The Smiths Greatest Songs
One of the most influential bands alternative/post-punk bands of the 1980’s was the Smiths. Hailing from the musical hotbed of Manchester England the Smiths were one of the first examples of an indie band breaking through to mainstream success. Made up of controversial lead singer Morrissey, guitarist Johnny Marr, bassist Andy Rourke, and drummer Mike Joyce. They had a style which was rich and complex; with elements of alternative, punk, pop, and goth. Legendary BBC Radio DJ John Peel put it best saying you could listen to them and not be able to tell what records they were listening to because they were drawing influence from all over the place. While they had a volatile break-up and Morrissey has probably offended everyone on earth at this point with his outspoken ways, it does not take away from the lasting impact the Smiths have left on music.
There is a Light that Never Goes Out: Arguably the Smiths’ most acclaimed song and their third album the Queen is Dead. The bleak and gloomy lyrics the band was famous for are on proud display as Morrissey sings of a rebellious figure who has lost everything and is looking for romantic partner with whom he shares a spark with. Even if, or especially if they die in a horrible accident while on the road that night it would be alright because the pleasure was his. Lacking the budget to create the desired sound, Johnny Marr had to get creative with his playing and relied on a cheap synthesizer to bring the desired depth. Though it peaked at number 25 on the UK Charts “There is a Light that Never Goes Out” has gone on to become the band’s most popular song. In retrospect critics have proclaimed it to be one of the best songs of the 80’s and even one of the best songs of all-time.
Panic: Nowadays most people know this song for its inclusion in the Black Mirror episode “Hang the DJ”. Morrissey and Johnny Marr let their feelings about the bland state of pop music be known with this single. Morrissey was inspired to write this song after hearing an announcement of the pending disaster at Chernobyl which was promptly followed by a forgettable upbeat Wham! Song. “Panic” tells listeners that the UK was falling apart around them while they’re listening to their carefree music, imploring them to “burn down the disco” and “hang the blessed DJ” because the music they spin has nothing to do with the real world. Despite it’s anti-mainstream message, the song became a hit on the charts and stands one of the great songs of indie rock.
This Charming Man: A perfect ability of the intricate lyrics the band was known for. With rich lyrics and Marr’s catchy jangle pop guitar style, “The Charming Man” tells the story of a bicycle rider who experiences trouble which drives him to contemplate his life’s journey. he is then given a ride from a “charming man” and realizes that things in the passenger seat are not that bad. Debuting as part of BBC Radio’s famed “Peel Sessions”, this was a song was meant for the introspective members of the homosexual community during the 80’s, which Morrissey saw himself to be a part of. The fact that the male subject of “This Charming Man” was written to show a certain vulnerability to which is still rarely seen in music.
How Soon is Now?: This song was written by Marr as an attempt to build a song around a single note. While the lyrics are just the repetition of the same verse, bridge, and chorus, “”How Soon is Now?” still displays the complex songwriting the Smiths were known for. It never really did well on the charts, but was catchy enough that it became a hit on the dance floor. Deceptively simple, this has become one of the best remembered songs from the band’s run.
Bigmouth Strikes Again: Another hit from the Queen is Dead, the song follows a man who definitely has issues. Constantly berating his “sweetness” But he always covers himself by claiming to only be joking. Of course the subject of the song definitely has a victim’s complex comparing himself to Joan of Arc being burned at the stake. Many fans believe “Bigmouth Strikes Again” to be inspired by Morrissey’s own inability to keep his mouth shut whenever he puts himself on a soapbox.
Ask: Even when they are on the poppier side of things the Smiths still sing about heavy subjects. This was done on purpose, knowing if they released another song with a gloomy tone, their record company would complain about it. To achieve a lighter sound while still staying true to band’s style, Johnny Marr and frequent producer John Porter worked closely to make sure things were just right. The music video benefitted from the direction of acclaimed British filmmaker Derek Jarman.
Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now: One of the defining elements of the Smiths were their bleak and angst-ridden lyrics. This particular song puts that aspect on proud display. “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” marked the band’s first collaboration with producer Stephen Street who worked with the band through their career’s peak and became one of the more sought over producers in Britain. When it was released, the single was able to reach all the way to the Top 10 on the UK charts further solidifying the band as a force on the British music scene.