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