Friday, March 18, 2011

Compilation! "The Smiths - The Songs That Saved Your Life"



THE SMITHS
THE SONGS THAT SAVED YOUR LIFE

I put this together largely as a response to The Sound of the Smiths, a rather hapless two-CD Smiths compilation that exists as a single-CD 'greatest hits' collection, no better or worse than any of the others, and a 'special edition' that adds a second disc, a rather random mix of vaguely 'rare' stuff and sundry tracks from here and there. It doesn't make that much sense, really. Which is a pity, because it'll probably be the last time The Smiths' legacy is exploited on the CD format...

Oh, who am I kidding? There'll be others. As long as humans have ears, Warners will periodically find new ways to repackage The Smiths' recorded output (and now that EMI has gone under and will probably be hoovered up by WB, Morrissey's too). The Smiths' legacy is so compact though - there are only eighty or so songs (many in different versions, it should be mentioned), but probably half of everything they recorded is 'essential'. I thought that if you put together two full CDs of Smiths material, you'd probably have 40 songs - in other words, more or less half of everything they ever did. What does that make it? Not a 'greatest hits' or an 'introduction'. Not the completed works either, though. So let's call it a 'restrospective'. Whatever you call it, it makes a great collection, even if it would, were it to actually exist, be just another cynical repackaging job. Still, in the interests of true cynicism, I've included three previously-unreleased 'alternate versions'. And a tacky badge.

CD ONE
  1. HAND IN GLOVE album version. (3:23) Produced by the Smiths, remixed by John Porter. From the Rough Trade album The Smiths, ROUGH61, February 1984.
  2. WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE? Peel Session version. (3:11) Produced by Roger Pusey. From the Rough Trade album Hatful of Hollow, ROUGH76, November 1984.
  3. REEL AROUND THE FOUNTAIN Troy Tate version. (6:05) Produced by Troy Tate. Previously unreleased.
  4. THIS NIGHT HAS OPENED MY EYES. (3:39) Produced by Roger Pusey. From the Rough Trade album Hatful of Hollow, ROUGH76, November 1984.
  5. BACK TO THE OLD HOUSE Peel Session version. (3:02)  Produced by Roger Pusey. From the Rough Trade album Hatful of Hollow, ROUGH76, November 1984.
  6. THIS CHARMING MAN. (2:42) Produced by John Porter.  From the Rough Trade single 'This Charming Man', RT136, October 1983.
  7. STILL ILL. (3:20) Produced by John Porter. From the Rough Trade album The Smiths, ROUGH61, February 1984.
  8. HEAVEN KNOWS I'M MISERABLE NOW. (3:34) Produced by John Porter. From the Rough Trade single 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now', RT156, May 1984.
  9. GIRL AFRAID. (2:48) Produced by John Porter. From the Rough Trade 12" single 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now', RTT156, May 1984.
  10. WILLIAM, IT WAS REALLY NOTHING. (2:09) Produced by John Porter. From the Rough Trade single 'William, It Was Really Nothing', RT166, August 1984.
  11. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE LET ME GET WHAT I WANT. (1:51) Produced by John Porter. From the Rough Trade single 'William, It Was Really Nothing', RT166, August 1984.
  12. HOW SOON IS NOW? (6:44) Produced by John Porter. From the Rough Trade 12" single 'William, It Was Really Nothing', RTT166, August 1984.
  13. THE HEADMASTER RITUAL. (4:52) Produced by the Smiths. From the Rough Trade album Meat is Murder, ROUGH81, February 1985.
  14. NOWHERE FAST. (2:37) Produced by the Smiths. From the Rough Trade album Meat is Murder, ROUGH81, February 1985.
  15. RUSHOLME RUFFIANS. (4:20) Produced by the Smiths. From the Rough Trade album Meat is Murder, ROUGH81, February 1985.
  16. BARBARISM BEGINS AT HOME. (6:57) Produced by the Smiths. From the Rough Trade album Meat is Murder, ROUGH81, February 1985.
  17. THAT JOKE ISN'T FUNNY ANYMORE. (4:58) Produced by the Smiths. From the Rough Trade album Meat is Murder, ROUGH81, February 1985.
  18. SHAKESPEARE'S SISTER. (2:08) Produced by the Smiths. From the Rough Trade single 'Shakespeare's Sister', RT181, March 1985.
  19. STRETCH OUT AND WAIT alternate version. (2:45) Produced by the Smiths. From the Rough Trade album The World Won't Listen, ROUGH101, February 1987.
  20. THE BOY WITH THE THORN IN HIS SIDE album version. (3:17) Produced by Morrissey and Marr. From the Rough Trade album The Queen is Dead, ROUGH96, June 1986.

CD TWO
  1. RUBBER RING. (3:23) Produced by Morrissey and Marr. From the Rough Trade 12" single 'The Boy with the Thorn in his Side', RTT191, September 1985.
  2. ASLEEP. (4:10) Produced by Morrissey and Marr. From the Rough Trade single 'The Boy with the Thorn in his Side', RTT191, September 1985.
  3. BIGMOUTH STRIKES AGAIN. (3:14) Produced by Morrissey and Marr. From the Rough Trade single 'Bigmouth Strikes Again', RT192, May 1986.
  4. THERE IS A LIGHT THAT NEVER GOES OUT. (4:03) Produced by Morrissey and Marr. From the Rough Trade album The Queen is Dead, ROUGH96, June 1986.
  5. I KNOW IT'S OVER. (5:49) Produced by Morrissey and Marr. From the Rough Trade album The Queen is Dead, ROUGH96, June 1986.
  6. CEMETRY GATES. (2:41) Produced by Morrissey and Marr. From the Rough Trade album The Queen is Dead, ROUGH96, June 1986.
  7. THE QUEEN IS DEAD original unedited version. (7:30) Produced by Morrissey and Marr. Previously unreleased.
  8. PANIC. (2:21) Produced by John Porter. From the Rough Trade single 'Panic', RT193, July 1986.
  9. ASK album version. (3:15) Produced by John Porter, remixed by Steve Lillywhite. From the From the Rough Trade album The World Won't Listen, ROUGH101, February 1987.
  10. YOU JUST HAVEN'T EARNED IT YET, BABY. (3:32) Produced by John Porter. From the Rough Trade album The World Won't Listen, ROUGH101, February 1987.
  11. HALF A PERSON. (3:36) Produced by Morrissey, Johnny Marr and Stephen Street. From the Rough Trade single 'Shoplifters of the World Unite', RT195, January 1987.
  12. SHOPLIFTERS OF THE WORLD UNITE. (2:58) Produced by Johnny Marr. From the Rough Trade single 'Shoplifters of the World Unite', RT195, January 1987.
  13. IS IT REALLY SO STRANGE? (3:04) Produced by John Porter. From the Rough Trade single 'Sheila Take a Bow', RT196, April 1987.
  14. SHEILA TAKE A BOW. (2:41) Produced by Morrissey, Johnny Marr and Stephen Street. From the Rough Trade single 'Sheila Take a Bow', RT196, April 1987.
  15. GIRLFRIEND IN A COMA unreleased early take. (2:04) Produced by Johnny Marr, Morrissey and Stephen Street. Previously unreleased.
  16. PAINT A VULGAR PICTURE. (5:35) Produced by Johnny Marr, Morrissey and Stephen Street. From the Rough Trade album Strangeways, Here We Come, ROUGH106, September 1987.
  17. STOP ME IF YOU THINK YOU'VE HEARD THIS ONE BEFORE. (3:32) Produced by Johnny Marr, Morrissey and Stephen Street. From the Rough Trade album Strangeways, Here We Come, ROUGH106, September 1987.
  18. LAST NIGHT I DREAMT THAT SOMEBODY LOVED ME. (5:06) Produced by Johnny Marr, Morrissey and Stephen Street. From the Rough Trade album Strangeways, Here We Come, ROUGH106, September 1987.
  19. I WON'T SPARE YOU. (2:48) Produced by Johnny Marr, Morrissey and Stephen Street. From the Rough Trade album Strangeways, Here We Come, ROUGH106, September 1987.
  20. I KEEP MINE HIDDEN. (2:00) Produced by Grant Showbiz, remixed by Stephen Street. From the Rough Trade 12" single 'Girlfriend in a Coma', RTT197, August 1987.

NOTES

The Smiths only released four 'proper' albums. Combined, they only exceed the length of this compilation by a few minutes. But with the Smiths, the albums only told a small part of the story. Much of what matters most was scattered across singles, periodically collected in cheesy compilations. It wasn't even the non-album a-sides either - Smiths b-sides frequently numbered among their very best pieces of work.

This collection starts off relatively confusing: the first batch of Smiths songs were more or less recorded three times in full: with Troy Tate as producer in sessions for a scrapped first album, with John Porter for the ultimately released first album, and at a handful of sessions for the BBC. The first seven tracks here are a kind of 'greatest hits' of the early years. I break chronology here only by including the remixed 'album version' of Hand in Glove as the opening track, but I find it a more enjoyable listening experience to the muddled original single version. What Difference Does It Make? was a single, but I present it here in the BBC version, the earlier and now preferred version. For Reel Around the Fountain, I've turned to the unreleased Troy Tate version. Simon Goddard likes it best and I think I agree, though all three versions have their merits.

This Night Has Opened My Eyes and Back to the Old House are both from the BBC, as compiled on Hatful of Hollow. This Charming Man is the classic 'Manchester version'. Still Ill is the only song produced by John Porter for the début to make it to my collection.

We then get five single tracks: Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now and its 12" b-side Girl Afraid, before history's greatest single in full: William, It Was Really Nothing, its b-side Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want, and its 12" 'bonus track' How Soon is Now?, included in full here (there are no 'single edits' on this collection). That's followed by five of the nine tracks on Meat is Murder: The Headmaster Ritual, Nowhere Fast, Rusholme Ruffians, Barbarism Begins at Home (all seven minutes of it), and That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore, which was also a single.

Ending CD one with the album version of The Boy With the Thorn In His Side may not make that much sense, since otherwise disc one is devoted to The Smiths, Meat is Murder, and other tracks of the era, while disc two is devoted to The Queen is Dead, Strangeways, Here We Come, and contemporary tracks.

But the reason for my doing so is to start disc two with Rubber Ring, the b-side of 'The Boy with the Thorn in his Side' and the 'title track' of this collection. It's a great disc-starter, followed by Asleep, the other b-side from the same single. We then jump headlong into The Queen is Dead, their masterpiece, with fully six of its ten tracks. After 'The Boy...' on disc one, we also get Bigmouth Strikes Again, There is a Light That Never Goes Out, I Know it's Over, Cemetry Gates, and a previously-unreleased 'full-length' version of the title track The Queen is Dead.

We then get a big mess of single-only tracks. Both Panic and Ask were a-sides (I take the latter in an 'album version', which means the slightly longer version that features on compilations - it's not actually from any 'album' at all). You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby would have been an a-side too, but it was dropped at the last minute, and wound up on The World Won't Listen later on. The amazing Half a Person would have been its b-side, but it wound up on the b-side of Shoplifters of the World Unite, a solo Johnny Marr production, instead. Is It Really So Strange? was recorded in the studio, but the only officially-released version, this one, is another BBC recording. It was the b-side of Sheila Take a Bow, the last of four consecutive between-album singles.

Girlfriend in a Coma was the first single from Strangeways, Here We Come. An early take was done in a rocksteady style, and that's the version I include here, both because it's intriguing and as a ruse to make the collection more, er, collectible. After that, we get four of its album-mates: Paint a Vulgar Picture, Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before, Last Night I Dreamt that Somebody Loved Me and I Won't Share You. On the cusp of their estrangement from one another, this love song from Morrissey to Johnny Marr would have been a great place to finish. But despite Marr's loathing of the song, I Keep Mine Hidden, b-side to 'Girlfriend in a Coma' and the last original song they ever recorded, deserves its place here. Anyway, it's also, according to Simon Goddard, a song from Morrissey to Marr. So two messages from one half to the other half of one of popular music's best-ever songwriting partnerships.

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