1983:

January-August

The Smiths onstage at Dingwalls, Camden, August 9, 1983
Photo by unknown photographer. Reproduced without permission.


 ARTICLE

This article originally appeared in the February 1983 issue of i-D magazine. The first significant interview with The Smiths, with original bassist Dale Hibbert.

Author unknown

The Smiths make pretty traditional music — dance music with a heavy bass line and an emphasis on piercing vocals. Their influences are all personally different, but the end sound comes through as the Smiths every time. Their direction is to stick as a four piece and not to become another faceless image.

But why return to a basic sound?
J [Johnny Marr] "Everyone is trying so hard to be innovative and original and I think that went as far as it could with Brian Eno and David Byrne. But they knew how to do it. Music today is back to the mid '70's; people need to start thinking again and now's the time for a band like us to get things together."
D [Dale Hibbert] "We're the only people doing this; we're not part of a drifting trend. We haven't gone for an original sound, it's just turned out that way. We've a lot of different influences but also a lot in common. We're certainly not a Manchester band."
How difficult has that been for you in Manchester?
J "It's no more difficult for us to do it in Manchester than London. In fact I think here is just the right place to do it. You don't become part of a passing mood."
D "Yeah, if you've got a good idea, NOW's the time to get it together and put it forward. Things are so bland and there are so many big gaps."
J "It's like fashion. All these stray 'perrys' are night-clubbing now, which puts others off going out. It's not necessary to move to London, but what bothers me is that whole 'Joy Division' thing. It's very patronizing being a Manchester band. The music up here is pretty trashy. It's got direction but it's the wrong one. Bands need to be more positive and stop limiting themselves."
Any views on modern technology available to bands?
D "I think that's all gone too far. Like guys can just speak through a computer and out comes the perfect pitch. That's why music is in a state."
J "I don't think it effects the music scene that much. I mean if people want to become a technical band it's up to them. It's all down to whatever you want to do, and those things will never replace the real thing. You don't get any depth or real sounds."
Why the Smiths?
S [Steven Morrissey] "The name doesn't mean anything, it simply serves its purpose. I think it's very important not to be defined in any one category. Once you're defined you're limited and musically that petrifies me."
How important are clothes to you?
S "The don't have the relevance they once had, like in the '60's you could look at someone and assess their personality. That's not the case anymore. Clothes are no longer the window of the soul."
J "People take clothes too seriously. If we said 'right, we're going to have that image' there are bound to be people who don't like it. We're just gonna be honest about it and then if people don't like us it's because we're the Smiths and not because of what we wear. We're not opinionated; groups narrow their audience by using guidelines like image."
OK. So is style important?
S "Style has nothing to do with clothes. You can't become stylish; either you are or you aren't. But you can become fashionable. You can go out and buy the stuff. But again, if you wear it badly it means nothing."
J "Style is more of an attitude and awareness is important. You've got to think big."
What are your strongest feelings?
J "Music and fashion has become really bland. It doesn't mean anything anymore. Youth has no movement; everyone is just jumping on each other's bandwagon. I'd like to see that change."
What does the word soul mean to you?
D "It's the centre, it's a feeling. The soul is where everything comes from."
J "It's emotional meets radical and the ability to make decisions emotionally."
S "Something that people are particularly afraid to expose. I don't know why; maybe they're afraid of intimacy — it's so private."
How important is music in society?
S "It's probably the most major influence on life. Every person has a favourite record or tune. It's the easiest way to effect and change people's lives. It's certainly more important than politics."
J "And it effects those people not directly involved, like housewives. They may see a punk in Sainsburys and take no notice, whereas 5 years ago they'd have freaked out. Music dictates everything socially, and bands influence people in that society by what they say."
Are you ever tempted by that power?
S "We're obviously tempted, because it's so powerful, like films used to be. It effects people's lives so much and it's so tempting to change people's lives. That's true power because people's lives are so isolated in this modern age. I think the best power you could have is to get people to think about themselves with a reflective influence because people are so complacent about everything."
D "Yeah, it's all too easy to slag off bands like The Exploited but at least they're out there doing what they want to do and not watching TV."
J "I feel sorry for the punters who fall for that stuff. Like most people wearing 'Exploited' on their jacket don't even know what the word means."

Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.

SEE ALSO: the first interview in New Musical Express


 LIVE REVIEWS

The following item is possibly the first ever Smiths live review, and was originally published in the fanzine City Fun.

Manhattan Sound - January 25, 1983

"Manhattan Sound is marketed as another swinging nook on the gay scene: but there are gay clubs and gay clubs. This particular discobar is more of a club camp, where Crimson pile meets Coronation Street. The rooms were awash with the bustle and prattle of antique clothes dealers and in the background, the distant strumming of string vests. A right regular joint, Mother. One of the promoters, an excitable frothabilly, explained the programme: - a double bill every other Tuesday with added videos. Indeed in one vault, a Divine celebration was in progress, many minutes of wobbling footage, soundtrack included. On the stage/dancefloor, we were presented with the SMITHS.

A standard line-up of Dean-struck laddies continued the traditions of the New York Dolls and Auntie Iggy with lurid vigour. On Mouth we had the pleasure of a congenital show-off with a dreamily affected baritone. An arresting figure whose appearance lay somewhere between Christopher Isherwood and a Foregin Office junior. He made several declarations in his velvety growl, 'Oh, You (Handsome Devil)', 'What Do You See In Her?' and best of all, 'The Hand That Rocks The Cradle'. Throughout the act we were treated to the activities of a Spare Part, a debonair male go-go dancer in a suit, collar and tie who shook a tambourine and organised the raffle. Either he should be bought an instrument or returned to the Locker Room immediately. For the final piece, the singer abandoned the John Gielgud mannerisms and fell stageward, flinging (oh, irony!) confetti and gurgling in a fine falsetto.

If the boy's head is anything to go by, The Smiths are going to be B-I-G."

Note: The uncredited reviewer was Cath Carroll.

Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.

See the original review here


Manchester Hacienda - February 4, 1983

"THE THING to be, in 1983, is ... handsome.' And so The Smiths' performance began, in suitably confident manner. And from there they went from strength to strength.

Like some harsh collision between the grand design of Magazine, the strange ways of Josek K and the taut tension of Fire Engines, the four Smiths were proud and powerful, pale and angular, a formidable and inventive force. Their sound - a fine, fierce combination of tight drums, hidden walls of guitar and the deepest of bass-lines - proved to be a suitably refined, aggressive setting for the searing wail and majestic poetry of their enigmatic vocalist.

'Miserable Lie', the obvious highlight, seemed to aim at a grandeur, a rare raw power, that perhaps only Magazine have ever achieved, and it seemed that Magazine's magnificent example - off-hand, discomforting, beyond easy comparison - was a major inspiration here.

As commanding and restrained as this, The Smiths should soon be capable of reaching the greatest of heights. Oh yes! The Smiths were HANDSOME."

Jim Shelley
New Musical Express, March 26, 1983

Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.

Note: The Manhattan Sound gig was only the second ever live performance by the Smiths, and the first with Andy Rourke on bass. Rourke replaced Dale Hibbert after the Smiths' first live performance at the Ritz, Manchester on October 4, 1982.
Although the date of the Manchester, Hacienda gig was February 4, 1983 the review did not appear in New Musical Express until much later.

For a detailed eyewitness account of the first three Smiths gigs, see Appendix D


SINGLE REVIEWS

HAND IN GLOVE - released May 1983

"The Smiths ride up "Hand in Glove" to knock me down from my own gallows. With a paucity of effects they seem to piece the cool of a Julian Cope/Teardrops sensitivity with a certain vigour that only us young ones can adopt. Morrissey's voice invocations just rise above the fuzz of treble. Truly a new Bunnyman."

David Dorrell
New Musical Express, June 11, 1983

Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.

See the original review here


"Aha, Dave McCullough's fave rave of the moment. And yes, it's tinny, messily produced crap. Oh dear..."

Unknown reviewer
Sounds


Morrissey on...

'Hand in Glove'

"So many recent songs have had a very non-human feeling. When you hear 'Hand In Glove' you feel these people have to play this song and he has to sing those words, very human. It's somewhat of a cornerstone - a very important record."

- Rorschach Testing, 1983

SEE ALSO: Smash Hits Yearbook


GIG ADS

Note: The March 23 concert was both the band's London debut and the first they played outside Manchester. Although billed as a 5-piece, Morrissey's friend James Maker no longer joined The Smiths onstage as a dancer.
Please note that The Smiths did not headline at the Rockgarden until they returned for the July 7 gig.


ARTICLE

This brief interview with Morrissey and Johnny Marr appeared in an unknown fanzine.

THE SMITHS

Interview by ROB GRAHAM. Article and snotty opinions by J. ROBB

The Smiths have suddenly shot to "fame and fortune"with a rise that was surprisingly fast and easy.
Admittedly "Hand In Glove" was a really good single but that still does not explain their sudden appearance. Time was right for an interview so Bob Graham was contacted and this is what he had to say...

I mean how did you crack it?

Morrissey: We were very selective about the dates and the venues, we played what people wanted to hear, there was no overkill.

(As such.)

You're very hip without having a 'strong image'.

Well that's it, there's bands who have been 'anti-image' but it's an image to be anti-image. We dress the way we do, we act the way we do and we play music the way we do.

With some bands there's a barrier between them and the audience but with us there's a real comradeship.

ON THE MUSIC SCENE

Morrissey: Everyone's playing safe, everyone's making money. Once they realise that "this is the next thing" they just copy it. You should be original in everything you do.

(Yup, you should.)

MARR ON GUITAR

You've got a legendary guitar.

Johnny Marr: I've got a Rickenbaker 12 string that used to belong to Roger McGuinn.

(I'll tell you who Roger McGuinn is one day children but it's not worth the effort.)

It wasn't that I just wanted his guitar, it was just the best one at the time.

The groups that inspired me were not necessarily beat groups but groups who were more melodic than others.

We're hoping to write songs for other people.

(Wot about Elvis?)

MORRISSEY ON MONEY

It's curious, but once you get your foot in the door you realise that there is a tremendous amount of money there to be had. And you realise that it's more likely to be picked up by some oafs who certainly don't deserve it.

MORRISSEY ON MORRISSEY

Are you a self-conscious performer?

Yeah, I always have been, but I'm like that as a person. I was never terribly free or relaxed in any situation whatsoever. I was always very very physically depressed. I was always wrestling with this body depression which goes back a long way. I always felt terribly clumsy.

There are certain things that you have to do.

I feel pleased we have escaped normal pop terminology.

THE TONGUE WAS IN CHEEK

Aaah... It was deadly serious actually.

LYRICS

I have no favourite lyricist. I prefer books actually.

AND FINALLY

In the whole scheme of music, you know, classical music is very important and other kinds of music are never important. Pop music is never important.

I think it's almost political the way it is hammered down to non-importance because obviously it is very important, I mean it's always been bordering on the revolutionary, especially in the sixties.

I think it's always been devalued to save the world.

Fighting talk there from Morrissey.

I'm still not sure about the Smiths though. They seem so average to me.

Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.


NEWS ITEM

Smiths sign to independent label Rough Trade

The Smiths, generally considered one of the brightest prospects to emerge this year, have signed a long-term deal with Rough Trade Records. They say this "represents a conscious decision of preference" for the independent label, which was competing against three major labels, one of whom offered a six-figure cash advance. Their single 'Hand in Glove' has already been released, and they are currently in the studio with producer Troy Tate recording tracks for their first album and follow-up single.

New Musical Express, July 9, 1983

Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.

SEE ALSO: 'Handy For The Smiths'


  ARTICLE

This article originally appeared in the June 4, 1983 issue of Sounds.



DAVE McCULLOUGH is smitten by The Smiths

DESPERATELY scrambling for something "new," the music business and the music press don't (as is normal) realise that something new IS happening. It might appear quiet, low lying, polite and very obscure, but it isn't.

First there was punk (!), then post punk, the funny name groups like Echo and Teardrop, groups who used traits of psychedelia nicely. And who only now, three years too late, are being (successively) ripped off by Tears For Fears et cetera. The funny names keep coming and they are useless and way out of time.

This year already you've had a new crop of groups, The Wake, The Smiths, The Box and a recharged Go Betweens, who present a new urbanity, a new sensibleness amid the attempts to shock and the attempts to block (the future).

Music BEYOND punk rock.

Smiths say: "Don't mention punk in this piece. We feel that is far behind everything we're about. It's ancient history..."

This polite, sensible and unflash approach shouldn't hide these groups' true allegiance to '76 and all that, nor, especially in Smiths' case, the very IMPOLITE state of their art.

Smiths are no ordinary name in a paper.

SMITHS look tremendous, they have the cool. Guitarist Johnny Marr plays a red Rickenbacker type machine gun in best early Jam fashion. He looks a HANDSOME Costello but denies the resemblance strongly.

Singer Morrisey (sic) has a history stretching back to '77 punk and writing for fanzines. He is reputed to be the "last great Devoto figure out of Manchester". He has the cool down to a tee, flinging flowers about on stage and writing lyrics which deal with sex as you've never heard apparent "confessors" like the mixed-up Marc Almond write about it.

The subject of child molesting crops up more than a few times in Smiths songs. They are hilarious lyrics, more so because they will suddenly touch on the personal.

Smiths have a grand "Freebird"-like (!!) finale to their live set. This and the Costello and child molestation claims they will reject out of hand, this is all part of the Smiths plan. Gonna be huge.

Smiths are signed to Rough Trade, a nice angle this, not only because those Smiths' lyrics must therefore be brought into question vis a vis Will Geoff Travis APPROVE? but because it raises the question, will Rough Trade be able to make this exceptional new group the stars they can very likely be?

Morrisey is a wonderfully arrogant pig ("I crack the whip and you'll strip (sic), but you deserve it, you deserve it"). Quite simply, funnily, they KNOW the talent that the Smiths possess.

How good are you?

Morrisey: "I tremble at the power we have, that's how I feel about the Smiths. It's there and it's going to happen."

Are Rough Trade the best label for immediate stardom?

Morrisey, enigmatic smile on handsome face: "What we want to achieve CAN be achieved on Rough Trade. Obviously we wouldn't say no to Warners, but RT can do it too."

I know Factory wanted you. Wouldn't they have been cooler?

Johnny: "We'd be stuck in the 'Manchester scene' then. What we're thinking of isn't even in terms of national success. It's more like world wide..."

Morrisey: "Factory aren't really interested in new groups. Factory have been good, but they now belong to a time that is past. Look, we had a great social life, Factory has been great, but let's leave all that behind us now."

"Look, the quote that best sums up the Smiths is from Jack Nichells' book Men's Liberation: 'We are here and it is now'. I feel really strongly about NOW. I don't want to wait around, I don't care about two years time, things have got to happen RIGHT NOW for the Smiths. And I think they will."

LET'S sort this sexual thing out.

I get a traditionalism from Smiths that is almost HM (that Skynyrd finale). It's certainly an aggressive sexual stance they've got. Morrisey goes Oscar Wilde:

"I'm in fact very anti-aggression. Obviously I'm interested in sex and every song is about sex. I'm very interested in GENDER. I feel I'm a kind of prophet for the fourth sex."

"The third sex, even that has been done and it's failed. All that Marc Almond bit is pathetic. It sounds trite in print but it's something close to 'men's liberation' that I desire."

The fourth sex! Excuse me, but I'm still in a metaphysical state about it. It will come. With every Smiths appearance it comes closer. Off stage, in bed, in bed alone. It's coming...

"I just want something different. I want to make it easier for people. I'm bored with men and I'm bored with women. All this sexual segregation that goes on, even in rock 'n' roll, I really despise it..."

Smiths share with this year's best new groups an anti-boredom stance, an aura of breaking through to completely new territory. A sexual neutralism that rejects the Bowie/macho/wimp norms. It is hard to identify because it is so radically different.

Everything I call the Smiths is wrong because I still place them in an old context: hard when they are soft, immoral when they are moral:"... We do not condone child molesting. We have never molested a child."

Traditionalist macho, when they...

Morrisey: "... I just so happen to be completely influenced by feminist writers like Molly Haskell, Marjory Rose and Susan Brown-Miller. An endless list of them!"

"I don't want to GO ON about feminism but it is an ideal state. It will never be realised beyond that because this society detests strong women. You just have to look at the Greenham women. This is a society that only likes women who faint and fawn and want only to get married. I'm not neurotic about it, but it is an integral part of the way I write."

Why the importance in carrying flowers?

Morrisey: "They're symbolic for at least three reasons. We introduced them as an antidote to the Hacienda when we played there; it was so sterile and inhuman. We wanted some harmony with Nature. Also, to show some kind of optimism in Manchester which the flowers represent. Manchester is so semi-paralysed still, the paralysis just zips through the whole of Factory..."

Your finale tells that "(Love Is Just A) Miserable Lie". Do you believe it, that people are totally separate, even from an ultimate state of love?

"Yes. Unfortunately. But there's an optimism in admitting it... Explain? Oh I could tell you of years of celibacy when I just couldn't cope with physical commitment because it always failed. I suppose I'm unnatural in the general scheme of things, because I have these feelings."

Morrisey is a self-publicising weirdo, in other words a lover.

"I want a new movement of celibacy. I want people to abstain... explain? Howard Devoto I know quite well and I know he formed a group in order to make friends (he'd never had any). I can only say I'm the same, and gather from that what ye will."

JOHNNY mentions the Ramones in passing. There is a Ramonish tint in Smiths that is only the beginning of what they are about. A nihilism, the molesting scam that soon leads into a fierceness and a morality-despite-it-all that is more Fall-like.

Morrisey: "These are desperate times. But I don't think we should join in with the desperation. We should conquer it. I'm fed up with this depressive attitude people have."

What about your humour?

"There are many really desperate characters from literature who had amazing senses of humour. Stevie Smith wanted to kill herself at nine. That's wonderful. I can relate to that. Sylvia Plath, just before she killed herself, had this incredible sense of humour in Letters Home..."

Is having or not-having a job important in Morriseyland?

"Not in the least. Jobs reduce people. One of our lines goes 'I've never had a job because I don't want one' : jobs reduce people to absolute stupidity, they forget to think about themselves. There's something so positive about unemployment. It's like, Now We Can Think About Ourselves. You won't get trapped into materialism, you won't buy things you don't really want..."

Smiths are an anti-stance group in the grand Fall tradition. An Alka Seltzer to a binge of Heaven 17s.

Morrisey: "We're fed up with people who won't talk about the press, all this New Order crap. They probably REALLY haven't GOT anything to say. I believe that's the truth..."

Johnny: "We're unique because we really rate the press. Putting out papers every week when there is so obviously very little good music around except the Smiths must be really hard..."

Morrisey: "The British music press is an art form."

Garry Bushell?

"There is always an exception to a rule, Dave."

Is it crucial being H.A.N.D.S.O.M.E. in Smithland?

Morrisey: "Absolutely."

Johnny: "We find it just finishes off the package nicely. It just so happens we're handsome. We didn't rope in good-looking chaps on bass and drums, it just happened that way..."

Doesn't this rule out 95% of the world from Smithland?

Morrisey: "Probably. But we genuinely want a handsome audience above everything else. I can predict that in six months time they'll be bringing flowers to our gigs..."
But what happens if you're ugly as sin?

Morrisey, waving a vague finger about: "Oh I'm sure they can arrange it somehow. They can, ah, learn to LOOK handsome. With great training of course!"

Of course. Expect a plastic surgery boom in '83.

Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.

See the original article here

SEE ALSO: Dave McCullough's live review 'Out To Crunch'

FURTHER READING: 'The Cradle Snatchers'


ARTICLE

This article was originally published in the October 1983 issue of International Musician.


Here come The Smiths smiling, brandishing their blooms and being hotly persued by
ADRIAN DEEVOY, our very own handsome devil

THE SMITHS CAN'T FAIL simply because The Smiths don't believe that they can fail. They have arrived at a convenient moment. Just as the void of 1976 began to breathe its stale breath down our necks The Smiths breezed in smiling and waving flowers; their charming, idiosyncratic Pop-gone-flat appealing to the feet and the soul simultaneously.

The Smiths, wonderfully arrogant, voice opinions that could well be your opinions. They sing sex songs as opposed to love songs and accompany their voices with neither foul, fashionable cacophany or glib polish.
You will understand The Smiths, they sing in your language and play tunes that you will remember. A conventional line-up evolved in Manchester last year and surfaced as Morrissey, wordSmith and voice, Johnny Marr, tuneSmith and guitar, Andy Rourke, the bass and Mike Joyce, the drums.

Behind our respective fruit juices in a hotel bar, Morrissey and Johnny Marr convince me that The Smiths won't fail and charm me into staking my reputation on them.

It's time the tale were told of how you took a child and you made him old.

Johnny: "A lot of this came about because I wanted to work with Morrissey. I'd heard a lot about him and knew that he wrote lyrics so I tracked him down and we collaborated on a few songs and discovered that we could work really well together. Then we got stuck into heaps and heaps of songs and decided to go into the studio and record them so we needed to find a bassist and drummer. Well I'd known Andy from school and knew that by now he would be pretty good and I was introduced to Mike simply because he was an aspiring drummer. And when we went into the studio it worked really well so we decided to keep it like this."

Morrissey: "It was just a very natural thing. Strange but natural. Most natural things are very strange. But there was no dispute or in-depth strategy, we just fell into it straight away. It was just perfect."

Johnny: "When we first got together, both Morrissey and myself had this passion for one-off classic singles in the Dusty Springfield, Sandie Shaw sort of vein. Records that were more than just pieces of current plastic in picture sleeves. Just classic records that were well performed and well produced."

Were today's Smiths the band you had envisaged?
Johnny: "Yes, exactly the same as the band is. Not guitar dominated but using the guitar to define the melody. It works really well with Mike and Andy because Andy is a really unpredictable bass player. I think it's very difficult for a bass player to be just given the chord structures and the name of the song and then being asked to make his mark on the song. It's also turned out how I originally envisaged it live. There's Morrissey, the emotional vocalist and Andy the diligent concentrating bass player who never misses a beat and the same with Mike. To me that's the way a band should be - the songwriters and the rhythm section."

The Smiths' debut album, The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, is now complete and is at present having the finishing touches added by Troy Tate. Recorded Smiths to date have come in the form of two Rough Trade singles, Hand In Glove and Reel Around The Fountain [Reel Around The Fountain was originally intended as the follow-up to Hand In Glove but was never released as a single - BB] and three Radio One sessions.

Morrissey: "We have to be honest, we don't enjoy doing sessions. The idea of a session is wonderful and having three or four songs thrown all over the country is excellent. But actually doing a session isn't that pleasurable. The producers are bored and from the moment you go in you are aware of the seconds ticking away."

Johnny: "When we did the first Peel session we were totally overpowered by the powers that be. But Troy came in and relieved the situation because we weren't talking to the producer and he wasn't talking to us simply because we didn't know what to say to each other, but Troy came in and mediated the whole situation.

"Troy was great when we were doing the album because obviously Morrissey and myself are the most enthusiastic about the songs and when we were in the studio for eight or ten hours trying to get the bass sound or the drum sound right it was good to have a neutral party to encourage Mike or Andy. It was like we had the wheels and Troy set them in motion. The studio was really good as well, it had a good atmosphere - Elephant in Wapping. It's not Air but it doesn't have to be."

Morrissey: "We seriously want it to be the ultimate album. Obviously every time we go into the studio to make a record we bear in mind that we have to live with it and it's us that have our names on the record when we're forty."

People said that you were easily led and they were half right.

People won't stop talking about Johnny's jangling Rickenbacker.

Johnny: "I do think about it a lot. Since we've received attention from the press and what have you I have thought about it a lot more. I purposely didn't analyse my influences. I didn't want to rehash a bunch of different playing styles and call it my own.

"I think the songs have a certain quality because they are written on the guitar and that takes them through lots of levels of music: some of our songs could be [producer Phil] Spector songs and some could be Fairport Convention songs. Basically when I play I try to imagine a string part or a piano part as well as a guitar part. My desire to play guitar and, like, master it has grown so much. As I can afford more guitars and more studio time and more rehearsal time the desire is getting bigger and bigger.

"But honestly that jangly sound wasn't premeditated. I mean I wasn't going for a deliberate neo-psychedelic sound or anything. I was literally setting up my amp and I thought 'Oh, that sounds too bassy' so I'd give it a little bit more on the chorus pedal and then that wasn't right, so I gave it some reverb and then some presence. It came about because anything else didn't sound right. Foremost the sound has to be melodic. Guitars can be powerful and guitars can be rhythmical but within the structure we've got and because of the songs we write that's what is needed."

Morrissey: "I think with the guitar being the instrument it is, people get disillusioned with what they can do with it basically because of the way it's been utilised in the last few years. It's been completely wasted.

"With the rise of the synthesiser I think the idea of a good guitarist has gone completely out of the window. Bass playing came into vogue from about 1979 and the guitarist in any sort of decent music, apart from those nasty solo guitarists, just weren't fashionable. But Johnny's going to change all that. I'm sure of it."

Would there ever be room on a Smiths record for a synthesiser?
Morrissey: "That's a subject that can't really be dwelt upon. I think I'd rather talk about athlete's foot or death or something. Suffice to say if a synthesiser appeared on one of our records, I wouldn't."

What does Morrissey do in the studio?
Morrissey: "Oh I jump up and down and scream. No, I look after my department which is the voice mainly. I mean you can't do much else if you're only there for a few days, depending on what you're doing, so you have to make sure that your contribution is as perfect as possible. Because that's what you're there for. If you were in for months and months and months you could go in and dissect everything - but that's not how we work."

The vocal sound is very obviously Mancunian.
Morrissey: "I just wanted a very natural sound. Anyway I am from Manchester, I was born there and I have lived there for a very long time. If I sang with an Australian accent it would sound silly. There's no point in being false and hiding behind American slurs... I can't do Bohemian Rhapsodies and things like that so there's no real point in trying."

Are the lyrics written as poetry? I suspect...
Morrissey: "Well Johnny presents me with a tune and I slap the lyrics on top. You can call them poetry if you want, a lot of people call them other things. I normally have a speed for the song in mind that relates to the feeling of the lyrics so I'll know whether it's going to be fast, slow, moderate or whatever. But I do write a lot of lyrics. I have whole rooms full of lyrics."

Oh let me get my hands on your mammary glands. Oh you handsome devil.

Morrissey writes intelligent, conversational lyrics about the things you worry about, but with predominant themes of frustration, sex and child molesting (our national sport) will The Smiths ever visit Chartland? Aren't these themes dodgy?

Morrissey: "If you think about it there are a lot of dodgy themes in the charts. Stupidity is such a dodgy theme and it's all over the charts. They're not dodgy to me. I can't see how they should be dodgy to anyone else. Surely it depends on how dodgy your life is. It depends on what your definition of dodgy is."

Are the general public ready for the dodgy Smiths?
Morrissey: "They actually are. They're not used to it but they shall be. That's the problem with the general public, they've all got such long faces. I think we write clever songs with brains behind them - that's probably more dodgy than anything else - Pop music with brains. Anyway I'm ready, Johnny's ready so why shouldn't everybody else be?

"I think I'd like to appeal to the sector of the public that don't normally buy records and don't normally go to gigs."

The Smiths scorn polish lyrically and musically. Morrissey could well be having a word in your ear, Johnny could as easily be playing in your front room. Will the public appreciate this proximity, this familiarity?
Johnny: "They have to be ready for that. As long as we remain discontent with the distanced, alienating music we hear on the radio, we can produce honest, accessible music. I mean we want to be regarded as good musicians and good songwriters foremost, but it just seemed natural for us to write the songs that we were writing 'cos it was what we were missing when we listened to the radio."

I laugh at yours, you laugh at mine and love is just a miserable lie.

How will The Smiths bridge the gap between cult success and mass appeal?
Morrissey: "I think that's always depended on how strong willed you are. If you're easily swayed then down you go. But if you're talking about compromise, I think once you compromise in any direction people don't care about you any more. They'll buy your records but they'll realise your loss of integrity. But if you retain that integrity then they'll keep faith in you."

Johnny: "Once you get to any point of compromise you completely lose the point. All we want to do is reach decent people with decent music on our own terms. If you compromise and the whole purpose for you going into the studio is so you can hear yourself on the radio, then you might as well be a session musician.

"When you become successful, the integrity will remain but we do want to sell loads and loads of records. With the latest studio stuff we're doing some of the songs are commercially viable songs because they're the sort of songs that please our ears, and in some respects that's an advantage. But there's also some stuff with just pedal steel and guitar and voice and if that doesn't fit into any mass commercial bracket then that's tough. I mean that's indicative of how stale the music scene is."

As success catches up with The Smiths will they lose artistic control of their product?
Morrissey: "Well that's what makes me wonder about majors. We've just signed a deal with Sire in America and because of the Rough Trade deal and the control we have over recording and artwork and things there, we wouldn't sign a piece of paper that gave us any less control."

Johnny: "There seems no logic in being in a group, even in forming one, if the things you do and the songs you write are going to be changed. If a producer changes your sound, or the idea of your marketing image is changed, then you might as well be another artist."

Morrissey: "I think the worst thing you can do is listen to other people and that's a trap a lot of people fall into. People always feel obliged to say that you can't do this and you can't do that. I've learnt now not to listen to anyone. I mean why should I? It's the same structure within the group. We do what we want to do and then whatever is going to happen can happen."

I crack the whip and you skip but you deserve it, you deserve it.

Let's talk about this arrogance. How can you be so assured that you will be successful?
Morrissey: "Well the question is why not? We're not going to avoid success. I can't think of any reason why we shouldn't be successful. I think all this anti-success thing is very preconceived and used as a crutch for groups who really have nothing to say. We've had no opposition from the press and the venues we play seem to be getting bigger and bigger.

"Everything has gone completely according to plan. I think we all knew what we wanted to happen and that's happened to an extent. Now it just has to happen for the rest of the country."

Johnny: "...and we want to be really good musicians. We really are concentrating on that. I mean I'm 19, Andy is 19 and Mike is 20 and we want to be the best already. I know for a fact that Andy wants to be number one in bass playing. He really does."

Hand in glove, the sun shines out of our behinds.

Morrissey: "We simply feel that what we do is very worthwhile and has to be heard within the whole structure of music. It has to go as far as it is possible to go. Because other people stretch what they have and many of them have absolutely nothing, yet at the end of the day theirs are the names that are chiselled in people's hearts and theirs are the songs that are on people's lips for better or worse. We've just got a lot of lips to conquer."

Take The Smiths to heart - you're in no position to refuse their flowers.

Reprinted WITHOUT PERMISSION for non-profit use only.

See the original article here


1983: Sept-Oct

 



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