THE SMITHS: I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish (12″, Rough Trade RTT 198, 1987)

The Smiths – I Started Something I Couldn't Finish

The Smiths are, for me, an odd band. I’ve got a few of their records, but I’d never really describe myself as a fan. Whenever I hear any of the vast majority of their songs, I’m reminded that I like them, and ‘This Charming Man’ and ‘How Soon Is Now’, in particular, I really like. Yet still, I’d never really describe myself as a fan. I’m not sure why this is, but I’ve an inkling that the root of the problem is… Morrissey.

His singing voice often threatens to slip into self-parody, and the way he carries himself has always been kind of a bother. His questionable use of the Union Jack, and more so, his vocal support of Brexit, set him out as somebody who clearly has a very different worldview to me – to put it kindly. Obsessive Smiths fans are a weird phenomenon, too, although I used to enjoy seeing Morrissey-haircutted groups of scrawny lads hanging about in town.

‘Sleeve by Morrissey’, it says on the back of this 12″, and I guess that for all his faults, at least Moz had a certain sense of style or what would now be referred to as ‘branding’. The Smiths’ record sleeves were unfailingly good things – very simple, very effective, very consistent in their approach, and a pleasing connection between sound and image.

On this cover is Avril Angers, in a still from The Family Way from 1966, which I haven’t seen but have just read about. It starred John Mills, grandfather of Kula Shaker’s Crispian Mills, so there’s a six-degrees-type connection between The Smiths and Kula Shaker, if you want one. Despite it being a ‘sleeve by Morrissey’, there are also credits for Caryn Gough (layout) and Jo Slee (art co-ordination), which perhaps brings to mind an Apprentice-style scene with Morrissey sitting next to trained experts, telling them how to do their job. What fun.

According to Wikipedia, Morrissey fronted Slaughter & The Dogs in the late 1970s, which I didn’t know – and which I’m not quite sure is true? He was also a huge New York Dolls fan, which makes me warm to him. A little.

2 thoughts on “THE SMITHS: I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish (12″, Rough Trade RTT 198, 1987)”

  1. It’s an interesting area: can you like music by people whose views you disagree with or even find abhorrent? A friend of mine at college in the 80s was into Blitz, a sub-Joy Division band who had evolved out of the Oi! skinhead scene. That they allegedly held some pretty unsavoury views was a barrier I could never quite get over.

    As far as The Smiths go, they were one the key bands of the early-mid 80s for me, alongside New Order, Cocteau Twins, The Cure and the Bunnymen. However, as time has gone on, I’ve found that The Smiths’ music has stood out more and more, perhaps due an ever-growing appreciation of just how unique they were, musically and culturally.

    1. I feel the same way about New Order, out of that list – their 80s output in particular just sounds better and better to me as time moves on.

      I don’t think I could get over a band/musician having really unsavoury views, and look beyond those views to enjoy their music. Skrewdriver could be musically brilliant but I’ll never know as I don’t want to even give them the listening time of day.

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