Single (August 1986). Highest chart position: 11
The Smiths’ triumphant re-emergence as a classic singles group, taking nuclear holocaust, homicidal fantasy and a hefty chunk of “Metal Guru” to the verge of the Top 10.
MANI, THE STONE ROSES: I first saw The Smiths in the early ’80s when they played the Hacienda with my mates’ band La Voyota Lakota. There was a buzz about The Smiths at the time. I was curious to see if they were as good as I’d heard, and was completely blown away. The chemistry between them was really strong and Morrissey seemed an interesting frontman. He didn’t talk much, but he moved around the stage a lot and threw gladioli into the crowd. My mates couldn’t afford flowers so they threw tampons at the audience!
There weren’t many people there because it was a midweek gig and the Hacienda was always empty back then, but it was obvious they had the potential to be a great band. I saw them a couple of times after that and of course, I bought the albums. Like everyone else in Manchester, I was smitten by Johnny’s swagger and confidence, but as a bass player I was in complete awe of Andy. I used to study his riffs and try to work out how he came up with them. He was a definite inspiration to me in the early days of the Stone Roses.
“Panic” is one of the best pop songs of the last 30 years. All my favourite songs usually make me want to dance or sing along and this makes me want to do both. I remember listening to it over and over with a big bag of weed, dreaming of forming a band and doing it myself. The rhythm section is really tight, the melody is tremendous and the lyrics are really witty.
I’ve always seen Morrissey’s songs as great pieces of social satire. Who else would come up with a chorus like “Hang the DJ, hang the DJ, hang the DJ/Because the music that they constantly play/It says nothing to me about my life?” I can’t think of anyone else in the ’80s who wrote songs that reflected my life and my mates’ lives so well. He didn’t grow up in the same area of Manchester, but he spoke to us in our language and completely captured the loneliness of someone who can’t get a girlfriend and is stuck in a bedsit with nothing to look forward to. The fact he managed to make these brilliant statements about poverty, class and growing up in Thatcher’s Britain sound so joyous and uplifting is just astounding.
Over the last few years there’s been a lot of talk about Morrissey being a great British Cultural Icon, but to me the whole band are icons. They saved British music in the ’80s and then we did it again in the ’90s with the Roses.
6 HEAVEN KNOWS I’M MISERABLE NOW
Single (May 1984). Highest chart position: 10
The song that established The Smiths in popular consciousness as moping misery-merchants was ironically their funniest single to date, Marr’s sunny, strummy C&W the perfect foil to Morrissey’s bitchy quips.
KURT WAGNER, LAMBCHOP: The whole of Lambchop are pretty fanatical about The Smiths and the legacy they left behind. I was living in Chicago when they first emerged but I didn’t get them until a year later when I moved to Nashville. I’m always dubious about bands that people are crazy about and The Smiths seemed too poppy and accessible.
The penny dropped one day and I was able to see and hear what it was everyone had been talking about. I started with the first album then gradually bought everything they released. I even bought tickets to see them play Nashville, but they split up during the tour and the show was cancelled. I often wonder what it would have been like if they’d stayed together for just a couple of extra shows…
It would have been wonderful to have lived in England when The Smiths were around. There was a great joie de vivre about the band and I would have enjoyed that. You have such a legacy for singles over there because you have radio stations willing to support and play them. In the States we only have mainstream stations that wouldn’t dream of playing a single by an indie band, especially one named “This Charming Man” or “The Boy With The Thorn In His Side”.
I love both those songs but the one that always cheers me up is “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now”. The moment I hear the opening chords it never ceases to put a smile on my face. Johnny’s guitar tunings sound amazing and the way Morrissey delivers the lyrics is astonishing. The lyrics always strike a deep chord with me too because at the time I was “looking for a job and then I found a job” – and as predicted, I felt thoroughly miserable and depressed. The one highlight of chopping wood all day was getting to go home and listen to music, and whenever I played “Heaven…” it was like the whole band coming together to create this alchemic piece of pop just for me!