Merchants of Gloom
The Smiths formed in 1982 and were done by 1987, without ever having more than a glancing impact on the U.S. charts. But their status as one of the most influential and adored bands of the last quarter century has only grown since their no-turning-back breakup. And luckily, they were prolific: The group cut four proper albums in just five years, along with a glistening fountain of singles captured on several compilations. Frontman Steven Patrick Morrissey — he dropped the first two-thirds of his birth name early on — became a god to several generations of tender-hearted outsiders, thanks to his melancholy, hyperliterate confessions. But he was also not afraid to verbally eviscerate a fellow rocker, a head of state, his record label, or even (especially) a member of his own band. Songs like ”Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” and ”The Boy With the Thorn in His Side” inspired both misunderstood kids and followers including Elliott Smith, Jeff Buckley, Ryan Adams, and Coldplay. Though Morrissey is often referred to as the Pope of Mope, the band brought something shimmering and transcendent to music. The Smiths may be a bummer, but they’re never a drag.
They had only four studio releases, but the music — and the muses they put on their album covers — was unforgettable
The Smiths (1984)
The foursome’s gorgeous self-titled debut is a sure-footed entry point to their deceptively dancey gothic romance (”Hand in Glove,” ”Pretty Girls Make Graves”).
Hatful of Hollow (1984)
The Smiths took singles seriously, and this disc of non-album tracks — including the definitive ”How Soon Is Now?” — shows how sharp even their leftovers were.
Meat Is Murder (1985)
Morrissey fully embraces his agitprop leanings, standing up for vegetarianism and shouting down child abuse (”Barbarism Begins at Home”).
The Queen Is Dead (1986)
The band at their most emotionally devastating (”I Know It’s Over”) and most playfully sardonic (the record-label kiss-off ”Frankly, Mr. Shankly”).
Strangeways, Here We Come (1987)
Their final album is their most sonically adventurous and thematically diverse, featuring the pop culture touchstone ”Girlfriend in a Coma.”
Louder Than Bombs/The World Won’t Listen (1987)
Two collections — one for the U.S., one for the U.K. — acted as post-breakup send-offs. (See the awesome exit anthem ”Panic.”)
Bands in the Smiths Universe
New York Dolls
A then-teenage Morrissey was the U.K. president of the American glam-rock icons’ fan club, and remains a vocal supporter to this day.
Cult guitarist — and fellow Manchester native — Billy Duffy played with Morrissey in pre-Smiths punk band the Nosebleeds.
Marr changed his name to avoid being confused with drummer John Maher; Joyce also later played in the ‘Cocks briefly.
Producer Stephen Street worked on a number of both bands’ best albums (and collaborated with Moz on his post-Smiths solo debut, Viva Hate).
Marr, who has a home in Portland, Ore., became an unlikely official member of the Northwest indie rockers’ lineup from 2006 to 2009.
Oasis, The The, Beck
Marr also found time to collaborate with artists ranging from U.K. outfit the Cribs to Pharrell and Hans Zimmer on the Amazing Spider-Man 2 soundtrack.
Beastie Mike D’s wife Tamra Davis, who also helmed clips for N.W.A and Depeche Mode, directed 1987’s ”Shoplifters of the World Unite.”
After the Smiths’ demise, Rourke and Joyce began playing with O’Connor — though only Rourke appeared on her breakout 1990 album.
A cinematic sad sack always has a Smiths song to turn to
Pretty in Pink ”Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want”? Poor Duckie (Jon Cryer) doesn’t.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall ””Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” is one of several musical Band-Aids for a brutal breakup.
The Wedding Singer A broken engagement calls for intense doses of ”How Soon Is Now?”
The Perks of Being a Wallflower ”Asleep” soundtracks the lonely days of high school outcast Charlie (Logan Lerman).
By The Numbers
27 Years since the final Smiths gig
Billboard album chart for Oct. 31, 1987:
54 Sting, …Nothing Like The Sun
55 The Smiths, Strangeways, Here We Come (Their Highest U.S. Spot)
56 Alabama, Just Us
$5 Million Amount offered by Coachella to reunite The Smiths in 2006
0 Percent Chance of a Coachella reunion ever happening according to Morrissey, even after he claimed they offered to make the festival 100 percent vegetarian
1 Number of shows played on the group’s first U.S. tour; after Mike Joyce caught chicken pox, the rest were canceled
Bigmouth strikes again: Highlights from the files of the man who never met a public figure he didn’t disdain
1988’s ”Margaret on the Guillotine” excoriated her. He also called her ”a terror without an atom of humanity” when she died.
Queen Elizabeth II
Long a vocal critic of the British monarchy, he compared her to bloody dictators Gaddafi and Mubarak in 2011.
George W. Bush
When Reagan died in 2004, Moz said it should have been GWB. But he’s not partisan; he also called Obama ”useless.”
He dubbed the Cure frontman ”a whingebag.” Smith retorted he would eat meat just to spite him because ”that’s how much I hate Morrissey.”
The Cast of Duck Dynasty
He backed out of a Kimmel booking alongside the clan he called ”animal serial killers” — then started his own feud with Jimmy.
Multiple choice: Is she ”a total lie,” ”absurd and offensive,” or ”closer to organized prostitution than anything else”? Ding! All of the above.
The celebrity chef has ”killed more animals than McDonald’s,” Moz said earlier this year, and thus should be ”gassed” for his crimes.
”I am the son/And the heir/Of a shyness that is criminally vulgar” (”How Soon Is Now?”)
”And if a ten-ton truck/Kills the both of us/To die by your side/Well, the pleasure, the privilege is mine” (”There Is a Light That Never Goes Out”)
”Burn down the disco/Hang the blessed DJ/Because the music that they constantly play/It says nothing to me about my life” (”Panic”)
”Nature is a language/Can’t you read?” (”Ask”)