Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Desert Island Discs 38 Strangeways Here We Come by the Smiths

38 Strangeways Here We Come by the Smiths 1987

It is hard to explain just how important the Smiths were as I was growing up. 5 years older or 5 years younger and you would wonder what all the fuss was about or think of them as a quite good guitar band that made a couple of decent lps.

However growing up in the land that time forgot of 1980s fens my world was split into those that loved the Smiths and those (the vast majority who were still stuck in the last mod revival) that hated the Smiths. Right from the first top of the pops appearance for This Charming Man to the  thunderous intro to What Difference Does it Make at the local indie disco I was hooked.

I remember long drunken conversations (too much orange cordial and vodka) on the meaning of the lyrics and friends admitting to a sense of disappointment when How Soon is Now (probably their masterpiece) was promoted from a b side to a single and stopped being our song.

Queen is Dead is the one that is often held up as their best but I love their final lp. Its classic quit while at the top. The lp gives a glimpse of  the potential the Smith had beyond jangly guitars and Morrissey's personality. It is no accident that both Morrissey and Marr choose this as the best Smiths lps.

By its release the band were already no more , Marr leaving based on what now seems like a misunderstanding and inability to communicate with each other (that and his frustration at having to cover a Twinkle song for a b side.)

For an lp where both songwriters were trying to move the Smiths away from the Smiths sound the opening single was very smiths like.  Less than 3 mins with a slight vaudeville feel behind a sparkly bit of acoustic guitar. This is one of those tracks that a lot of Smiths fans cite as one of their worst ( one comment I've seen is" like Spitting Image doing the Smiths") , but I love it even if it is a Smith song for beginners

Morrissey is in the finest of voices and his lyrics are as quirky a ever

"There's too much caffeine in your blood stream
And a lack of real spice in your life"

"Has the Perrier gone straight to my head"

There are some "traditional" Smiths songs but with a bigger sharper sound and listening back it seems a closer relation to Morrissey's first solo lp than The Queen is Dead

There is a bitterness to the lyrics, with Paint a Vulgar picture a direct attack on the music industry and it never ending
Re-issue ! Re-package ! Re-package !
Re-evaluate the songs
Double-pack with a photograph
Extra Track (and a tacky badge)
Which is ironic as The Smiths are probably only second to the Rolling Stones in terms of never ending compilations.

As ever though some of the sharpest lines were hidden in the prettiest tunes

Unhappy Birthday - The Smiths

You can buy Strangeways Here We Come here


  1. Unhappy Birthday is my favorite on Strangeways...and I do have a hard time choosing between Queen Is Dead and Strangeways for favorite Smiths album.

  2. I've been very tentative choosing a Smiths album. I'm tempted to sin...

    #38 - JOSH ROUSE - Nashville (2005)

    - Josh Rouse already came up earlier on TJ's list... too early! His pick was a very early release, mine is more recent. Not the deepest lyricist, Rouse more than makes up for it with an incredible knack for pop melody. With a couple of recent exceptions (domestic bliss to blame?) Rouse has been consistently solid with his albums. Nashville is mostly a somber reflection on divorce. Breakup albums are always the best!

    It's The Nighttime: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHyMePHQpvw
    Winter in The Hamptons: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qd_kN9PyU8A
    My Love Has Gone: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mIkTvKJ5jCQ
    Life: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2u5fDtggms

  3. Nearly 'Snap' David. I went for the bleeding obvious...
    Nice call TT; Josh's best but not the most beloved chez nous...

  4. Saw Johnny Marr last night, and he gave an excellent rendition of "Stop Me If You Think That You've Heard This One Before". Am tempted to say he does Smiths songs better than Moz...

  5. It was Queen is Dead for me.Not much in all The Smiths albums, all strong.
    Just heard the be-quiffed one has been struck down with double pneumonia so hope he pulls through quickly.
    #38 The Bathers - Kelvingrove Baby. The most accessible of their albums, but all 3 of the Marina released albums are excellent.This is missing one of my all time favourite songs, 'She's gone forever' that is found on 'Sunpowder', but with the gorgeous title track and 'Girlfriend',that is almost radio friendly, Kelvingrove just nicks it. I'm so pleased Friends Again split up!

  6. I still haven't decided which album to pick. They always seemed like a singles band first to me, and released a lot that weren't on the studio albums, one of the reasons why their compilation albums have such a strong grip on some peoples affections. Particularly Hatful of Hollow.

  7. Hi Echo if I didn't have my 1 per artist rule they would both be in
    Tim - and I've gone for a different one although both Nashville and 1972 pushed it close. Agree he seems just too dam happy now.
    Trev - the overlaps are getting bigger!
    Brian - how did his voice hold up - I saw him perform at the Kirsty Maccoll tribute concert and remember thinking at the time thank god he plays guitar!
    Hi Phil - another too low for me! - I'm looking forward to seeing your top 20 as a few you have already picked are in mine so wondering what you have instead
    Seamus - Hatfull was always seen as the lp real smiths fans liked the best. They repeated the trick later with the double louder than bombs which also has the non lp singles , all the later b sides and some session work including the beautifully haunting Asleep


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