All The Smiths ‘ albums have recently been compiled in a box set called “Complete“. We are talking here about 8 CD’s, perfect replicas of original LP’s, including all the albums that went out when the band was alive: 4 studio albums (“The Smiths” (8/10), “Meat Is Murder” (9/10), “The Queen Is Dead” (10/10), “Strangeways, Here We Come” (9/10)), 3 compilations and 1 live album, all for a very cheap price, therefore a perfect gift to request to your old aunt or your father-in-law for Xmas!
I recently bought it and it made me going back to this fantastic music, which I am not listening to enough now. For those who do not know, The Smiths formed in 1982 and disbanded in 1987. In these five short years, at a time when UK music was split between awful Adult Oriented Rock of the 80’s and fantastic anti-Thacher post punk bands, they brought poetry, dreams, a sense of purpose and overall great guitar-based music. Without diminishing the quality of a very powerful and straightforward rhythm section with Andy Rourke on bass and Mike Joyce on drums (“The Drums” as written in the LP’s notes and whose name influenced current US band “The Drums”), the strength of the band was based on the partnership of Morrissey on vocals and words and Johnny Marr on guitar and music. The “Morrissey-Marr” signature is for me on par with other legendary ones such as “Lennon-McCartney” or “Jagger-Richards”. Morrissey was 23 when the young Johnny Marr then 19 met him and told him that he was sure they would make history together.
Even if a bit cliché to say that Morrissey was the poet and Johnny Marr the musical creator, both took advantage perfectly of the other one’s skills: Morrissey used to be the “New York Dolls” fan-club British president and was very often writing columns in the New Musical Express, thus having a great sense of rock’n’roll knowledge whereas Johnny Marr was a true music fan , spending hours practising on his guitar and listening all day long to Tamla Motown records and past rock bands (The Byrds for instance can be found out in his guitar playing style). Apart from the music, they had a specific attention to their live shows (daffodils anyone?) and to their LP covers (40’s to 60’s movies and music icons such as Sandie Shaw, Alain Delon, James Dean or Jean Marais).
And the songs, wouahhh! : “This Charming Man”, “How Soon is Now”, “The Queen is Dead”, “Heaven knows I’m Miserable now”, “Barbarism begins at home”, “Panic”, etc, etc… Basically all the songs from this box set are good, very good or gorgeous.
After the split of the band, Morrissey went on doing great, interesting or average LP’s whereas Johnny Marr played with everybody in the music business (Bryan Ferry, Talking Heads, The The, Electronic with Barney from New Order, The Cribs, etc..) but both of them never found their soul mates again, thus becoming good instead of great. There are other ways to start with The Smiths and I would recommend the compilation “The Sound of the Smiths” but this box set is so affordable in terms of price that you could start with it directly.
Go there, (re)discover The Smiths and enjoy hours of happiness!