From The Ultimate Music Guide to The Smiths: “When Morrissey speaks, he nurses the side of his head with a sensitive hand as if he were trying to soothe some nagging pain or ease out the words by the soft persuasion of his gentle fingers. He frequently creases his brow and looks worried, yet rarely have I met a man so confident, so convinced by the worth of his own demanding mission.
“Looking out across a cruel landscape, he sees himself ushering in a new form of beauty; a defiant but sensual challenge to everything that is wasted and ugly. He recalls his teenage years as a period of misery and emptiness and, now that he has finally conquered a depression that seemed never ending, he wants us to share in his triumph, be inspired by his example.”
November 1983. In the pages of the Melody Maker, this is how Ian Pye begins the first extensive interview with The Smiths, timed to coincide with the release of “This Charming Man”. Much that follows establishes the delirious formula that so many subsequent Morrissey interviews would expand upon.
“People are dedicated to us because we deserve it,” he tells Pye. “We try. Our reception hasn’t surprised me at all, in fact I think it will snowball even more dramatically over the immediate months – it really has to. I feel very comfortable about it, and I’m very pleased. It’s all quite natural because I really think we merit a great deal of attention.”
Thirty-three years later, and 30 years on from the release of “The Queen Is Dead”, those words – the optimistic hyperbole of many young British indie bands, but delivered with the eloquence that has frequently earned the singer a free media pass for decades – turned out to be unusually prophetic. “The Queen Is Dead” has long been anointed one of the greatest albums of all time (Number 8, in Uncut’s most recent round-up back in January), and their potent combination of extraordinary music and compelling interviews make The Smiths the perfect subject matter for the latest in our series of upgraded, updated and generally improved Ultimate Music Guides. The Smiths Ultimate Music Guide is on sale Thursday, but you can order a copy now from our online shop.
Beyond Ian Pye’s 1983 opening salvo, there’s a glut of amazing Morrissey and Marr interviews in our deluxe mag: Allan Jones cornering Moz in Reading around the first album and discovering, “In the very, very serious and critical things in life, one is absolutely alone”; waspish verdicts on Madonna and Prince; politics galore (“The sorrow of the Brighton bombing is that Thatcher escaped unscathed.”); everything from the unknown Morrissey’s letters to NME, right up to 21st Century confessions in Rome, where he discusses attention from the FBI, the menu at Elton John’s wedding and how he’s “not celibate and I haven’t been for a very long time…”
For this new edition, we’ve added pieces on the most recent Morrissey and Marr albums to the comprehensive Smiths and solo reviews section, considered the merits of Moz’s literary excursions, and added a deep and contentious survey of The Smiths’ 30 best songs.
“The image The Smiths provoke is so strong,” Morrissey told Pye in a return match a year on. “It does provoke absolute adoration or absolute murderous hatred. There are people out there, I know, who would like to disembowel me, just as there are people who would race towards me and smother me with kisses.”
Today, it’s truer than ever. But for those of you who still want to smother Moz with kisses, or at least wallow in the pleasure of those remarkable albums once in a while, our Smiths Ultimate Music Guide is pretty essential. Then, perhaps, you really will have everything now…