The Smiths were an English rock band formed in Manchester in 1982. Based on the songwriting partnership of Morrissey (vocals) and Johnny Marr (guitar), the band also included Andy Rourke (bass) and Mike Joyce (drums). Critics have called them one of the most important alternative rock bands to emerge from the British independent music scene of the 1980s, and the group has had major influence on subsequent artists. Morrissey's lovelorn tales of alienation found an audience amongst youth culture bored by the ubiquitous synthesizer-pop bands of the early 1980s, while Marr's complex melodies helped return guitar-based music to popularity.
The group were signed to the independent record label Rough Trade Records, for whom they released four studio albums and several compilations, as well as numerous non-LP singles. Although they had limited commercial success outside the UK while they were still together, and never released a single that charted higher than number 10 in their home country, The Smiths won a growing following, and remain cult and commercial favourites. The band broke up in 1987 amid disagreements between Morrissey and Marr and have turned down several offers to reform since then.
The Smiths were formed in early 1982 by Steven Patrick Morrissey, an unemployed writer who was a big fan of the New York Dolls and briefly fronted punk rock band The Nosebleeds; and John Maher, a guitarist and songwriter. Maher changed his name to Johnny Marr to avoid confusion with the Buzzcocks drummer, and Morrissey performed solely under his surname. Marr had previously been in the band Freak Party along with former Patrol drummer Simon Wolstencroft and bassist Andy Rourke, and Marr and Rourke had previously worked together in The Paris Valentinos along with actor Kevin Kennedy.. After recording several demo tapes with Wolstencroft (later of The Fall) on drums, Morrissey and Marr recruited drummer Mike Joyce in the autumn of 1982. Joyce had formerly been a member of punk bands The Hoax and Victim. As well, they added bass player Dale Hibbert, who also provided the group with demo recording facilities at the studio where he worked as a factotum. However, after two gigs, Marr's friend Andy Rourke replaced Hibbert on bass, because neither Hibbert's bass playing nor his personality fit in with the group.
The band picked their name in part as a reaction against names used by popular synthpop bands of the early 1980s, such as Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Spandau Ballet, because they considered these names fancy and pompous. In a 1984 interview Morrissey stated that he chose the name The Smiths "...because it was the most ordinary name" and because he thought that it was "...time that the ordinary folk of the world showed their faces." Signing to indie label Rough Trade Records, they released their first single, "Hand in Glove", in May 1983. The record was championed by DJ John Peel, as were all of their later singles, but failed to chart. The follow-up singles "This Charming Man" and "What Difference Does It Make?" fared better when they reached numbers 25 and 12 respectively on the UK Singles Chart. Aided by praise from the music press and a series of studio sessions for John Peel and David Jensen at BBC Radio 1, The Smiths began to acquire a dedicated fan base.
Throughout the group's existence, Morrissey and Johnny Marr dictated the musical direction of The Smiths. Marr said in 1990, "[I]t was a 50/50 thing between Morrissey and me. We were completely in sync about which way we should go for each record". Encyclopedia Britannica comments that the band's "non-rhythm-and-blues, whiter-than-white fusion of 1960s rock and postpunk was a repudiation of contemporary dance pop" which was popular in the early 1980s. The band's music purposefully rejected synthesizers and dance music.
Marr's jangly Rickenbacker guitar-playing was influenced by The Byrds, Neil Young's work with Crazy Horse, George Harrison and James Honeyman-Scott of The Pretenders. Marr often tuned his guitar up a full step to F# to accommodate Morrissey's vocal range, and also utilised open tunings. The guitarist devoted his focus to the production of the group's music. Citing producer Phil Spector as an influence, Marr said, "I like the idea of records, even those with plenty of space, that sound 'symphonic'. I like the idea of all the players merging into one atmosphere".
Musically, Morrissey's role in the band was to create vocal melodies and lyrics. Morrissey's lyrics, while superficially depressing, were often full of mordant humour; John Peel remarked that The Smiths were one of the few bands capable of making him laugh out loud. Influenced by his childhood interest in the working-class social realism of 1960s "kitchen sink" television plays, Morrissey wrote about ordinary people and their experiences with despair, rejection and death. While gloomy "...songs such as 'Still Ill' sealed his role as spokesman for disaffected youth", Morrissey's "manic-depressive rants" and his "'woe-is-me' posture inspired some hostile critics to dismiss the Smiths as 'miserabilists.'"
All video content is provided by Youtube, and any questions, comments, or concerns regarding such content should be directed to Youtube