Photo of Morrissey by Tom Sheehan. Reproduced without permission.
Brief 'Fact File' comprising a series of light-hearted questions put to Morrissey and published in Smash Hits. Dates from around the time of the release of the 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now' single.
This item was later reprinted with half of the questions omitted and others added. The website Smiths Presumably Forever Ill even features a third version, credited as appearing in the American publication Star Hits. The questions and answers from all three versions have been combined here into a single questionaire.
MORRISSEY(OF THE SMITHS)
Name: Just put Morrissey.
Born: 22.5.59 in Manchester.
Nicknames at school: I'm afraid I was deprived of a nickname. And what did my parents call me? Steven of course, with a v not a ph, please.
What was the best excuse you used to get off P.E.? I never wanted to get off P.E. - it was the only intellectual subject in school. But I did used to get off all the other subjects. I just used to be constantly ill - general manic depression mainly. I didn't need notes or anything. They just had to take one look at me and that was enough.
Were you good at sport? Miraculous. It was the only thing I was good at and I used to love it completely. The 100 metres was my raison d'être. Yes, I won everything. I was a terrible bore when it came to athletics. I was just the type of person everyone despises so I've carried on in that tradition.
First crush: I'm waiting for that to happen.
Were you bullied at school? I was never bullied at any point, I must admit. I was never picked on, never pushed around and that's that. It's not very interesting, is it?
Favourite teacher: That's absurd. I never had one.
When did you start wearing glasses? Seriously when I was 13. I needed to wear them much sooner but glasses had this awful thing attached to them that if you wore them you were a horrible green monster and you'd be shot in the middle of the street. So I was forced to wear them at 13 and I've stuck with them ever since.
What did you say in your first fan letter to Sandie Shaw? Well, it was incredibly well written and incredibly intelligent, quite short and blunt and to the point - I adore you and when can we marry? Of course there was no reply.
What was your first meeting like? First contact was arranged by a mutual friend. I was shuffled round to her flat and there she was in her pyjamas, holding her baby. It was very romantic. To me it was like a candlelit dinner. What do I think of her? I think she'll do. Our relationship is terribly private. In the press she tries to play it down, makes me out to be a deranged schoolboy. But in private I'm more like a deranged teacher.
Favourite Thompson Twins record: Is it possible to have one? Well, if I'm horribly tortured and flogged to admit it... I think I'd rather face further flogging.
First record bought: "Come Stay With Me" by Marianne Faithfull in 1965. I demanded this record from my parents. Of course we were too poor so I had to go into hibernation until I got it.
Did you argue with your parents? Incessently. It was the only real basis of our relationship. I couldn't think of anything else to do with them. What do they do for a living? Very respectable and interesting jobs, but nothing worthy of being in your illustrious paper.
What were you like as an adolescent? I never was one. I went straight from six to 46. Quite depressing really. I missed out on all those things like discos at Christmas. I suppose I've now regressed, but I wouldn't call it a second childhood, because it's my first.
When did you leave home? I left spasmodically and I returned home spasmodically for years. I was never very good at it. I think the first time was when I was 17 and the last when I was 23, I just went to the usual foul, decrepit bedsits that simply crush your imagination.
First song written: Shameful... I can't remember. No, to be perfectly honest I can remember but I don't want to tell you. Oh, it was so woeful. It was about bringing flowers to some maiden on a hillside. I was only six, but that's no excuse.
Were you ever a punk? Not in the traditional sense. I did like lots of it. I did see most of the important groups and I was incredibly aware at the time... but a punk as far as style goes I never was.
What did you want to be when you grew up? Oh, I'm afraid I always wanted to be a librarian. To me that seemed like the perfect life: solitute; absolute silence; tall, dark libraries. But then they started to become very modern, you know, these little pre-fabs and they had no romance whatsoever. So suddenly the idea had no fascination for me.
What's the worst illness you've ever had? Probably being on the dole. I always consider that to be an absolute illness. A physical illness? I've not really had anything.
Do you drink or smoke? I have spasms of wine but I don't smoke. But I'm afraid, yes, red wine occasionally.
Are you gay? I feel that I am quite vulnerable and that's quite good enough because I wouldn't want to be thought of as Tarzan or Jane or whatever! I'd rather be thought of as someone quite sensitive who could understand women in a way that wasn't really sexual. I hate men who can only see women in a sexual way - to me that's criminal and I want to change that. I don't recognise such terms as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual and I think it's important that there's someone in pop music who's like that. These words do great damage, they confuse people and they make people feel unhappy so I want to do away with them.
What's your favourite shop? Rymans, the stationers. To me it's like a sweetshop. I go in there for hours, smelling the envelopes. As I grew up I used to love stationary and pens and booklets and binders. I can get incredibly erotic about blotting paper. So for me, going into Rymans is the most extreme sexual experience one could ever have.
Favourite joke? The funniest thing - I mean I'll say this now but it won't seem the least bit funny, it'll seem completely damp - was when this famous social gadfly came up to Oscar Wilde at this celebrated event in Paris and said, "Isn't it true, Oscar, that I'm the ugliest woman in the whole of Paris?" and he said "No, my dear, you're the ugliest woman in the whole of the world" which I thought was quite funny.
Who does your laundry? Me, I'm afraid. Every Friday night you'll find me leaning over the bathtub, immersed in Persil. I simply cannot go to the launderette and I don't have a washing machine and I don't have time to get one. It's quite passionately romantic leaning over the bath, scrubbing one's shirts.
Are you in love? If I said no, that would seem too stark. I have to be. I think everybody has to be otherwise where do you get the energy from to go on, in life, and strive for certain things? The things that stir me are schools and buildings and I'm quite immersed in the past and in the history of this country and how things have evolved and I get quite passionate about certain people in desperate situations.
Where do you buy your shirts? From Evans the ladies outsize shop in Kensington High Street. They treat me like royalty now because lots of depraved Smiths fans go in there.
Do you socialise with the rest of The Smiths? Well, I see them every single day, but we don't go out to clubs, so no, we don't socialise in that way. We haven't fallen into that throng of people who need to be seen - we're quite private in that respect.
Are you a socialist? I am. I don't belong to any particular party but if I were to be stripped down, as it were, I would be shoved in the socialist box. Why? Just the very obvious things of coming from a working-class background, being exposed to hardships and the reality of life. I think all socialists are absolute realists.
Are you frightened of growing old? No, not to any degree. I was never happy when I was young so I don't equate growing old with being hysterically unhappy. To me old age doesn't mean doom, despair and defeat. There are lots of people I know in considerably advanced years that I find fascinating.
Do you believe in an after-life? Not really. I can't think of any reason why I should. You're born, you live, you die and that's the end.
If you were an animal what would you be? I'd probably be a cat, I think. Mainly because I'm very fond of them and they can lead a relatively luxurious life. They're also very independent beings - not like dogs who need persistent attention. I'd like to be an alley cat... no, a tabby.
What do you think of the Royal Family? The writers and designers of Spitting Image should be unmercifully sued for making the Royal Family seem generally more attractive and intelligent than they actually are.
Tell us a secret: Why should I? Oh, alright then. Let me think. I want to think of something so scathing you won't possibly be able to print it. Oh God! Well, I do have a mad yearning passion for Viv Nicholson, a ray of genius who won the then record amount (£100,000) on the pools. She's on our next single cover. Oh and another secret is that I buy my underwear from Marks & Spencers.
Have you ever placed a lonely hearts ad? Yes. It said "I'm dying of loneliness and need to be rescued [or] else I'll sink into obscurity," which I did. I also put that I was mad, ugly, spotty and totally odorous. No reply.
Do you sunbathe on holiday? Yes I love to do it, but I rarely go on holiday. I sunbathed once on a huge beach in America. I was eaten alive, inch by inch by giant insects.
Do you get hayfever? No.
The best thing about being a pop star? The best thing is, one way or another, that people respect you. It just boils down to fame. No matter what you've done in the past - people will forgive you. People in the past who've spat at you are quite forgiving. It's two-faced, of course, but it gives me a great deal of satisfaction because it's an enormous sense of achievement. It can't be surpassed really.
Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only. Photo by Tom Sheehan. Reproduced without permission.
See both Smash Hits versions here
Morrissey contributes his personal list of favourite records, books, etc to the 'Portrait of the Artist as a Consumer' series in New Musical Express. Originally published in the September 17, 1983 issue.
PORTRAIT OF THE
AS A CONSUMER
'Stop Before You Start' - Sandie Shaw
'The Right One Is Left' - Cilla Black
'Heart' - Rita Pavone
'Insult To Injury' - Timi Yuro
'Paper Boy' - The Marvelettes
'How Does That Grab You, Darlin'?' - Nancy Sinatra
'Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy' - The Tams
''Johnny Remember Me' - John Leyton
'I'll Never Quite Get Over You' - Billy Fury
'I Want A Boy For My Birthday' - The Cookies
Complete Works of Oscar Wilde
Popcorn Venus - Marjorie Rosen
From Reverence To Rape - Molly Haskell
Beyond Belief - Emlyn Williams
The Lion In Love - Shelagh Delaney
Against Our Will - Susan Brownmiller
The Angel Inside Went Sour - Esther Rothman
Men's Liberation - Jack Nichols
The Murderer's Who's Who - Gaute & Odell
The Handbook Of Non-Sexist Writing - Miller & Swift
The Man Who Came To Dinner (1941)
A Taste Of Honey (1961)
Christmas In Connecticut (1945)
The Killing Of Sister George (1969)
A Kind Of Loving (1962)
Hobson's Choice (1953)
Mr Skeffington (1944)
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
The Member Of The Wedding (1953)
The World, The Flesh And The Devil (1959)
Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only. Photo by Joelle Depont. Reproduced without permission.
See the original item here
For a more in-depth look at some of Morrissey's greatest passions, see The Morrissey Collection
SEE ALSO: Yeahs and Yeuks
Roger Holland reviews 'The Queen Is Dead' in the June 14, 1986 issue of Sounds.
MONARCHY IN THE UK
"THE ALBUM of the week comes half-pretty in pink, yet eloquently monosyllabic in monochromatic grey/green. The Smiths have always wrapped themselves well. Evocative, assured and gleefully funny. And that's only the still of your four Smiths standing, like Ramones who can read, outside the Salford Lads Club on the corner of Coronation Street (a joke within a joke here).
The album of the week introduces itself with half a snatch from Cecily Courtneidge's unforgettable (if you've ever heard of it, you can't forget it) 'Take Me Back To Blighty' (sic), then sweeps this backwards glance aside with a flurry of exuberant drumming and a looming loop of guitar. The pause is stretched beyond the limit. Distorted vocals drop a hint, and half the western world wonders.
Is it Susan And Her Banshees? Is it Altered Images? Oh grow up, take a look at the top of the page and giggle uncontrollably as the monarchy tumbles. Morrissey is going to explain that the Queen is Dead, that the church is grasping and decadent, and that the whole country has gone to the dogs (it was probably Harold Wilson's fault!). He is also going to crack some really good jokes.
As a thematic essay, the title track is far from original. But as an expression of every healthy young depressive's dissatisfaction with the times, it makes the hairs on the back of my neck snap to a rigid attention.
Rhythm 'n' iconoclasm.
There will be those who cannot bring themselves to love the yucks in lines like "I checked all the registered historical facts and I was shocked into shame to discover how I'm the 18th pale descendant of some old queen or other".
But then, there are still those people who choose on the point of stubborn principle not to swoon before Morrissey's magnificently tuneless yet pricelessly elegant and inspiring intonation. He may be consequential and completely self-obsessed, but he is also splendid. All the optimistic, if merrily pessimistic, among us could have wanted, 'The Queen Is Dead' flows over with charm. With self-pity, with mother-love, with endless introspection. With poetry, with favouritism, and with despair at the fools who cannot see that to base a song around a line from a film is a tribute, and not a cheat.
With need. And with the purifying power of sympathetic pop humour which courses through the veins of The Smiths.
'The Boy With The Thorn In His Side' was the most pleasantly relaxed and beautifully soul searching pop single of its time. Six of the other songs here match up to that marvellous moment. This makes 'The Queen Is Dead' the album of the month. A year is a long time in pop music." *****
Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only. Photo of Morrissey by Pat Bellis. Reproduced without permission.
See the original review here
Short news item about Derek Jarman's The Queen Is Dead promotional film. Originally appeared in New Musical Express.
HANG THE D.J.?
A Smiths video? Never! Well, not after the last one. Instead the Messrs Schmidts have hired Derek Jarman to visually represent their music. ALAN JACKSON got an eyeful.
WELL DEL... perhaps that would be taking it a bit far. But call this a promotional video? Where are all the high heels, the fast cars and the flashy locations? Where are the illuminated paving stones and the fancy dance steps? And, most shameful neglect of all, where's the band itself?
So, The Queen Is Dead isn't your average promo clip, but then The Smiths aren't your usual pop music product either. Faced with the band's well-known reluctance to involve themselves in anything so obvious as a conventional marketing film, Rough Trade agreed to commission British film auteur Derek Jarman to interpret three of their songs - 'The Queen Is Dead' and 'There Is A Light That Never Goes Out' from the current album, plus the single 'Panic' (seen on last week's TOTP).
Jarman's own track record would hardly lead you to expect a re-run of Thriller - cart-loads of camp and bare bottoms in such homo-erotic oeuvres as Sebastian, The Angelic Conversation and the recent Caravaggio. But his highly-original vision and his Mozzer-like proclivity for sexual and political provocation means that the resulting 15-minute home movie is a welcome departure from the usual MTV-orientated image-shapers we've grown accustomed to.
Working with John Maybury, Richard Heslop and Chris Hugues, he's set 'The Queen Is Dead' to a jerky, hand-held-camera-in-black-and-white background of childhood flashbacks and urban anxiety; 'There Is A Light...' plays as a slow-panning lens moves across the body of a young boy in shorts, while 'Panic' fast-cuts in an impression of impending social collapse. Anti-monarchist and anti-establishment imagery abounds - there's even a bit of skull-kissing thrown in for good measure - and it's all enough to give the programmers at Saturday Superstore a few headaches, no matter how high 'Panic' rises in the charts.
There are plans to screen the completed work on a Whistle Test special in September, but cinema audiences will be granted the first opportunity to cast a critical eye. The Queen Is Dead will be previewed at the Edinburgh Film Festival (The Film House, August 19 at 11pm), and will then begin a nationwide cinema tour as support to the new Alex Cox feature Sid And Nancy. London audiences should get their chance to see the promo too - negotiations are currently underway with major distributors, and a tie-up with the new Prince movie Under The Cherry Moon, to be released late this month, seems likely.
All of this is good news for Jarman's followers, but Smiths fans eager to see Morrissey tap-dancing or mugging to the camera may be in for a disappointment.
Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.
See the original item here
David Cavanagh reviews WEA's CD reissues of the Smiths' back catalogue. Originally appeared in the December 1993 issue of Q.
The Smiths: the very best of British?
"Men At Work. Animal Nightlife. New Edition. A Muppet manque called Chris Hamill re-arranges the letters in his surname to read Limahl and still gets taken seriously as a human being. A breakfast time rodent breaks the charts with Rat Rapping and actually sounds like he's on top of the zeitgeist. Thorn Birds, Afternoon Boys, Uptown Girls and Karma Chameleons.
In retrospect the vintage that was 1983 didn't make life too difficult for The Smiths. They formed, released a classic three-minute tambourine fiesta called Hand In Glove and simply ran away with pop music, issuing prolific bulletins both brilliant and hilarious. They made albums so great that their compilations are every bit as essential as those infernal affairs in red and blue.
A case, indeed, could be made for The Smiths as the greatest British group after The Beatles, and the sole requirement would be the waving of these album sleeves in a cocky and provocative manner. They were fantastic, in a way that Orson Welles was once fantastic, or Patrick McGoohan when he made The Prisoner, or Dirk Bogarde's eyebrows every time he gets asked a question about homosexuality.
They were already two singles and two raved-about Peel sessions down the line when they released The Smiths (1984) to a world that was really rather keen to hear 11 Smiths songs in a row. Although the emasculation of Morrissey and Marr's six-minute masterpiece Reel Around The Fountain immediately disappointed, I Don't Owe You Anything, The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, Pretty Girls Make Graves and (especially) Suffer Little Children were beautiful picture frames from the North, not always set in the 1980s. They gleefully introduced the arts to each other, drawing up party invites that sat Tony Richardson, Dusty Springfield and John Renbourne at the same table, and they accumulated a stunning body of work to sneak in there themselvs, in a rough top five that would include The Beatles, The Kinks and the Stones.
These records don't need reintroducing, they just need constant re-playing. Only minor alterations have taken place, to differentiate between the old Rough Trade CDs (the artwork is identical). This Charming Man is added to The Smiths, as it was on the original US pressing. Similarly, How Soon Is Now is levered into the proceedings halfway through Meat Is Murder (1985), a great second album that starts with one of their most intoxicating songs, The Headmaster Ritual.
Even calling a song The Headmaster Ritual was scandalously intelligent; to bombard the listener with guitars and yodals - not to mention the finest ever pronunciation of the word "bastards" on a pop record - showed The Smiths were fearless: brusquely carpe-ing the diem, in love with words and music, relentless. Marr was impertinent and dazzling enough to annex myriad guitar channels on That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore and the sinister title track, while Morrissey's devilish Northern verbosity on Rusholme Ruffians was straight out of Victoria Wood, as, it later transpired, were a couple of the quotes.
Where How Soon Is Now really belongs, of course, is Hatful Of Hollow (1984), the 16-song gathering of BBC sessions and singles that sold for under four quid and proved that their work for John Peel was invariably just as thrilling as that for John Porter and Stephen Street.
The Queen Is Dead (1986) is currently appearing in a poll near you headlined Best Albums Of The '80s or suchlike, its pre-eminence as The Smiths' best album having now entered common folklore. It is, sure enough, an extraordinary record. After the portentous black clouds of the seven-minute title track, the rest of the album goes off on a variety of contrapuntal tangents, which is why The Queen Is Dead hardly seems to flow.
I Know It's Over, not so much lachrymose as genuinely inconsolable, is squeezed between the don't-dilly-dally-on-the-way bathos of Frankly Mr Shankly and Marr's low key seduction-fest, Never Had No One Ever.
As to the rarely celebrated The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, here's a vocal of stunning ingenuity: Morrissey wasn't just the lyricist of the decade, he was the singer of a lifetime. Marr on guitar sounds supportive, but his conscientious barrage of acoustic and electric guitars is the work of a musical pioneer.
The World Won't Listen (1986) was a 16-track collection of the band's extra-album work over the preceding 21 months, and even with WEA's addition of the awful Golden Lights stands bold and irreproachable as among the finest work they created. Rubber Ring, Half A Person, Unlovable, Asleep: these were B-sides, for God's sake, and yet they were astounding.
Previously maligned 45s like Shakespeare's Sister and Shoplifters Of The World Unite simply flail away here and say: "You erred, you fools". Magnificent.
Strangeways, Here We Come (1987) took some stick, too, mainly because it was assumed the split must have meant a creative impasse. If anything, they were getting even more daring (the intro to Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me, Marr's imperious layering on Stop Me If You Think [That] You've Heard This One Before, the wrong-footing keyboard opener A Rush And A Push And The Land Is Ours). What is was, was weird, but only someone who had been drinking heavily would dub it an outright disappointment.
Finally, a live album, Rank (1988), wherein The Smiths gained a second guitarist, Craig Gannon, and fleshed out the rockier tracks, allowing Marr space to move.
If last year's atrociously compiled Best... 1&2 calamities took liberties with their legacy, these seven albums sneer in the face of revisionist meddling. So much wonderful music in such a short space of time."
Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only. Photo by Joelle Depont. Reproduced without permission.
See the original review here
Taylor Parkes reviews the Smiths' back catalogue in the February 25, 1995 issue of Melody Maker.
Parkes doesn't so much focus on the music, more on the group's legacy, Morrissey's lyrics and image, and the way in which The Smiths affected the lives of their fans, including himself. With the reissues arriving right smack in the middle of Britpop, Parkes naturally casts a eye over the latest crop of Smiths-inspired bands. Overall a decent and timely reappraisal, despite the odd contentious assertion here and there.
SAFEWAYS HERE WE COME
The Smiths ruined Taylor Parkes' life. But that OK, he says, because he didn't have one anyway. Walk with us, yet again, down the aisle marked 'mid-price CDs'
The re-re-reissue of The Smiths' back catalogue, plus the slightly pointless new "Singles" collection, is clearly timed to cash in on a sudden and improbable resurrection of their aesthetic (and, in some cases, their riffs) by another clutch of skinny white things; it's a timely reminder in another sense, too, since it exposes the current Britpop crop as second-rate in every sense imaginable.
Firstly, of course, through sheer quality. This is one of those happy occasions when it becomes perfectly possible to make simple value judgements: there is no way that any present-day guitar band can compare to this. The early records plainly outstrip any current contender when it comes to verve, wit and invention (Shed Seven? Really.); the later albums sound lush and tragic in a way that even Suede's "Dog Man Star" can't top. That much is simple - there's more, for sure.
At the time of their breakup, Simon Reynolds suggested that The Rolling Stones and The Smiths topped and tailed a whole era in pop. The Stones were about leaving home - fleeing the dusty conservatism of post-war Britain - while The Smiths, arriving at the point where the freedoms granted in the Sixties had finally soured, were about pining for a home.
But The Smiths arrived at what was, in one sense at least, a fortuitous time - pop had just come to terms with its essential powerlessness, but hadn't quite broken up into what it is today, a cluster of overlapping, self-sufficient sub-genres. Traces of a linear narrative still survived, therefore it was still, just, and for the last time possible for a band to mirror (and in turn, mould) a generation just as surely as The Stones did.
In the process, of course, they ruined a lot of lives. For every depressive those songs saved from suicide (and there were a lot), there were a hundred impressionable kids doomed by this music to a wasted adolescence. Sure, we were shown the joys of contemplation and self-containment, introduced to a few marvellous actresses and playwrights, offered an alternative vision of masculinity (female Smiths fans were pretty rare right up until the end): but we paid with our lives.
"You should not go to them/Let them come to you/Just like I do" (I Don't Owe You Anything"). "England is mine/And it owes me a living" (Still Ill"). "You shut your mouth/How can you say/I go about things the wrong way?/I am human and I need to be loved/Just like everybody else does" ("How Soon Is Now?", arguably the most remarkable pop recording of the Eighties - prototype trip hop!). Part of the fun of adolescence is a heroically doomed self-image: but Christ, the Smiths affected thousands and thousands of us so deeply that even now, in our early twenties, we are only just learning to get a life. As a reaction to the Eighties work ethic and "go for it" positivity, this belief in absenteeism, inertia and misery-as-deliverance was pretty cool. As an ideal for living, it f***ing sucked.
But that was our own stupid faults. No wonder Morrissey seems to this very day so aloof, so distanced from his remaining superfans! They've missed the point pretty comprehensively, since The Smiths, looking back, seem to be about one thing: the search for a solid identity. It's there in the songs ("Half A Person"; I Started Something I Couldn't Finish"), and between the lines, it's everywhere: Morrissey's supposed celibacy and his early adoption of outmoded adjectives like "handsome and "charming" (both suggest "powerful" attractiveness, rather than the orgasmic loss-of-self implied by voluptuosness); his routine dismissals of any musical trend not directly inspired by The Smiths; his paranoia; his totally contrived public persona (an idea popularised by Oscar Wilde, first applied to pop by David Bowie - both Moz heroes); his constant harking back - in lyrics, sleeve imagery etc - to the late Fifties and early Sixties pre-permissive era, a time when a chap like himself would have really been something, albeit a victim.
And it was that desperation to be something (still entirely present and correct in Morrissey today, messing around with dreamily idealised tough-guy/skinhead imagery, putting the "Oi!" in poignancy) - more specifically, that desperation to be something more than a "great group" - that made The Smiths the greatest group of the last 25 years.
Which is why, say, this week's cover stars, a fine, if limited band in their own right, will never mean that much. Until pop regains that urge - which is its lifeblood - it will not go this high, this deep, ever again."
Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only. Photo of Morrissey by Tom Sheehan. Reproduced without permission.
A review of the much-berated 2001 'The Very Best Of The Smiths' compilation CD. A very nice piece of pop writing by Mr Paul Morley that provides a nifty riposte to the spirit of the thing. Originally appeared in Uncut magazine.
"This compilation says nothing to me about my life as a Smiths fan. A stupid cover, with Charles Hawtrey pointlessly standing in for Morrissey, an annoying order, because someone else thought of it, although thought might be too strong a word, and no inclusion of a tacky badge, which would at least have been sadly funny. The fact that it's apparently digitally remastered might be a selling point, although the tracks still sound like a strange array of 78s sent back from the 22nd century. A digitally recast Smiths is as much an attraction as a coloured Citizen Kane. The glamour of The Smiths resides in the relationship between the songs and the imagination, not the songs and the ear.
The Very Best Of... is Singles (1993) with a few additions. If the idea is to introduce the group, who it cannot be denied were as special as thought, to a bunch of new boys - and the odd girl - not born when The Smiths began to Smith, why not do a Smith-like equivalent of the recent Pet Shop Boys reissues. Something that gets inside the spirit of the group, that doesn't just leech on their magnificence and spew up a lazy juggle of tracks, but that confirms their uniqueness by imagining a unique way of repositioning them. It's always particularly disturbing when original thinkers are processed in such an unoriginal way. A repackage - repackage! - that is treated as a work of art, that represents the songs in an intelligent, celebratory fashion, that doesn't look like some half-hearted cash-in. This thing doesn't even have the budget quality of some old Decca World Of that is truly an introduction because it only costs a fiver.
This thing just goes through the kind of anti-romantic motions that The Smiths loathed. The kind of thinking that leads to a compilation like this is exactly the kind of thinking that stops music like this developing in the first place. The Smiths emerged in the independent sector. After a series of takeovers and buy-outs, their work ends up owned by a big corporation. It's chopped up into pieces again and again. The feeling is this type of music might appeal to fans of Travis and Stereophonics, even though that music is closer to The Bachelors than to The Smiths. They might both use a guitar, but then Don DeLillo and Nick Hornby both use a word processor.
The thing that sums up this thing lies at the end of the press release, which has previously announced that, after The Smiths, bedsit angst was never the same again, which makes you wonder what it was like before The Smiths. It makes you wonder what it's like now. Actually, it makes you wonder what the fuck it is. It then states Warner Strategic Marketing UK has now brought out The Very Best Of The Smiths. It might as well have said that Barclays Bank has now brought out The Very Best Of The Smiths. At least then we might have got our tacky badge and a cheap loan." *
Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.
See the original review hereContinues