Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Albums for Life: 38: The Smiths: The Queen is Dead

                                                          "Talent borrows, genius steals"

Back in 2000 Marcus and I completed 'Slow Fade' at Jacobs Studios, a residential studio in the sticks down Farnham way. Jacobs is the classic country pile; a faded glory that was just too expansive to maintain. We played tennis on moss strewn courts and peered into the green grunge that floated atop the pool debating whether to dive or bomb or just go for another Pimms.

Everyone was excited at the time because Paul Weller was doing an album there. I was more jazzed by the revelation that, back in the winter of 1985, this was where The Smiths had recorded 'The Queen is Dead' (initially entitled 'Margaret on the Guillotine').
If I'm honest my favourite Smiths album will always be the blissful economies of 'Hatful of Hollow' but I note that as it is a compilation of b sides, John Peel sessions and discards it's not admissible here. So 'The Queen is Dead' it is. It's as opulent as the band would get; the Stephen Street production is rich, the arrangements developed to allow for strings and drama. There are even backing vocals, done by Morrissey himself under the name of Ann Coates. The songs are consistently strong and Mozza could be a funny man:

So, I broke into the palace 
With a sponge and a rusty spanner
She said : "Eh, I know you, and you cannot sing"
I said : "That's nothing - you should hear me play piano"

For reasons of nostalgia my two favourite Smiths songs remain 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now' and 'Reel Around the Fountain' from the afore mentioned 'Hatful' but 'The Queen is Dead' also holds two of my other high points; 'There is a Light That Never Goes Out' and 'The Boy With a Thorn in his Side'. We're so used to Mozza's grumpy solo persona that it's easy to forget the giddy euphoria of the early jingle jangle. I'm playing this now and reeling round the kitchen...

Not everyone sees this album as perfect however.
The Quietus, as ever, is a little contrary...


  1. cemetery gates for me , another one that started off as a b side. I like ot think the subject of plagiarism is Mozza at his ironic best rather than his blind spot worst

  2. Good album, for sure, but I think that Strangeways is the one for me, particularly as I think the tracks "I Started Something I Couldn't Finish" and "Last Night I Dreamt that Somebody Loved Me" are Morrissey and Johnny Marr's best works. Funnily enough, some years back stumbled across a band called 'The Organ' where the singer, Katie Sketch, has a vocal range so close to that of Morrissey if feels quite uncanny.

    1. I need to readdress 'Strangeways' Issy.
      Too many votes to ignore...

  3. The opener on this was probably my second favourite (aural) Smiths moment and although I love the album I often simply play the first track.

    I'm with you on Hatful of Hollow. Still undecided though on which legit album will make my list or whether I will go illegitimate.

  4. It's a toughie. I have so many 'best of' albums that I've lost sight of the chronology of things.
    Forgot that 'The Queen...' was only their 3rd album. They were a productive band with a quality control that many would have died for...