I had just finished flicking through the David Bowie back catalogue in WH Smith, dreaming of having enough money to supplement my growing collection. My memory tells me that I was wearing school uniform but memory so often lets you down. I stole a quick read of NME when the lady behind the counter turned the other way – I didn’t have any money to actually buy it. Inside I read an excited review of the ‘best debut album since U2,’ which sounded like it must be a good thing. The album that was being lionised didn’t have a title. It was simply named after the band that had made it. A band that I hadn’t even heard of before. The album was The Smiths. And so began a love affair that has lasted a (half) lifetime. It all started with that record, the one with the purple and blue cover with the picture of the naked torso of a man (or could it be woman ?) on the front. (Actually, unbeknown to me it was a still of the American actor Joe Dallesandro, taken from a Warhol film). As debut albums go, the NME reviewer was right – this was extraordinary. A melancholy yet uplifting mixture of songs about unrequited love, disgust, masochism, emptiness and (most controversially) child murder. It spoke to all of us (in our stereotypical teenage angst) about what it felt like to be outside something. Perhaps everything. Whilst in the process making us feel better. Tracks such as ‘Hand in Glove’ and ‘What Difference Does it Make ?’ may have been radio-friendly pop anthems, but the real gems of the collection were the lesser-know tracks, such as ‘The Hand that Rocks the Cradle,’ ‘Still Ill,’ and ‘Reel Around the Fountain.’ Achingly beautiful laments on loss and rejection. Classics in every sense of the word except the clichéd.
The Smiths, The Smiths (1984)