3:02 pm Mar. 4, 2011
Like many, I suppose, I was a little shocked to be reminded that this June will be the 25th anniversary of the Smiths' album The Queen Is Dead.
While I don't share Hugo Lindgren's shock that it should not be considered by Mojo, which produced a giant tribute package in honor of the anniversary, the band's best album, it is the first one I had the pleasure of waiting for, and the most dramatic and surprising departure they ever made—and after it, there was little Smiths that I really loved, at least when it came out.
It's not that I was a died-in-the-wool fan already when the album came out, but I'd heard the song "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want" on the Pretty In Pink soundtrack album, and it caused me to root out (an expensive!) import copy of the Smith's Hatful of Hollow. The next weekend record-store trip turned up Meat Is Murder, and that was it: my new favorite band, probably for five years running. I had everything that could be had, I think, by June, and wanted more.
Digging around a bit as one does, this afternoon I found Stephen Holden's quick review of the album in the paper's Pop & Jazz Guide for July 11, 1986:
Pop Album of the Week: The Smiths - ''The Queen Is Dead'' (Sire). Morrissey, the singer-songwriter and driving force behind this British folk-rock quartet, pushes romantic introspection to new extremes of morbid testimony on the Smiths' latest album. ''There Is a Light That Never Goes Off'' imagines ''the pleasure and privilege'' of dying beside a loved one in a car crash. In ''Bigmouth Strikes Again,'' the singer compares himself to Joan of Arc, and ''Cemetery Gates'' contrasts Keats and Yeats unfavorably with Oscar Wilde. The rich, haunting guitar textures and Morrissey's intense, droning vocals create a mood so thick with gloom it can almost be cut with a knife. But a countercurrent of sardonic humor keeps the drama from becoming too deadly serious.
Actually, it's "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out."
So, here are some (pre-Johnny Marr exit, pre-Queen Is Dead) Smiths to help you get back the feeling of waiting for the album back then, followed by the album's opening track.
And here is the first track you'd have heard when you tore open the plastic on The Queen Is Dead. I feel like I cried then. I had it very loud.