The Smiths|The Queen Is Dead|US Remembered
The Queen Is Dead - 1986 - Frankly Mr Shankly The Queen Is Dead - 1986 - Frankly Mr Shankly The Queen Is Dead - 1986 - Frankly Mr Shankly The Queen Is Dead - 1986 - Frankly Mr Shankly The Queen Is Dead - 1986 - Frankly Mr Shankly The Queen Is Dead - 1986 - Frankly Mr Shankly The Queen Is Dead - 1986 - Frankly Mr Shankly The Queen Is Dead - 1986 - Frankly Mr Shankly
The Smiths - The Queen is Dead The Smiths - The Queen is Dead Morrissey The Queen Is Dead
The Smiths - The Queen is Dead
The Smiths - The Queen is Dead Morrissey The Queen Is Dead
The Smiths - The Queen is Dead
"Absolutely No One Saw This Coming..."

1986 was a lonely year in the world of pop music ON THE RADIO. There was no "Alternative" in America. We had to suffer with Jefferson Starship and Journey. All of a sudden this album emerged and demanded an introspection of the self. Sometimes it screamed, sometimes it lulled and other times haunted the senses. In either case it was unforgettable.

The ever forgettable MTV VJ - Mark Goodman said that "Morrissey danced like a penguin and sang like a tortured choir boy..". Yet, this band was technically only together for 5 years but left an indelible impression on pop music and in many ways redefined it.

In an age of country -rap -metal (see KROQ) this album refuses to be ignored. My only complaint with it was that it was entirely too short, (much like the career of this nerve shattering ensemble. CANTU 2011

The Smiths - The Queen is Dead Morrissey The Queen Is Dead
Morrissey The Queen Is Dead Morrissey The Queen Is Dead
Morrissey The Queen Is Dead Morrissey The Queen Is Dead
Morrissey The Queen Is Dead Morrissey The Queen Is Dead Morrissey The Queen Is Dead
Morrissey The Queen Is Dead Morrissey The Queen Is Dead

"William, It Was Really Something..."

"If Anyone has anything clever to say - shout it out now on the jolly BBC, and forever go down in history...." said Morrissey during a live BBC recorded concert. I had this on tape back in the late 80's and then lost it during my many moves across the country.

On it you will hear the audience cheer along dizzingly as they anxiously await each song. The UK audience knew all of the song titles and in many cases had memorized all of the lyrics which in itself is phenomenal. Since the band was basically an underground sensation. I attribute that to the culture of the music scene at that time. Singles were always released in large 33LP speed. On the back you would have a B Side and these would be played in clubs. These would be released sporadically. This created an anxious buzz among its growing fan base. I feel this is what really aided them in their successful climb.

BBC radio personality, John Peel, would have The Smiths on frequently to do live in house sessions. Some of these are available in CD. Peel would did a lot to promote the band on his UK radio show and helped the band considerably with his clout and extremely popular fanbase.

The Reception in The American Midwest

In America this was rather important. American radio stations had literally refused to play anything that was deemed Alternative, (that did not come until much later. A number of bands were grouped together, (PIL, Souixsie and the Banshees and the Cure most notably) in some term called - New Music. The big shots in the record industry did not know how to address it properly. To be fair and honest none of these big selling college bands had anything to do with one another stylistically.

The Smiths fell into that category which was peculiar since they were not a Goth band so they were labled "Post Punk" by the accolades of MTV. That in itself is absurd because The Smiths had nothing to do with the Punk movement. Their melodies were too sensible and if anything they had some really obscure references in their genres, (ranging from thrash, country, rockabilly, and dare I say symphonic).

Two television shows in America were especially helpful in getting the buzz out was, "IRS's Cutting Edge" with host Peter Zaremba, (of the Fleshtones fame) and MTV's 120 Minutes. Both of these shows came on late Sunday nights on MTV in the late 80's. The VJ hosts during the daytime MTV programming slots slammed the release while pushing such forgettable acts as Triumph, Asia, and Jefferson Starship.

I hated music up until the 80's. I didn't understand it. I did not understand Led Zeppelin as a kid, (my obsession with them would come much later in my adult years). I detested Frank Zappa, Ted Nugent, and even when I reached adult age I could not make sense out of Stevie Nicks. It was inane adult schlock. The Clash grabbed my attention and opened the door to new sounds. Then the Smiths came along shortly after. Morrissey cut against all easy listening post hippie rock music because in some ways it was really Anti Rock and Roll.

The lyrics got my attention immediately. I had never read lyrics like this much less heard anyone sing them. I couldn't believe the stuff that was coming from this guys mouth. The Oscar Wilde reference, "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" was the critical turning point for me when it came to making a purchasing decision. I found the track so alluring, multi-dimensional, and haunting that I could not get it out of my head.

Morrissey - in America - The Queen is Dead

"I bought this on cassette. It was released on Sire Records. I also purchased The Cure's, "Starring at the Sea" the same day. Both of these cassettes had a strange odor to them that none of my other tapes had. The paper they used for the packaging actually stunk... It was the oddest thing...."

Cantu - Fall 90 WCBN Interview

The question of sexuality always comes into question. Was Morrissey gay
or was he straight? He was neither and said, " I think about life and I think about death...and neither one particulary appeals to me." What he did effectively was create a mirror for the listener to examine one self introspectively. I always found that blasting this music as loud as it could possibly go as always the best thing to do. Tracks like, "What She Said", "The Headmasters Ritual", "Panic", and of course, "London" evoked a certain angst that a lot of thrash metal couldn't touch.

Oddly, metal bands caught on and the track, "London" was recorded for the 90's metal comedy, "Airheads" staring a then luke warm favorite Adam Sandler.

Manchester, So Much To Answer For....

The depth of, "The Queen is Dead" really speaks about something far more sinister than being abandoned like human trash. Deep down Morrissey was painting a picture of life in the UK and most notably Manchester.

I had read some years ago that as a child, Morrissey, grew up in the same neighborhood where horid child serial killers Myra Hindley and the sadistic Ian Brady. Together they kidnapped and murdered children. After they had killed them and hid their remains in the Moors, (The Famous Moors Murders of the early 1960's). The total of the murders may never be known. Some of the bodies have never been found.

This bothered Morrissey deeply and he never got over the strangeness of it all. The children that were killed were around the same age as him.

When asked if Morrissey would ever leave the UK he didn't hesitate to say - No. As an artist this depressing climate in all aspects, (socio-economic, politically, as well as geographically) gave him a source of inspiration. After the demise of the Smiths he still continued to pull inspiration for new material for his solo career. One can imagine that energetically this place holds a powerful source of co-creation for him.

"The establishment - the Monarchy and the Government don't care as far as I can see. Many of them are of advanced years but they do nothing for old people. People in Britain are dying from poverty and cold because they can't afford heating. Others will never ever work again. But if you say these things people stare at you as if you're mad..."

Morrissey, Talking To
No. 1 Magazine, JUNE 1986

A Most Curious Sound.....

During the track, "Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others" comes the mysterious fade out at 0:12 on the sound board. I have often questioned this to be a mistake or was it really intentional. After nearly 25 years I have not reached a conclusion. I am quite confident now that the execs at Sire and Rough Trade records will take full credit for this blip as an artistic victory. I happen to believe that it was a serious blunder on all parties. I have come to this conclusion because in its infancy any type of Alternative record was not held in the same regard as lets say - an Aerosmith album.

The budgets were smaller. The money was tighter and it very possible and plausible that this glitch in the sound was the result of an error that proved too expensive to fix.

"Sweetness I was only joking when I said you should be bludgeoned in your bed..." or so it goes on, "BigMouth Strikes Again!!" I actually through the lyrics said something to the effect of - "Sweetness I was only joking when I said I wanted to smash green toothpaste in your hair" which is insane when looking back on it. The friggen lyrics were printed inside the cassette box. But the packaging from Sire Records stunk so bad I never bothered to open it up to read the correct lyrics.

When this album was released to CD I ran out and grabbed one of those. To be frank I was quite relieved. Eventually I got the lyrics straightened out.

"Talent Borrows - Genius Steals" **
Oscar Wilde, Irish Writer and Poet

** This was etched into the single LP wax groove for, "Bigmouth Strikes Again"

This was the second fleeting glimpse of The Smiths I got on MTV. The network took their own sweet time putting this into their late night rotation. By the time this hit there was a barage of the "New Music" sounds floating around such as The Jack Rubies, and the Thrashing Doves. It also came out late. The bands final effort, "Strangeways Here We Come" was already out in record shops. The band had also broken apart by then. I always felt that the programmer was getting heat from record executives to put this on. MTV resisted a lot of the change when it came to the Alternative Sound.

However, they didn't waste any time getting into Rap which quickly followed the New Music / Alternative Revolution.... The station switched its format catering to the lowest common denominator - Rap Culture.

The Lasting Effects Of The Album

To this day the album really stands out. The color of dark green and pink Times Roman Type really made a sharp contrast next to the bubble gum bipsy record covers of the same era. The lyrics talked about the dark side of life including death, ( "Oh mother I can feel, the soil falling over my head....) absolute despair, (" last night I had a really bad dream... it lasted 20 years, and seven months and twenty seven days.. no I never had no one... ever") and the chilling goodbye, ("and... if a ten ton truck... kills the both of us... to die by your side ... well, the pleasure, the priveledge is mine"). It wasn't long before big oversized French dorm room posters emerged and plastered the walls of college campuses.

Morrissey - in America - The Queen is Dead

"After hearing the album in it's entirety I played it again, and again and again because I found it so unusual. But mainly because I couldn't pick out the melody to the theme track.

The thrashy guitar and wah wah of the song confused me and I found the track unmemorable. It commanded another listening. Honestly, I had never heard anything like it and had nothing to compare it to."

Cantu 1989 - WCBN Interview

Still, it was a lonely year for music of this type in America in the year of its release in 1986. The only place to hear this was really in two different places. You had to go listen to it in the clubs or you had to go to someones dorm to find somebody who was tuned into this sound. Radio was horrible and wouldn't go near this. Even as late as 1987 bar bands wouldn't even play this music in college bars. They would actually play Neil Young and Seals and Crofts!

"I hated this post hippy movement in Ann Arbor. You had these left overs from 1974 who were running around in homemade clothing pontificating over the joys of baking wheat bread. They resisted all change. I hated the way they looked, the way they smelled and their entire ideology and fiscal belief system... As more alternative bands started to emerge you got to see less and less of these types in clubs.. but it took a lot of the "New Music" and new thinking to get them out."

REM saved the day in 1987 when they came out with the IRS release, "Document" and they played the Ann Arbor Crisler Arena. Local radio stations started to give in and put REM, INXS and even Echo and the Bunnymen into their rotation. The CULT was another club favorite so they would see the light of day as well but when it came to the Smiths they were at least getting some play on WCBN which is based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. They were non-existent on mainstream radio and it would be that way for years to come.

This has to sound absolutely absurd by todays standards. Every college bar band that caters to mainstream academia has a few Smiths songs in their repetoire but back in 1897-1988 we only had one in Ann Arbor, Michigan -- and that was a little known band named, Mission Impossible. This band was a life saver because it showed me that there were signs of intelligent life out there. We didn't have to sit in some rank pub and have to suffer through the warbling of Jefferson Starship singing, "We Built This City, (On Rock and Roll) or the latest from the ever forgettable Go West and Terence Trent D'Arby singles.

As a youth I would travel with a band of hooligans and we would crash beer bashes in fraternity houses to hear them play. Sometimes we had to steal fake U of M ID's to get in. Other times I had to crawl through an open window. This went on for a good solid two years.

Mission Impossible gave me hope in the 80's and so did MTV's Peter Zaremba. Somewhere, out there, someone was listening to the same sounds I was and being greatly affected by them. As a rising Art Director I really paid attention to see if this was being grasped in the Art World. After travelling back and forth to Chicago, (for the International Art Expo) and Manhattan, (to see the SOHO scene of 89') I was assured that it was.

Meanwhile back at home in the Mid-west it was catching on slowing in certain pockets of people. Finally more clubs started playing the Smiths such as the Nectarine Ballroom and by 1989 you could find them on CD juke boxes in bars like the 8 Ball Saloon where it has since become a mainstay in the playlist as a classic rock selection. Its standard fare.

In 1987 the unthinkable happened and the Smiths disbanded. They released, "Strangeways Here We Come" (a cultural nod to Strangeways Prison) and the Morrissey released, "Viva Hate" in the Spring of 1988, (also known as - Education in Reverse - in the UK). The Alternative sound broke wide open during this period and it was like a music tidal wave. All of a sudden all of these bands were accepted by commercial radio and the public alike. Everybody went from cult status to worldwide mainstream.

During this time all of these bands toured through Michigan in rapid succession including INXS, The Pogues, Souixsie, PIL, Husker Du, The Dead Milkmen, Black Flag, Echo and the Bunnymen, REM, The Pixies, The Mighty Lemon Drops, The Damned, The Circle Jerks, X, The Replacements, Depeche Mode, Love and Rockets, The Cure, The Buzzcocks, Billy Idol, The Cult, The Butthole Surfers, Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Robyn Hitchcock, The Exploited, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and a whole lot more.....

And this is important. All of these bands that toured through the state during this time was playing during the absolute peak. It was the best time to see them perform. This was also a chance to see these bands with their original members. Some bands like the Dead Mlikmen, Replacements,INXS, Echo and the Bunnymen and Red Hot Chili Peppers actually lost key members in their bands through tragic death. So I got a chance to see the best performances from all the original members of these acts.

On many levels the rush of music in such a condensed time frame was unprecedented. As far as Michigan and particulary Ann Arbor this type of music revolution has never occured again since.

The Smiths came through Detroit and played at the Fillmore in the summer of 1986 and thats located to the Fox Theater. Back in those days it was named, The State Theater. I was not in attendance because at the time I was not acquainted with them and did not know their music. I did not start listening to them extensively until the fall of 1986.

Keep in mind that because of the lack of radio and television media support it was hard to connect with other people who followed them. They were in most respects - obscure. Do not forget that their audience were incredibly self absorbed and introspective so getting someone to open up and discuss them was another hurdle.

The Queen is Dead - has been nominated to be one of the best 100 recordings of all time. It has gone down in history as a cultural icon in the face of Modern Rock Music.

I wanted all of the other Smiths albums to sound like this one but none of them did. Each release before and after had their own unique sound. Oddly, I didn't like any of them initially. They had to grow on me. I wanted to hear more tracks off the same theme as this album. Yet -- thematically and musically none of them could touch this in its entirety.

That is why it will always remain one of a kind, special, and it is trapped in a moment in time. Even after all of this time I cannot imagine another album taking its place and quite frankly none of them have.


"Walk Past The Pub That Wrecks Your Body... and The Church, All They Want
Is Your Money - The Queen is Dead Boys And It's So Lonely On
A Limb... Life Is Very Long -- When You're Lonely..."

Home :: The Queen Is Dead :: Strangeways Here We Come :: Louder Than Bombs :: Rank - Live :; The Moors Murders in Art ::
England Is Mine - Morrissey Film :: Linder Sterling
:: Morrissey at Royal Oak Music Theater ::

©2020 Hot Metro Finds, LLC, All rights reserved