The Queen Is Dead – The Smiths

Released June 16, 1986 this is the third album by The Smiths. It reached #2 on the charts and stayed there for 22 weeks. It is certified Gold in the US and Platinum in the UK. It has a 99/100 cumulative rating on Metacritic and was named as “The greatest album of all-time” by NME.

Jason: I was excited when this album came up on our list.

Brad: So you didn’t dread your “5 listens” this time?

Jason: Oh gosh, no. I have probably listened to this 500 times in the past 30 years. (Is that possible? That would be about 16 times a year, more than once a month.) In any case, it’s a lot.

Brad: That’s many more times than I have but I do love it.

Jason: There are so many great songs on here. I love “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others” which is such an absurd song. “Cemetry Gates” gets in my head a lot especially if someone references Keates or I drive by a cemet(e)ry.

Brad: The Smiths have such great lyrics. Often dark and sarcastic. I love how the sometimes morbid lyrics are often juxtaposed with upbeat music.

Jason: Yes. I love that too. Like “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” when you listen you kind of dancing then you realize ‘Oh, this is about a love so possessive and obsessive that the singer would rather they die together in a terrible fiery car accident than spend another moment apart.’ Which is really how a lot people, especially teens, feel when they first fall in love.

Brad: Yes! That is true. I suspect that is how Morrissey still thinks today. Morrissey seems like he might be a difficult person to love in real life but I love him as an artist.

Jason: Oh, I’m sure he’s a real pain in the ass. If you compare the sentiment of “There is a Light…” with “Bigmouth Strikes Again” it’s interesting because the latter is about a love gone sour and instead of dying together like Romeo and Juliet now he wants to kill the person (just kidding) that did him wrong and he is playing the martyr. I love how he says “And the flames rose to her Roman knows and her walkman started to melt.” We have Johnny Marr to thank for a lot of these fun, anachronistic lyrics.

Brad: I have a confession. Although, I love The Smiths. I am the rare fan that prefers Morrissey’s solo music to his songs with The Smiths. 

Jason: That’s fair. I am sure some people prefer Sting to The Police.  Morrissey’s solo stuff is a bit more mature in sound and lyrics. The Smiths, to me really appeal to a younger audience even now it sounds like he’s speaking to moody young adults. Like in “Cemetry Gates” he says “a dreaded sunny day so let’s go where we’re happy and I’ll meet you at the cemetry gates” and they plan to read poetry among the graves. Even if he isn’t being literal he really captures the “misunderstood” teenage years. Morrissey’s solo songs are more political and adult.

Brad: I guess so but The Smiths were very political too. I mean…they named an album & song “Meat Is Murder”. And this was back when veganism wasn’t as common as it is now.

Jason: True. They were a bit ahead of the curve and on the fringe on a lot of issues which is probably why they so popular. By the way, I love the weird guitar/keyboard chords in “Frankly, Mr. Shankly”.

Brad: I like it too but that one always sounds like it could be a children’s song to me. Although, the lyrics are not for children. 

Jason: No, it’s about how much he hated his label Rough Trade Records. What is also interesting with The Smiths is that they have a lot of very popular singles that were never on albums. So in order to get the full experience of their catalog you really need to listen to their 4 studio albums and also a few Best Ofs. In fact in a few weeks we have two “Greatest Hits” albums coming up (which we both have issues with) but if there ever was a case for one being on the list it would The Smiths. How else would you hear songs like “Ask”, “How Soon Is Now?”, “Shoplifters of the World Unite”, “Girlfriend in a coma” and a half dozen others. Although this album is a good choice. 

Brad: Good point. They do have a lot of non-album singles. By the way, my other confession about this album is that I’ve been looking at this album cover for decades and I always thought it was a woman on the cover but just discovered this week that it is a man (actor Alain Delon).

Jason: Oh wow! I did too.

Brad: My one pet-peeve on this album is the beginning of “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others”. Why does it start, then quickly fade out, then come back to the song? That always seemed like a strange choice to me.

Jason: It is weird but I like it. I always assumed that song was about some girls being overweight but it’s a compliment to the title song and it’s about how some girls are more IMPORTANT (i.e. The Queen) than others. And some girl’s mothers (The Queen Mum) are bigger than other girl’s mothers.

Brad: Yeah, that is interesting.

Jason: I get something new out of the lyrics every few times I listen. Even 30 years later.

Brad: I’m guessing you are going to give this one a pretty good grade.

Jason: It’s an A- from me.

Brad: I’m giving it a B+

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Below is the scratch-off artwork from the 100 Bucket List poster.

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