The Smiths

by Simon Mills
I am not a Smiths fan - listening to their new single 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now' for me is like receiving a Buzzcock in a discreet brown paper parcel from a Manchester mail order company and discovering that the batteries are not included. I was expecting their guitarist Johnny Marr - Beatle-cut now trimmed to a Sixties bouffant a la Small Faces - to make dull retrospective references to The Lovin' Spoonful and ramble on about how listening to Jim Morrison had changed his life. Instead he shared my hatred of today's faceless, synthetic popsters and convinced me that his group were intent on injecting something realistic and worthwhile into the top forty.

So what about the Thompson Twins, Johnny?
The Thompson Twins, Howard Jones, Nik Kershaw, are the epitome of what is wrong with either the music industry or the record buying public - everybody has got so used to safe, tidy music and unimaginative lyrics. When 'This Charming Man' was unleashed on the public it did sound really fresh and exciting. There are still a few artists who retain some musical integrity - Julian Cope and Echo and the Bunnymen for instance.

How did you develop that choppy but melodic guitar sound?
I used to listen to a lot of old Tamla Motown records with distinctive brass and piano parts and I try to adapt those to my guitar playing. The riff on 'Girl Afraid' for instance is one I always imagined as a heavy piano part.

Would you ever consider using the arsenal of electronics currently available to musicians in the making of a Smiths record?
No, we would never use a Linn-Drum or a drum machine. The only use a synthesiser would be to us would be for string parts and we'd rather use real strings - any other sound I try to achieve with the guitar. Having said that, I've just finished working on the guitar part for the new Quando Quango record which is totally electrofunk. Although their sound is totally alien to me I enjoyed the challenge.

Have you made much money from pop music?
Not as much as I'd like to - as soon as I get it I spend it - clothing is my second love next to music, I've also bought a beautiful white 1964 Rover 2.6 litre so I've been bombing up and down from Manchester to London.

How do you react to accusations of arrogance and conceit thrown at the Smiths?
It always surprises me. When we first started the group we were all sick of the way many groups would adopt a cool persona for interviews. Our interviews were always so embarrassingly honest and unpremeditated.

You've inspired legions of beaded youths in expensive shirts, black Levi's and suede chukka boots - fans are obviously an integral part of the Smiths organisation.
It's a good thing that in certain circles they can wear brooches and flowers and can be accepted as the normally dressed man without being attached to a gimmicky gender bending thing - ours is a more realistic style.

Why did you have your hair cut?
Everytime I try to grow my hair form I become riddled with spots!

I've noticed that Sade has criticised the Smiths in a couple of recent interviews.
I don't really think too much about her, I think she'll come and go. I'd rather stick on a Billie Holliday record and hear the job done properly.

Did Morrissey tell Sandie Shaw to roll around on the floor when you performed 'Hand In Glove' on Top Of The Pops?
No, she was doing it with reference to Morrissey - the most obvious thing she could have done was to go on swinging flowers around her head or wearing national health glasses, but what she did was much more subtle than that.

How many of the Smiths are gay?
None of us are actually gay - Morrissey doesn't participate in sex at the moment and hasn't done so for a while, he's had a lot of girlfriends in the past and quite a few men friends. The rest of the band, however, are all sex maniacs.

What's the worst thing that's happened to you since you formed the Smiths?
Definitely the horrendous Old Grey Whistle Test concert which I'm really ashamed of. The only consolation was imagining thousands of straight-laced families sitting down to their tea watching Morrissey singing 'Let me get my hands on your mammary glands!'

Taken from UK Pop Magazine 'Record Mirror', June 9th 1984, page 14. Cover star for this issue was Green from Scritti Politti!
Donated by Peter Aston.