Friday, August 04, 2006

FDF Volume 1 Issue 23: The Smiths - The Queen is Dead

Album - The Queen is Dead
Artist - The Smiths
Key Players - Morrissey - vocals, Johnny Marr - guitars, flute arrangements, harmonium. Andy Rourke - bass, Mike Joyce - drums.
Produced by - Morrissey and Marr

Released - June 23, 1986 (in the USA)

Overview - The Smiths were active from 82 to 87. Regarded as one of the most successful indie bands from the UK it is actually surprising to learn the band only had 3 hit singles and one was a re-issue. Adored for Morriseys witty lyrics and the musical competence of Marr the band has influenced just about every indie UK band since. Morrissey and Marr formed the band in 1982 in Manchester England. Steven Patrick Morrissey (a name he never uses) and Johnny Maher (changed to Marr to avoid confusion with the Buzzcocks drummer) had Dale Hibbert on bass after a short audition (later replaced after 2 gigs by a Rourke, a friend of Marr's.) The origin of the bands name is unknown barring a slight indication from Morrissey in an 1984 interview where he claimed "The Smiths" was a most ordinary name. They released some material in 1983 but in 1984 their first full length came out. Around this time one of the most well known Smiths songs "How Soon is Now" was released on a b'side. "Meat is Murder" followed in 1985 and the band was getting a more political voice. At this time Morrissey said that at no time should a member of this band be photographed eating meat. "How Soon is Now" was featured on later releases of the record. It was the bands only UK #1 album. Morrissey berated the Thatcher administration further adding to the angst around the band. During 1985 the band toured extensively and worked on The Queen is Dead. Things were not going the best for the band. Due to legal issues the album was delayed (by 7 months). Marr said that the tour schedule was killing him (he was drinking) and Rourke was booted from the band in 1986 for heroin problems. He found out he was out of the band via a post it note left on his car windshield. He was reinstated in the band but the replacement bassist Craig Gannon moved to guitar making the band a 5 piece but by the end of 86 Gannon was fired. The band would release one final studio album "Strangeways, Here we Come" which was not a big hit with the critics but the band members all agree it is their favorite. By the time this record was released though Marr had left the group. Accolades for The Queens is Dead roll in, and it has found its was on to "best of all time" lists both in the UK and here in America. In June of 2006 NME dedicated almost a full issue to this record.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) - The album opens with a spoken word segment on "The Queen is Dead/Take me Back to Dear Old Blighty medley". Morrissey loved 60's cinema (The album cover was designed by Morrissey, and features Alain Delon from the 1964 film L'insoumis). According to Marr the vocals for "I know It's Over" were done in a single take. "cemetery Gates" was a response from Morrissey to his critics who claimed he had used the text from some of his favorite authors. Oscar Wilde once said "Talent borrows, genius steals" and Morrissey agreed. "Bigmouth Strikes Again" was the lead off single for the record. Since the album was tied up in legal issues Marr wanted the first single to be a bombastic return. Morrissey is in terrific on the chorus' to this song. Somehow he gets away with a line "Bigmouth ho ho ha ha" and makes it not sound completely silly. "The Boy With Thorn in his Side"
any psychiatrist would like to have a go with this one. "There is a light that never goes out" might be the one single song that represents the Smiths, both in sound and lyrically. "Some Girls are Bigger than Others" closes out the record on a rousing note. and as a side note was only performed live one time which turned out to be the bands final show ever December 12, 1986

Where are they now? Morrissey has gone on to release solo albums. Johnny Marr worked with Bernie from New Order to do "Electronic" a band that has released three records. He also has a project called Johnny Marr and the Healers. At this time Marr is also working with Modest Mouse on their forth coming release.
Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce have continued working together, they also worked with Morrissey as session musicians, as well as Sinead O'Connor. Rourke is now in a "supergroup" called Freebass with members of New Order, Primal Scream, Stone Roses. He also works for XFM radio in Manchester.

In March of 2006 the band was offered 5 Million to re-form for the Cochella Music and Arts Festival, they turned it down.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the live experience) - This reviewer never saw the band live. There is a live cd "Rank". At this time there is no live concert DVD of the band only a collection of videos. The last chance I would have had was in August of 86. In doing some research some shows were cut short due to "stage invasions" by overzealous fans. Morrissey would tear off his shirt and toss it in to the crowd as well.

FDF Overall Take - Like most of the albums reviewed they are often one of the first I heard or was suggested to get. When purchased on cassette tape i'd listen to side 2 over and over (not that side one was bad mind you). The accolades are right on. This really is one of the better records to come out in the 1980's. You probably hated a fan of them at the time and not the band, check this one out for tracks 5-10 alone.


At 9:03 AM, Blogger Evil Speakers said...

Well done March!

Some girls mothers are bigger than other girls mothers...priceless

At 11:15 AM, Blogger Debbie said...

Noooooo! I've had Mr. Badmouth Strikes Again in my head all morning. Are you reading my mind?

Now I know how Joan of Arc felt...

That is so weird. I love this album.

At 1:20 PM, Blogger pog mo thoin said...

The Smiths defined an age group just like Nirvana defined an age group. They were cool in a way that didn't off-put kids who could never be and still aren't cool.


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