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The Smiths: biography

The Smiths are regarded as one of the most influential guitar bands of the 1980s. Dark humour and realist lyrics, combined with guitar virtuosity and a powerful rhythm section, made for a formidable team who would change British music forever.


The Smiths were formed in 1982 by Mancunian music fan, Steven Morrissey, a bedroom poet longing to make his mark upon the music scene. John Maher (stage name Johnny Marr) was an already accomplished guitarist. He shared many of Morrissey's passions, indeed it was their shared love of Patti Smith that inspired the band's name. Together they were a slice of normal British life at odds with the pretentious new romantics of the time. After recording demos with various potential band members, Morrissey and Marr finally decided upon Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke. They signed to indie record label Rough Trade and released their first single, Hand In Glove, in the same year.


In 1984, the Smiths released their self titled debut album, which was followed by a slew of non-album singles such as Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now and William, It Was Really Nothing. Already courting controversy, the haunting Suffer Little Children touched upon the raw topic of the Moor's Murders. Although riding high in the UK charts, the band were disappointed with the production of their debut. Their follow-up, Meat Is Murder, was released in 1985, a powerful work which mixed heavy, devastating indie classics like How Soon Is Now with lighter rockabilly and funk in the form of Barbarism Begins at Home and Rusholme Ruffians. 1986 saw the release of perhaps their finest album, The Queen Is Dead. A provocative title, a set of instant pop classics and Morrissey's usual mixture of despair, dry wit and Oscar Wilde-isms, marked this album out as the go-to record of 80s British indie. From the opening barrage of the title track to the fake fade-in of Some Girls are Bigger Than Others, this album was, and remains, a triumph. The final The Smiths album was released as the band parted ways. Money issues and the strains of touring unfortunately tore the band apart. However, not before they could complete Strangeways, Here We Come, an experimental and concise piece, it was a most befitting swan song.


The Smiths body of work exists perhaps as testament to the real 1980s. Although they naturally found inspiration in their favourite artists, they managed to create a sound all their own, much emulated but never bettered. Young, angry and beautiful, they inspired the Britpop movement and made literate, clever pop music fashionable.

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