‘Strangeways… seems to be everybody in the band’s favourite album – it’s one of the very few things we all agree on nowadays’

Mike Joyce – picture by Paul Husband.

This week, Strangeways, Here We Come, the fourth and final studio album by influential ‘80s Manchester indie-rock band The Smiths – Say It With Garage Flowers’ favourite group of all time – celebrates its 35th birthday.

By the time the record was released, on September 28, 1987, the band had split up, following the departure of guitarist, Johnny Marr.

Many people – the group included – view Strangeways, Here We Come as the band’s masterpiece, although, here at Say It With Garage Flowers, (whisper it) we think The Queen Is Dead, which was released the year before, deserves that accolade. But that’s for another time and place…

There’s no doubt about it, though – Strangeways, Here We Come is one of the greatest rock records of all time. The Smiths’ most ambitious and experimental album, it takes in ghostly piano-led pop (A Rush and a Push and the Land Is Ours), synth brass-assisted glam (I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish), eerie psychedelic atmospherics (Death of a Disco Dancer), witty black comedy set to a lilting acoustic guitar line (Girlfriend In A Coma), epic, orchestral melodrama (Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me) and macabre rockabilly (Death At One’s Elbow).

To coincide with Strangeways, Here We Come’s (unhappy) birthday, Smiths drummer, Mike Joyce, generously agreed to raffle off his silver disc of the album to raise money for Back on Track, a Manchester charity that he is a patron of.

Back on Track works with adults to help manage problematic drug/alcohol use, enable a crime-free life, improve mental health and wellbeing, or find a stable home.

To be in with a chance of winning Mike’s special copy of the classic album, enter the raffle here and make a donation.

In another kind gesture, Mike agreed to give Say It With Garage Flowers an interview, in which he shares his memories of recording Strangeways, Here We Come, talks about the brilliance of The Smiths, recalls some of his collaborations after the breakup of the band, and fills us in on his latest musical project, Love Tempo.

“Strangeways… is a great-sounding album – it’s very different from anything we had heard before, but then again I could say that about just about every Smiths album or track,” he tells us. We completely agree with him.


So, let’s talk about Strangeways, Here We Come, which is celebrating its 35th birthday this month. It’s one of the greatest albums ever made…

Mike Joyce: Thank you.

You’re of the opinion it’s the best album The Smiths recorded – and you’re not the only member of the band to think that…

MJ: Collectively, it’s one of the very few things we all agree on nowadays [laughs]. From what I’ve heard, it seems to be everybody’s favourite. I can see why.

Why do you say that?

MJ: From a musician’s point of view and also what we’d experienced as a band prior to Strangeways…  The first album came out, expectations were high, then there was a difficult second album, and a third album where we were retaining the same threads, so we didn’t alienate all the fans we had. We had some very successful albums for a genuinely independent band and we didn’t know Strangeways… was going to be our last album. Well, I didn’t!

I think Johnny might’ve had an idea…

MJ: I don’t know – he certainly didn’t let on if that was the case.

It’s subjective – you speak to some people and they say the first album blows everything out of the water and that it’s miles better than Strangeways…but it’s like ‘what’s your favourite colour?’ ‘Orange is great, but what about blue, or purple? ‘Purple is superb – I’d forgotten about that one…’ It’s just whatever tickles your fancy.

Strangeways… is a great-sounding album – it’s very different from anything we had heard before, but then again I could say that about just about every Smiths album or track.

‘We had some very successful albums for a genuinely independent band and we didn’t know Strangeways… was going to be our last album. Well, I didn’t!’

Have you listened to Strangeways... recently?

MJ: I did listen to it not long ago, because Tim Burgess did a listening party for it. But I hadn’t listened to it in its entirety probably since the day it came out.

When I mentioned that during the listening party, people were very shocked. Do authors sit down and read their books? I don’t know…

I had a CD jukebox that held 200-300 CDs – when I was filling it up, I said to Tina [Christina – wife]: ‘Shall I put a Smiths album in it, or is that a bit tight?’ She said: ‘No – put one in.’ So, I said: ‘Which one?’ And she said, ‘Your favourite.’ So, I did. When we were playing it, Last Night I Dreamt… came on – of course it would, out of the thousands of tracks that are on there – and someone heard it.

They found it so moving that I think they were quite shocked – they didn’t really know that much about The Smiths, apart from Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now, This Charming Man and How Soon Is Now? When they heard Last Night I Dreamt… they said: ‘Wow – is that you?’ I said: ‘Yes – it’s little ole me…’  It’s a big departure from anything…

I think if you listen to The Queen Is Dead, you can hear the direction The Smiths where heading in, which would eventually lead to Strangeways, like using the Emulator synth strings on the arrangement for There Is A Light…

MJ: Yeah, yeah – and on I Know It’s Over. 

But also on Strangeways… there’s rockabilly – Death At One’s Elbow – which is going back to some of The Smiths’ earlier stuff. And then there’s I Won’t Share You, which has a similar feel to Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want.

Last Night I Dreamt… is my favourite song on Strangeways… and it’s one of my favourite Smiths songs. 

MJ: It’s one of mine, too.

I love the arrangement  – it’s like a pocket symphony. It reminds me of the Walker Brothers or a big ’50s orchestral ballad… 

MJ: It’s not the kind of tune you jam out –  it’s not just going with a riff and seeing what comes out of it, although we did do a bit of that. A lot of the time we ran through a lot in sound checks – we never sat down and said, ‘Right – let’s block book a rehearsal room or studio’. We just kind of jammed and blasted it out.

We had a great working relationship –  we could empathise with whatever the other guy was playing.

‘During Strangeways, Johnny was set up in the control room with an Emulator and he just started playing these incredible string and piano parts. I was taken aback –  I thought, ‘Hold on a minute –  where did he learn to do that?’

We never felt like we were struggling to get things done, further things or finish things when Johnny had come up with a riff. Sometimes, Johnny would come in the room and start playing and me and Andy [Rourke – bassist] would just start playing the drums and bass for it – that’s just what it was like. We knew what we thought was right for it, and, invariably, it was. I suppose it doesn’t happen that often for bands and songs because you’re working on a lot.

The Smiths (Left to right: Andy Rourke, Morrissey, Mike Joyce and Johnny Marr)

In terms of the Emulator, and the way that Johnny was writing at the time, I can remember during Strangeways... [in the Wool Hall studio, near Bath, Somerset ], he was set up in the control room rather than the live room and he just started playing these incredible string and piano parts. I know he’d played those on tracks before, but I was taken aback – I thought, ‘Hold on a minute – where did he learn to do that?’

Watching Johnny writing those parts and working out where they would fit… People throw around the word ‘genius’… but he did that without sitting down or rehearsing with a string section. He’d never been classically trained.

He’s also a better piano player than Morrissey is on Death of a Disco Dancer…

MJ: Well, actually I really like that piano part…

It’s atonal and it suits the song…

MJ: It’s just odd, which kind of goes with the man.

When Strangeways… was released, The Smiths had disbanded, after Johnny left the group. Were you sad that you never got the chance to promote the album or play any songs from it live?

MJ: No – I pulled my sadness back a few notches. I was slightly miffed – the finished article sounded so great – but I was more shocked about the split than not being able to play the songs live. That usurped it. I don’t think we would’ve done a Strangeways… tour – we might’ve played a couple from it.

‘I really like Morrissey’s piano part on Death of a Disco Dancer. It’s just odd, which kind of goes with the man’

Last Night I Dreamt… would’ve been tricky to play live at the time, wouldn’t it? Although Johnny has played it at some of his solo gigs in the past few years…

MJ: Oh, has he? The vocals, the bass and the drums are pretty bog standard – well, not bog standard, I’m sure Morrissey would be delighted to hear me say that – but with the string parts, it would’ve been tough, and there’s some percussion on there. I wouldn’t have thought it would’ve been that difficult to emulate.

We never rehearsed those songs [from Strangeways…]. Death of a Disco Dancer was just a take that we thought sounded great – we were just jamming with a rough framework to work from. The only time when we had an issue technically [live] was with How Soon Is Now? and that was with this bit [he sings the slide guitar part]. We tried it with a trigger, but it didn’t work – sometimes it was not sensitive enough, or it was too sensitive…

Picture by Paul Husband

So, with Strangeways.… turning 35, you’ve generously decided to raffle off your silver disc of the album to raise money for Manchester’s Back on Track charity, which you’re a patron of. How did you get involved with the organisation?

MJ: They asked me to be a patron – I had absolutely no idea what it entailed or about Back on Track, so I went to one of their open days, had a look round and listened to some of the testimonies of the people the charity had helped. It just seemed like such a wonderful place – helping people with rehabilitation from alcohol or drugs or anything that is stopping them being a part of society. It’s quite difficult for some people to come back into society, because all they’ve known are some frighteningly bad environments and they need to keep away from them.

‘The silver disc of Strangeways, Here We Come is precious to me, but I’ve got the memories of playing on the album and that’s more precious than anything’

Back on Track is a start for them and, apart from the obvious psychological and emotional battles, some of these people don’t have any qualifications – Back on Track can help with that and organise interviews for jobs that are available. To actually see and hear someone’s story when you’re sat face-to-face with them, and it sounded like it was all over for them, but, because of Back on Track it wasn’t… it was a no-brainer.

I thought that maybe I could organise some finances for Back on Track by raffling a disc. Everybody’s struggling at the moment and charities are no exception, especially post-Covid.

The [silver] disc of Strangeways… is precious to me, but I’ve got the memories of playing on the album and that’s more precious  than anything. Getting the accolade and receiving something made of glass, metal and plastic is wonderful, but I still received it – even when it’s gone and it’s raised money for the charity –  so I thought, ‘Let’s do it.’

I’m sure you’ve got a few other discs at home…

MJ: Yes, I have…

Thank God you didn’t choose to raffle off The Queen Is Dead. Timing is everything, isn’t it?

MJ: I don’t know if that would’ve been the best or the worst thing…

‘When I play with any artist, I really do have to find out about them – that’s why I’ve never done any session work. I want to know what their dreams and aspirations are, and what they hate and love’

You’d certainly have got some PR coverage out of it… Let’s talk about some of the other music you’ve been involved with after The Smiths. After they disbanded, you and Andy Rourke played with Sinead O’Connor. You’ve played with quite a few controversial singers, including John Lydon, in PIL, haven’t you?

MJ: I love it! When I play with any artist, I really do have to find out about them – that’s why I’ve never done any session work. I can’t go into an environment where it’s like, ‘Hi – this is Tony, this is Dave, this is Emma – off you go’. I don’t want to do that and I never will.

I have to understand a bit about these people – know them and feel them. I want to know what their dreams and aspirations are, and what they hate and love. I what to know everything about them because when I’m playing drums with these people, we’re having a conversation musically. I want to be able to give them what they want. We play a little bit – I know where their head’s at and what they want. By going and having a few beers with somebody, you can find out a lot about them, without asking them questions directly.

All the people that I’ve worked with are very interesting, intense and different. They’re very driven and some of them are very fragile – strong but not. They’re interesting characters and it’s fascinating, because I get to see everything – the audience, the singer, the band… I’m in a really privileged position, literally.

You played with P.P. Arnold, didn’t you?

MJ: Yeah – it was just a small kind of thing. I was working with a guy called Grant Ainsworth, who’s a fantastic keyboard player and a good mate of mine. We got in touch with her through our management at the time, but we didn’t really have the songs for her level of expertise. We did a couple of things – they were alright, they weren’t ‘chuck it in the bin’, but with her legacy, I felt someone like Mark Ronson should’ve stepped in there and done something superb with a full-on band. She was one of the Ikettes and she toured with The Rolling Stones – the stories that she had…

Have you read her book, Soul Survivor, which came out this year?

MJ: No – I didn’t even know she had one out. I’ll get hold of that. She used to talk to me about her and Jimi, who had a thing. I was like Jimi who? And she’d say, ‘Hendrix’….  and I’d say ‘Oh!’ And she’d talk about Brian being upset. And I’m like, ‘Brian? Brian Moore?’ And she’d say, ‘Brian Jones.’ It was unbelievable. She’s one of the loveliest people – inside and outside of music. That was a lovely little period of my life. We tried but we didn’t succeed, but I didn’t mind that – we didn’t have the right armoury for her, or to bring out the best in her. It was a great experience because she was such a sweetheart.

You and I have a mutual friend, singer-songwriter, Vinny Peculiar. You and Andy – and Craig Gannon, who was also in The Smiths – played with him, didn’t you? He’s such a great artist – his lyrics are wonderful.

MJ: Aren’t they just? That’s why I wanted to play with him. I heard his music and I thought ‘This is great’. I said to Andy, ‘Have a listen to this – these are good songs’. And they were – and they are. We had a good time playing with him for a few years, but I felt my time working with Vinny had come to an end – it had reached fruition. He’s a good friend – we went for a curry about a month ago. He’s a lovely guy.

The Smiths – Photo by Pete Cronin/Redferns

Why did you and Andy work so well together as a rhythm section? What was the chemistry? Didn’t Morrissey, or was it Johnny, once say you could’ve played with Elvis you were that good?

MJ: I remember that quote. I’ve not revisited it since you’ve mentioned it – it was 25 years ago and it was Johnny. He said, ‘If Elvis had had me and Andy as a rhythm section, he would’ve been a bigger star’. It was tongue-in-cheek, obviously. I love Andy – we got very tight on tour and we were rooming together. The way that I played and the way that he played worked together and so did the parts we wrote.

Andy’s quite a busy bassist –  he’s not a pedaller, he’s on the note. You can take his bassline away and it’s a song in itself. If I was a busy drummer, it would sound shit – there would be too much going on. I think that helped in the way that we played together – when I heard him playing those really busy basslines for the first time, I’d go very simple, which is what I do anyway. I like to play a rhythm rather than try and stamp my authority on the whole track – and that works. Our friendship was a massive part of it – we saw each other every single day for five years. It wasn’t just, ‘I’ll see you for rehearsals on Friday’.

Does it upset you when people say the legacy of The Smiths has been tarnished by some of the things that have happened since the band broke up?

I interviewed Johnny 20 years ago, when he’d launched The Healers, and he told me that other people – not just the band themselves  – had tarnished the legacy of The Smiths, like Warner Bros, who messed up a Best Of compilation when it came to mastering it and doing the artwork and the credits, etc.

‘If somebody doesn’t want to listen to a Smiths record for whatever reason, then don’t listen to it – it’s okay, I don’t mind’

And then there was the court case, which you brought against Morrissey and Johnny, and, in more recent times, Morrissey has upset people with some of his controversial views, so some people have decided they can’t listen to The Smiths anymore. Do we have to separate the art from the artist?

MJ: I don’t find it upsetting. We’re talking about somebody that I don’t know. Just because someone has a different view to me… With social media at the moment, I feel like there’s a lot of ‘get the pitchforks out’ if someone says something very different from what you’ve said. Of course I care, but I don’t find it upsetting. If somebody doesn’t want to listen to a Smiths record for whatever reason, then don’t listen to it – it’s okay, I don’t mind.

‘I can isolate 1982-1987 really well – that’s where my dreams were made and everything shone for me. Nobody can ever take that away. Whatever happens afterwards – people whingeing about this, or what somebody said… I’m not really that bothered’

Going back to the other thing you said about Johnny, maybe I’m not as intense as he is about those kinds of things, to be brutally honest. I could say,’Yeah – it’s a travesty and they’ve not done this or that,’ but, do you know what? As far as I’m concerned, I can isolate 1982-1987 really well – that’s where my dreams were made and everything shone for me. In terms of my musical aspirations, I’d arrived at them and nobody can ever take that away. Whatever happens afterwards – people whingeing about this, or what somebody said… I’m not really that bothered.

So, what are you up to now, musically? Any new projects? 

MJ: I do a bit of DJing – it’s a good night and I really enjoy the music.

What’s in your set?

MJ: It’s classic indie – Primal Scream, The Undertones, The Clash, Blondie. It’s the music that I like to listen to and have a dance to. It’s very simple – there are no curveballs in there. I enjoy doing that.

A few years ago, a friend of mine called Rick Hornby, whom I’ve known for 30-odd years, was living in London, doing some session work. He moved back to Cheadle Hulme [in Cheshire], which is about five or six miles away from where I live now. I’ve got a soundproof basement and I asked him if he’d fancy doing a bit of playing and he said he’d love to. So, he came down and we just played – there was no agenda. His guitar sound is superb and I was inspired by it. He was playing some really good parts, but I was more inspired by the sound – it’s a bit like the B-52’s. I’ve not heard a lot of guitarists play like that – it’s bordering on rockabilly, but a bit more modern.

‘Rick Hornby and I have started doing a bit of writing together and we’ve been to see an artist in Manchester – I can’t say who it is – but we’re going do to some recording with him in the States next year. He’s a guy from San Francisco and the band’s called Love Tempo’

We started doing a bit of writing together and we’ve been to see an artist in Manchester who he knows – I can’t say who it is – but we’re going do to some recording with him in the States next year and see what happens. He’s a guy from San Francisco and the band’s called Love Tempo. We’re going to throw it against the wall and see what sticks. I’m really excited about it. I didn’t think that I was going to do much more playing to be honest with you, because nothing had come along that made we go ‘wow’. This did.

I wasn’t that bothered if I didn’t get on a stage again, but, every time I go to a gig, I’m like, ‘God, I wish I could get up and play…’ but then that’s gone by the next day.

‘Fontaines D.C. have completely satiated my need to listen to new music. I’ve seen them live a few times over the last couple of years and each time they get better and better. They’re my new favourite group. I’ve not been as affected by seeing a band since I saw Buzzcocks when I was 14’

Do you listen to a lot of new music or go to many gigs?

MJ: I pick up bits and bobs. Until a couple of years ago, I was doing a radio show, and that dictated that I was keeping my ear to the ground and going to gigs a lot.  I listen to 6 Music and have the radio on when I’m in the car, but it’s mainly Talk Sport.

Fontaines D.C. have completely satiated my need to listen to new music. I’ve seen them live a few times over the last couple of years and each time they get better and better. They’re my new favourite group. I’ve not been as affected by seeing a band since I saw Buzzcocks when I was 14.

You played with them too, didn’t you? 

MJ: [Laughs]: Yes – I did.

Going back to The Smiths. How many times a week do people ask if you The Smiths will ever reform, do you get annoyed by it and what do you tell them?

MJ: Well, what day are we now? It’s Friday and you’re the first person this week. That’s not unusual. I don’t get asked very often, but, it’s usually in an interview situation, not when I’m putting my sourdough in my basket and it goes ‘beep beep’. I don’t get asked then.

In a working environment, like when I’m DJing, people ask me if there’s any chance of it happening. I think Johnny and Morrissey get asked a lot more than I do – probably ‘cos Johnny does a lot more interviews than I do. Andy probably gets asked the least because he doesn’t seem to be doing any live work at all.

‘If The Smiths reformed now and went and played, you wouldn’t be seeing The Smiths.  I like the idea of us not reforming. And even if they did, they might do it, but minus me! I was surprised it didn’t happen earlier’

I don’t get pissed off by it – it’s a natural question and I probably would’ve asked it of a band if I’d seen one member… Actually, I wouldn’t! Every time I see Ian Brown, I don’t ask him ‘When are the Roses getting back together?’

I think it’s because The Smiths had a relatively short career – only five years. A lot of people, like me, got into them after they’d split up – they never got the chance to see the band play live.

MJ: I think you’re right. I’ll tell you what, if The Smiths reformed now and went and played, you wouldn’t be seeing The Smiths.  I like the idea of us not reforming. And even if they did, they might do it, but minus me! I was surprised it didn’t happen earlier. There’s a reason why bands split up. They don’t say, ‘I’ll see you right I’ve got your number and I’ll check in every couple of weeks to see how you’re doing’. It never happens it’s a massive fucking breakup. It’s a divorce. People don’t ask you if you’re gonna get back with your ex-wife again! ‘It’s been 35 years, come on! You did love her…’

The idea of doing it? We’re all four very different people than we were when we were rehearsing in Crazy Face. It’s a lifetime that’s gone by.

The Smiths – photo by Stephen Wright

I think there’s a quote that Morrissey said: ‘Why would I go on stage with people that I don’t even know?’ Well, that’s exactly how I feel. I don’t know Morrissey and Johnny – I know Andy, because I’ve seen him since The Smiths split and up to the present day, but I haven’t seen Morrissey or Johnny, or sat down or spoken to them for 30-odd years. Why would I want to do that?

The financial gain is something that everybody talks about they say everybody’s got a price. Well, I don’t think so. It depends on how much you want the money, doesn’t it? Maybe you haven’t got a price and someone says: ‘We’ll give you £1oo,000,000  each.’ And the answer is still ‘no.’ ‘We’ll give you £5oo,000,000’ the answer is still ‘no.’ Maybe they’d then just leave them alone because it’s not going to happen. The rumours do come out it seems to happen just before either a Morrissey or a Johnny tour. I don’t know [laughs]... It make sense put it in the news…

There have been a lot of books published about the The Smiths, and Morrissey and Johnny have both written their autobiographies. Would you ever write one?

MJ: No. It’s funny – after an interview, usually, someone says to me, ‘Have you ever thought about writing a book?’ I have thought about it and then I think about not writing a book. It’s as simple as that. I have no desire, but a lot of people want to hear what I’ve got to say. Maybe it might happen, it might not happen… I just can’t be arsed. I know that’s not the most eloquent answer to your question.

There’s more to life than books you know…

MJ: But not much more.

To enter Mike Joyce’s charity raffle for Back on Track, please click here. 



Mike Joyce – picture by Paul Husband


There’s a club if you’d like to go…


Earlier this month, I headed up north to attend the Glossop Record Club Smiths night in deepest, darkest Derbyshire, where I spent an evening listening to albums by The Smiths and Morrissey – on vinyl – in full. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

In the lyric of The Smiths’ How Soon Is Now? Morrissey sings, ‘There’s a club if you’d like to go – you could meet somebody who really loves you. So you go, and you stand on your own and you leave on your own and you go home, and you cry and you want to die…’

At this month’s Glossop Record Club Smiths night, I’m pleased to say that no one stood on their own, and plenty of people shared their love and mutual appreciation of The Smiths and Morrissey. A few people left on their own, but they weren’t harbouring any feelings of misery and despair – instead they were just happy that they’d spent an evening in the company of like-minded individuals, listening to classic albums by The Smiths and Morrissey on vinyl and hearing an eclectic playlist of music related to Manchester’s masters of melancholy.

Glossop Record Club describes itself as the musical equivalent of a book group or a film society. Once a month, music fans meet up at Glossop Labour Club in Derbyshire to listen to albums – on vinyl – in full. Mobile phones must be switched off and there’s no talking while the main albums are being played. But there’s also plenty of time to drink and have a chat about the music you’re listening to.

Organised by record collector Simon Galloway, Glossop Record Club has been running for over a year. Past sessions have included nights devoted to Bowie, Merseybeat, Sun Records and John Peel. Guest speakers are invited to talk about their specialist subjects and attendees are encouraged to bring their own records to play on the night.

My first visit to Glossop Record Club was for The Smiths special, featuring guest presenter and Smiths/Morrissey enthusiast Gavin Hogg. I made the long train journey up from London – ‘home of the brash, outrageous and free’ specially, clutching my carefully selected vinyl – a 2013 7in picture disc of Morrissey’s The Last of The Famous International Playboys and Johnny Marr’s recent single Easy Money – also on 7in.


Sean Hannam
Sean Hannam


Simon Galloway introduces the listening session and spins some Smiths and Morrissey-related sounds, including songs from his favourite Morrissey 12in Everyday Is Like Sunday (Sister I’m A Poet/Disappointed/Will Never Marry – 1988) and The The’s The Beat(en) Generation – from the 1989 album Mind Bomb and featuring Johnny Marr on guitar and harmonica. We are also treated to some Smiths rarities, including a reggae version of Girlfriend In A Coma. What was that Morrissey once said about reggae being vile?




Guest speaker Gavin Hogg then sets the scene by telling us how he fell in love with The Smiths more than 30 years ago: “I heard This Charming Man on the radio and saw The Smiths on Top of the Pops in November 1983 – the world changed from that point. It was Morrissey’s big quiff, his love beads, outsized ladies blouse and the gladioli he was swinging around his head and knocking all the Top of the Pops balloons out of the way. You also had Johnny Marr with his Rickenbacker and his cool Brian Jones hairdo.”

He adds: “I didn’t really know much about what The Smiths were singing about – it was something to do with a desolate hillside, a bicycle and returning a ring, but I instinctively knew there was something more nourishing about what The Smiths were doing than Marilyn or The Thompson Twins, who were also on the same edition of  Top of the Pops.

Those attending the night were asked to vote online in advance for The Smiths album that they wanted to hear played in its entirety. Gavin tells us that the winner of the poll is The Queen Is Dead – by 45 per cent – which is met with much enthusiasm by the – mostly male – crowd – myself included.

Released in 1986, The Queen Is Dead is my favourite album by The Smiths – in fact it’s one of my favourite albums of all time – and is arguably Morrissey and Marr’s masterpiece. An emotional rollercoaster of a record, it starts with the epic garage rock assault of the title track and takes the listener on a journey through music hall comedy (Frankly, Mr Shankly), funereal balladry (I Know It’s Over), sublime jangle-pop (Cemetry Gates) and doomed romanticism – There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, which is quite simply one of the greatest songs ever written.



Before we settle in to listen to The Queen Is Dead, Gavin gives us the lowdown on the album: “It’s regarded as The Smiths’ finest moment – although I think there’s a case for all of the albums having classic status,” he says. “It was released in June ’86 – it was The Smiths’ third album. Their musical abilities had developed and progressed – they started doing different things.

“Morrissey’s lyrics on the first two Smiths albums were about his diaries and his life up to that point. By the time of The Queen Is Dead, he had started to expand the things he was writing about. It was recently voted the Greatest Record of All Time by the NME – I’m not sure that’s entirely true, but it shows you what high regard it’s still held in.”

He adds: “The title track is heavy and starts with some feedback – Johnny Marr was listening to a lot of Stooges and MC5 when he recorded it. Frankly, Mr Shankly is a music hall number, Bigmouth Strikes Again is like an early Rolling Stones song and There Is A Light That Never Goes Out is one of the most well known songs by The Smiths.

“When [music journalist] Nick Kent reviewed the album when it came out, he said it was the album that, in due course, history will denote as being the key work in forcing the group’s philistine opposition to down chisels and embrace the concept of The Smiths as the only truly vital voice of the ‘80s.”

Adds Gavin: “If you’re a Smiths hater – and there maybe one or two of you here tonight – then you should down your chisels, have a listen and see what you make of it.”

He then puts The Queen Is Dead on the hi-fi and all of us sit in silence, as the opening sample of Take Me Back To Dear Old Blighty  – from the title track – gives way to a shriek of feedback, Mike Joyce’s thundering tribal drums and wild wah-wah from Johnny Marr.

As we sit and listen, it’s clear that The Queen Is Dead is an album that is designed to be listened to loud and on a great hi-fi system – it sounds fantastic when it’s cranked up. At certain points during the playback, some of my fellow listeners and I exchange knowing nods and smiles, as we hear specific musical references, instrumentation and lyrics that we know and love. There are several times when I feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

Gavin Hogg and Simon Galloway
Gavin Hogg and Simon Galloway

Speaking after the listening session, Simon says: “Who knew there were so many Smiths fans in Glossop? There was a special moment – Bigmouth Strikes Again (Side Two – Track One of The Queen Is Dead). As the acoustic guitar and drums blasted out, the Glossop Labour Club became a sea of nodding heads and tapping feet, with air guitar, air drums and lots of singing along. It was a wonderful sight and it was a reminder too of the old side one/side two dynamic. In the digital age we sometimes forget how important the sequencing of songs and sides were – and are – on vinyl. Both our featured albums were perfect examples of getting it right.”

Indeed, the second album we’re going to listen to is Morrissey’s Your Arsenal from 1992 – but more on that later… Before we sit down to concentrate on Mozzer’s glam rock/rockabilly-inspired classic, there’s a chance to grab another pint and hear some more records that have a connection with tonight’s featured artists.

Simon plays the superb Getting Away With It by Electronic – the supergroup that featured Johnny Marr, New Order’s Bernard Sumner and Neil Tennant from the Pet Shop Boys. There’s also an airing of Take Me by Adult Net, featuring fifth Smith Craig Gannon; while my friend – and regular Glossop Record Club goer – Matt Hill gets the opportunity to play Sandie Shaw’s version of The Smiths’ Hand In Glove – from her 1988 album Hello Angel. I’m pleased to say that my Morrissey picture disc is also chosen to be played – heaven knows, I’m miserable now…

Matt Hill
Matt Hill


We are also treated to a cover version of Ask by Gigolo Aunts and a rendition of Panic by The Sidebottoms, featuring Manchester cult hero Frank Sidebottom, whose music is a regular feature of Glossop Record Club.

As Simon tells me: “It seems we have quite a few Frank fanatics among our attendees. It all started quite innocently when Gavin brought one of his records along to the Cult Heroes session last November. The following month Brett [another regular visitor to Glossop Record Club] brought his Christmas record along, and then someone suggested that we should try a find a relevant Frank song for every session. He’s probably been featured more than he hasn’t. It’s a challenge people seem to enjoy. Daft sods!”

After the Sidebottom in-joke, Gavin then introduces the Your Arsenal listening session by giving us some background to the album: “There’s quite a different sound to this record – there are some elements of rockabilly, as it was Morrissey’s first album with Boz Boorer, who was in rockabilly band The Polecats. The other musicians on the album are also from the same rockabilly scene. Mick Ronson produced the album – so there’s a glam rock sound to it, as well.”

He highlights the influence of T Rex’s Ride A White Swan on the track Certain People I Know and the nod to Bowie’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide on I’m Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday.

Says Gavin: “There was some controversy when this album came out. There are some darker elements in the lyrics, dealing with football hooliganism [We’ll Let You Know] and racism [The National Front Disco].”

Gavin finishes his presentation by reading a humorous extract from Morrissey’s autobiography, in which the singer talks about recording Your Arsenal with Mick Ronson. It ends with Morrissey recounting a bizarre telephone conversation he had with Bowie…

Gavin Hogg
Gavin Hogg

Next up is Your Arsenal – my second favourite Morrissey album (1994’s Vauxhall & I is top of my list), which blazes its way into the Glossop Labour Club with opening track You’re Gonna Need Someone On Your Side – a rockabilly riot of a song with a filthy guitar riff that sounds like it was half-inched from the theme tune to the ‘60s Batman TV series. Like The Queen Is Dead, Your Arsenal is another album that sounds great up loud – Mick Ronson’s superb, dynamic production work and the songs’ great arrangements really come into their own when played on the PA.

However, it’s clear that some of the Record Club attendees find songs such as The National Front Disco uncomfortable – there’s a definite sense of uneasy listening – and some people’s attention starts to waiver during the second side of the album. This is a shame as it means that we can’t fully enjoy the more subtle tracks, such as the wonderful, haunting acoustic ballad  Seasick, Yet Still Docked – surely one of Morrissey’s finest compositions.

After the final song on Your Arsenal has finished – the punchy arena rock of Tomorrow – there’s another chance to hear some of the records that tonight’s attendees have brought with them, as well as some of Simon’s weird and wonderful selections.

Highlights include Bowie’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide, The Jam’s That’s Entertainment, which was covered by Morrissey, and For The Dead – the debut 7in from ‘90s Smiths sound-alikes Gene – one of my own personal favourites.

Glossop Record Club regular Brett plays us recent tracks from 2014 albums by Johnny Marr and Morrissey. He chooses Easy Money from Marr’s Playland and Staircase At The University from Morrissey’s World Peace Is None Of Your Business. Enthusing about the latter, he exclaims: “It sounds like Girlfriend In A Coma brought back to life.”


Later on, over a beer, Brett tells me that he has a huge collection of British comedy records. He points out some connections between vintage British comedy and Morrissey. Firstly, the school in the film Carry On Teacher is called Maudlin Street Secondary and Morrissey has a song called Late Night, Maudlin Street. Secondly, Carry On star Joan Sims appeared in the video for Morrissey’s single Ouija Board, Ouija Board.

It’s these kind of pub conversations about obscure pop facts that make me want to become a regular Glossop Record Club visitor. What better way to spend an evening than listening to albums – on vinyl – in full, with a bunch of people who are passionate about pop music.

This night has opened my eyes – and my ears.

Music played at Glossop Record Club - Smiths night
Music played at Glossop Record Club – Smiths night



Here’s the entire playlist from the night:

Morrissey – Sister I’m A Poet/Disappointed/Will Never Marry (Everyday Is Like Sunday 12″, HMV, 1988)

The The – The Beat(en) Generation (Mind Bomb, Epic, 1989)

The Smiths – Girlfriend In A Coma (reggae version)/Death Of A Disco Dancer (alt version)/Paint A Vulgar Picture (alt version) (Unreleased Demos & Instrumentals, bootleg)

The Smiths – Asleep/Unloveable/Half A Person/Stretch Out And Wait (The World Won’t Listen, Rough Trade, 1987)


THE SMITHS – The Queen Is Dead (Rough Trade, 1986)

SIDE ONE: The Queen Is Dead/Frankly, Mr. Shankly/I Know It’s Over/Never Had No One Ever/Cemetry Gates

SIDE TWO: Bigmouth Strikes Again/The Boy With The Thorn In His Side/Vicar In A Tutu/There Is A Light That Never Goes Out/Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others


Electronic – Getting Away With It (7″, Factory, 1989)

Adult Net – Take Me (10″ blue vinyl, Fontana, 1989)

Sandie Shaw – Hand In Glove (Hello Angel, Rough Trade, 1988)

Morrissey – The Last Of The Famous International Playboys (7″ picture disc, Parlophone, 2013)

Julian Cope – Drive, She Said (Peggy Suicide, Island, 1991)

Gigolo Aunts – Ask (7″, Fire Records, 1993)

The Sidebottoms – Panic (cd single, 11:37, 1993)


MORRISSEY – Your Arsenal (HMV, 1992)

SIDE ONE: You’re Gonna Need Someone On Your Side/Glamorous Glue/We’ll Let You Know/The National Front Disco/Certain People I Know

SIDE TWO: We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful/You’re The One For Me, Fatty/Seasick, Yet Still Docked/I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday/Tomorrow


Mick Ronson – Billy Porter (7″, RCA, 1974)

David Bowie – Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide (7″, RCA, 1974)

T.Rex – Ride A White Swan (Ride A White Swan, Music For Pleasure, 1972)

Roxy Music – Street Life (7″, Island, 1973)

The Jam – That’s Entertainment (Sound Affects, Polydor, 1981)

Johnny Marr – Easy Money (Playland, Warner Bros, 2014)

Johnny Marr – Generate! Generate! (The Messenger, Warner Bros, 2013)

Morrissey – Staircase At The University (World Peace Is None Of Your Business, Harvest, 2014)

Vincent Gerard & Steven Patrick – I Know Very Well How I Got My Note Wrong (7″, Factory, 1989)

Magazine – A Song From Under The Floorboards (7″, Virgin, 1980)

T.Rex – Metal Guru (7″, EMI, 1972)

Gene – For The Dead (7″, Costermonger, 1994)

Nancy Sinatra – Happy (7″, Reprise, 1968)

Sandie Shaw – Girl Don’t Come (7″, Pye, 1964)

Morrissey – Suedehead (7″, HMV, 1988)

Lou Reed – Satellite Of Love (Transformer, RCA, 1972)

Morrissey – Everyday Is Like Sunday (12″, HMV, 1988)

Sandie Shaw – Please Help The Cause Against Loneliness (Hello Angel, Rough Trade, 1988)

The Smiths – Rubber Ring (The World Won’t Listen, Rough Trade, 1987)



For more information on Glossop Record Club, please visit http://glossoprecordclub.wordpress.com