Throughout the 80s, new wave icons The Smiths released a torrent of infectious singles, with a sound that largely defined the UK’s indie scene for the better part of the decade. Their unusually funky brand of melancholy was matched in irony by Morrissey’s cuttingly observational and conflictingly witty lyrics, unafraid to shine a spotlight on even his own pretensions.
The Smiths could make you laugh, cry, dance your pain away – and laugh at yourself for doing it all at once. Here are five of their best!
1. 'How Soon Is Now?' (1984)
This hauntingly tremolo-ed hit originally arrived in 1984 as the B-side to the single, William, It Really Was Nothing. ‘How Soon is Now?’ Didn’t chart as well as you might expect; however, with its dreamy, hazy sway and Johnny Marr’s moody soaring, instantly recognisable guitar intro, the song became an unexpected club hit at the height of the Hacienda days, justifiably writing itself into the annals of all-time classics.
A cover of the song by Love Spit Love was used in the soundtrack for the 1996 blockbuster-cult-classic The Craft and later served as the theme song on TV series Charmed for eight seasons running.
2. 'This Charming Man' (1983)
It’s fair to assume that the lyrics to most of The Smith’s songs are somewhat autobiographical in nature for frontman Morrissey, but This Charming Man – about a young man rejecting a handsome stranger's offer of a night because he hasn't "got a stitch to wear." Speaking to Undress in 1984, frontman and lyricist explained that “for years and years I never had a job, or any money. Consequently, I never had any clothes whatsoever. I found that on those very rare occasions when I did get invited anywhere I would constantly sit down and say, 'Good heavens, I couldn't possibly go to this place tonight because I don't have any clothes, I don't have any shoes.' So I'd miss out on all those foul parties. It was really quite a blessing in disguise."
3. ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’
One of The Smith’s most iconic numbers, There Is A Light That Never Goes Out featured on the band’s third studio album The Queen Is Dead, but wasn’t actually released as a single until 1992 – five years after the group had already called it quits. Despite the delay, the song’s eminence spoke for itself, with their British homeland’s flagship music publication NME rating it as the 12th Greatest Song of all time.
4. ‘Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now’
Another diary entry from interminable mind of Morrissey – listed as one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. It’s pretty hard to be miserable about that!
5. ‘The Headmaster Ritual’
The Headmaster Ritual, opens The Smiths' second album, Meat Is Murder, which was the one and only Smiths album to reach the spot in the UK charts. The track opens with Johnny Marr maniacally hammering an open-tuned chord before Morrissey chimes in with his enlightening rumination on power-hungry school masters ... Sounding exactly like it was arranged by (highly intelligent) renegade school boys.
In 1985, The Smiths released their one and only UK number one album with Meat Is Murder. The album's sleeve features a photograph of Marine Cpl. Michael Wynn in the Vietnam War taken in 1967, with the wording on his helmet changed from "Make War Not Love" to "Meat Is Murder". Revisit the indie classic on streaming below!
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