The Smiths were the first band I ever saw live. St. Patricks Day, 1985, at the Birmingham Hippodrome. They were touring what would be their only Number One album Meat Is Murder and to an extent promoting their new single Shakespeare’s Sister which was released the day before the gig.
I didn’t have the album but knew it well as a friend played it pretty much constantly and would always play it after paper rounds. Being 15 I would rather listen to punk bands that I had missed out on. I owned, and secretly loved Hatful Of Hollow which, although not a studio album, remains my favourite Smiths album. It is fair to say that the best actual Smiths album is most certainly either Meat Is Murder or The Queen Is Dead. Their debut album suffered from boggy production and felt rushed and Strangeways Here We Come was an alarming dip in their album a year spree.
The gig was an eye-opener. Material from Hatful Of Hollow and Meat Is Murder filled the set and with hindsight I was fortunate to see the band whist they were still on the up.
The Headmaster Ritual owes a lot to John McGeoch of Siouxsie & the Banshees with its full guitar sound. A sound that would become ‘typical’ of indie bands and clearly supersedes lesser bands with its dreamy evocative vocal delivery. The production is miles better than the bands debut album and Morrissey’s vocal is layered as he begins to howl, quite dog-like, away.
Rusholme Ruffians bounces away with near twee. Lyrically superb the song features a prominet bass jabb from Andy Rourke. The lyrics could actual be a great poem if you removed the music. With the music it is even better.
I Want The One I Can’t Have continues the guitar / vocal quality. Sounding like a fuller, rounder Hatful Of Hollow song it captures how The Smiths did sound whilst striving to move on.
What She Said sees the pace speed up. A rattling track that almost escapes its indie stable.
That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore and The Smiths come of age. The Smiths venture into classic songwriting territory. Moody, quite upliftingly depressive, it builds to an understated but outstandingly evocative chorus. ‘I’ve seen this happen in other peoples lives and now it’s happening in mine’. The music fades back to give a less testosterone Stone Roses feel. Just simply a great song.
Nowhere Fast is speedy for a Smiths song and peppered with mockingly sharp observational statement lyrics.
Well I Wonder and Johnny Marr leads with a charming guitar. Mellow, deep, yet accessible this really is wonder pop now. Haunting and so very delicate the song nurtures the listener with real subtle power.
Barbarism Begins At Home and all of a sudden we get indie funk. Slabby bass until Marr brushes it aside with some incredible guitar work. Morrissey shrieks yet no one band member steals the whole show.
Meat Is Murder is my least favourite song on the album. That said, it still has some powerful musical movements and serves to encapsulate the divisive lead singer…