I am not going to say anything about the Smiths that hasn’t been said before. So I’m not going to try. I’d simply like to remind everyone that 25 years ago this week, their penultimate (and, most fans would argue, best album), The Queen Is Dead, was released in the U.K. It came out a week later in the U.S. And I, for one, was paying absolutely no attention.
Back then, I was a bit too young to appreciate–or even be aware of–Morrissey and Marr’s special brand of whimsy and gloom, and was still listening to Top 40 radio. I’m sure the biggest musical event of the year for me was the release of True Blue. And let’s be honest, America as a whole never really “got” the Smiths. The Queen Is Dead went to #2 on the U.K. albums chart, but stalled at #70 on the Billboard 200. When I joined the newly-burgeoning Alternative Nation and became a regular viewer of 120 Minutes (and its late, lamented sibling, Postmodern MTV), I still had issues with Moz and his pitch-black sense of humor: I remember seeing the video for “Girlfriend in a Coma” (from Strangeways Here We Come, the band’s final album) and not enjoying it at all. It wasn’t until after college, when I had spent several years marinating in the music of the Cure, Depeche Mode, and the Pixies, gotten serious about David Bowie, and fallen in love with the Brits of the Moment, Oasis and Pulp, when I finally “heard” the Smiths for the first time: it was as if “How Soon Is Now?” was a brand new song. Shortly thereafter, I went to Europe (on the “backpack and youth hostel” plan), and found myself walking the streets of Manchester with Meat Is Murder playing on my walkman. And I understood why Ian Curtis had killed himself.
So there you have it. Like plenty of other neurotic folks born in the 1970s, I listen to the Smiths and laugh and sometimes cry. I also sing along. In fact, I so enjoy singing along with Morrissey’s angelic yet sinister tenor that I organized a public event that would allow me to share that enjoyment with other people. To sweeten the deal, I recruited a team of filmmakers to make videos for each of The Queen Is Dead’s ten tracks. The result was an evening of amazing, insane, touching, ridiculous visuals and sounds that restored my faith in humanity, if only briefly. So while I cannot tell you anything about the Smiths that you haven’t heard before, I can perhaps show you something that they inspired and I engineered. There truly is a light that never goes out.
Thanks, Johnny, Andy, Mike…and thank you, Moz. Despite the crazy stuff you say about Asians, we’re grateful.