the smiths singles
The smith’s singles album
After years of being a smith’s fan this was the first album I actually bought of theirs, it was at the Camelot music in the long dead fashion mall back in the fondly remembered days of having expendable income. I first bought this album back in 1998 and I’ll always associate it with a particular time in my life, as well as with what was probably my most significant love affair back when I was 23 years old. I’ll have the decency to leave her name out of this (even though we are still very close friends) since I’ll assume she’d rather not have the whole of the Internet knowing that she’s a former paramour of mine—as if anyone but my friend Scott reads this who knows the entire story names included anyway. I’ve always had a touch of a contrarian attitude about the smiths, you see everyone always thought them so depressing and perhaps it’s because I’ve a rather twisted sense of humor I’ve always found the lyrical content rather tongue & cheek. In admission, I am also the only person I know who considers the smiths appropriate “make-out music”, so again I have a unique perspective. So feel free to read on and heckle only where appropriate.
1. Hand In Glove. The classic Johnny marr jangle in the background as the vocals sneak in. When I hear this song it’s always a here we begin sort of feeling. I love the delightfully pretentious feel of the song and admittedly whenever I hear this album my first association is traveling on a cramped greyhound bus for a ten-hour ride to visit the aforementioned girlfriend in the intro to this piece. I always saved this cd for when I only had an hour or two of that grueling cramped & unpleasant ride left. It was expensive, inconvenient aggravating…and at the time worth every cent. Whenever I hear this song it just reminds me how madly in love I was with that woman at the time, I chuckle now since I’m a rather jaded old man by comparison now but it brings a smile to my face.
2. This Charming Man. This just might be my favorite smiths song, the lyrics are amongst the smith’s most blatantly homoerotic…lol… so of course I know all the words. It’s one I always used while developing my seldom heard but surprisingly good Morrissey impersonation. I also will place the bass line amongst my favorites ever, it’s a really fun song to play, and while I’ve jammed on it countlessly through the years in breaks in band practices, I’ve yet to play it live. (Which is something I’ve always wanted to do) I think it sums up much of the entire smiths aesthetic for me.
3. What Difference Does It Make? I absolutely love the intro to this song. In the US Johnny Marr is one of the most underrated guitarists ever; nobody can do a great bunch of arpeggiated chords like him. It also makes a great timeless counterpoint to Morrissey’s Wildeian vocals. A great pop song and a great song to really learn something from as a musician.
4. Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now. This is the smiths at their most cartoonish and delightful. The first time I heard this it was crammed onto the end of a mix tape that my fellow chucky cheese alumni sadj, made for me back in 93. I loved it then and I still do. The lyrics are clever the hood addictive and it’s always a joy to sing along with badly while running errands.
5. William, It Was Really Nothing. More upbeat delightful pop. When I hear it I think of being on a greyhound buss watching the dreary landscape of northern Florida passing by, exhausted but anticipating seeing aforementioned girlfriend (henceforth AG in this rambling bit of prose). The guitar sparkles, the feel to me is optimistic and joyous, simply a great song.
6. How Soon Is Now? Here is a song that is so magically good it always kind of makes me hate myself, because I’ll never write anything like this ever. It’s a song I’ve listened to countless times and it is a masterpiece. My associations with it far predate AG; what comes to mind is being 17, 18 years old or so, just starting to go to clubs and the moments when I was able to sneak into the edge in downtown fort Lauderdale back in those magical days of the ft Lauderdale scene. I remember with photographic clarity wandering around the second floor of the long gone edge, the lights the smoke the music, hearing this with the cool older friends who snuck me in, enjoying one of my first illicit vodka tonics (still my mixed drink of choice when I choose to indulge in clubs) with shivers running down my spine. This is definitely one of those songs I’m sure resulted in serendipity since it stands out so much from the smith’s catalogue. Johnny marr messing about with a tremolo effect and the rest is history. I absolutely love this song & everything about it. Even now I’m singing along badly with enthusiasm.
7. Shakespeare’s Sister. More than any other song song this album I associate it with the trip to visit my AG. Hell it says, “I’m going to meet the one I love at last at last” it’s not much of a stretch. For me it really was the soundtrack of the anticipation, longing and even the trepidation of that moment in my life. I hear it & I’m on a greyhound again a mess of nerves and hormones.
8. That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore. To a degree I always thought this as a bit of a response to the bee gee “I started a joke”. It’s a dreamy and beautiful song and I love it. I also have a few associations set in cluttered bedrooms on riverfront property…those I’ll keep to myself.
9. The Boy With The Thorn In His Side. I love this song to death, and I actually learned this song recently on ukulele, partially for fun and partially as a thank you for the smiths loving friend of mine who was nice enough to give it to me… In the unlikely event you read this I promise I’ll play it for you very soon. It is a song I have a great time playing and the lyrics are brief enough for me to actually remember.
10. Bigmouth Strikes Again. Probably one of the wittiest songs in the smith’s catalogue. My favorite was the line about Joan of arc’s “walkman starting to melt”. The pitch shifted backup vocals are also a nice touch. This is a song that makes me specifically think of a hazy night spent in the long defunct nemesis, nightclub, after many, many, many vodka tonics.
11. Panic. As a live musician I’ve always had a bit of an attitude towards djs as commercial fishermen had towards sharks…unwelcome and unappreciated competition, however, even though I’ve mellowed I do sing along quite enthusiastically with kill the dj. I love the song, it’s clever it’s catchy and I wish I could exercise the same amount of restraint in my arrangements… then again that is why I tend to flourish best as a sideman, it keeps me from turning everything into a hyperkinetic bass tour de force.
12. Ask. Another song I love (I hate to keep saying this but I love every song on this album) I just can so relate to every word in the song on a personal level. It makes me think of when I was living with AG and to this day I regret blowing the “bunny girl” opportunity that Easter so many years ago. Clever lyrics great arrangement something to learn a lot from.
13. Shoplifters of The World Unite. Again great comical Morrissey lyrics. Only the smiths can take a musical arrangement this theatric and make a line like that work. Simply a song I absolutely love that also kind amazes me hate myself.
14. Sheila Take A Bow. Somehow they channel great 50’s British pop & transmute it into something brand new & delightful. Great greasy guitar lines and a hook that could catch a marlin.
15. Girlfriend In A Coma. Here’s where I sound sick but there is no way you can convince me that this wasn’t written as a parody of love songs. I love the song, great string arrangements memorable lyrics and a supernatural ability to keep a straight face on Morrissey’s part.
16. I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish. A great swaggering rock song and I love it. Nothing more needs to be said a great song.
17. Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me. Teenage angst and broken dreams a la mode. The smiths at their most melodramatic. The tension set up between the keyboard and the prolonged intro set up things perfectly. These guys really knew what they were doing and they did a great job. This one admittedly doesn’t crack me up; this to me is the soundtrack to along broken heart. Beautiful.
18. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out. A bit of hope from the boys. Catchy and delightful. It captures to me the naiveté of young love.
Thank you for reading this it’s an album that means the world to me and even rambling on as I have I still haven’t expressed my love of this album.