Great Rock Albums of 1986: The Smiths- The Queen is Dead

The-Queen-is-Dead-cover

Reflecting on the tour of 1986 thus far, I find myself wondering if I should have done this year a little different. Most of you know by now that I divide each year up into rock albums and metal albums with some hopefully interesting news and tidbits from said year in between. However, I could have divided 1986 up another way, 80smetalman in the US for the first eight months and 80smetalman in Britain for the final four months of the year. See, it was in August of that year, I left the US to come to the UK for a year’s study at Queen Mary College in London. It was when I arrived in the UK, I first learned about The Smiths.

My initial experience of The Smiths wasn’t through their music. Actually, it was the cover of their previous album, “Meat is Murder.” It seemed that many British students were buying posters of the album cover to decorate their dorm walls or displaying it on t-shirts. It was enough to capture my curiosity and check the band out more. Fortunately, there were many British students who were very obliging in helping me fulfill this quest.

220px-MeatMurder

This cover was very popular around Queen Mary College in 1986

The Smith’s second album, “The Queen is Dead” gave me the education I needed to understand what post-punk really meant. It’s nowhere near The Sex Pistols but there is a rock vibe that I appreciate very deeply. Furthermore, I detect and like the humour in the lyrics of the songs on the album. “Frankly, Mr Shankly” is definitely one of those songs. I can identify with those who use humour as a mechanism when confronted with serious subjects.

But sometimes I feel more fulfilled

Making Christmas cards with the mentally ill.

Also some lyrics from “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” gives some great amusement:

And if a double-decker bus crashes into us,

To die by your side is such a heavenly way to die.

See what I mean?

“I Know It’s Over” and “Never Had No One Ever” are both supposed ballads but neither are soppy or power ballads. The former is about an ended relationship and I can feel the pain in Morrissey’s vocals as he sings it. On the other hand, “Cemetry Gates” and “Bigmouth Strikes Again” are more in the lines of what the post punk I was being introduced to at the time. What really amazed me about the latter song was that it was released as a single and got to 26 in the UK charts. When I learned that, my reaction was, “That would not have happened in America.”

Saying that, “The Boy With the Thorn In His Side” did even better reaching number 23! Listening to it, I can hear the why it would make a good single at the time, with guitarist Johnny Marr playing some other instruments like the marimba on it. But I also get the spirit of the lyrics about a boy growing up around all the hate.

Back to humourous lyrics, the all out winner and my choice for hidden gem is “Vicar in a Tutu.” Did Morrissey see something alarming as a youth? Not that it matters because I do like the song, not because of the funny lyrics but the strong rock beat on it. The more I listen to “The Queen is Dead,” the more I admire the musicianship of the rest of the band.

Track Listing:

  1. The Queen is Dead
  2. Frankly Mr Shankly
  3. I Know It’s Over
  4. Never Had No One Ever
  5. Cemetry Gates
  6. Bigmouth Strikes Again
  7. The Boy With a Thorn In His Side
  8. Vicar In a Tutu
  9. There is a Light That Never Goes Out
  10. Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others

smiths

The Smiths

Morrissey- lead and backing vocals

Johnny Marr- guitar, marimba, synthesized strings, harmonium

Andy Rourke- bass

Mike Joyce- drums

It would be wrong to say that The Smiths was my introduction to music in the UK. I had already become immersed in the great British metal bands. But what they did do was to open my eyes as to great alternatives to the UK pop scene. This album helped.

Next post: The Cure- The Head on the Door

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Responses to “Great Rock Albums of 1986: The Smiths- The Queen is Dead”

  1. It’s actually their third or fourth album (depending on whether you count Hatful of Hollow or not). I think it’s their best record, although I don’t really like ‘Never Had No One Ever’.

    Liked by 1 person

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