Smithsfest takes over the ICA on the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, with talks, films, performance and music. Smithsfest curator and host of the Smithsfest Quiffosexual Cabaret Amy Lamé talks us through her five favourite Smiths songs of all time.
Argue amongst yourselves; it is futile.
I LOVE this song. Why? It’s just brimming with energy; it’s The Smiths fresh and raw. One of my biggest regrets in life is to have never seen the Smiths perform live; this would be my number one request. Marr is at his visceral best. Morrissey sings in quite a low register, and it sounds like he’s crooning down a tin can. Another tale of a failed relationship, and just when you think it’s all doomed, he kicks in with a heavenly choir of the best scale-singing this side of West End musicals. Listen: From the Hacienda, 4 Feb 1983
What Difference Does It Make
A magnificent ode to spurning by a potential lover. It’s catty and queer…”you must be looking very old tonight”. …”your prejudice won’t keep you warm tonight”. I can just imagine Moz wearing a pashmina, port and lemonade in hand, dispensing these bons mots standing at the bar of his local gay pub. Lots of references to illness, which is always reassuring, and finishes off with a painful, never ending yodel that pushes every Smiths fan to the brink when trying to imitate it after four pints and a packet of fags. Moz and Marr have been quite clear they don’t care for this song very much. I’m not bothered; it’s my favourite Smiths song ever. Listen: From Top of the Pops, 1984
I Want The One I Can’t Have
Starts with what sounds like a helicopter airlifting Morrissey out of 384 Kings Road, Stretford. A perfect melding of bitter, twisted lyrics with uplifting contrast of jangle from Marr’s guitar, a brainworm of a riff and a heck of a lot of tambourine. Lots of elongated vowels and yodeling from Moz. And it includes a smashing lyric: “If you ever need self-validation just meet me in the alley by the railway station”; deeply meaningful for anyone desperate for a grope and a snog. Listen: From University of Salford gig, 1986
I adore this song so much I used it as the title of my solo show about my Morrissey superfandom. The music is quite twee, but the lyrics are what bite; “You’re evil and you lie and if you should die I may feel slightly sad but I won’t cry” Another tale of “loved and lost”, with the spurned lover turning up to spoil the party. A vitriolic spew of hatred: “drink and be ill tonight…from the one you left behind”. Moz repeats “behind” over and over again, in a twisted lamenting hyperventilation. Moz shows the feelings so many of us have but don’t dare to express - he is an emotional soothsayer and drama queen of the highest order. Listen: Unhappy Birthday
Preferrably the version on Hatful of Hollow, from the 1983 John Peel sessions, this is the perfect post-punk pogo. Moz scores high on the lyrical front: “let me get my hands on your mammary glands” and ‘there’s more to life than books you know but not much more". He sounds absolutely desperate for a shag in this song - obviously feeding into the fantasies of millions of fans worldwide, me included (and I’m a lesbian). The only thing to be in 2013 is handsome. Listen: Handsome Devil Live in Madrid
Smithsfest is a two day festival comprising talks, performance, art and film, surveying the artistic and cultural impact of The Smiths on Friday 29 March and 30 March 2013.