Tag Archives: the smiths

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.

THE SMITHS: How Soon Is Now? (7″, WEA YZ 0002, 1993)

I really like this song, but I am in no way a Smiths aficionado. I only own a couple of their records, and I think I’m slightly younger than those music fans that had a deep and meaningful relationship with their band as they traversed their awkward teenage years. (A combination of hip-hop and indie pop helped me through that time personally, but that’s another story…) As such, I don’t have an extreme and possessive sense of ownership about the Smiths, as seems to be the case with many people of a certain age. But, as I said, I really like this song. This one and ‘This Charming Man’ are my favourite Smiths songs, if that counts for anything: although probably not, as I haven’t heard all of their songs and therefore can’t really state much of a watertight opinion on them as a whole.

This is some kind of reissue single; I presume that the original came out on Rough Trade at some point before 1993? The reason for the reissue seems to be as a promotional device for the Best… compilation that’s none-too-subtly advertised on the rear sleeve. It must be nice for major labels to press up thousands of copies of a record purely to promote another record. It compares strangely to my own experiences of pressing up one thousand records at maximum and finding it to be an incredibly difficult, time-consuming and somewhat stressful job. (But ultimately very fulfilling – even if hundreds of records still reside in my attic waiting for the very slow sales to continue rolling in…)

I’m sure there is an essay or two to be written about the Smiths’ artwork, with its many stills from films of the ’50s and ’60s. A psychology student could no doubt read all kinds of meanings into the significance of the stills as regards their connections with the music. For me, they just look nice, and make me want to see some cool old movies. This one is from Blow Up, is it not? That’s an odd movie. Before explaining the significance of the film in terms of the Smiths’ music, can somebody first explain the meaning of the mime-tennis scene at the end of the film, please?