The Smiths were a Manchester-based Alternative Rock band that formed in 1982 and broke up in 1987. Based on the songwriting partnership of Morrissey (vocals) and Johnny Marr (guitar), the band also included Andy Rourke (bass) and Mike Joyce (drums). Their sound was largely defined by the combination of Morrissey's witty, Deadpan Snarker lyrics and Campy, Melodramatic vocals, Marr's jangly, catchy pop-rock melodies (drawing a lot from The Beatles, Power Pop and classic rock) and the steady support of the Rourke-Joyce rhythm section, but they've branched out beyond pop-rock and experimented over the course of their career.
Widely regarded as one of the most important bands to emerge from the British indie music scene of The Eighties, the Smiths had a major influence on other artists, including Radiohead, The Stone Roses, and Suede. The band's influence on British alternative and indie rock is often compared to the influence R.E.M. had on American alternative rock.
After the break up, Morrissey went on to have a successful solo career. Johnny formed Electronic with Joy Division and New Order guitarist Bernard Sumner, and also formed the short-lived Johnny Marr & the Healers. He also played with cult alternative rockers The The and has done session work for too many artists to list. He was a member of the American indie rock band Modest Mouse from 2005 to 2008. After leaving Modest Mouse, he joined the British indie band The Cribs which he was a member of from 2008 to 2011. Oh, and if you ever have to pick him up at the airport, make sure you use a car with cloth seats.
Their numerous non-album singles and b-sides are collected on:
- Hatful of Hollow (1984)
- The World Won't Listen (1987)
- and its far more famous American equivalent Louder Than Bombs, issued the same year.
- All Boys Want Bad Boys
- Anti-Love Song: "Unhappy Birthday"
- Anvilicious: "Meat Is Murder"
- Author Appeal: "This Charming Man" and "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore" both mention leather car seats, which Morrissey admitted to finding "erotic." And then there's his interest in ruffians and criminals, which became even more pronounced in his solo work.
- Auto Erotica: "You've Got Everything Now"
- Banister Slide: "Vicar In A Tutu"
- Bishonen: Morrissey and Johnny, back in The Eighties.
- Black Comedy
- Black Sheep Hit: Their best known song, "How Soon Is Now?", doesn't sound like their usual style.
- Closet Key: "This Charming Man"
- Cool Shades: One of Johnny Marr's favorite fashion accessories.
- Covert Pervert: Moz himself.
- Cover Version: "Work Is a Four-Letter Word" by Cilla Black and "Golden Lights" by Twinkle are infamous for incensing Johnny Marr to the point that he left the band, leading to their breakup.
Johnny: [...] but "Work Is a Four-Letter Word" I hated. That was the last straw, really. I didn't form a group to perform Cilla Black songs.
- Deadpan Snarker: Morrissey is notable Real Life example of this.
- Double Entendre: Too many lyrics to list.
- Dumbass DJ: "Panic" was inspired by one at the BBC who played Wham's "I'm Your Man" after announcing the Chernobyl disaster.
- Dude, She's Like, in a Coma: "Girlfriend in a coma, I know, I know, it's really serious." Alternate trope title.
- Epic Riff: "How Soon Is Now?". Doubles as Epic Rocking since, hey, 6 minutes.
- Epic Rocking: "How Soon Is Now", "The Queen Is Dead" and "Barbarism Begins At Home" all exceed the 6-minute mark.
- Garfunkel: Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke. The band's contract apparently only listed Morrissey and Marr as the official members of the band. Joyce and Rourke even sued the other half of the band for royalties that were owed them. Although Rourke wound up settling amicably out of court with Morrissey and Marr, Joyce kept pushing his part of the lawsuit and received a 1 million pound settlement (which in turn alienated him from Rourke). Morrissey claims that Joyce is the main reason why the Smiths will never reunite, moreso than his rift with Marr.
- Happily Married: Johnny married his high school sweetheart Angie in 1986, and they've been together ever since. Aww.
- Ho Yay: Plenty of lyrics, and let's not get started on Morrissey and Johnny. (Moz being Ambiguously Gay didn't hurt.)
- Intercourse with You: "Stretch Out And Wait", "Reel Around The Fountain", and "Handsome Devil" are some of the less subtle examples.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Morrissey.
- Long Title: "Stop Me If You Think That You've Heard This One Before", "Please Please Please, Let Me Get What I Want", "Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me", "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out", etc. It's safe to say that they were in love with this trope. Morrissey's solo work also uses ridiculously long song titles.
- Lyrical Dissonance
- Mad Love
- Money Song: "Frankly, Mr. Shankly"
- Nerd Glasses: Morrissey has been known to sport them occasionally.
- New Sound Album: The Queen is Dead, which featured more elaborate production than on their previous albums and singles.
- Obsession Song: "Paint a Vulgar Picture"
- Only One Name: Morrissey.
- Oop North
- The Pete Best: Dale Hibbert, their first bass player, was fired after their first gig because Johnny Marr felt he wasn't a good fit for the band. Since he worked at a studio, he was able to help the band record their first demos.
- Serial Killer: The song "Suffer Little Children" was written about Real Life killers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. Morrissey's fascination with serial killers continued in his solo career with songs like "Jack the Ripper."
- Shirtless Scene: Moz at almost every concert and quite a few photo shoots.
- Sixth Ranger: Craig Gannon
- Small Name, Big Ego: Morrissey.
- Smoking Is Cool: Admit it, Johnny looked pretty damn cool with a cigarette.
- Something Completely Different: Strangeways, Here We Come opens with the guitarless "A Rush And A Push And The Land Is Ours."
- "Oscillate Wildly", "The Draize Train", and "Money Changes Everything" were the only instrumentals released by the band.
- "Death of a Disco Dancer" is among the very few Smiths songs where Morrissey plays an instrument (the piano).
- Stage Names: Morrissey's full name is Steven Patrick Morrissey, and Johnny Marr's real name is John Maher. (The latter changed his name to avoid confusion with the drummer of the Buzzcocks.)
- The Eighties
- Three Chords and the Truth: The band's emphasis on guitar-based rock was a reaction against synthesizer-heavy Eighties pop music.
- Unrequited Love: A recurring lyrical theme, often going straight into Obsession Song territory. Notable examples include "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out", "I Want The One I Can't Have", and "I Know It's Over."
- The Vicar: The subject of the aptly named "Vicar In A Tutu."
- Wholesome Crossdresser: The title character of "Vicar In A Tutu."
- Word Salad Title: The band named themselves "the Smiths" as a reaction against the word salad band names of their contemporaries.
- Writer on Board: Meat is Murder is most likely an example, as Morrisey supports PETA and has stated he accepts the violent actions of Animal Wrongs Groups.