Pretty Green

The Smiths Singles Retrospective

There have been reissues. There have been repackages. And now it’s time to reevaluate the songs. So, put on your tacky badge, and let’s take a look at the seventeen Smiths singles that were released from 1983 to 1987. In just four short years, the Manchester-based band broke on to the scene — confusing, titillating, and/or enraging everyone in their path — and, just as quickly they were gone.  The short length of their dynasty has not had a deleterious impact on their legacy, however. Never before had there been a band that went so far beyond trite pop cliches, willing to touch upon real-life mass murders, loneliness, sexuality — and, not merely that heterosexual sort we were all more comfortable with. This was a band that was literate, cultured, and timely. It’s hard to believe that, in a post-Beatles world, one band could achieve so much in so few years. The influence of the band cannot be overstated. Morrissey and Marr will go down in history as one of the most significant partnerships in modern music history.

Hand In Glove b/w Handsome Devil (live) (May 1983)

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The Smiths' first single began life as a funky jam that Johnny Marr noodled with on his acoustic guitar. Realizing he was on to something good, he immediately rushed to Morrissey's house to get it on tape. Somewhere along the M56, the tune took on a more powerful, Stooges-like edge, which more closely resembled the finished product. Morrissey's lyrics are bittersweet. There is a sad sort of triumph to the forbidden love about which he sings, shrouding the singer in a dark cloak of quiet despair. The fade-in, accompanied by Marr's wailing harmonica, intuits the doleful romanticism, and music and vocals meld in perfect harmony. The song peaked at number three in the UK indie chart. A remixed version made it onto their eponymous debut. The cover image is a photograph by Jim French taken from Margaret Walters' book, The Nude Male.

Britpopping since I first heard 'Animal Nitrate' in 1993

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