19 BACK TO THE OLD HOUSE
B-side to “What Difference Does It Make?” (January 1984)
A poignant take on nostalgia. Although the full band played on the B-side version, it’s best heard on Hatful Of Hollow, where Marr’s reverbed finger-picking perfectly frames Morrissey’s moving account of childhood longing.
BILLY BRAGG: When we were recording Talking With The Taxman About Poetry, and we were up in Wood Green with [producer] John Porter. Johnny was there, too. In fact, The Smiths came in and recorded “Panic” for a couple of days in between. I did “Greetings To The New Brunette” with Johnny and Kirsty [MacColl]. Later, Johnny did “Sexuality” with me. There’s a demo of it on the second boxset – it sounded like “Louie Louie”. But then Johnny came along and played all these beautiful, glistening chords. He took it and made this shining pop vehicle. He raised the bar. But this was the song that convinced me that Morrissey and Marr were geniuses. I love it because the tune is to die for and the lyric manages to convey in two verses what it takes me five verses and a trumpet solo to say in “The Saturday Boy”.
18 HAND IN GLOVE
Single (May 1983). Highest chart position: 124
A magnificent debut: Marr’s clarion harmonica intro purposefully echoes The Beatles’ similarly auspicious start, while Morrissey sings with the rapture of a man released from a decade of solitary confinement.
MIKE JOYCE: I had a dream the other week. Myself, Johnny, Andy and Morrissey were in a rehearsal room. We’d decided to reform and put our differences aside. Morrissey asked what we should open the set with. At exactly the same time, in stereo, Johnny and I said “Hand In Glove”. We all burst out laughing. I suppose my reasoning was because it was the first record we ever made. Then I woke up with a jolt. I never realised you could put words in other people’s mouths in a dream. But for two people to say something at exactly the same time was disturbing. It was strange – the sort of dream that stays with you for a few days.
Once we’d heard it all come together in the studio, it added to our self-belief. We weren’t arrogant, it was more a feeling of pride. I remember looking at Morrissey – and him looking at me – and we both had the same knowing smile. He couldn’t contain his joy. It was like, “How great was that?”
This was the first record I’d played on that I’d have gone out and bought. I recall listening back to it over speakers for the first time and being shocked. I thought I’d just recorded the best record I’d ever heard in my life. I’d heard Johnny’s guitar-playing in rehearsals, but I couldn’t get over the layering and thickness on playback. And I’d never heard a record that faded in and faded out. It nearly made me physically sick. The immensity and beauty of it was amazing. All the hard work – the times Morrissey and I stood outside the rehearsal room in the freezing cold, waiting for Johnny to turn up with the key – paled into insignificance. Suddenly, I realised we had something special.
17 RUBBER RING
From the 12” of “The Boy With The Thorn In His Side” (September 1985)
Morrissey’s acknowledgement that his most profound love affair is between him and his audience, here pleading not to be outgrown or forgotten. Marr’s slinky orchestration, meanwhile, conjures up a profoundly English rock’n’roll.
PRESTON, THE ORDINARY BOYS: Obviously everyone knows Morrissey is a great lyricist, but his unique singing style is underrated. On “Rubber Ring” he sings a weird, polyrhythmic counterpoint to the guitar part and it’s incredible, unlike anything that had come before. I got into The Smiths retrospectively. My brother bought me the 12” single of Morrissey’s “Boxers” for my 11th birthday and I became obsessed with that, so I was a Morrissey fan first, before I found out he had been in this other band called The Smiths. For me, it was like discovering The Beatles. One of The Ordinary Boys’ first ever TV appearances was on Later… With Jools Holland and Morrissey was stood five feet away from me singing “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”. It was the most incredible experience.