1 Sep 2014

Bands That Changed My Life: The Smiths

The Smiths. THE SMITHS. The first band I ever really heard that opened my eyes to a magical new world of music where I didn't have to listen to chart music just to fit in, there were thousands of new genres to be explored and my adventure began the first time I heard Asleep. The first time I heard Asleep I was 15, and from the moment the song started to a fair bit after it finished, I was in tears. To this day I still don't know why, but I am incredibly grateful that I did. From finding out about The Smiths and wanting to know more, I discovered so much amazing music and it has made me the person I am today. My first ever vinyl purchase out of my growing collection of (currently) 100+ LP's and 150+ singles, was a 12" copy of Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now, so you could say that hearing The Smiths inspired me to begin buying and collecting records as well. They truly changed my life in every aspect possible, and I know they have done for a lot of people as well. So just what makes them so amazing? I have complied a list of reasons of why I think The Smiths are the greatest band and just why they have the power to change lives. It might just be me shouting into a void by myself here, but hey, it's my way of saying thank you.

10. Morrissey's and Johnny's dancing
Stuff of legend. The awkward, eccentric, oh-so-80's dance moves that Morrissey and Marr used to grace stages with are simply legendary. Nothing sells The Smiths more than a couple of sassy twists complete with impulsive arm flinging. Ok maybe the music, but still, it's greatly entertaining and I love watching live shows more than anything because of the combination of the brilliant music and the stunningly flamboyant dancing.

9. Hatful of Hollow pushes the limits of how-many-songs-can-you-fit-on-one-side-of-vinyl
The Smiths' first compilation album is not only cited as one of the greatest albums ever (even if it is just a compilation album) with a tracklist containing some of their most loved songs, it is famous for pushing the boundaries of vinyl. A normal record contains about 4/5 songs on one side, and then the same on the B-side. But no, of course The Smiths had to be different. Each side of the record contains 8 songs, meaning there are 16 overall tracks crammed onto a single record. This is great for anyone like me who finds it quite a chore to get up and flip the record, as it plays for nearly half an hour before having to be changed. Anyway, aside from the special vinyl circumstances, it is a phenomenal album and I recommend it to anyone who is trying to get into The Smiths. 

8. Simply the riff in How Soon Is Now
Known and regarded as one of the greatest riffs in the history of music, Johnny Marr truly is a genius. He certainly knows it as well, because aside from every bit of drama that went down between The Smiths, he still plays this song live, and I am so happy to have witnessed it live. How to describe the riff to anyone who hasn't heard it? It's impossible, just listen and have your mind blown. No, it isn't a 12 minute long solo with expert guitar technique, so don't expect that, it's just a few seconds of guitar genius repeated throughout the song with Morrissey moaning about being "the son and the heir/of a shyness that is criminally vulgar" but the simplicity of everything else is what makes it so good. 10/10.

7. How unique and new they were when they hit in 1983
As soon as The Smiths released their first single Hand In Glove in 1983, there was a massive explosion around them. Not all of it good, not all of it bad, but they had masses of attention nonetheless. By the time their self titled debut album came out in 1984, they were being called the pioneers of the emerging indie scene of the early 80's. The debut reached number 2 in the UK charts, and although it caused a whole lot of controversy due to some songs such as Suffer Little Children, it still sold brilliantly, and The Smiths is still regarded as one of the best ever debut albums. They were so individual and so new, but without being overly pretentious about it. Incredibly original and incredibly talented, it's no wonder they did as well as they did. 

6. The Morrissey-Marr relationship
A vital part of being the best band you can be is having a strong relationship with the people you are working with. It is well known that excluding the problems towards the end of The Smiths, the four members always got on like a house on fire. However, it is Morrissey and Marr's relationship that makes The Smiths so special. As the two primary song writers in the band, with Morrissey doing the lyrics and Marr doing the melodies, it couldn't have been a better partnership. Their relationship will forever go down in history as one of the most important ones in musical culture, and it is truly truly saddening to know how badly it all came to a head. 

5. Massively talented and musically diverse
Whether you are a fan of The Smiths or not, you cannot deny their musical talent. Witty lyrics, magical riffs, a very clever bass guitarist and a brilliant drummer. The combined talent in this indie quartet is one that took the world by storm. Not just in one field either, the variety in the musical styles that they experimented with during their time as The Smiths is huge. They tried indie, rock, more pop and pulled ballad after ballad out of the bag. This is why they are so famous, and so influential, because they have tried so many different genres, and been successful in every single one. 

4. Don't forget how talented Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce are
A lot of the time, the bassist and drummer of a band are forgotten and this is not uncommon in The Smiths. They of course were not frontmen or primary songwriters, so were not in the public eye and a huge majority of the problems that led to them splitting up was caused by Rourke and Joyce, but alas, they were still very, very talented lads. Andy Rourke's bass riffs were magical, and are a big part in Smiths' songs sounding as good as they do. Mike Joyce was a gifted drummer, and although not up there with the 'legends' in the drum world, he could not have fitted to the band more in terms of style and talent.

3. Morrissey's 'charming' personality
You can't write about The Smiths without talking about Morrissey and his wonderful personality. His witty comments and ability to cause a hell of a lot of controversy with everything he says and does is what makes him one of the greatest frontmen ever. He was flamboyant and eccentric with the strongest quiff game. Not only were his lyrics pure and simply genius, but the topics that they chose to write about were clever in the sense that it always got people talking. They were political, social and ethical, tackling topics like the Moors Murders and child abuse scandals of which no other band at the time would even dream about discussing let alone writing songs about. Morrissey has stayed true to himself in the sense that he is still very similar now, and I don't question that his difficult personality was a big element in the break up. I however have read his biography, and to learn about it from his point of view was very interesting. Of course, it was incredibly bias, but to hear the story of the split first hand from the man in the middle of it all was very interesting. Morrissey is a beautiful soul, and aside from all the sarcastic comments, he cares an awful lot about things. Especially meat and animal rights. You rule, Moz. 

2. They are still remembered today and will be for a long time coming
Everything The Smiths did created an impact. It had to. The hype surrounding the band before their debut was even released meant that The Smiths were always going to be huge and they are still huge today! Their songs have been used on countless movie soundtracks which broadens their audience even more, letting more people know about this incredible band as two lovers make out to the beautifully tragic There Is A Light That Never Goes Out or an isolated teenage boy sits in his room alone listening to Asleep. The Smiths will be forever remembered as the pioneers of the indie music scene which came out in the early 80's, alongside the alt-rock genre which a majority of their songs also fit into. They will be remembered for the amazing songs, the legendary dancing, the beautiful relationships and more importantly, the thousands of bands that they inspired. 

1. The influence their songs have on everyone
There is not a single indie/alt band around today who have not cited The Smiths as an influence. No matter how big or small that influence is, they were still there. It's not just bands either, countless journalists, photographers, roadies, tech guys and so many other people involved in the music industry have said they were inspired to get involved with music after hearing The Smiths for the first time. Whether you heard them back in 1983, or you discovered them like myself in 2012, it doesn't make a difference. Their songs are part of a greater legacy and always will be there for anyone looking for them. Whether you are a lonely teenage girl who found comfort in Morrissey's voice during I Know It's Over or a 50 year old man who wanted to relive his glory days while spinning gladioli around to The Queen Is Dead, it honestly does not matter, The Smiths will always be there. So Thanks, Thanks for everything.

(written by Poppy Marriott)