Happy Anniversary: The Smiths, The Queen Is Dead
Although it didn’t hit our shores until June 23, today marks the 28th anniversary of the release of the album which many critics – and if we’d taken the time to do the math, we’d probably be safe in saying most critics – still view as the best full-length studio effort ever offered by the Smiths.
The Queen is Dead was the third proper album by the Smiths (Hatful of Hollow doesn’t count, as it was a compilation), and while its chart placement was ultimately a notch lower than its predecessor, 1985’s Meat is Murder, which was the band’s only album to top the UK charts, it’s sold more copies than any of the band’s other studio albums and, as a result, is their only studio album to have gone platinum, an honor which could well be tied to New Musical Express having put it at the top of their 2013 list of the Greatest Albums of All Time.
Produced by Morrissey and Johnny Marr in conjunction with engineer Stephen Street, who’d proven his mettle on Meat is Murder, the process of recording The Queen is Dead began with the album tentatively set to be called Margaret on the Guillotine, a title which – as fans of Viva Hate well know – Morrissey recycled a few years down the line. The album’s release was preceded by a single, “The Boy with the Thorn in His Side,” but fans in the States may not realize how far in advance of the album the single came out: its initial release was on September 23, 1985, with the follow-up, “Bigmouth Strikes Again,” which properly previewed the album, not emerging until May 19.
When The Queen is Dead finally arrived on June 16, it was to a rapturous critical reception, and its reputation has remained consistent ever since, with “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” in particular having gone on to be seen as a stone-cold classic even by those who aren’t full-fledged Smiths fans. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a magazine on either side of the pond that doesn’t acknowledge the album as one of the greatest efforts of the whole bloody decade, thanks to songs like the dance-hall fun of “Frankly, Mr. Shankly,” the impeccably depressing two-fer of “I Know It’s Over” and “Never Had No One Ever,” the jangly fun of “Cemetry Gates,” and even the silliness of “Vicar in a Tutu.” Plus, come off it: how many bands are capable of getting away with closing an album with a song which declares nothing more profound than the fact that some girls’ mothers are bigger than other girls’ mothers?
To celebrate the anniversary of The Queen is Dead, we’ve put together a playlist which features the album itself, along with the B-sides of its singles, “The Boy with the Thorn in His Side” and “Bigmouth Strikes Again,” but if you’re wondering about the whereabouts of the B-sides of “There is a Light That Never Goes Out,” then you must have forgotten that, for as popular as it was, the song wasn’t actually released as a single from The Queen is Dead in the UK. (That didn’t happen ‘til the band’s second best-of collection in 1992.) Don’t worry, though: the song itself is still here.
Come on, everyone sing along: “To die by your side / Well, the pleasure, the privilege is mine…”