The Smiths -‘The Queen Is Dead’ (Rough Trade, 1986)
Looking back at the other posts I have done in this series, the thought occurs: however bloody awful my life may have felt at this point (and a boarding school is not a place where people are expected to share feelings, it’s not British don’tchewknow), I was discovering music that was new to me at a fast rate around around the early years of the nineties.
This album was leant to me by another student in my year at school, who was also showing extremely precocious growth towards learning about indie music. He claimed to have spent £36 on a vinyl copy of The Cramps’ Bad Music For Bad People, backwhenthirtysixpoundswasalotofmoneytospendonarecordicantellyou. Actually, Nick – dubbed the little Irish Pixie by the RE teacher for some reason (he actually came from near Newcastle, I think), loaned me quite a few Smiths albums. This was the one that stuck out, and I greedily tapped as much of their stuff as I could. Given that Rough Trade was just about to collapse, leaving the albums only available on import for several years, this was actually a wise move on my part. Morrissey’s solo albums never seemed to go out of print, but his seminal work with his old band could be hard to get hold of original copies, unless you wanted those bloody Best I and II compilations.
This album made a huge impression right from the opening chorus of ‘Take me Back to Dear Old Blighty’ before it storms into the title track. In fact, I think I told Nick it was the greatest album ever made, after Never Mind The Bollocks. Depressed as I was getting, there was a huge amount of humour in the record, ‘Vicar In A Tutu’ ‘Frankly Mr. Shankley’ ‘Some girls are bigger than others…’
Then again, there were the darker moments: ‘I Never Had No-one Ever’ ‘I Know It’s Over’ which matched my mood. Like so many before me, and indeed after me, Morrissey seemed to know how I felt (and I really thought he was the only one who did). It wasn’t just lyrically, of course, the album’s just phenomenal musically too: JOhnny Marr is amazing, and Mike Joyce is clearly having the time of his life on the title track and ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again.’
The standout track, though, was and is ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.’ This sad ode oddly evoked for me a story I’d read sometime in an RE textbook, about a conversation in a car between an Irish preist and a young jamaican lad in Liverpool. the latter was about to lose his Mum, and I sorta connected the story with that. It was nothing to do with it, of course. Several years later the track was on the car stereo on a school trip that four of us were on, ostensibly to do with our A-Levels (actually we did go to the Lectures we were meant to in Sheffield, we were also in the oub at lunchtime when we were underage, and I certainly looked it!). Another Nick was driving – and we nearly did collide with a ten track – listen to the song, if you don’t get the reference.
It also formed a bond with my brother, Miles, in a perhaps unlikely way. Miles is a massive cricket fan and his cricketing hero was one Mike Atherton. Mike Atherton was a big Smiths fan, and cited this as his favourite album, which inspired our kid to get into the album.
And finally, when I went travelling in the middle-East after I left school, amongst the many friends I met there was a South African girl named Lara. We bonded over a love of The Smiths and The Cure, and vowed that when she came to England, we’d go and see them both together. We made it to The Cure in late 1997, at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. As for Moz, we finally saw him together at the MEN Arena in 2004, when it was Morrissey’s 45th birthday. The last song? ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.’