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Trivia / The Smiths

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  • 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.
  • Cash Cow Franchise: Given the number of redundant compilations that their record label has put out, it's fair to say that this is what they've become. This is especially ironic, since they parodied this kind of treatment in the song "Paint a Vulgar Picture."
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  • Creative Differences: Morrissey and Johnny Marr ultimately fell out over this. Morrissey's irritation by Marr's work with other artists and Marr growing frustrated by Morrissey's musical inflexibility. Marr particularly hated Morrissey's obsession with covering 1960s pop artists such as Twinkle and Cilla Black. Marr recalled in 1992, "That was the last straw, really. I didn't form a group to perform Cilla Black songs."
  • Creator's Favorite Episode: All four members named Strangeways Here We Come as their personal favorite of their four albums.
  • Creator Killer: While he did find some work after his post-Smiths days, Mike Joyce royally killed whatever respect and career he had for anybody following his refusal to back down from the lawsuit towards Moz and Marr over their Lesser Star treatment and royalties. Andy almost suffered this, but he was able to let bygones be bygones with his part of the suit and seemed to be on decent terms with Marr while Joyce became a pariah between both Moz, Andy, and Marr and is cited by Morrissey as a factor as to why the Smiths won't ever have a reunion.
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  • 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."
  • Fan Nickname: Morissey is sometimes known as "Moz".
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  • 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.
  • Short-Lived Big Impact: The band were only together for a little over five years, yet every modern indie rock band and their mother cite them as a major influence.
  • 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 before. 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.
    • The Queen is Dead may be seen as a masterpiece, but it had a turbulent time getting there. First off, before recording sessions even started, they were told by their lawyer that they only had to complete one more album for their label, Rough Trade. This excited them, making them think that they would be signing to a major label soon. This sent Marr into a workahollic frenzy. The band couldn't focus in their usual studio setting and instead settled in a cottage in the country. Morrissey started developing his infamous ego around this time, making him stressful to deal with. Marr would go days without eating, spending nights that he wasn't recording drinking and using cocaine. On top of that, he started getting exhausted having to manage the band. One phone call in which the label tried to get him to resolve a debt owed to a tour van they used, he screamed "Have someone else deal with it!" Their lawyer then came back and told them that there was a problem with Rough Trade, as the label thought the band owed them more than just one more studio album. The band pushed back, which caused Rough Trade to put an injunction on the new album, meaning it would not be released until a new agreement was made. This delay meant that the band was performing songs for an album with an unknown release date, confusing many fans. Marr attempted to get back at the label by unsuccessfully attempting to steal the master tapes. Finally, shortly before the album's release, bassist Andy O'Rourke's heroin addiction became so bad that he was thrown out of the band. Morrissey left a passive aggressive note on his car, leading to him spending a whole day crying in Marr's shoulders, unkown what to do or how to cope. O'Rourke was let back in the band soon, leading to his replacement, Craig, to be relagated to the position of second guitarist. An agreement was eventually made with the label and the album was released in 1986.
    • The 1986 tour to promote The Queen is Dead was, by all accounts, a disaster. Marr, who was already exhausted with being the band's manager, found his substance abuse problem getting so bad that he started getting drunk and high at shows. In one of their shows in Los Angeles, they were warned by security to not cause a riot, the arrogant Morrissey ignored this and encouraged fans to climb on top of the stage anyways. The band got extremely burnt out on touring. New guitarist, Craig, who was originally brought on to replace bassist Andy O'Rourke, but was relegated to his new position after O'Rourke was let back in, felt disconnected with the band. He would insist on traveling on his own, away from the rest of the band, and at one instance trashed a hotel room for seemingly no reason. During the final week of the American leg of the tour, O'Rourke got stung by a stingray and the remaining shows had to be cancelled. Even when they returned to England, the drama didn't stop. The band only grew more irritated with constantly touring. Marr had to be sent straight to the hospital one night after he was struck in the head by a coin thrown by a fan. Marr and Morrissey both remember the experience as miserable and it's seen as the beginning of the end for The Smiths.
  • 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; It was initially a meeting to overview the remastering work that Marr had done for The Sound of The Smiths greatest hits album, but 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. E-mail correspondence between the two over the next few weeks even broke down which other members they wanted included (Rourke would be in, but Joyce would be specifically excluded; Gannon's inclusion was never discussed). When Johnny tried to get in contact with Morrissey later on 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.
    • Andy once was going to sell a demo called "Fast One" (also known as "The Click Track" or "The Cowbell Track") that only featured Marr, Joyce, and Andy, being entirely just an instrumental piece. However Marr pretty much barred the sell from happening, and only snippets of "Fast One" exist online.
    • Going back to the band's early days, they had initially planned to sign onto Factory Records before being picked up by Rough Trade, only for Tony Wilson to pass them off out of disinterest. Knowing the band's success, one ends up pondering what impact, if any, they would've had for Factory (specifically whether or not the label would've survived the bankrupting failure of Happy Mondays' Yes Please!). It's also worth asking whether or not the band's material would've been as constantly and redundantly reissued following their breakup had they signed onto Factory, given how, even after the label went under, even their best-selling artist didn't see as many redundant compilations as the Smiths have.
  • Working Title: The Queen Is Dead was originally called Margaret on the Guillotine. Morrissey did use the title for a track on his first solo album Viva Hate.


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