“William, It Was Really Nothing” is a song by British band The Smiths. It was released as a single on 20 August 1984, featuring the B-sides “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want” and “How Soon Is Now?”, and reached number 17 in the UK Singles Chart. The song is featured on the compilation albums Hatful of Hollow and Louder Than Bombs as well as other best of and singles collections. In 2004 the song was ranked number 425 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.
The original artwork depicted comes from an early 1980s advertisement for A.D.S. speakers (the object on the bed is a speaker). For legal reasons, later pressings were produced with new artwork, a lilac-tinted still of Billie Whitelaw from the film Charlie Bubbles, directed by Albert Finney. The sleeve for the 1988 CD single reissue shows Colin Campbell from the 1964 film The Leather Boys. This artwork had previously been used in Germany for the single “Ask”.
When the band performed the song on Top of the Pops, Morrissey ripped open his shirt to reveal the words “MARRY ME” written on his chest (“Would you like to marry me?” is one line of the song).
“What Difference Does It Make?” is a 1984 single by British band The Smiths. The single version can be found on the band’s self-titled debut album The Smiths. A different version recorded for the John Peel Show on BBC Radio One is featured on the compilation album Hatful of Hollow.
Morrissey has stated that “What Difference Does It Make?” is among his least favourite Smiths songs. However, it became one of the band’s first significant chart hits, peaking at No. 12 in the UK.
The song is recognised by the opening riff by guitarist Johnny Marr and the falsetto by Morrissey towards the end of the song.
The character Ray Smith in the Jack Kerouac novel, The Dharma Bums, repeatedly says “What difference does it make?” as well as “Pretty Girls Make Graves.”
“This Charming Man” is a song by the English rock band the Smiths, written by guitarist Johnny Marr and singer/lyricist Morrissey. It was released as the group’s second single in October 1983 on the independent record label Rough Trade. The song is defined by Marr’s jangle pop guitar riff and Morrissey’s characteristically morose lyrics, which revolve around the recurrent Smiths themes of sexual ambiguity and lust.
Feeling detached from and unable to relate to the early 1980s mainstream gay culture, Morrissey wrote “This Charming Man” to evoke an older, more coded and self-aware underground scene. The singer explained of the song’s lyrics, “I really like the idea of the male voice being quite vulnerable, of it being taken and slightly manipulated, rather than there being always this heavy machismo thing that just bores everybody.”
Although only moderately successful on first release—the single peaked at number 25 on the British singles chart, “This Charming Man” has been widely praised in both the music and mainstream press. The single was re-issued in 1992, reaching number 8 on the UK singles chart (making it the Smiths’ biggest UK hit by chart position). In 2004, BBC Radio 2 listeners voted it number 97 on the station’s “Sold on Song Top 100” poll. Mojo magazine journalists placed the track at number 1 on their 2008 “50 Greatest UK Indie Records of All Time” feature. It has also reached Silver status in the UK.
“There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” is a song by the British alternative rock group The Smiths, written by singer Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr. It was originally featured on their third album The Queen Is Dead (1986). The song was released as a single in France in 1987, but in other territories – including the United Kingdom – was not released as a single until 1992, five years after The Smiths split up. It reached number 25 on the UK Singles Chart. Morrissey released a live version of the song as a double A-side with his cover of Patti Smith’s “Redondo Beach” in 2005 – this version reached number 11 in the UK charts. The song has received considerable critical acclaim, and is viewed by some[who?] as one of the greatest songs of all time.
“That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore” is a song by British alternative rock band The Smiths. It appears on the album Meat Is Murder, the sole track from the album to be released as a UK promotional single. The song was composed by guitarist Johnny Marr and singer Morrissey.
The track has been cited by Marr as one of his favourites of The Smiths’.
The song’s narrative alludes to mockery of the lonely or suicidal, whom the narrator identifies with and champions in an exchange in a parked car. Disparity between literal and figurative meanings in some of the lyrics discourage a precise reading of the song. A sexual liaison “on cold leather seats” has been said to be sketchily implied. (Morrissey has been quoted as finding leather car seats “highly erotic”.)
The song’s waltz-time related signature and Marr’s rhythm guitar, with strident chord changes (as exemplified by the song’s opening figure), lend the music a sweeping emotive feel. The song’s structure is notable for its uncommon ABCBC form. (Musically, the first verse is never repeated.)
“Sweet and Tender Hooligan” is a song by The Smiths, recorded in 1986, and released as a single in May 1995 by their American record company Sire Records. It was released to promote the compilation album Singles.
Whereas WEA in Europe opted to re-issue the 1986 “Ask” single to promote Singles, Sire thought it wiser to put out a single containing rarities, even though none of them featured on the actual compilation, as neither “Sweet and Tender Hooligan” itself nor its supporting tracks had been previously released as a single. The title track had previously been recorded for the BBC and included on the 1987 compilation Louder Than Bombs and the 12″ of “Sheila Take a Bow”; “I Keep Mine Hidden”, “Work Is a Four-Letter Word” and “What’s the World?” were previously hard-to-find B-sides to earlier singles “Girlfriend in a Coma” and “I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish” (both 1987).
The lyrics describe the lenient sentencing of a hooligan, with the narrator sarcastically taking the side of the criminal, saying “and he’ll never ever do it again / of course he won’t / not until the next time”.
“Suffer Little Children” is a song by the English rock band The Smiths, that was included on their eponymous debut album in 1984. The song is about the Moors murders that took place on Saddleworth Moor, which overlooks Manchester, between 1963 and 1965. At the time of their murders many of the victims were only a few years older than Smiths’ frontman Morrissey (b. 1959), who wrote the lyrics of the song after reading a book about the murders, Beyond Belief: A Chronicle of Murder and its Detection by Emlyn Williams. It was one of the first songs that Morrissey and Johnny Marr wrote together.
After the song was re-released as the B-side of the single, “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now”, the Manchester Evening News reported that relatives of the Moors murder victims had taken exception to the lyrics, in which three of the victims are mentioned by name. Some newspapers also claimed that the single’s sleeve photo of pools winner Viv Nicholson was intended to resemble Myra Hindley.
Subsequently the high street chains Boots and Woolworths withdrew both the album and single from sale. However, Morrissey later established a friendship with Ann West, the mother of Moors victim Lesley Ann Downey, after she accepted that the band’s intentions were honourable.
Although five children were murdered in the Moors case, only three are named in the song: John Kilbride (“oh John you’ll never be a man”), Lesley Ann Downey (“Lesley Ann with your pretty white beads”), and Edward Evans (“Edward, see those alluring lights”). The murders of Keith Bennett and Pauline Reade were not attributed to Myra Hindley and Ian Brady until 1985, after “Suffer Little Children” had already been released.
The title of the song is a phrase found in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 19, verse 14, in which Jesus rebukes his disciples for turning away a group of children and says:
Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.
“Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before” is a 1987 song by The Smiths.
The Smiths’ song, written by the usual combination of Morrissey and Johnny Marr, came out on the group’s 1987 album Strangeways, Here We Come.
The song was originally supposed to be released as a single and a music video was filmed by the director Tim Broad, and opens with a picture of the poet Oscar Wilde hanging on a brick wall, and features scenes of the group-iconic Salford Lads Club and surrounding areas being bicycled through by the lads and friends. Because of a reference to “plan a mass murder” in one lyric it was banned from daytime airplay by the BBC because of the then recent Hungerford massacre, so the band decided not to release it in the UK, however it was released in various other regions including North America, Europe, Australia and Japan.
“Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before” was subsequently included on the compilation album Stop Me and on The Very Best of The Smiths. The song is also included in the music game Rock Band 3.
The cover of the single is a picture of British actor and singer Murray Head from a film still of the 1966 film The Family Way (a movie that would also be the source of the photograph on the cover of I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish). There are four different versions of the cover, each tinted a different colour (red, orange, blue and grey) depending on the region.
“Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others” is a song by The Smiths, recorded in autumn 1985 and first released on their 1986 album The Queen Is Dead. It was also released as a single in Germany.
As with every original Smiths recording, the music of “Some Girls” was composed by Johnny Marr and the lyrics were written by Morrissey. The recording was given a distinctive intro by engineer Stephen Street, who increased the reverb on the drums, faded the track in then out again, and took the reverb back off when reintroducing the song: “A bit like opening a door, closing it, then opening it again and walking in”. The lyric paraphrases Johnny Tillotson’s 1962 single “Send Me the Pillow That You Dream On”, and broadly references the 1964 comedy Carry On Cleo (“Oooh, I say”).
“Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others” was played live only once, at the final concert by The Smiths, at Brixton Academy, London, on 12 December 1986. The performance, which included a verse not used in the studio version, was recorded and later featured as a B-side on the 12-inch and cassette edition of the “I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish” single in November 1987.
Amateur footage of the entire concert has since appeared online.
“Shoplifters of the World Unite” is a song by The Smiths. It was released as a single in January 1987, reaching No. 12 in the UK Singles Chart. As was often the case with Smiths singles, it did not appear on an original studio album. It can be found on the Louder Than Bombs, Singles, The World Won’t Listen and Sound of The Smiths compilations.
Another newly completed song, “You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby”, was originally intended to be the A-side of this single. The single even made it to the white label test pressing stage and approximately 900 stock copies of the single were manufactured before the proper single was issued. This aborted single mix can be heard on the UK compilation The World Won’t Listen, while the song was later remixed for the American compilation Louder Than Bombs.
The title alludes to the communist slogan “Workers of the world, unite!”, and the 1966 David and Jonathan hit ‘Lovers of the World Unite’. The sleeve features a photograph of a young Elvis Presley that was taken by James R. Reid.
During a 1987 interview with Shaun Duggan, Morrissey explained the meaning of the song as follows: “It’s more or less spiritual shoplifting, cultural shoplifting, taking things and using them to your own advantage.”
Musically the song bears a strong resemblance to the T.Rex song “Children of the Revolution”. Both Morrissey and Johnny Marr are Marc Bolan fans, and Marr has admitted in an interview that the melody for a previous Smiths single, “Panic”, was copied from “Metal Guru”.
The heavy metal band Pist.on recorded a cover of “Shoplifters of the World Unite” on their 1996 album Number One.
South African band Sugardrive covered the song on a 2002 holiday album. The Santa Sessions.
Morrissey has said that this is his favourite Smiths song. He has frequently played it live since 1995.
“Sheila Take a Bow” is a song by The Smiths. It was released as a single in April 1987, reaching No. 10 in the UK Singles Chart, the highest chart placing in their career during the band’s lifetime.
The production of the single was troublesome. Morrissey’s original idea was to bring back Sandie Shaw to be a second vocalist on the track. Shaw had earlier collaborated with The Smiths on two tracks in 1984—re-recordings of “Hand in Glove” and “I Don’t Owe You Anything”. However, when Shaw arrived to record with The Smiths on 13 December 1986, Morrissey called in sick. Shaw was a bit “frantic”, according to Mike Joyce, and she had to call up Morrissey to get the song’s melody. She recorded her vocals, but her version was ultimately scrapped. She also later explained that she “thought it was a horrid song”, and scoffed at the notion of being a backing singer.
The early version of the track, produced by John Porter, was deemed unsatisfactory by the band. It featured a prominent sitar-sounding riff and can be found on many “unreleased/demo” bootleg compilations. The single was re-recorded with Stephen Street as producer. Street’s version scrapped the sitar and used a brief audio clip of a marching temperance band from the film Hobson’s Choice (a movie that is referenced in the etchings of the single “Bigmouth Strikes Again”) in the song’s intro. A music video was to be filmed, but Morrissey refused to show up for the taping at Brixton Academy.
It was one of the band’s many “between album” singles (the last of four in a row), not having natural home on any of the studio albums. It was, however, featured on the Louder Than Bombs compilation released the same year.
The single’s two B-sides, Peel Session versions of “Is It Really So Strange?” and “Sweet and Tender Hooligan”, are also featured on Louder Than Bombs.
A German CD was issued with the tracks from the UK 12″ as well as “Panic” and the tracks from the UK 12″ for previous single “Shoplifters of the World Unite”. The seven tracks on this CD make up the first seven tracks on Louder Than Bombs.
The brass band music at the beginning is sampled from the 1954 film Hobson’s Choice.
The single’s cover features actress Candy Darling from the film Women in Revolt (1971). Candy Darling was a trans woman and part of Andy Warhol’s entourage.
“Shakespeare’s Sister” is a non-album single by British band The Smiths, released in March 1985. It first appeared on albums in 1987 via the Louder Than Bombs and The World Won’t Listen compilations. Rock writer Jon Savage described it as “essentially a suicide drama set to a demented rock’n’roll rhythm.”
Its title refers to a section of Virginia Woolf’s feminist essay A Room of One’s Own in which Woolf argues that if William Shakespeare had had a sister of equal genius, as a woman she would not have had the opportunity to make use of it. In reality, William Shakespeare had four sisters but the only one who survived past the age of eight was Joan. Sean O’Hagan says that Woolf’s essay was “one of the many feminist texts Morrissey embraced as a sexually confused, politically awakened adolescent.”
According to Simon Goddard the lyrics also draw on Elizabeth Smart’s novella By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept and the minor Billy Fury song “Don’t Jump”. The song’s narrative has been compared to the play by Tennessee Williams ‘The Glass Menagerie’.
The original single’s sleeve featured Pat Phoenix, best known for her long-running role as Elsie Tanner in the UK TV series Coronation Street.
The song reached number 26 in the UK Singles Chart.
The band Shakespears Sister [sic] took their name from the song.
“Panic” is a song by the British indie rock band The Smiths, released in 1986 and written by singer Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr. The first recording to feature new member Craig Gannon, “Panic” bemoans the state of contemporary pop music which “says nothing to me about my life”, and ironically implores its listeners to “burn down the disco” and “hang the blessed DJ” in retaliation. The song was released by Rough Trade Records as a single and reached number 11 in the UK Chart. It was later released on the compilation albums The World Won’t Listen and Louder Than Bombs. The song “…extended The Smiths’ unorthodox tradition of releasing a non-album A-side” of a single.
“Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me” is a song by The Smiths. It was released as a single in December 1987, reaching No. 30 in the UK Singles Chart.
It was the group’s final single in the United Kingdom (barring re-issues) and was the last of three UK singles from the band’s album Strangeways, Here We Come. The song was edited for the seven-inch single release, losing the introduction found on the parent album. The introduction consists of a piano playing against a backdrop of crowd noises from the miners’ strike. The 12-inch single release contains the full-length version.
The cover of the single featured a picture of the 1950s and 1960s-era British singer Billy Fury.
At different times Johnny Marr and Morrissey have cited this as their favourite Smiths song.
“I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish” is a song by The Smiths. It was released as a single in November 1987, reaching No. 23 in the UK Singles Chart.
It was the second of three UK singles from the band’s last studio album Strangeways, Here We Come, and was released after the band had announced their split. The record company had originally intended to release “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before” as a single in the UK but felt this would be inappropriate following the Hungerford massacre (the lyrics contain a reference to “mass murder”).
“Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before” was still released as a single in other countries, but its promotional video—which featured Morrissey plus a large number of Morrissey lookalikes—was used in the UK to promote “I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish”.
The track features an outtake during the fade-out at the end, with Morrissey asking “Okay Stephen [Street, the producer] shall we do that one again?”
The cover of the single features actress Avril Angers in a film still from the 1966 film The Family Way (the film is also the source of the photograph on the cover of the single “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before).
“How Soon Is Now?” is a song by the British alternative rock band The Smiths. Written by Smiths singer Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr, it was originally a B-side of the 1984 single “William, It Was Really Nothing”. “How Soon Is Now?” was subsequently featured on the compilation album Hatful of Hollow and on US, Canadian, Australian, and Warner UK editions of the group’s second album Meat Is Murder (1985). It was belatedly released as a single in the UK in 1985, where it reached number 24 on the UK Singles Chart.
Sire Records chief Seymour Stein called it “the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ of the Eighties”, while co-writer Johnny Marr described it as “possibly our most enduring record. It’s most people’s favourite, I think.” Despite its prominent place in The Smiths’ repertoire, it is not generally considered to be representative of the band’s style. Although a club favourite, “How Soon Is Now?” did not chart as well as expected. Most commentators put this down to the fact that the song had been out on vinyl in a number of forms before being released as a single in its own right. The original track runs for nearly seven minutes; however, the 7″ single edit cut the length down to under four minutes. The complete version is generally used on compilations. The song has been widely praised for, among other things, the artistry of its lyrics.
A cover of the song by Love Spit Love was used in the soundtrack for the 1996 film The Craft and later appeared as the theme song of the television series Charmed for eight seasons.
“Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” is a single by British alternative rock band The Smiths that reached number ten on the UK Singles Chart in June 1984 before its inclusion on the compilation album, Hatful of Hollow. It is listed as one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
The music was written by Johnny Marr in an hour in a New York hotel room on 2 January 1984, on a red Gibson ES-355 guitar that was bought for him that day by Seymour Stein. After finishing the song he then wrote the music for b-side ‘Girl Afraid’ the same evening, and considers the two songs ‘a pair’.
The song is notable for marking the beginning of producer Stephen Street’s working relationship with the band. As one of his first roles as “in-house engineer” at Island Records’ Fallout Shelter studios, Street engineered the session. He was well aware of the band and excited by the prospect, saying in a HitQuarters interview, “I’d seen them just shortly beforehand on Top of the Pops doing ‘This Charming Man’, and like most other people around that time who were into music I was really excited by them.” Street says his enthusiasm must have rubbed off on Morrissey and Johnny Marr because they would take his name and number. Although not contacted for the subsequent recording “William, It Was Really Nothing”, he was asked to engineer their next album, Meat Is Murder, with Morrissey and Marr producing for the first time.
The cover features Viv Nicholson, who became famous in 1961 in the UK for winning a large amount of money on the football pools and then rapidly squandering it. The song’s title was inspired by Sandie Shaw’s 1969 single “Heaven Knows I’m Missing Him Now”; coincidentally, the Smiths had just backed Shaw on her version of “Hand In Glove”, which was issued only one month previously.
The single was the subject of some controversy upon its release due to its B-side, “Suffer Little Children”, which is about the Moors murders between 1963 and 1965. The band’s performance of the song on Channel 4’s Earsay on 31 March 1984 features mixed footage of the band playing in a studio and footage of Morrissey walking around some wasteland in Manchester, with gladiolus flowers in his hands and the back pocket of his trousers.
“Hand in Glove” is a song by the British alternative rock band The Smiths, written by singer Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr. It was released as the band’s first single in May 1983 on independent record label Rough Trade Records. “Hand in Glove” peaked at number three on the UK Indie Chart. It did not chart (top 75) but made number 124 outside the UK singles chart. A remixed version of the song was featured on the band’s debut album, The Smiths, in 1984. That same year, a cover version recorded by singer Sandie Shaw featuring Smiths members Marr, Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce as backing musicians reached number 27 on the UK Singles Chart.
“Girlfriend in a Coma” is a song by The Smiths. It was released as a single in August 1987, reaching No. 13 in the UK Singles Chart.
The track was the first of three UK singles from the band’s last studio album Strangeways, Here We Come. As such, it was the last single to include newly recorded material on the B-side. It holds the distinction of containing the last recorded Smiths song, “I Keep Mine Hidden”. Also included—and recorded at the same session—is a cover version of a Cilla Black song, “Work Is a Four-Letter Word”.
“The Boy with the Thorn in His Side” is a song by British alternative rock band The Smiths. It appears on their third album The Queen Is Dead, but was released as a single (albeit in a different mix) several months before, reaching no. 23 in the UK Singles Chart in autumn 1985.
This was the first single by The Smiths to be accompanied by a promotional video, something the band had previously resisted. The Smiths also performed this song on an episode of the British television programme Top of the Pops.
The jumping man on the cover of the single release is a young Truman Capote.
Margi Clarke asked Morrissey if this song was inspired by Oscar Wilde, and Morrissey replied: “No, that’s not true. The thorn is the music industry and all those people who never believed anything I said, tried to get rid of me and wouldn’t play the records. So I think we’ve reached a stage where we feel: if they don’t believe me now, will they ever believe me? What more can a poor boy do?”
The chief difference between the single version and the one appearing on the album The Queen Is Dead is in the use of synthesised strings. They are largely absent from the single version, only appearing in the song’s coda.
“Bigmouth Strikes Again” is a song by The Smiths. It appears on their third album The Queen Is Dead and was the lead single from the album, reaching No. 26 in the UK Singles Chart in 1986. It was also the closing song on The Smiths’ only live album, Rank.
Since the break-up of The Smiths, Morrissey performed the song live in 2004, and included it on his album Live at Earls Court (2005). Johnny Marr sang and played guitar in it on a Later With Jools Holland TV broadcast in June 2013.
“Ask” is a song by The Smiths. It was released as a single in October 1986, reaching No. 14 in the UK Singles Chart. As with most of The Smiths’ singles, it was not included on an original album. It can be found on the compilations The World Won’t Listen and Louder Than Bombs as well as the live album Rank, where it is introduced as the band’s new single. The UK cover shows Yootha Joyce on the set of the 1965 film Catch Us If You Can. The song features Kirsty MacColl on backing vocals. In 1995, the single was reissued, reaching No. 62 in the UK Singles Chart.
There are two versions of this song. The version that appears on the single releases and the album The Very Best of The Smiths fades out slightly sooner and has the vocal track lasting until the end of the song. The backing vocals in this version are also mixed differently and are louder. The version that appears on all albums (save for the one listed above) fades out later (though the end of the track is audible, albeit at a very low level) and has the vocal track ending before the fade begins.
Craig Gannon, one-time rhythm guitarist for The Smiths has stated that he came up with some of the guitar part for “Ask” during his short stint as a member of the band:
“Me and Johnny were sat in the library playing acoustic guitars and they must have been miked up as we were probably putting down the acoustic tracks for ‘Panic’. I just started playing the chord sequence which would later become ‘Ask’ in exactly the way it appears on the record. Johnny then joined in playing the same… I then forgot about the idea and left it at that… Johnny must have played Morrissey this idea or given him the recording I already mentioned. I was completely surprised as we were now recording this for the next single. The only section of the chord structure that I didn’t come up with for ‘Ask’ was the middle eight section with the chords E-minor, D and C. That was actually what Johnny came up with. All the way through the song there is an overdub with me and Johnny sat around a mike with acoustics, playing a riff that he came up with towards the end of the recording of the song. That is a great riff and a real hook but it was still just an overdub and I felt the song was nearly complete without it. Up until the release of ‘Ask’ I still thought I’d be given a writing credit. When I found that I wasn’t given a writing credit, it didn’t really bother me, but I thought it was pretty bad that no one even acknowledged that it was my idea in the first place.”