The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead
OK, The Smiths were the leading post punk band in the mid-80's in the UK in terms of profile and fame. Yet they were hardly the best. To my mind, Fischer-Z, the Psychedelic Furs, the Sound and the Chameleons were far better outfits, and many contributors of all shades seem to agree as regards the Chameleons at least.
So why did the Smiths make it so big? Was it just the right place and the right time or was there something more to it? Well Morrissey played the ass for one thing. With a bunch of gladioli in his back pocket he pretty much stuck two fingers up to the musical establishment and that always went down well. His vocal style was, well let's call it quirky. And he was a showman, no doubt about it. Johnny Marr was a good guitarist when he wasn't bombed out of his skull.
I think it is partly due to the Manchester thing. Bands that came out of Manchester (and in this I mean Greater Manchester) were, by and large, better than those emerging from other places in the UK - Joy Division, New Order, Stone Roses, Oasis (later on) and, yes, the Chameleons. If you were a Mank band you just had to be good. So went the refrain, but I am not even sure if that is true any more.
Were the Smiths good? Well plenty of people will say yes. At the time, they certainly seemed it. But in retrospect I am not so sure. The only truly catchy hook line they ever wrote was for the single "Panic". The quirkiness of their songs made you sit up and take note but that was it as far as I was concerned. Most Smiths fans rate this as the best Smiths album, a view which many seem to share. But I am not even sure of that. Their first could have been the best but was spoilt by crappy production. Meat Is Murder was in my view a better album than this. So I would have to disagree. There is not a single song on this which I would call memorable and there are some ("Frankly Mr Shankly") which are downright awful.
One thing I will say. The picture on the inside cover of them standing outside the Salford Social Club is iconic, and I know of people who have travelled to Manchester just to stand in the same place and have their photo taken. In the same way the iconic photo of John, Paul, George and Ringo walking across that zebra crossing on Abbey Road has inspired legions of copycats, if devotion is a sign of a great album than I suppose this is great. It's just that, I am not so sure.
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