The Queen Is Dead - The Lost Australian Conection

The Queen Is Dead - The Lost Australian Conection



It’s been rated as one of the greatest albums of the 1980s by esteemed media including Pitchfork, NME and Rolling Stone, but a little-known Australian had an important role to play on The Smiths’ opus The Queen Is Dead. Reissued in a deluxe format next week, the very first voice heard on the album isn’t frontman Morrissey but an Australian-born actress by the name of Cicely Courtneidge. The opening strains of the title track feature the actress and comedian singing the WWI-era music hall tune "Take Me Back To Dear Old Blighty", a sample from her 1962 film The L-Shaped Room.

Although based in England for most of her life, Courtneidge made her Sydney stage debut in 1901 aged eight. She earned theatrical plaudits when she returned to Sydney for the play Under The Counter in 1947. She later made appearances in programs including the popular On The Buses and the ‘60s cinematic farce The Wrong Box.


As showcased by many of the photographs on The Smiths’ record sleeves, Morrissey was always a fan of kitchen sink dramas, forgotten matinee idols and incidental snapshots of eras long past. A wry reflection of an era when the British Isles were steadfastly in favour of the monarchy, the sample of "Take Me Back To Dear Old Blighty" offers some wistful nostalgia before the tongue-in-cheek bite of Morrissey’s lyrics and Johnny Marr’s guitar feedback and wah pedal kick in.

Unfortunately for Courtneidge, she wasn’t around to enjoy the attention of the world’s disaffected alternative youth when the album was released to acclaim in 1986. After receiving a DBE in 1972, Dame Cicely Courtneidge died in 1980. Living up to her wish to be taken “back to dear old Blighty”, Courtneidge was cremated at London’s Golders Green Crematorium. Meet you at the cemetery gates, Cicely?


The Queen Is Dead Deluxe Edition will be released on Friday October 20 on 2CD, 3CD/DVD and LP formats. Get yours here.

- SM

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