Friday, May 15, 2009

The Smiths: Documentary

In early 1982 Morrissey met Johnny Marr, a guitarist and songwriter; the two began a songwriting partnership. Marr, whose real name is John Maher, changed his name to avoid confusion with the Buzzcocks drummer, and Morrissey performed solely under his surname. After recording several demo tapes with future Fall drummer Simon Wolstencroft, they recruited drummer Mike Joyce in the autumn of 1982. As well, they added bass player Dale Hibbert, who also provided the group with demo recording facilities at the studio where he worked as a factotum. However, after two gigs, Marr's friend Andy Rourke replaced Hibbert on bass, because neither Hibbert's bass playing or personality fit in with the group. Signing to independent record label Rough Trade Records, they released their first single, "Hand in Glove", in May 1983. The record was championed by DJ John Peel, as were all of their later singles, but failed to chart. The follow-up singles "This Charming Man" and "What Difference Does It Make?" fared better when they reached numbers 25 and 12 respectively on the UK Singles Chart.[15] Aided by praise from the music press and a series of studio sessions for John Peel and David Jensen at BBC Radio 1, The Smiths began to acquire a dedicated fan base. In February 1984, the group released their debut album The Smiths, which reached number two on the UK Albums Chart.
In 1984, the band released two non-album singles: "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" (the band's first UK top-ten hit) and "William, It Was Really Nothing" (which featured "How Soon Is Now?" as a B-side). The year ended with the compilation album Hatful of Hollow. This collected singles, B-sides and the versions of songs that had been recorded throughout the previous year for the Peel and Jensen shows. Early in 1985 the band released their second album, Meat Is Murder. Meat Is Murder was the band's only album (barring compilations) to reach number one in the UK charts. The single-only release "Shakespeare's Sister" reached number 26 on the UK Singles Chart, although the only single taken from the album, "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore", was less successful barely making the top 50.
During 1985 the band completed lengthy tours of the UK and the US while recording the next studio record, The Queen Is Dead. The album was released in June 1986, shortly after the single "Bigmouth Strikes Again". The record reached number two in the UK charts. However, all was not well within the group. A legal dispute with Rough Trade had delayed the album by almost seven months (it had been completed in November 1985), and Marr was beginning to feel the stress of the band's exhausting touring and recording schedule. Meanwhile, Rourke was fired from the band in early 1986 due to his use of heroin. Rourke was temporarily replaced on bass by Craig Gannon, but he was reinstated after only a fortnight. Gannon stayed in the band, switching to rhythm guitar. This five-piece recorded the singles "Panic" and "Ask" (with Kirsty MacColl on backing vocals) which reached numbers 11 and 14 respectively on the UK Singles Chart, and toured the UK. After the tour ended in October 1986, Gannon left the band. The group had become frustrated with Rough Trade and sought a record deal with a major label. The band ultimately signed with EMI, which drew criticism from the band's fanbase.
In early 1987 the single "Shoplifters of the World Unite" was released and reached number 12 on the UK Singles Chart. It was followed by a second compilation, The World Won't Listen, which reached number two in the charts – and the single "Sheila Take a Bow", the band's second (and last during the band's lifetime) UK top-10 hit. Despite their continued success, personal differences within the band – including the increasingly strained relationship between Morrissey and Marr – saw them on the verge of splitting. In July 1987, Marr left the group, and auditions to find a replacement for him proved fruitless.
By the time the group's fourth album Strangeways, Here We Come was released in September, the band had split up. The breakdown in the relationship has been primarily attributed to Morrissey's annoyance with Marr's work with other artists and to Marr's growing frustration with Morrissey's musical inflexibility. Strangeways peaked at number two in the UK but was only a minor US hit, although it was more successful there than the band's previous albums.


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