The importance of The Smiths

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For some reason, whenever I hear about the whole alternative thing n America, (You know, Nirvana hitting it big, blah blah), they always mention all the things that lead up to it, and I would constantly hear things like, "Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., Pixies, Smiths", were the big ones. I dont understand at all how the Smiths fit in there, but people always mention them. I mean, Im a child of the 90s, so I wasnt there, but were the Smiths an influence at all? And they werent really alternative were they? Weren't they huge in England?

David Allen, Saturday, 2 November 2002 01:58 (seventeen years ago) link

The Smiths really don't figure into it. I don't believe Cobain was a fan.

Alex in NYC (vassifer), Saturday, 2 November 2002 02:16 (seventeen years ago) link

You may find this thread useful: The Smiths - Classic or Dud

DJ Martian (djmartian), Saturday, 2 November 2002 02:45 (seventeen years ago) link

The Smiths were of vast underground importance in America during the 80s. I think it's interesting that of the list you list, The Smiths are the only BRITISH band, hence your confusion. They were probably the tip of the iceburg of the massive college radio anglophile explosion of the 80s - also see bands like Echo & The Bunnymen and Bauhaus/Love & Rockets. Once bands like Depeche Mode and the Cure had crossed over and gone Top 40, they acted as gateway drugs for a lot of people sucked into college/underground music.

kate, Saturday, 2 November 2002 10:04 (seventeen years ago) link

As things turned out, I'm not even sure they were important in Britain.

Tom (Groke), Saturday, 2 November 2002 10:28 (seventeen years ago) link

Tom, tom, tom, tom tom ! How can you say that ! In the mid-to late 80s in Britain, the Smiths really were all we had. The only 'alternative' group to get anywhere near TV, TOTP, the charts, and the only credible opposition to the era of parents buying their old records on CD and cluttering the airwaves with recharged old bands post-Live Aid. It's a cliche and all that, but when my contemporaries at school were buying "Brothers In Arms" and rolling up their jacket sleeves a la Phil Collins and Level 42, the Smiths were mighty.

And then there's the influence. Noel Gallagher, the Stone Roses, Blur, to name three that spring straight to mind, have all been quoted as naming the Smiths (if only Johnny Marr) as inspirations to get up and play in a band.

Darren, Saturday, 2 November 2002 11:20 (seventeen years ago) link

Plus, no Morrisey comments in the press about racism = no Boyzone and Steps comments in the press about how we should bring back public lynchings. Mozzer iz tha O.G.

Daniel_Rf, Saturday, 2 November 2002 13:05 (seventeen years ago) link

can you quantify importance in general?

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Saturday, 2 November 2002 13:35 (seventeen years ago) link

yes: 10 = v.important, 5 = middling, 0 = quite unimportant

mark s (mark s), Saturday, 2 November 2002 13:41 (seventeen years ago) link

The Smiths were kinda huge in 1980s Britain, but they were also "alternative" and oppositional. They were purveyors of classic pop in an era when pop had gone shite.

DV (dirtyvicar), Saturday, 2 November 2002 13:46 (seventeen years ago) link

People in the know were INTO The Smiths. Critically adored. Revered by most of their peers. Passionate cult following. It wasn't the size of the audience. It was the fervor of the fans.

Nirvana... please. The Nirvana/Cobain thing is a media creation. Name one person outside a frathouse or outside the media who truly gave a damn about Nirvana after In Utero was released? {Don't really answer that question, Nirvana fans, if you even exist.}

Most Smiths fans were deep into My Bloody Valentine or 4AD during the so-called reign of Nirvana.

DK Pub, Saturday, 2 November 2002 14:10 (seventeen years ago) link

Most Smiths fans were deep into My Bloody Valentine or 4AD during the so-called reign of Nirvana.

Ha ha, you've called me on it. But that was indeed also alternative culture. alternative music culture (with purposeful little A) neither began nor ended with Nirvana. Though Alternative certainly did. Many of those MBV fans also loved Sonic Youth and Dino Jr, but felt betrayed and compromised by Alternaculture (c) as represented by Nirvana.

kate, Saturday, 2 November 2002 14:21 (seventeen years ago) link

''yes: 10 = v.important, 5 = middling, 0 = quite unimportant''

hehe, have you got into grading things mark (you on a xgau trip?).

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Saturday, 2 November 2002 14:26 (seventeen years ago) link

i am the nu-dean

mark s (mark s), Saturday, 2 November 2002 14:32 (seventeen years ago) link

Darren, I think Tom's thinking of dance music, hip-hop and arguably even New Labour - all ultimately outstripped the Smiths' legacy in terms of *importance* judged by mass of people.

robin carmody (robin carmody), Saturday, 2 November 2002 14:37 (seventeen years ago) link

Kate, those are very good points. I like your ideas about "Alternaculture (c)". Quite interesting and dare I say, OTM.

Formerly DK, Saturday, 2 November 2002 14:50 (seventeen years ago) link

Nirvana > 4AD

sundar subramanian (sundar), Saturday, 2 November 2002 17:34 (seventeen years ago) link

To somebody way at the top of this thread: I do enjoy Echo and the Bunnymen

Also, 4AD... wasn't that the record label with the Pixies on it...? I know a lot of good Brittish bands were on it (and no, it wasnt the Pixies label, that's just how I know it)

David Allen, Saturday, 2 November 2002 17:36 (seventeen years ago) link

The Smiths are one of my favourite bands ever and of incredible personal importance. But I think their general importance can be greatly overestimated: even the guitar rock which has hit big in Britain since they split seems to owe very little to the way they approached it.

Tom (Groke), Saturday, 2 November 2002 18:51 (seventeen years ago) link

True, Tom, but given how Oasis opened the floodgates and how the Gallaghers were open Marr disciples, there's a connection to be made...

Ned Raggett (Ned), Saturday, 2 November 2002 21:26 (seventeen years ago) link

Oh yeah they're not completely irrelevant or a total cul-de-sac and they're the sort of band which everyone in a Brit guitar-pop band has heard so in that sense, yes, important - but not as important as maybe you might have guessed if you'd been a fan at the time. Not on the Stone Roses or Jam level (though Lord knows I know which I'd prefer to hear).

Tom (Groke), Saturday, 2 November 2002 21:38 (seventeen years ago) link

(in response to the question waaaaaaay at the top of the thread):

"Im a child of the 90s, so I wasnt there, but were the Smiths an influence at all?"

If you're talking about an influence on British UK indie-rock, most definitely. But if you're talking about Nirvana/American indie-rock, I'd have to say probably not. Most Americans didn't identify with Morrissey's British wit. His lyrics are pretty friggin' indecipherable to us Yanks. If you ask me, the four primary influences on American indie rock were the Replacements, R.E.M., Dinosaur Jr., and Sonic Youth.

"And they werent really alternative were they?"

No. They weren't. They're only called that because they put their records out on an independent label.

"Weren't they huge in England?"

I think so.

Evan, Saturday, 2 November 2002 21:51 (seventeen years ago) link

It's funny. I detested them at the time. I remember virtually foaming at the mouth at that TOTP flowers-in-the-pocket appearance, but I find them more interesting now, certainly with the lyrical themes etc.

David (David), Saturday, 2 November 2002 21:58 (seventeen years ago) link

rascist bigot wanker fag from salford manchester?they're big for reasons unnknown....cobain was more of a john lennon fan...sod off to the smiths...joy division is the pinnacle of cool.

esiotrot, Sunday, 3 November 2002 00:10 (seventeen years ago) link

Actually, now that I think about it, there's definitely something going on with any number of American bands now -- at least if they're *whisper it* emo...

Ned Raggett (Ned), Sunday, 3 November 2002 00:39 (seventeen years ago) link

The Smiths were the band the cool kids liked. Thankfully, I was one of the cool kids. Twas grand, me thinks. Later, we gravitated to bands like The Pixies, My Bloody Valentine, and ilk like that. The dorky kids had Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and other shit...

I was that bastard in your school who wore a Smiths shirt every day to class. I wrote "Morrissey" on the board before the teacher arrived. I was the fellow who wrote the birth and death dates of Ian Curtis on the board. Sue me, but The Smiths are certainly up there above the all the bands you mentioned. ILM, it seems.

Quite obvious long-time poster, Sunday, 3 November 2002 00:53 (seventeen years ago) link

esiotrot: So Morrissey was a "wanker" - that's tough talk; "fag" - gosh that's problematic for an artist! "from salford manchester" - what a character defect! "racist bigot" - highly debatable point - see previous threads on the subject. Besides, you hold up Joy Division as "the pinnacle of cool" yet they were far more guilty of flirting with racism to get their image across, were they not? Err, that name?? "...reasons unnknown [sic]" - So you really don't know why people might have taken to The Smiths. Says it all.

Daniel (dancity), Monday, 4 November 2002 12:48 (seventeen years ago) link

or maybe it was a witty ruse and got irritated for no reason

Daniel (dancity), Monday, 4 November 2002 12:53 (seventeen years ago) link

I agree with Tom.

I remember Morrisey saying in an early interview that rock music was basically dead, in that there was nowhere else for it to go but to keep reinventing previous versions of itself, but that he had found the last little corner of the culture that could genuinely be 'new'. or words to that effect.

It was precicely the uniqueness of the Smiths' approach - and in particular, it's effete, sensitive, poetic, 'old England' 'take' on the contemporary 'alternative' themes of urban bleakness, imminent apocalypse/individual isolation - that made it matter to so many of us.

And it was for precisely those reasons that it was also a dead end. The only ways in which the Smiths had a lasting influence (yes, Johnny Marr's Byrdisms) were those that could 'fit' with a re-entrant rockist conservative macho suffering guitar god 'alternative' music that is really indistinguishable from the mainstream. in other words, Morrisey was right.

jon (jon), Monday, 4 November 2002 13:19 (seventeen years ago) link

''I remember Morrisey saying in an early interview that rock music was basically dead, in that there was nowhere else for it to go but to keep reinventing previous versions of itself, but that he had found the last little corner of the culture that could genuinely be 'new'.''

you can't a lot of this seriously really.

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Monday, 4 November 2002 13:23 (seventeen years ago) link

only half-seriously, we're talking about pop music after all.

jon (jon), Monday, 4 November 2002 13:59 (seventeen years ago) link

I'd (also) agree with Tom - they're rather more important on a personal level than any massive influence they've had.

The only band I can think of who actually sounded like they were influenced by the Smiths were the Wedding Present. It's hard to imagine David Gedge's long song titles and conversational Northern 'wit' without Morrissey.

James Ball (James Ball), Monday, 4 November 2002 15:07 (seventeen years ago) link

''only half-seriously, we're talking about pop music after all.''

a distinction between rock and pop and indie required. thanks.

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Monday, 4 November 2002 15:18 (seventeen years ago) link

"indie" = 5 letters; "rock" = 4 letters; "pop" = 3 letters

Dan Perry (Dan Perry), Monday, 4 November 2002 15:30 (seventeen years ago) link

=> oi

mark s (mark s), Monday, 4 November 2002 15:49 (seventeen years ago) link

.

mark s (mark s), Monday, 4 November 2002 15:50 (seventeen years ago) link

mark- acn you rate them please.

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Monday, 4 November 2002 16:20 (seventeen years ago) link

The Smiths are being made into cartoon characters for a documentary about the band. They've also interviewed Curly Watts from Coronation Street, which I initailly thought was barrel scraping, but it turns out that he was once in a band with Jonny Marr.

Anna (Anna), Monday, 4 November 2002 16:40 (seventeen years ago) link

If anything, you at least got to give props to the Smiths for all those "collectable" re-issues they released. I knew a bunch of Moser-heads that spent a pretty penny collecting all those retreads. ¥

christoff (christoff), Monday, 4 November 2002 16:44 (seventeen years ago) link

there was nowhere else for [rock] to go in other words, Morrisey was right.

Sonic Youth?
MBV?

Chewshabadoo (Chewshabadoo), Tuesday, 5 November 2002 06:01 (seventeen years ago) link

If anything, you at least got to give props to the Smiths for all those "collectable" re-issues they released. I knew a bunch of Moser-heads that spent a pretty penny collecting all those retreads. ¥

What, no double pack, photograph, extra track or tacky badge? We wuz had!

Charlie (Charlie), Tuesday, 5 November 2002 06:10 (seventeen years ago) link

James Ball: The only band I can think of who actually sounded like they were influenced by the Smiths were the Wedding Present.

I'd include The Sundays here as well -- at least on their first album. A lot of bands tried the jangly-Marr guitar route, but Gavurin's playing appears to me as a sort of refinement to this style. Meanwhile, Wheeler's take on Englishness in her lyrics are somewhat akin to Morrissey's, although I wouldn't necessarily postulate direct in***ence.

OleM (OleM), Tuesday, 5 November 2002 12:33 (seventeen years ago) link

twelve years pass...

The penguin classics autobiography cracks me up whenever i see it. I was an intern at penguin but before. Wish i could have sat in on a meeting when they were debating which imprint the book should be published under

Treeship, Saturday, 6 December 2014 18:14 (five years ago) link

It wasn't a debate: Morrissey insisted on the 'penguin classics' livery, when they tried to issue it on a more 'ahem, fitting' cover he had a mini-fit and withdrew permission and was going to take it some other publisher, so they acquiesced.

(I'm not an insider, that's from news-stories from around the time)

Mark G, Monday, 8 December 2014 10:24 (five years ago) link

lol that's the worst thing i've ever heard about morrissey

difficult listening hour, Monday, 8 December 2014 18:15 (five years ago) link

Between "fits" I can only imagine he is fidgeting in a chair somewhere looking at the clock.

Evan, Monday, 8 December 2014 19:18 (five years ago) link

five years pass...

If it hadn't already been done to death, I'd have launched a Smiths website. But too many already. So I decided instead to launch a website around the music of two other great songwriters - Cathal Coughlan and Sean O'Hagan. On https://coughlanohagan.com/, I think I'm building up something worthwhile. Hope you enjoy it.

weirwrite, Saturday, 23 May 2020 06:52 (four days ago) link

weishite

buzza, Saturday, 23 May 2020 07:12 (four days ago) link

*If it hadn't already been done to death*

Pity you didn't exercise the same restraint by not bombing loads of threads completely unnecesarily (and making me think The Smiths were getting back together).

Maresn3st, Saturday, 23 May 2020 08:10 (four days ago) link

Was hoping they were obit bumps

What fash heil is this? (wins), Saturday, 23 May 2020 08:17 (four days ago) link

not a good time for garbage fansites with "cough" in the title ... way too soon!

calzino, Saturday, 23 May 2020 09:00 (four days ago) link

Guy's doing a great job of making people hate Cathal Coughlan and Sean O'Hagan.

Is Lou Reed a Good Singer? (Tom D.), Saturday, 23 May 2020 09:04 (four days ago) link

Can't believe this thick cunt wasn't banned the first time around

come out you melts and bams (Noodle Vague), Saturday, 23 May 2020 09:09 (four days ago) link

weirshite too

come out you melts and bams (Noodle Vague), Saturday, 23 May 2020 09:10 (four days ago) link

when a spamming cunt can't even be bothered to spam the right threads they are beyond beyond contempt

calzino, Saturday, 23 May 2020 09:15 (four days ago) link

oh I see they spammed the appropriate thread 2 months ago to no avail

calzino, Saturday, 23 May 2020 09:20 (four days ago) link

I must admit, as a fan of Cough Lanohagan, linking them to the Smiths is doubly irritating.

Is Lou Reed a Good Singer? (Tom D.), Saturday, 23 May 2020 09:23 (four days ago) link

Suggests the poster hasn't quite grasped what Lanohagan is all about.

Is Lou Reed a Good Singer? (Tom D.), Saturday, 23 May 2020 09:28 (four days ago) link


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