September 28th, 2017 marks the 30th anniversary of the release of 'Strangeways Here We Come', the fourth and final album from one of Britain's greatest bands of all time, The Smiths. While both Morrissey and Johnny Marr considered the album to be the best output of the band's relatively short time together, it also marked the end of the band, with Marr leaving shortly before the LP's release.
With only four years active as a band, it's amazing to consider how influential The Smiths became in the decades that followed, with their songs providing a template for countless bands that followed or tried to follow in their footsteps. We take a brief look at some of The Smiths' finest moments.
'Girlfriend In A Coma'
When the BBC refused to give airtime to the unconventional love story of 'Girlfriend In A Coma', Morrissey reportedly agreed with the sentiment of their decision stating that "You're not really supposed to like those songs. They're very depressing and not supposed to be played on radio". Legend has it that the decision to back the song with a Cilla Black cover as a b-side was the straw that broke the camel's back for Marr, cementing his decision to leave the band.
'Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before'
This song and its accompanying video helped to adhere the familiar imagery of Salford Lads' Club to The Smiths' mythology. Another single to be taken from 'Strangeways, Here We Come', and another to be deemed unsuitable at the time by the BBC. Nevertheless, it would technically become the highest charting Morrissey/Marr composition to date in 2007 when it was re-worked by Mark Ronson for his 'Version' album.
'This Charming Man'
There are few images from the mid'-80s that remain as memorable and often mentioned as that of Morrissey waving gladioli about on Top Of The Pops and in this video for 'This Charming Man'. The debut TOTP performance was many people's first introduction to The Smiths, and with its perfect combination of Marr jangle guitars and wistful Morrissey lyrics, it served as an ideal primer for a legion of young people that were looking for something different. Noel Gallagher was one such fan quoted as saying "The second I heard 'This Charming Man' everything made sense".
'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now'
'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now' was the first track that The Smiths made with producer Stephen Street, who approached the band after being impressed by their Top Of The Pops performance. Stephen Street would go on to record 'Meat Is Murder' and 'Strangeways, Here We Come' with The Smiths, and also produced Morrissey (as a solo artist), Blur, and Babyshambles among many others, becoming one of the most sought-after British producers of the last 30 years.
'How Soon Is Now'
With its unmistakable layers of tremolo guitar, the intro to 'How Soon Is Now' still stands as one of the best and most imitated guitar moments in the history of popular culture. Johnny Marr's recorded treatment was so complex that it was difficult to reproduce as a live track, with the guitarist later admitting that he wished he had made a note for future reference of how exactly he achieved the huge swelling tones.
'Hand In Glove'
Notable of course for being The Smiths' first single, but also for being the song that Morrissey and Marr convinced Sandie Shaw to cover in collaboration with them for release as a single, giving Shaw her first hit of the 1980s. Following its entry into the UK chart, Johnny Marr, Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke joined Sandie Shaw to mime the track on Top Of The pops, though it's unclear if they ever saw each other again.
'The Queen Is Dead', 'Panic' and 'There Is a Light That Never Goes Out'
Consisting of three of The Smiths' greatest moments in one perfect package, Derek Jarman's short film 'The Queen Is Dead'. Known for films such as 'Jubilee' the British artist/director's recurring themes of sexuality and politics proved the perfect juxtaposition for three back to back tracks taken from The Smiths' third studio album. Without a doubt one of the most successful collaborations of musicians and filmmakers of the 1980s.
As stated earlier, the anniversary of 'Strangeways, Here We Come' also marks the sad end of the Smiths as a band, so the date is an 'Unhappy Birthday' of sorts, although the breakup of The Smiths gave us Morrissey as a solo artist and set Johnny Marr loose to become one of the most prolific guitarists of his generation, with a list of credits that includes Modest Mouse, The Cribs, Electronic and his solo projects to name just a few.