The Smiths: The Smiths

“I dreamt about you last night and I fell out of bed twice. You can pin and mount me like a butterfly, but take me to the haven of your bed was something that you never said. Two lumps please. You’re the bees knee’s but so am I.” (Reel Around the Fountain)

And so begins the debut album of the most important band in recorded history. It was 30 years ago today that The Smiths released The Smiths. Despite their phenomenal rise it was not quite the success we were expecting. Poor production and the non-inclusion of This Charming Man meant it was not greeted quite as warmly as one would have expected. Don’t get me wrong it is still a fabulous album with some of the greatest songs ever written but our sights had been set so high we were expecting the world and it was not delivered. It took until the autumn and the release of Hatful of Hollow to seal the Smiths as the real deal. The fact that half the tracks on the debut were subsequently released in their “session” state only 7 months later showed that the debut was not as loved as some would have thought.

“I decree today that live is simply taking and not giving. England is mine and it owes me a living.” (Still Ill)

There had been a bit of an argument over who would produce the album. Firstly Troy Tate (ex Teardrop Explodes) was at the wheel. His efforts were dumped in favour of John Porter. But even this second effort was flat and did not capture the live sound the band had become famous for. Many fans preferred the versions recorded for the John Peel and David “Kid” Jensen Shows. Funnily enough John Porter had actually been producer for some of the session tracks. Also Troy Tate was thanked on the inner sleeve despite none of his efforts being used. Many years later the Troy Tate tapes were released and some believe are better than the Porter versions. But this is all conjecture. The songs themselves make it a great debut. And the fact that it reached number 2 in the real charts shows that many were listening.

“I know the wind-swept mystical air: It means I’d love to see your underwear.” (Miserable Lie)

The cover was also a contentious issue. A still of Joe Dallesandro from “Flesh” an Andy Warhol film directed by Paul Morrissey (no relation!!) If you see the full picture it is a little rude to say the least. There had also been a furore about the track “Suffer Little Children” about the Moors Murders. (We will be investigating this further in June when we celebrate the release of Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now!!!)

“Oh Manchester, So much to answer for.” (Suffer Little Children)

The debut is not held in such high regard as The Queen is Dead or Meat is Murder. In fact it is probably my least favourite Smiths album but tracks like Still Ill, Reel Around the Fountain, Hand in Glove and my favourite Miserable Lie make it a record that you should all own. If you do own it, play it today. If you don’t, go out and buy it. 1984 seems like a long time ago. The miners were about to go on strike, Everton won the FA Cup, millions were on the dole, Liverpool did a League, League Cup and European Cup treble and George Orwell was getting a lot of publicity for a book he’d written some 35 years previously. It also seems like not that long ago. I was 17 the day the album came out. We had just moved to Beacon Lane and life was changing more than ever. Things seem very different but funnily very familiar.

By peter on February 20, 2014

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