59. Vicar in a Tutu (1986) , Released off the album “The Queen is Dead also appears on the live album “Rank”, is a b-side for “Panic” and makes and appearance on “The Sound of the Smiths” . Marr’s recall having to write music to a song Morrissey had completely finished lyrically and found it easy listening to Morrissey lyrics which he had recorded on cassette. Morrissey stated that he was poking fun at religious closed-minded values. For me personally it resolved a lot of religious guilt I held onto as a child and young teenager. Reminds me that God created humor as well. Favorite Line: “A monkish monsignor, with a head full of plaster, said, my man, get your vile soul dry-cleaned “.
58. Work Is A Four-Letter Word (1987) appears as a b-side for “Girlfriend in a Coma” also as a b-side to the 1995 release of “Sweet and Tender Hooligan”. Pure camp , jolly , happy , whimsical. Again, it seems like the song is about the struggles of marriage with one spouse more successful than the other and it’s creating problems in the relationship. Nothing special about the song lyrically or musically. Favorite Line: People say that you were born lazy.
57. I Won’t Share You (1987) released from the album “Strangeways, Here We Come “. Many believe this song is about Morrissey’s songwriting partnership with Johnny Marr. At this time many were pulling at Marr for musical help, Marr was married, as well had many friends, while Morrissey was basically alone with very few friends, and its a open letter to Marr that he is his musically. Some go further that Morrissey was gay and wanted Marr romantically , but I don’t believe that at all, it’s just some nonsense by a hateful British press. Song was covered by the band Sixpence and None The Richer. Favorite Line: The note I wrote as she read, has the perrier gone straight to my head.
56. Death of a Disco Dance ( 1987) Released on the album “Strangeways, Here We Come”. This is a case of a great band, probably the greatest English band of the 1980’s hitting their stride. They pretty much had this song nailed down in one take, I know I own the first take of this recording on a bootleg with Morrissey on piano. Very much like a Beatles song, contrite and campy even with the serious material of murder. The album version goes 5:26 in length, the first take is 6:40. Morrissey stated “people left me well alone after this song”. Favorite Line: “If you think peace is a common goal, that goes to show how little you know”.
55. Shoplifters of the World Unite (1987) The song released as a single has an awesome layered guitar sound by Johnny Marr, he perfects this technique from earlier recordings. Lyrically the song doesn’t do much. But, Morrissey has stated that it is his favorite Smiths song ever, he’s performed the song regularly from 1995 to 2007 and was one of the first song by The Smiths that he began to play when he went solo. Favorite Line: “My only weakness is a list of crimes” “A heartless hand on my shoulder, one push , and it’s over.”
54. I Don’t Owe You Anything (1984) Released of the Smiths first album, self titled “The Smiths”. A charming mid-tempo melody. Seems another couple struggles song or could be any relationship oriented song lyrically. The troy Tate version is raw and much more interesting than the album released version. Favorite Line: “Bought on stolen wine”.
53. Suffer Little Children (1984) released on the self titled album “The Smiths”, also a b-side to “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” . This song is about “The Manchester Moors Murders” in 1963 to 1965 of 5 small children by two killers who I refuse to name. The children were brutally murdered and some sexually assaulted before their deaths. Morrissey so taken and traumatized by the killing growing up, he wrote the song to honor the memories of the children along with promising to haunt the killers forever in their thoughts. Morrissey also contacted the families of the children to ask permission, and when the families read the content of the song they agreed appropriate for The Smiths to record. Favorite Line: “We will haunt you when you laugh, yeah you could say we’re a team, you might sleep , but you will never dream”
52. London (1986) appears on the complications of “The World Won’t Listen (UK) , Louder Than Bombs (US) , the live album “Rank”, and The Sounds of the Smiths . About a person moving not sure if he’s making the right decision. Favorite Line: But she knows , when he goes, he really goes”
51. The Boy With The Thorn In His Side (1985) Released in 1985 as a single , also as an album track on “The Queen is Dead” in makes an appearance on “The World Won’t Listen (UK) , the live album “Rank”, and “The Sounds of the Smiths”. First Smiths release with an accompanying video. Song is about the record industry , the record industry is the thorn. Favorite Line: “If they don’t believe me now, will they ever believe me”.
50. The Hand That Rocks The Cradle (1984) The self titled album “The Smiths” The meaning I receive is about a divorced couple and a good father having a relationship with his small son, singing him to sleep while the child is frightened by a storm outside. Favorite Line: “A piano plays in an empty room, there’ll be blood on the cleaver tonight”.
49. Back To The Old House (1983) Released on the “Hatful of Hollow” album, also b-side for “What Difference Does it Make” , “Louder than Bomb” , and “The Sounds of the Smiths”. Two different versions of this song exist , by my favorite is the lighter acoustic version on “Hatful”(John Peel sessions version). Everything But The Girl do a tremendous live version of this song. Favorite Line: “When you cycled by, here began all my dreams” .
48. You’ve Got Everything Now (1984) Released on the self titled “The Smiths” album as well as “Hatful of Hollow”, two versions exist , I like the “Hatful” (David Jansen version) . Song apparently just like so many of Morrissey’s early songs was written when Morrissey was a young teen. As you can tell by some of the adolescent material in some of the lyric. Favorite Line: “No I’ve never had a job, because I’m too shy” …… He’s replaced the word “Shy” with the word “handsome” or the phrase “because I’ve never wanted one in various versions.
47. Is it Really So Strange? (1987) Released on “Louder Than Bombs” , the live album “Rank” , and the b-side for the single “Sheila Take A Bow”. Again , another whimsical story and wordplay , dark-humor , very funny , enjoyable. Favorite Line: “I left the south , I traveled north, I got confused and killed a horse”
46. Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me (1987) Released as a single. Released off the album “Strangeways , Here We Come” . Love this song the piano buildup that lasts 1:53 at the beginning of the song. “The Sounds of the Smiths” compilation version edits the entire beginning out completely. Favorite Line : “No hope no harm , just another false alarm.
45. You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby (1986) Released on “The World Won’t Listen (UK) is a faster version, “Louder Than Bombs (US) slightly slower version. also “The Sounds of the Smiths” released the faster version. It’s funny , ever so slightly , you can tell the difference in the speed of the two different versions of this song. The song is Morrissey’s response to a record executive’s answer to one of Morrissey’s questions. Morrissey wondered why The Smiths weren’t made a higher priority. Kirsty Maccoll does an excellent version of this song. Favorite Line: “You must stay on your own for slightly longer”.
44. Rush and a Push and the Land is Ours ( 1987) Released off “Strangeways, Here We Come” album. Song is about the Smiths manager Joe Moss, the character in the song is “Troubled Joe”. Moss was trying to get back money from Marr/Morrissey for years for band equipment, Morrissey would never cosign the check. First thing Marr did after the band broke up was pay Moss. Favorite Line: “There’s too much caffeine in your bloodstream, and a lack of real spice in your life”.
43. Sheila Take A Bow (1987) released as a single , released on “Louder Than Bombs (US) , and “The Sounds of the Smiths. There is a interesting unreleased John Porter produced version that is surprisingly great. A music video was to be filmed for MTV and other outlets but Morrissey refused to show, so a Top of the Pops appearance (The Smiths last appearance on Top of the Pops) was used in place of any produced video. Favorite Line : “Throw your homework onto the fire, come out and find the one that you love”.
42. Frankly Mr. Shankly (1986) released off the album “The Queen is Dead”. The song is “NOT” about Bill Shankly longtime manager of Liverpool F.C , Morrissey just used the name because it rhymed with the word “frankly”. The song is about Geoff Travis head of The Smiths record label “Rough Trade” and his criticism of a poem Travis wrote to Morrissey. Morrissey invited Linda McCartney to play piano on the song but she refused. Favorite Line: “I want to live and I want to love, I want to catch something I might be ashamed of”.
41. Stretch Out and Wait (1986) , Three versions of this song released. The original vocal version was released on “The World Won’t Listen” and “The Sounds of the Smiths” , and alternate vocal version was released on “Louder Than Bombs (US)”, and a live version was released as a b-side of the reissue of the 1992 “How Soon Is Now?” single. Favorite Line: “Let your puny body lie down”
40. William It Was Really Nothing ( 1984) , released as a single as well as “Hateful of Hollow”, “Louder Than Bombs (US)” , and “The Sounds of the Smiths”. The song is about a love triangle that involves a marrying couple and a gay man. William is in denial about his homosexuality. The song is believed to be about Billy Mackenzie lead singer of the post punk Scottish band “The Associates”. Favorite Girl: “How can you stay with the fat girl who’ll say, would you like to marry me and if you like you can buy the ring”.
39. That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore (1985) , released as a single , also appears on the album “Meat is Murder” “The World Won’t Listen”, “The Sounds of the Smiths” and finally on the reissued single of “How Soon is Now? in 1992. The song is brilliant musically with Johnny Marr’s layered guitar work. The song is Morrissey message to people that “what goes around comes around” , not to mock people who are sad or struggling in life. Because karma be a bitch , we all have our ups and downs as humans. Favorite Line: “It was dark as I drove the point home , and it’s cold in my seat, and it suddenly struck me , I just might die with a smile on my face after all”.
38. Please , Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want (1984) Appears on “Hatful of Hollow”, “Louder Than Bombs” , and a b-side for “William, it was Really Nothing”. The Dream Academy version appears in the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off during the museum scene , and The Smiths version appears in the movie “Pretty in Pink” and is known as “Ducky’s Theme”. It is regarded by many as the 80’s depressives anthem as clinical depression is found in many, treated , and explored. The song goes along way to helping people battle depression. It is the shortest song in length 1:53 released by The Smiths Favorite Line: “See the life I’ve had, could make a good man, bad”
37. I Want The One I Can’t Have (1985) released on the album “Meat is Murder”. Morrissey longing for someone he cannot be romantically involved with. Fun and campy. So many great tidbits in this song. Favorite Line: “A double bed and a stalwart lover for sure””If you never need self validation, just meet me in the alley by the railway station”.
36. This Night Has Opened My Eyes (1983) Released on “Hatful of Hollow) , “Louder Than Bombs (US) . Song is a condensed version and tribute of filmmaker Shelagh Delaney’s work called “A Taste of Honey” that was broadcast on BBC in the early 60’s . Morrissey later stated that he never hid from the fact that 50% of his writing were a result of Delaney’s work. Favorite Line : “She could have been a poet , she could have been a fool” “You kicked and cried like a bullied child, a grown man of 25” .
35. Reel Around The Fountain (1983) Released on “Hatful of Hollow” , released as a single in some countries. The song is loosely or entirely based on the movie “The Collector” and in particular Terrance Stamp’s acting in the movie which Morrissey obsessed over. Morrissey said that the song is about a loss of innocence. Also , Morrissey again steals form “A Taste of Honey Again stealing my favorite line: I dreamt about you last night, and I fell out of bed twice”.
34. I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish ( 1987) Released on “Strangeways, Here We Come” also as a single and on “The Sounds of The Smiths. Morrissey uses a gargling roll in his voice with some of the lines, which I love, and especially when he delivers the line “Fair enough”. The song is about forbidden love, and for someone who claims to be “Asexual” my Morrissey loves to sing of homosexuality , which is perfectly fine to me , because I’m comfortable in my own heterosexuality to be able to listen and read about homosexual life, I enjoy it, and I love listening about Morrissey’s continuing struggle about the subject. In fact , Morrissey has an internal struggle with almost everyone and everything, hahaha . Favorite Line: I grabbed you by the guided beams , oh that’s what tradition means.
33. These Things Take Time (1983) , Released as a single , and “Hatful of Hollow” and the “Sounds of the Smiths. Again , sounds like another love triangle between two gay men not in a sexual relationship yet but imminent, and a woman who’s in the way. First time Morrissey sings of celibacy. Favorite Line: ” And you gave me something that I won’t forget too soon” .
32. Panic (1986 ) , released as a single , released on “The World Won’t Listen (UK), “Louder Than Bombs (US)” , and “The Sounds of the Smiths”. Now a few will complain , why ranked so low, and it’s because the continued chorus of “Hang the DJ” , which I love by the way, I just think it’s too long , just goes on and on, I mean for 1:30 of the end of the song, good lord , lol Favorite Line: “Hang The DJ” hahahahaha
31. Rusholme Ruffians (1985) released on “Meat is Murder”, released live version as a b-side on the 1992 rerelease of “How Soon Is Now?”, released as a single , as a b-side for “Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me” . Song of Morrissey’s visit to a “fair” a carnival as a youth. Rusholme is a dodgy area of Manchester near the University. Favorite Line: “So scratch my name on your arm with a fountain pen, this means you really love me”.
30. Handsome Devil (1983) Released on “Hatful of Hollow” , “The Sounds of the Smiths ” as a b-side to “Hand in Glove” the Smiths first single. Song is about homosexual lust , Morrissey’s particular attraction to an unnamed character. Written when he was a young teenager. Favorite Line: ” A boy in the bush is worth two in the hand, I think I can help you get through your exam”.
29. What She Said (1985) released on “Meat is Murder” , b-side to “Shakespeare Sister” , b-side to rereleased 1992 version of “How Soon Is Now?” , on the “Rank” live album. This song rips , it’s almost speed-metal, the guitar work is phenomenal by Marr. The song is one of Morrissey’s favorites to perform live to this day , I’ve heard it a number of times at his shows. Song is almost as a reporter by Morrissey about a young girl’s unhappy life. Favorite Line: It’s took a tattooed boy from Birkenhead , to really really open her eyes”.
The Top – Now we have reached the cream of the crop. It’s Morrissey’s lyrics and Marr’s music performing perfectly.
28. Nowhere Fast (1985) released on “Meat is Murder” , b-side for How Soon is Now? , and “The Sound of the Smiths”. Love this, the perfect mid-tempo rocker , perfect guitar riffs, perfect base with fills, and perfect time on drums. Compete camp , the title leads you to believe this is perfect dark humor and Morrissey is king. Morrissey hate of the Royal Family is evident, his disregard for tact is delicious. Self-deprecating style never been on better display. Favorite Line : “and when I’m lying in my bed, I think about life and I think about death , and neither one particularly appeals to me”
27. Rubber Ring (1985) released as a b-side to “The Boy With The Thorn In His Side” , the live album “Rank” , “The World Won’t Listen (UK)” , “Louder Than Bombs (US)”, and finally on “The Sounds of the Smiths. I cannot begin to explain the importance of this song “to me”. It’s the only time (or first time) I’m going off the rails. You see, from 1980 to late 1986 I was desperately depressed. The Smiths and Morrissey’s lyrics had so much to do with how I began to pull myself up, to give myself breaks, and most importantly using good qualities to combat the bad ones. The Smiths didn’t heal me, that would come later , but they sent me on my way. “Rubber Ring” just opened my eyes to the fact of what the Smiths were doing to me personally, all positive. Morrissey personally writes to his fans in this song asking not to forget him and the songs that make you smile, the songs they’ve outgrown , that songs that were the only thing there for you. The song is about most importantly the healing power of music. How music helps , and how music can help you to grow as a human. The passing of time can give a person perspective about things that were so troublesome to a younger soul really doesn’t matter to a maturing teenager in their late teens. It is a complete masterpiece. It threw me into fanaticism, after this , I must collect every book, and music of this band, consume it all. And it works out because still in 1985 , hell even in 87 , nobody is playing The Smiths on the radio with any regularity, they are my own personal secret band. Favorite Line: ” Yes you’re older now, and you’re a clever swine, but they were the only ones who ever stood by you” ” I’m here with the cause , I’m holding the torch, in the corner of your room can you hear me, and when you’re dancing , and laughing , and finally living , hear my voice in your head and think of me kindly”.
26. Accept Yourself (1983) released on “Hatful of Hollow” , released as a single. Well do I have to say the words “INSTANT HEALING”, Morrissey in some of his first words openly admits to the listener ” I am sick, I am dull, and I am plain” well I listened to that and said to myself , I’m not sick, most definitely not dull, and most certainly not plain either. I think I have a pretty good personality and I believe I can be extremely funny at times, so I must be doing better than Morrissey. It meant that I wasn’t alone in my life, some people even if they live in England feel the same about their lives. And this person Morrissey with all his troubles that seem bigger than mine is stressfully almost angrily asking me “When Will You Accept Yourself !!!!!!” and then changes his tone to almost woefully asking the same question, because there is nobody else to blame. Wow , mind blown , he gets me and doesn’t even know me. The message of the song is “acceptance”. Favorite Line : “Anything is hard to find, when you will not open your eyes” “Plans can fall through, and so often they do” “When will you accept your life, the one that you hate”.
25. Cemetry Gates (1986) released on “The Queen is Dead” , on the live album “Rank” , “The Sound of the Smiths” , b-side for “Ask”. This song is the closest thing you will ever hear Morrissey doing anything similar to a rap song. He is riffing , rapping, and it is coming out of him naturally , smoothly , without work, it flows. The song is about literature, reading books , more to the point “poetry” , Keats , Yeats, Wilde all get mention. Morrissey ponders a walk through a cemetery and openly asks, all those people , all those lives, where are they now? At the very end of the song before the fadeout , Morrissey’s last words are “shut up”, like a mic-drop, he’s done preaching , drops the mic, and the song ends, fucking brilliant. Masterpiece. Favorite Line: “If you must write prose/poems , the words you use should be your own, don’t plagiarize or take on loan”
24. I Know It’s Over (1986) released on “The Queen is Dead” , the live album “Rank” . A killer ballad, the song lyrically and musically takes you exactly where you want to go. Morrissey is playing his old game of depression and I’m not buying it anymore , I know him too well, dark-humor, camp, but with some really nice messages of kindness , gentleness towards others, the liberal is being born in me, and I’m becoming a less angry person. The last minute or so in the song Morrissey is whaling “Mother I can feel the soil falling of my head” almost crying desperately. Masterpiece. Favorite Line : “It’s so easy laugh, it’s so easy to hate, it takes goods to be gentle and kind, love is natural and real” .
23. Ask (1986) released as a single , “The World Won’t Listen”, “Louder Than Bombs” , live album “Rank” , and “The Sounds of the Smiths” Morrissey is telling the listener to “ask” him for permission. Morrissey by this time knows he’s helping , he’s getting letters by the thousands daily by this time and he’s reading them all. The song is about overcoming shyness and insecurities. Masterpiece . There is a killer line in the song. Favorite Line: “Spending warm summer days indoors, writing frightening verse to a bucktoothed girl in Luxembourg “.
22. Pretty Girls Make Graves (1983) released self title album “The Smiths” , b-side to “I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish”. The song is about a date with a woman , whether that person is Morrissey , who knows , but it seems he is talking first person. We find out he has a name for his penis with the line “and sorrows native son, he will not rise for anyone”. The song is so very brilliant in describing a sexually aggressive woman and a passive Morrissey , with the line “You tug my arm and say , give into lust, get up to lust”. Pure camp . Masterpiece Favorite Line : “She wants it now , but she will not wait, but, she’s too rough and I’m too delicate” ” and on the sand another man takes her hand , a smile , lights up her stupid face and well it would, I lost my faith in womanhood”
21. Well I Wonder (1985) released on the “Meat Is Murder” album , b-side to “How Soon is Now?” . Despair , a beautifully written and musically performed ballad of rock and roll history. You get the feeling that Morrissey is writing a letter to a person , I would like to think it’s a woman, but probably not, hahahaha, … I’ve personally used the line “please keep me in mind” in a number of letters and it worked every time, they came back, lol . Its a Masterpiece of music and lyrics in perfect harmony. Favorite Line : “gasping , dying , but somehow still alive, this is the final stand of all I am”
20. Still Ill (!983) released on the self titled album “The Smiths”, “Hatful of Hollow” , the live album “Rank” , released as a single, “The Sounds of the Smiths”. The song asks the question , does the body rule the mind or does the mind rule the body. Morrissey hatred for English life and the doll is on full display. “England is mine and it owes me a living”. Morrissey still performs this song regularly. A few versions of this song exist. Morrissey openly asking “himself” “am I still ill?” Masterpiece Favorite Line: Under the iron bridge , we kissed, and although I ended up with sore lips”.
19. What Difference Does It Make? (1983) released on “The Smiths” self titled , “Hatful of Hollow”, “The Sounds of the Smiths” , released as a single. Morrissey stated it is one of his least favorite songs. For me it is my first favorite song by the band , I played it over and over, and then over again. I love it, the music, the Beatle-like guitar work , brilliant . Couple versions of this song exist. The song moves with importance and urgency. Masterpiece Favorite Line: All Men have secrets and here is mine, so let it be known” ” I’d still leap in front of a flying bullet for you” “and your prejudice won’t keep you warm tonight”.
18. Girl Afraid (1984) released on “Hatful of Hollow”, ” The Sounds of the Smiths” “Louder Than Bombs (US) , and a single. Again , Morrissey tries women again, but fails “I’ll never make that mistake again”. The music drives the song with Marr’s expert guitar work and perfect time of Joyce and Rourke. It’s brilliant and flawless musically , a true masterpiece and a band that you can tell has practiced endlessly, the work is paying off and you hear it in just one year of being together. Favorite Line : “Boy afraid , prudence never pays , and everything she wants costs money”
17. Hand In Glove (1983) , it is The Smiths first released single , on the self titled album “The Smiths”, as a b-side to “How Soon is Now?” rerelease 1992 , “The Sounds of the Smiths” , “Louder Than Bombs (US) … Well The world meets the Smiths and the world is never the same. This single begins the start of arguably the best and greatest English band of the 1980’s. Song is about a young poor couple dressed in rags. People stare, but they don’t care because they are so much in love with each other, what people think doesn’t even cross their minds , they are together , that’s all that matters to them. But, Morrissey has doubts the relationship will work because they fell in love so very fast. Masterpiece, couple versions exist Favorite Line: “for the good life is out there somewhere , so stay on my arm you little charmer”
16. The Headmaster Ritual (1985) released on “Meat Is Murder”, as a single , “Sounds of the Smiths” . The song again , pure brilliance, it tells a story, a story of a young Morrissey in grade school and the systematic physical abuse that occurred in England in the 1960’s. I got this immediately because I experienced the same exact treatment in the 1970’s and 80’s. It’s so funny to me now because I was receiving abuse in high school by bullies and or teachers only a year before this song came out. Again, to me, I’m not alone , people feel the same and traumatized by this abuse , and I’m like Morrissey , I feel traumatized. Musically and lyrically brilliant Favorite Line: “mid-week on the playing fields, sir raps you in the knees, knees you in the groin, elbow to the face, bruises bigger than dinner plates” “he does the military two-step down the nape of my neck” .
15. Barbarism Begins At Home (1985) released on “Meat Is Murder” , released as a single , “The Sounds of the Smiths” . The song is about child abuse , It is the longest song ever recorded by the band beating “How Soon Is Now?” by seven seconds, 7″ inch edited version was made to cut it to 3:50 but I never liked it much , cuts too much of Andy Rourke’s fantastic base work. In a very early bootleg version , you hear Morrissey singing “I am the man, I am the man, I am the man , to keep you in place” but it is never released. The song is a masterpiece, Marr’s guitar work is perfect and extremely entertaining along with the lyrics. Favorite Line: “A crack on the head is what you get, for the things you do, the things you says “.
14. Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others (1986) released as a single and on the “Queen Is Dead” album. The song fades up , then fades out, then fades back up again , the only time in recorded history I recall a song being released this way. Song again is brilliant. Marr’s slide guitar work blends beautifully with Morrissey’s lyrics. This song is pure evidence that Morriseey has never come close to replacing Johnny Marr. Favorite Line : As Anthony said to Cleopatra as he opened a crate of ale”
13. Unhappy Birthday (1987) released on “Strangeways, Here We Come” . Song is a breakup song , the horrible things you say to someone during a teenage breakup, and unfortunately sometimes even an adult breakup. I love when people post this on my wall for my birthday, in my mind there isn’t any bigger wish verbally on in written words that make me more happier, love it . It’s on the “Teenagers Beware List” at #2 for the Smiths songs that will totally fuck up a teenager. Favorite Line: ” So drink , drink , drink , and be ill tonight”
12. Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now (1984) , released as a single, “Hatful of Hollow”, “Louder Than Bombs”, a b-side to “How Soon is Now?” rerelease in 1992, “Sounds of the Smiths . This is the song that Morrissey receives the moniker “Miserable Morrissey” the song is pure camp, it’s filled with tidbits to last you a million years with dark humor. Morrissey was utterly unemployable in his late teens , and this is somewhat a autobiography of that fact. No job, no loves, nobody cares if I live or die, jealously of young lovers, and in a horrible relationship , this song has it all. Favorite Line : “What she asks of me at the end of the day, Caligula would have blushed”…. the best fucking line of any song ever !!!!!!!!
11. Girlfriend In A Coma (1987) released as a single , released on “Strangeways Here We Come”, b-side to “Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before” “Sounds of the Smiths”. This song finally breaks the American market big time for The Smiths , it’s played on MTV in heavy rotation, but its too late , they break up. Typical , comical, sad, and also redemption. The Smiths finally get their due , “Respect” with a capital “R”. It is probably the best and greatest example of Morrissey’s dark humor, the song reeks of being really campy. Masterpiece Favorite Line: “There were times when I could have murdered her , but you know I would hate anything to happen to her”
10. Meat Is Murder (1985) released as the title track of the album “Meat Is Murder” , released as a single, “Sounds of the Smiths” , a b-side to “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore” . The most controversial song released by the band and probably ever in British recorded history. It fast becomes the “Vegetarians Anthem”. Recording is haunting especially when the cow is mooing and a sound of an electric blade is screaming. Marr’s guitar work matches Morrissey’s haunting lyrics. Song is brilliant lyrically and musically. Morrissey routinely plays a video of cows, chickens , and lambs being slaughter and mistreated in the slaughterhouse, he performed the song and video at every live show, it’s unbearable to watch so much, you almost laugh to yourself because you cannot watch it so much, many keep their heads down and don’t watch, I”m one of them , I forced myself to watch it once and that was enough. Favorite Line: “Kitchen aromas , oh very homely , it’s not comforting cheery or kind , it’s sizzling blood in the unholy stench of murder, its not natural , normal, or kind , the flesh you so fancily fry, the meat in your mouth as you savor the flavor of murder” Wow , where does a person go to write powerful lyrics like these.
9. Paint A Vulgar Picture (1987) , released on “Strangeways Here We Come” The song is about the record industry and a dying artist. This is the song that every true devoted fan of The Smiths lives in today. We wait for albums to be reissued , remastered , repackaged, remastered , deluxe editions , extra track, bonus track, bonus content, stickers , unreleased songs , unreleased versions of songs , remixed, and all the trapping of what all bands do to old albums that we already own, but we must have because we need to feel complete with our very favorite band. As an example “The Queen Is Dead” will be released in October 2017 , and of course I preordered it, so if I die before then , the album will still be delivered to my computer, that is control , hahahahaha Favorite Line : “World tour, media whore, please the press in Belgium”
8. This Charming Man ( 1983) released as a single, “The Smiths ” self titled album, “”Hatful of Hollow” “Sounds of the Smiths” . This song was the first and only to be given the various remix treatment to break into the American dance market , more precisely the New York dance scene. Of course it didn’t work , there isn’t a real dance groove to this or any song by The Smiths. It’s not funky , it’s by 4 very English blokes from Manchester, the funkiest tune by the band is probably “Barbarism Begins at Home” , from the slapping base. Favorite Line : “I would go out tonight , but I haven’t got a stitch to wear , this man said it’s gruesome that someone so handsome would care”
7. Miserable Lie (1984) released on the self titled “The Smiths” album . The song again is brilliant lyrically , and is performed at a scorching fast pace by the band, almost punk like or speed-metal. Morrissey keeps up with the frantic perfectly timed playing with his lyrics, breaking into a high pitched squeal. The live version is amazing as you can tell how fast Marr can actually play chords , actual chords, not just riffs. Favorite Line: “I look at yours , you laugh at mine and love is just a miserable lie, what do we get for our trouble and pain , just a rented room in Whalley Range”
6. The Queen Is Dead/ Take Me Back To Dear Old Blighty (1986) released on the album “The Queen Is Dead” and “The Sounds of the Smiths ” and the “Rank” live album. Of course the song is about the Royal Family and Morrissey distain for them, also Morrissey used imagination thinking that he is a member of the royal family Favorite Line: “So I broke into the palace with a sponge and a rusty spanner, she said I know you and you cannot sing, I said that’s nothing you should hear me play piano”
5. Half A Person ( 1987) released as a b-side to “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” “The World Won’t Listen (UK) , “Louder Than Bombs (US) ” b-side to “Shoplifters of the World Unite” “Sounds of the Smiths” Awesome mid-tempo song filled with camp and dark humor. Morrissey chases a girl to London, and tries to get a job at the YWCA as a back-scrubber Favorite Line : Call me morbid , call me pale , I’ve spent too long on your trail, far too long chasing your tail”
4. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out (1986) released on “the Queen is Dead” , released as a single , “The World Won’t Listen” “Sounds of the Smiths” . This is the “Fans Anthem” they sing it loud and clear with Morrissey at his concerts. Nothing but perfection, the song goes where you want it to go. A true masterpiece. Even in the first take they nearly have this song down perfectly Favorite Line : “If a ten ton truck kills the both of us , to die by your side, well the pleasure and privilege is mine”
3. Bigmouth Strikes Again (1986) released on “The Queen is Dead” released as a single , released on the live album “Rank” released on “The World Won’t Listen” and “The Sounds of The Smiths” This song moves and shakes , is gloriously fast and easy to bop to. Wordplay and camp reek throughout. I heard this song was about Robert Smith of the Cure and his band knocking a Smiths song off the charts so it’s why you hear a similar guitar sound like the Cure’s “In Between Days” , not sure of the truth, but it makes a good story Favorite Line : “Now I know how Joan of Arc felt , as the flames rose to her Roman nose and her walkman started to melt” The use of the walkman cassette player is brilliantly 80’s .
2. Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before (1987) , released on “Strangways , Here We Come ” released as a single , “Sounds of the Smiths”. My favorite Smiths song because it moves, it has urgency , perfect lyrics matching perfect music. I have no idea what this song is about , and I don’t care , the music carries the song for me. It’s Morrissey with masterful dark humor , killing it, and very campy. Favorite Line: ” I was detained , I was restrained , I broke my spleen , I broke my knee , and then he really lays into me” , hilarious ……
1. How Soon Is Now? (1984) released as a single twice in 1985 and 1992 as a rerelease , originally it was a b-side for “William It Was Really Nothing” it also appears on the album “Meat Is Murder” in some countries , “The Sounds of the Smiths” What is there to say about this true masterpiece , it is their best song , it put them on the map in England , and around the world. It’s been covered too many times to mention. The original is 6:47 in duration an edit put it at 3:39 which I didn’t enjoy one bit. Favorite Line: I am the son and the heir” and it isn’t “I am the son and the air” , which I absolutely love because non- Smiths fans believe it is the line in the song. It’s such a personal inside joke to all non-fans of the group , so hilarious …..
—Bob Popik, August 2017, Baltimore, Maryland
Matt Sebastian of the website Slicing Up Eyeballs joins Jim and Patrick once again to talk more ’80s college rock. Bud Verge, Rob Gates and Bob Popik also re-appear in this episode.
FUN FACT: Morrissey, lead singer for The Smiths, said in an interview for Melody Maker magazine that the band chose the name ‘The Smiths “because it was the most ordinary name and I think it’s time the ordinary folk of the world showed their faces.”