Blue Plate Special: The Smiths
Another band that shaped my teen years, The Smiths were founded in Manchester, UK in 1982, consisting of iconic figures: Morrissey (vocalist), Johnny Marr (guitarist), Andy Rourke (bassist), and Mike Joyce (drummer). The powerful songwriting duo of Morrissey and Marr marked the band’s unique sound. Emerging in the 1980s, The Smiths set themselves apart from the prevailing synth-pop era, choosing instead to blend 1960s rock with post-punk. The band gained significant success with singles frequently landing in the UK Singles Chart’s top 20 and studio albums, like “Meat Is Murder” and “The Queen Is Dead,” achieving remarkable recognition.
After briefly expanding to a five-member ensemble with guitarist Craig Gannon in 1986, The Smiths returned to their original lineup by year’s end. However, internal strains led to their disbandment in 1987, marred by later public legal disputes over royalties. Despite their split and the members’ firm stance against a reunion, their legacy lived on. Sadly, in 2023, Rourke passed away from pancreatic cancer.
Throughout their tenure, Morrissey and Marr were the creative compass, dictating the band’s musical direction. Marr, influenced by artists like Roger McGuinn and Neil Young, was known for his jangly guitar-playing. He eschewed typical rock clichés, focusing instead on intricate arpeggios, which gave the band its signature sound. Morrissey, influenced by punk rock, post-punk bands, and 1960s artists, was revered for his lyricism. Often intertwining mordant humor with themes of despair, rejection, and death, Morrissey’s lyrics resonated deeply with listeners, establishing The Smiths as a touchstone in rock history.
Some of my favorites from their catalog:
How Soon Is Now? – from the compilation album Hatful of Hollow (1984)
Shoplifters of the World Unite – from the compilation album Louder Than Bombs (1987)
This Charming Man – from the album The Smiths (1984)
Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before – from the album Strangeways, Here We Come (1987)
The Headmaster Ritual – from the album Meat is Murder (1985)
Bigmouth Strikes Again – from the album The Queen Is Dead (1986)
Rubber Ring – from the compilation album The World Won’t Listen (1987)
I Know It’s Over – from the album The Queen Is Dead (1986)
London – from the compilation album Louder Than Bombs (1987)