Trivia / The Smiths

  • Black Sheep Hit: Their best known song, "How Soon Is Now?", was a b-side and doesn't sound like their usual jangly style - it's more dance-rock and an Ur-Example of Shoegazing.
  • Executive Meddling: The original sleeve of the "How Soon Is Now?" single was rejected by their American distributor Sire Records for looking too much like a man holding his cock, and was replaced by a photo of the band backstage at the 1984 Glastonbury Festival which Morrissey called "an abhorrent sleeve — and the time and the dedication that we put into the sleeves and artwork, it was tearful when we finally saw the record...". Sire also cobbled together a video without the band's involvement which the band hated, with Morrissey describing the result as "We saw the video and we said to Sire, 'You can't possibly release this... this degrading video.' And they said, 'Well, maybe you shouldn't really be on our label.' It was quite disastrous."
  • Magnum Opus Dissonance: Critics claim The Queen Is Dead as the band's best album, but Morrissey and Marr both prefer Strangeways, Here We Come.
  • The Pete Best: Dale Hibbert, their first bass player, was fired after their first gig because Johnny Marr felt he wasn't a good fit for the band. Since he worked at a studio, he was able to help the band record their first demos.
  • Reality Subtext: According to Tony Fletcher's bio of the band, A Light That Never Goes Out, "The Headmaster Ritual" was based on an actual daily event of that name at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Secondary Modern, Morrissey's alma mater, where during morning assembly the headmaster would find some minor detail amiss about some child's, say, uniform, call him up to the front and excoriate him for it in front of the entire school, then take him down to his office and give the kid a couple on the bare buttocks with a leather strap. And that was just the official punishment.
    • "Back to the Old House" becomes much more poignant when you're aware that by the time it was recorded, both Morrissey and Marr's childhood homes had been demolished for urban-renewal projects (see also the line "I never never want to go home / because I haven't got one anymore" in "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out")
    • "Frankly, Mr. Shankly" reflects Morrissey's impatience with Rough Trade CEO Geoff Travis, whom he felt never promoted the Smiths competently. Travis actually showed Morrissey some poetry he'd written once as a way of trying to get the singer to see him as a human being, but as the line "I didn't know you wrote such bloody awful poetry" would suggest, it backfired.
    • "Paint A Vulgar Picture" reflects both Morrissey's frustration with their record label and the press, but also the career trajectory of a doomed musician and his interaction with an obsessive fan. According to his autobiography, he approached Marc Bolan, soon after dead in a car crash, for an autograph but was brushed off.
  • Recursive Import: Louder Than Bombs was initially released in America, but Rough Trade issued it in the U.K. a few months after the release of The World Won't Listen simply to save obsessive fans from having to pay high import prices. It retailed for the price of a single LP despite being a double album, though some fans did complain about having to pay twice for what was essentially the same thing.
  • Role-Ending Misdemeanor: Andy Rourke was briefly fired from the band after developing a heroin addiction before being reinstated for the The Queen is Dead tour. His replacement, Craig Gannon, did stay on as rhythm guitarist for the tour.
  • Technology Marches On: The line "and her Walkman started to melt" from "Bigmouth Strikes Again" is often updated by Morrissey in live performances to "and her iPod started to melt".
  • Throw It In: Morrissey's voice cracks very audibly on the line "I swear to God, I swear, I never even knew what drugs were" in "The Queen is Dead."
  • Troubled Production: The band had two tours that fit this trope:
    • The first one was the short Italian-Spanish tour in mid-1985 to support Meat is Murder. As they got on the plane for Rome at Heathrow, Rough Trade executives were there to personally implore them to do an Italian TV show they had been booked on. When they arrived, the band decided to change hotels because they preferred the airport Sheraton to the Mediterranean-styled one that had been reserved for them. The first gig turned out to be a large tent, not the theater everyone thought they were supposed to be playing, but otherwise it went well.
    • However, when the band saw the TV show and its extravagant Italian set, Morrissey refused to do it, followed in short order by the rest of the band. This caused Rough Trade a huge loss of face, and the label's European licensing representative transferred to the label's production department as a result. Morrissey, who a year before had canceled the band's first European tour at the airport, almost canceled this one as well.
    • Marr persuaded him to stick it out and play the dates in Spain. The first shows in Barcelona and Madrid, went well; the Barcelona show was taped and is probably the best video footage of the entire tour. However, in the process their then-manager, Scott Piering, learned from a lawyer the band had hired in London before leaving that he had been fired. He went to Madrid to try to persuade them to take him back; when the Smiths arrived at their hotel they found him asleep in the lobby and quickly changed hotels.
    • The last gig, in San Sebastian for the next one they found that someone had sent the venue the wrong equipment rider. They refused to play, causing a near riot outside their hotel, and flew back to England from Bilbao the next day.
    • A year later came the mammoth North American tour to support The Queen is Dead. Everyone was aware that this could potentially take the Smiths over the top in the U.S. Dates at Pier 34 and Radio City Music Hall in New York had sold out well in advance, along with major venues on the West Coast. Yet that didn't stop Andy Rourkenote  from getting arrested for heroin possession a month or so before. Session bassist Guy Pratt was hired to replace him as it was believed unlikely Rourke's visa applications would be approved, joining rhythm guitarist Craig Gannon as an additional member of the band for the tour. However, after he'd spent two weeks with Rourke learning the bass parts, Rourke's visas came through anyway, days before departure.
    • Unfortunately, that wasn't the only cloud hanging over the tour. The band had at that point no manager, a task Johnny Marr picked up when he could, and inexperienced Sophie Ridley as their tour manager. She was primarily preoccupied with handling Rourke's prescription medicines, causing friction between her and the band.
    • When the band and crew arrived in London, Ontario, for the last rehearsals before the first show, they found that there was neither money to pay the crew nor the right equipment. Marr had to get on the phone with Warner, their American distributor, and threaten not to play unless that situation was rectified.
    • That night happened to be Gannon's 20th birthday. Joyce and Rourke decided he had to celebrate with one shot of cognac for every year. Rourke recalls finding Gannon on his bed in his vomit-covered room the next morning. This set a pattern of heavy drinking that continued among the three for the rest of the tour, where they often closed hotel bars. Marr for his part was drinking heavily and partaking of much of the cocaine on offer, making his playing— lead, since Gannon was competently playing rhythm—become gradually more self-indulgent as the tour progressed.
    • Nonetheless, the tour went on as scheduled and went as hoped, expanding the band's fan base in the U.S. outside the small cult following they had had. However, things started to snag in California, when there was a week break between shows. The band flew in their wives/girlfriends, rather against the wishes of the label's management, since that makes everyone more demanding. Also coming over from Britain was Rough Trade head Geoff Travis, to confront the band about mounting rumors that they were prepared to jump ship to EMI, a move Rough Trade would later file suit to block. Sire, the band's American label, with whom they also had issues, almost followed along until they reread the contract and realized the Smiths owed them one more album than they owed Rough Trade.
    • All this began to catch up with everybody as the tour worked its way across the Southwest and South, areas where the band had less of an established fan base to begin with. Gannon, who disliked flying, took to traveling between gigs on the bus instead, isolating him from the rest of the band (but also allowing him to sneak steaks, something not found on the tour's vegetarian menus). This resulted in him getting left behind in New Orleans accidentally. The drinking and drugs were catching up with him and his bandmates, and even the straight-edged Morrissey showed some signs of it getting to him as well, with crew often having to ask over a dozen times for him to come down and get ready every night.
    • Finally, in St. Petersburg, Florida, with four shows remaining, including the all-important climactic Radio City gig, Morrissey and Marr sat down on the beach to have a serious talk about whether they should just cancel the rest of them right there, since everyone was so burnt out at that point. They were torn over this ... until a fortuitous accident gave them a good excuse. Rourke, for his part, had gone for a late-night swim himself ... and stepped on a stingray. He had to have part of it removed surgically; without that intervention he might have died. The remaining dates were thus canceled. But the stress and issues kicked up by the tour remained, and had a lot to do with the band's breakup after completing their next (and last) album, Strangeways, Here We Come.
  • What Could Have Been: Believe it or not, the Smiths were going to reunite in 2008, with Morrissey and Marr being on good terms. No really. For unknown reasons, it didn't happen, mainly believed due to Moz's own stance on a reunion being unnecessary.
    • Johnny Marr's recent autobiography has shed a little more light on this. According to him, Morrissey and him had sat down in a pub together for the first time in several years, and the conversation turned to the prospect of a Smiths reunion. Against all odds, both of them seriously considered the idea and agreed to talk about it further... but when Johnny tried to get in contact with Morrissey later he blanked him, possibly due to his upcoming tour. Morrissey has since made several statement to the effect that he doesn't care about the Smiths, he never cared about the Smiths, his solo career is what he cares about now and that the Smiths are not going to reunite, although he is yet to respond to Johnny's claims. Cue fannish misery.
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