The best songs by The Smiths

31 October 2020, 11:00

The Smiths in June 1985: Johnny Marr, Morrissey, Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke
The Smiths in June 1985: Johnny Marr, Morrissey, Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke. Picture: Ross Marino/Getty Images

Need an introduction to the world of Morrissey, Marr, Rourke and Joyce? Radio X picks the cream of the classic Manchester band’s back catalogue.

  1. This Charming Man

    Hand In Glove may have been their debut single, but Johnny Marr’s pealing intro to The Smiths’ second single secured them immortality. The lyrics are an insight into Morrissey’s awkward-yet-humorous persona.

  2. What Difference Does It Make?

    An early single for The Smiths - and one of their biggest hits, making Number 10 in 1984. The bouncy rhythm and jangling guitars mask the sour lyric: “Heavy words are so lightly thrown.”

  3. How Soon Is Now?

    The ultimate Smiths song? Johnny Marr channels Bo Diddley as Morrissey depicts a pitiful night out at a horrible club - and millions ache in sympathy. “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.”

  4. Panic

    A brutal condemnation of the triviality of pop music, set to a glam rock stomp, complete with childrens’ choir in the chorus. Only The Smiths could get away with this - and including the word “Humberside” in the lyric.

  5. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

    A tragi-comic tale of devoted love in which Morrissey sings like an angel and Marr’s arrangement brings tears to the eyes.

  6. Still Ill

    The song that gave the Morrissey biopic its title: “I decree today that life is simply taking and not giving / England is mine - and it owes me a living.”

  7. The Queen Is Dead

    One of the greatest title tracks of all time as Morrissey bemoans the state of the nation in 1986, while Marr wigs out on wah wah guitar and Mike Joyce pounds a powerful rhythm.

  8. The Boy With The Thorn In His Side

    “And when you want to live, how d’you start, where d’you go? Who d’you need to know?” One of the band’s most underrated singles.

  9. Cemetry Gates

    Morrissey may not be able to spell “cemetery” correctly, but this charming tale of friendship and mild rivalry paints a vivid picture of the singer’s young life in Manchester.

  10. That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore

    Lyrically, almost a sequel to This Charming Man, this is an astounding track from the Meat Is Murder album - later released as a single - that deserves more appreciation. “I’ve seen this happen in other people’s lives and now it’s happening in mine.”

  11. Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want

    One minute and fifty seconds of perfection. Morrissey says what we've always been secretly thinking, while Johnny plays the most beautiful chord progression known to man.