Music

20 things you (probably) didn't know about The Smiths' debut album

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Alessia Armenise
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The Smiths self-titled debut was their opening statement of intent, and it’s hard to believe that it was released more than three decades ago, on 20th February 1984. It endured a difficult birth, with rececordings, limited budgets and all the rest, yet still emerged as a fully-fledged classic, loved the world over to this day.

We’ve scoured the archives to find 20 pieces of trivia that you may not know about the creation, the content and the critical reception to this classic record.

  • 1

    The cover photograph features American actor Joe Dallesandro in a still from the 1968 film Flesh, which was produced by Andy Warhol.

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  • 2

    The band orginally recorded the entire album with Troy Tate, former guitarist of The Teardrop Explodes. Despite Morrissey claiming that "we've done everything exactly right and it'll show", they ended up rerecording everything (bar Hand In Glove) with John Porter.

  • 3

    Paul Carrack, who would later find fame with Mike & The Mechanics, played keyboards on the album.

  • 4

    Morrissey has stated that What Difference Does It Make? is one of his least favourite Smiths songs due to his lyrics. He has stated in interviews that he finds them, "facile and mildly embarrassing".

  • 5

    The female laugh heard in Suffer Little Children and saying the line "Oh really?" in Pretty Girls Make Graves is that of Annalisa Jablonska who, according to some sources, was Morrissey's girlfriend at the time of the making of the record.

  • 6

    Many people wonder why The Smiths was not released on legendary Manchester indie label Factory. According to Tony Wilson, he was a massive fan, and a friend of Morrissey's, but as the label at that time was struggling, he said 'I wouldn't be any use to you'. According to Morrissey, Wilson said of Johnny Marr's playing that "all this Byrds stuff has been done and done".

  • 7

    The melody for Reel Around The Fountain came, according from Johnny Marr, from "me trying to play the Jimmy Jones R&B song Handy Man".

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  • 8

    The working title for The Smiths was The Hand That Rocks The Cradle

  • 9

    The initial recording period at Manchester's Pluto Studios with John Porter was just six days - they laid down most of the record in this time. However, Rough Trade then cut a distribution deal with Sire Records, meaning more money was available to flesh out the sound of the album.

  • 10

    The total recording cost of The Smiths was £6,000.

  • 11

    The Smiths entered the UK album chart at number two, beaten by The Thompson Twins. According to a source at Rough Trade who spoke to Morrissey, the record, "would've come in at number one, but we couldn't manufacture the cassettes in time".

  • 12

    Only two of the songs on the original album were released as singles: What Difference Does It Make? (after the album's release) and Hand In Glove (prior to the album's release).

  • 13

    Morrissey told Rough Trade boss Geoff Travis and John Porter that the album "wasn't good enough". Due to the money invested, they had to release it anyway.

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  • 14

    The lyrics for Hand In Glove reference works by playwright Shelagh Delaney and legendary songwriter Leonard Cohen.

  • 15

    Suffer Little Children was played live only once, at The Smiths' first ever gig at The Ritz in Manchester on October 4, 1982.

  • 16

    Neill King, one of the two engineers on The Smiths, is now employed in the wine business in Northern California.

  • 17

    The original tracklisting did not feature This Charming Man, which was released as a single prior to The Smiths' release. It later featured as a bonus track on the cassette version of the album in the UK, and on all American versions.

  • 18

    The version of Hand In Glove on the album was a remixed version of their debut single, which the band produced themselves at Strawberry Studios in Stockport, for the cost of £250.

  • 19

    What Difference Does It Make? was released without a promotional video as Morrissey felt that the video was something that was going to "die very quickly".

  • 20

    Morrissey has stated that the couplet, "Though we may be hidden by rags, we have something they'll never have," from Hand In Glove is his favorite Smiths lyric.

(Images: Rex/AllStar)