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Smiths - The Sound of the Smiths

  by Anthony Strutt

published: 24 / 11 / 2008

Smiths - The Sound of the Smiths


'The Sounds of the Smiths' is a new Smiths compilation which has been issued as both a single and a double disc. Anthony Strutt gives it a track-by-track preview

‘The Sound of the Smiths’ is the latest in a long line of Smiths compilation albums. This one is, however, very special as it features unreleased pictures, and is out as both a single and a double disc, each with slightly different sleeves. The single disc has 23 tracks and the double adds another 22. They have been mastered by Johnny Marr , while the track selection on each was chosen by Morrissey. Steven Patrick Morrissey, Johnny Marr, Andy Rourke and drummer Mike Joyce were the soundtrack of my life in the early to mid 80’s, as they were to many who felt left outside of the music scene. The Smiths made their label, Rough Trade, go into credit and changed indie music forever. This new compilation is beautifully compiled and, even though it hasn't got anything new on it, it does feature lots of B sides that have not appeared on CD before. CD1 The first CD opens with the Smiths’ debut 7 inch A side, ‘Hand in Glove’, which was rough-sounding when it was released in May 1983 and remains so. ‘This Charming Man’ was the follow up that October and launched them nationwide to the indie world. They soon became darlings to every male or female who had a sensitive side or was just plain shy. ‘What Difference Does It Make ?’, their third single, appears here as a John Peel session version. This version is really rough in sound. The whole session was released on Peel's label, Strange Fruit. ‘Still Ill’, which follows it, is a 7 inch white label promo version, the original of which is now worth a fortune. ‘Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now, was more than an anthem. A song about life, death, and doing a job that you don't want to do, it was a cry to the world .’William, It Was Really Nothing’ is a mere 2 minutes 9 seconds and the short and the perfect pop song. ‘How Soon is Now ?’, which appears here in a 12 inch version, made the Smiths market even bigger by adding a dance beat, not in a New Order way, but in a downbeat style that was easy to relate too. Lyrically it has a shyness that is criminally vulgar. Johnny Marr’s guitar effects have been sampled by Soho in the song, ‘Hippy Chick.’ ‘Nowhere Fast’ was an album track from the Smiths’ second album ‘Meat is Murder’. It was previewed before the album was released on ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’. Marr on this clip looked absolutely wasted and, with a cigarette falling out of his mouth, was doing his best Johnny Thunders impression. ‘Shakespear's Sister’ was a weird one, very fast, and very short. ‘Barbarism Begins at Home’ is a 7 inch edit of a track from their self-titled debut album. Sadly the great bass and drum solo of the original is cut off on this. A song about being beaten up at home, it is another dance number for the intelligent indie fan. ‘That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore’ is a moody number from ‘Meat is Murder’.‘The Headmaster Ritual’, another track from the second album, is a tale about Morrissey's early school days, and how brutal they were. ‘The Boy with the Thorn in His Side’ again had its exclusive premiere on ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’, this time on video. It was the first ever widely seen Smiths video. ‘Big Mouth Strikes Again’ was a massive single from their 1986 third album, ‘The Queen is Dead’. ‘There is a Light that Never Goes Out’ was only ever an album track at that time, but if I had to choose a favourite Smiths track, of all time it would be this one. It is a song about dying with the one you love, living at home with your parents and their home not being your home anymore. ‘Panic’ was another single and saw the band become more edgy. By the time of its release again in 1986 the band were the indie Beatles, and they had added Craig Gannon to the live line up to beef up their sound. It features the line, “Hang the DJ” which every DJ of the time claimed was written about them. apart from, of course, the ones such as Peel, David Jensen and Janice Long with decent taste and who were proud supporters of the Smiths. ‘Ask,’ a song about shyness, is a dance record for the pop market. ‘You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby, is again a dance record for the lonely to dance to, and is a song about suffering and about not getting your rewards in life just yet. It was also the first record to feature the famous Morrissey yodel. ‘Shoplifters of the World Unite’ is a stand out track and single from early 1987 and was famously previewed on ’The Tube’. ‘Sheila Take a Bow’, the single which followed it, is a classic sing-a- long trac.,while ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’, which again had a video exclusive on ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’, is a song that no one has ever tried to cover in their subject matter since. ‘I Started Something, I Couldn't Finish’, which comes from their posthumous 1987 studio album, ‘Strangeways, Here We Come’ is big in sound and a sign of where the band could of gone if they had not split in August of that year. ‘Last Night I Dreamt Somebody Loved Me’ was the last ever single release, and, a paranoid number, that everyone can relate too, is still very much one of their best ever songs. CD2 The second CD consists of mostly B sides of 7 and 12 inches. ‘Jeane’ was the B side of ‘This Charming Man’, and, a stand out track, only appeared on the 7 inch version of this. Gene took their name from this track, which is a tale of a love that has failed. ‘Handsome Devil’ was the B side of their first 7 inch, ‘Hand in Glove’, and was recorded live at an early gig at the Hacienda. This is the only version of this song ever released and it remains gritty in tone. There is an echo on Morrissey’s vocal, as he hints of early sexual exploits behind the bike sheds. ‘This Charming Man (New York vocal)’ was the first import 12 inch. It is a much bigger mix of the UK version. It features extended drum and bass solos, and is a club version that works well in every sense. ‘Wonderful Woman’ was on the UK 12 inch of ‘This Charming Man’ and is far superior to most band’s output. It is a song that I used to play over and over again back in 1983. ‘Back to the Old House’ was the B side of ‘What Difference Does It Make ?’ That ingle originally had a sleeve with a photo of the actor,Terence Stamp, on it, but, when Stamp objected, that photo was quickly withdrawn and replaced with a Morrissey photo that copied the original. It was the only time that Morrissey appeared on the front of a Smiths sleeve. ‘These Things Take Time’ is loud and perky and a cry for celibacy. ‘Girl Afraid’, the B side’, is full of Marr guitar jangle. Both of these tracks were recorded live at the Hammersmith Palais in London, ‘Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want This Time’ is an acoustic number, and has been covered by Clayhill and the Dream Academy among others. ‘Stretch Out and Wait’ is another acoustic number full of Morrissey poetry. The title of ‘Oscillate Wildly’ is a pun about Oscar Wilde, one of Morrissey’ heroes. It is instrumental dance track. ‘Meat is Murder (Live)’ comes originally from a Janice Long/ Radio 1 gig broadcast from Oxford Apollo on the ‘Meat is Murder' tour. This was a song that converted many Smiths fans to being vegetarian. 70 per cent went that way when that it was released in 1985. ‘Asleep’ is a piano ballad backed by a howling wind, while ‘Money Changes Everything’ is another instrumental dance number. ‘The Queen is Dead’, the title track from the third studio LP, is an attack on the Royal Family and is full of Marr’s wah wah guitar. ‘Vicar in a Tutu’ was another ‘Queen is Dead’ track, and, with its story set in a church, has a big sense of humour. ‘Cemetery Gates’ tells of Morrissey’s love for the poets, Keats, Yates and Wilde. ‘London’ is a tale about coming down to London and liking it, while ‘Sweet and Tender Hooligan‘ is loud and full on. The version of ‘Pretty Girls Make Graves’ that appears here is a Troy Tate demo version. It is more primitive then the John Porter-produced version which appeared on ‘The Smiths’ album. ‘Stop Me, If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before’ is a very late tale full of joy and a call for fans to tell Morrissey if necessary to stop repeating himself. ‘What's In a Word’ is a ‘Meat is Murder' tour live track cover. The original song was written by James, their support band, on that tour, who Factory Records signed instead of the Smiths. The second CD ends with a live version of ‘London’, which originally appeared on their 1988 posthumous live compilation, ‘Rank’. A great compilation and one that is essential for every Smiths fan.

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Smiths - The Sound of the Smiths

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