February 20th 1984 was a day that changed music forever. The Smiths may have only had two singles out so far in the UK, “Hand In Glove” and “This Charming Man”, but their full length debut would change the course of popular music and would even change lives.
At a time when pop groups like Culture Club, Wham!, Kajagoogoo and many others were at the top of the charts with very stylized images to go with their songs, a four piece band with a very common name produced an album of rich music that was like nothing of its time. Fronting the band was a singer named simply by his last name, Morrissey. The songs on this album were stark. They were honest. They were about revealing real feeling regardless of what others thought. Songs like “Reel Around The Fountain”, “Miserable Lie” and “Still Ill” told tales of unreturned love, longing, and the search for the end to loneliness. It dared to be feminine as well as masculine. It reflected the words of a man who found solace in authors past. “This Charming Man” was an anthem for every outsider lonely on a Friday night. The rhythm section was rooted in British rock and roll and Motown/soul equally. The guitar jangled and shimmered, making Johnny Marr stand out from all others at the time.
The Smiths would go on to make in my opinion much better albums even than this one. But to better this album was a feat they would first have to rise to. Those music fans who felt they didn’t have a voice at the time finally had something to call their own. The list of bands that would be formed because of The Smiths would be too long to list. Unfortunately I was young and American at the time, just out of the grasp of this music yet. But once I would discover it and really let it sink it (around the time Morrissey’s You Are The Quarry came out), I felt like I was finding a whole new world that I had somehow missed the first time around. I may be a later-in-life Morrissey/Smiths fan but this music will never leave me. Songs like “Suffer Little Children”, “Still Ill”, even “What Difference Does It Make” have haunting lyrics and melodies that seem to convey emotions unlike anything else that was out there in 1984. It may not have been a #1 album, especially in America, but its impact is still felt today. I would love to hear stories from those of you that remember first discovering this great album. Please comment away below!
As this week’s Friday Night Concert (one day early) I present the classic Rockaplast concert from early 1984 in Hamburg, Germany. This show really captures the mania that was happening as they were starting to really be known.
Also… some performances from television at the time:
“This Charming Man” from Top of the Pops:
“What Difference Does It Make” from Top Of The Pops:
“Still Ill” from The Old Grey Whistle Test:
“Hand In Glove” from The Old Grey Whistle Test:
and lastly, the band’s third gig ever, live at The Hacienda February 1983:
I also can’t recommend this book enough – a song by song (and topic by topic) critical breakdown of Morrissey’s entire career… Mozipedia: The Encyclopedia of Morrissey and The Smiths.
Pick up this REMASTERED classic if you don’t already own it HERE: