Shoplifters of the World - UNITE AND TAKE OVER Shoplifters of the World - UNITE AND TAKE OVER Shoplifters of the World - UNITE AND TAKE OVER Shoplifters of the World - UNITE AND TAKE OVER Shoplifters of the World - UNITE AND TAKE OVER Shoplifters of the World - UNITE AND TAKE OVER Shoplifters of the World - UNITE AND TAKE OVER Shoplifters of the World - UNITE AND TAKE OVER Shoplifters of the World - UNITE AND TAKE OVER
The Smiths - LOUDER THAN BOMBS - 1987 The Smiths - LOUDER THAN BOMBS - 1987 Shoplifters of the World - UNITE AND TAKE OVER
The Smiths - LOUDER THAN BOMBS - 1987
The Smiths - LOUDER THAN BOMBS - 1987 Shoplifters of the World - UNITE AND TAKE OVER
Morrissey and the Smiths - The Rise of The Alternative Music Movement In the U.S.A

Hello To Future Days
Of Intercontinental Super POP Stardom

After the release of, "The Queen Is Dead" there was a silent hush among American College campuses in the Mid-west, (primarily in Michigan). The SMITHS had played Detroit in the summer of 1986 to support their album and some tracks were being played in dance clubs. Still there was a sort of secretiveness about the band and they weren't really discussed much - even in the halls of the art schools I attended, (that would come much later). I remember this hitting the record shelves in the spring of 1987. I knew there was something BIG behind it. FIrst of all the packaging looked nothing like the records that were being touted around at the time. It went the opposite direction with its very striking orange cover -- "Louder Than Bombs" was a collection of singles and B-sides not heard in the U.S. Curiously enough there was a sad looking girl on the cover....

Morrissey and the Smiths - The Rise of The Alternative Music Movement In the U.S.A Shoplifters of the World - UNITE AND TAKE OVER
Morrissey and the Smiths - The Rise of The Alternative Music Movement In the U.S.A Shoplifters of the World - UNITE AND TAKE OVER
Shoplifters of the World - UNITE AND TAKE OVER
Morrissey and the Smiths - The Rise of The Alternative Music Movement In the U.S.A Shoplifters of the World - UNITE AND TAKE OVER
Morrissey and the Smiths - The Rise of The Alternative Music Movement In the U.S.A Morrissey and the Smiths - The Rise of The Alternative Music Movement In the U.S.A
Morrissey and the Smiths - The Rise of The Alternative Music Movement In the U.S.A Morrissey and the Smiths - The Rise of The Alternative Music Movement In the U.S.A
Morrissey and the Smiths - The Rise of The Alternative Music Movement In the U.S.A Morrissey and the Smiths - The Rise of The Alternative Music Movement In the U.S.A Morrissey and the Smiths - The Rise of The Alternative Music Movement In the U.S.A
The Smiths - LOUDER THAN BOMBS - 1987 The Smiths - LOUDER THAN BOMBS - 1987 Morrissey and the Smiths - The Rise of The Alternative Music Movement In the U.S.A

SPRING 1987 - This Sound Was Bigger Than I Had Originally Expected

My first introduction to the Smiths happened in 1986. Like most American kids, (if they’re honest) I experienced it off the tail end of the 1986, “Pretty In Pink Soundtrack”, (for the film directed by John Hughes). The track was, “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want” and it didn’t really fit into the whole context of the album. There might have been hints of other love songs on this album but for me this sort of encapsulated the entire release. There are bits of other alternative influence on there as well namely Echo and the Bunnymen and the Psychedelic Furs.  The album was sort of a mish mash of what was going on at the time but then again so was the film.

The kids portrayed in this film, teenagers Molly Ringwald and Jon Cryer, were nothing like the kids I grew up with. This was to portray what life was like somewhere in Illinois but that world couldn’t have been further away. I could not relate to the look of these kids in regards to how they dressed or the situations these characters fell into. There was some rivalry about who had money and who did not which in itself is a bit absurd. Most 17 year old kids do not have money. That is what you get an education for. Seeing trust fund babies drive around in porches and hanging out in empty mansions is really daft. There is a joke about Hughes that goes along the lines of, “Why does he keep making the same movie over and over again…? Was his childhood really that horrible?”

It was foreign.

I was growing up in nearby Ann Arbor, Michigan and my world was of a collegiate influx new surroundings and new sounds. I knew there was something about THE SMITHS that was interesting. This double LP proved that my suspicions were correct. I had been seeing the name added onto these lackluster white flyers on the University of Michigan campus that announced that the U Club would be playing tracks and singles from the band on Friday nights. The student council must of thought highly of them because they were listed right there with PIL, (Public Image Limited) Souixsie and the Banshees and THE CURE.


Ted Cantu reflects on the rise of THE SMITHS

"I remember lying down on my bed and playing this album, it was in the Spring of 87'. I opened the window and felt the wind rush in - I didn't have a care in the world.... I was inspired to climb rooftops, do painting exhibitions -- I lost interest in socieities expectations at the time..... Starting a family, and geting married seemed insignificant...."

Cantu - WCBN Interview 1989


School Kids Records was on Liberty Street in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the year of 1986. It was located conveniently across the street from the infamous Nectarine Ballroom which was a Euro style dance hall with two stories.
At the age of 21 this location in general was my hangout. In the day time I would hit the shops and used record stores and at night I would hit the pubs. Anything that THE SMITHS put out was important. I figured that out on my own because the singles were expensive and you only got three songs. School Kids also put posters up on the walls and windows so when something was released from THE SMITHS it was treated like a big deal. Still, ten bucks for three songs seemed a bit steep. There was so many singles to choose from and what if I didn’t like them?

Everything I heard from THE SMITHS was varied and different. “The Queen Is Dead” sounded nothing like what I thought they would after hearing them on the “Pretty in Pink Soundtrack”. I remember buying, “Louder Than Bombs” immediately. The first side of the first album had me enthralled. I found it to be very poppy and explosive. The rest of the album grew on me later. By the time I grew into the second half of the album stylistically I was ready for it.  It is still alarming to me how dark the album could get once you passed all of the poppy fanfare of the opening tracks.


An Examination Of The Tracks

At first glance, “London” sounded like absolutely nothing more than a grinding pulse. But the melodic sounds of Morrissey cuts into the thrash and makes sense out of the noise. The song ends up to be very likeable and even memorable
. The message of this song is just as disturbing as it’s off jarring notes. It is told from the perspective of a third party looking into a relationship gone wrong. The male in this relationship thinks nothing of hopping on a train and getting the hell out of whatever situation he happens to befall upon leaving human wreckage behind, “She knows that when he goes… he really goes.. and do you think you’ve made the RIGHT DECISION THIS TIME?” Moz bellows.

What is really interesting to me on this track is right at the end. There is this rolling drum sound that takes the song to its close. But it has so much texture to it with the addition of a bass drum. I referred to it as a, “backwards drum roll” something about it seemed out of whack because the heavy drum  dips down grounding the solo back and forth and back and forth again.
You rarely hear this sort of thing on any sort of rock record. Most records just POUND POUND POUND the drums out but here you got something really memorable and actually exciting. You need to experience this sound on the dance floor with a zillion strobe lights flaring off while confetti was being dumped over and above your head. This was the standard fare at, The Nectarine Ballroom when I was a kid. It is beyond exhilarating.




Morrissey and Marr were listening to the radio when they heard the news about the Chernobyl nuclear reaction. They both looked at eachother and said, "We must do something..." That is the stuff of THE SMITHS lore....
I want to say that I heard that off a John Peel broadcast but its been a good 20 years or so my memory gets a little foggy on the details. But something to that effect went down. That was how the song, "PANIC" began to take shape.

Nothing at the time really encapsulated the feeling of overwhelm as, “Panic”. This is a recurring theme in THE SMITHS where one goes to the club and feels – nothing. Here MOZ laments over his dismal club life, “Hang the blessed DJ… because the music he constantly plays says nothing to me about my life….”. It is a theme we actually see occur in a previous track, “How Soon Is Now?” and in that scenario he leaves a club alone and feels like he wants to die. Music or the lack of it is the driving focal point of this song. We are on the hunt down for more substance from our lives whether it be in the club or from the singles the DJ plays.


Note in this track that THE SMITHS are in their golden age. The bouncy drum beat is back and it very well may be the most fun track off the entire album. The slide guitar of Johnny Marr really captures an emotion of despair and the day to day struggles one must feel in London’s closed in streets.
It’s a strong connector of time from one night to the next where MOZ picks up again and blurts out, “Burn down the disco, and HANG THE BLESSED DJ….” The track rambles along until finally out of frustration Morrissey finally caves in and leads the chorus of “HANG THE DJ… HANG THE DJ !!!”. The idea of publicly killing someone in front of the entire town seems plausible and an almost likeable experience. Keep in mind that the song tempo is upbeat and happy here even though the lyrics are painting a picture of life’s most grotesque outcomes. We’re all invited to partake in this public execution


Half A Person
The pop momentum slows down to its first lull with, “Half A Person”. There is a deliberate slowing down with the pace of this track. Morrissey immediately pulls you into the narrative…

Call me morbid, call me pale
I've spent six years on your trail
Six long years
On your trail

Six full years of my life on your trail

Morrissey goes onto ask if you have five more seconds to spare so that he can tell you the story of his life…. Here he goes into this memory of a socially inept person looking for employment in the most lowly of places. Apparently he has to take employment while he is searching for someone that he is obsessed with. It is quite easy to accept the lyrics at face value and roll with them but one must also comprehend what he is listening to. These are not the lyrics of a well person. This track is very unsettling in much of the way of, “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”.

Sixteen, clumsy and shy
I went to London and died…
I booked myself in at the Y ... W.C.A.
I said : "I like it here - can I stay ?
I like it here - can I stay ?
Do you have a vacancy
For a Back-scrubber?"


She was left behind, and sour
And she wrote to me, equally dour
She said :

"In the days when you were
Hopelessly poor
I just liked you more..."

Here Johnny Marr’s guitar playing is illustrating a complete emotion built on a memory. He is getting carried away with himself and if left unattended the song could essentially go on forever. You sort of become hypnotized with it and forget about the complexity of the sadness that goes along with this narrative. You slide down the path of loss and it is an easy one. The danger here I always felt is that you can actually fall in love with your own sadness. This track, no matter how introspective it is, demands another listen. As the song drifts off into a fade Morrissey reminds you again about his current state of mind. He is not asking you for sympathy one way or the other. Morrissey only wants to share with you his perspective on this situation even though it doesn’t end well.

That's the story of my life
That's the story of my life
That's the story ...



120 MINUTES - on MTV Was Very Attentive After - Louder Than Bombs - Was Released...


Morrissey and Marr Take A Bow...

Part of the charm of THE SMITHS was the fact they told stories. It did not matter if you knew the people they were singing about or not. They were characters that somehow filled up their lives in one way or the other. You were getting a glimpse into their world. Lloyd Cole told stories too and they were not pretty ones. Cole’s band, The Commotions, were all full of grief and strife but told through a very stylistic way in much of the same vein as THE SMITHS. But Morrissey and Marr would do something very interesting by switching musical genres, (Squeeze would try this too with sometimes very disastrous results) and throwing in odd bits of sound bites taken from obscure English films.

“Shelia Take A Bow” didn’t have any of those odd moments in it. The song subsists on a strong bouncy beat and has a considerable amount of charm on it. You can easily listen to this track over and over again and never quite work out the undertones of the lyrics. But that did not matter… THE SMITHS were rising in popularity….

Panic In The Streets of London - The Smiths, Morrissey and the USA

"For me, easily the most disturbing track on this entire release was - Rubber Ring - There was this rumor about a dead voice being caught on audio at the tail end of the track. Id like to think thats not true but I still think that it is haunting that they left that on there..."

Cantu 1989 - WCBN Interview

What I really want to point out here is that the rise of the band was very short. “Louder Than Bombs” is not considered an official release. It is a compilation and if anything I am quite sure that it was more of a standard in America than in England. The kids in the UK already knew the songs. They had the radio support of Radio 1 at the BBC with John Peel. They also had a wide range of college campuses who supported the shows of the band. The SMITHS toured relentlessly throughout the UK in college auditoriums so that they were in fact ready for a full fledged musical take over.

Take that under consideration with the Detroit Rock Music Scene which is for the most part strictly bar based. It would be difficult – however NOT IMPOSSIBLE but highly difficult – to gain that sort of attention with the American music model. Bar bands do have their own way of going about things but when you are talking about gaining national wide appeal THE SMITHS music model is something that deserves a serious look. John Peel was a radio legend. He believed in these bands before anybody else could and took the time to promote them on his popular show. That in itself was a huge move for many of these bands to reach National statue.

The tracks on this album were essentially old. They were even older by the time they reached U.S. shores. To be fair the revolution of THE SMITHS was already over by the time this album was released. You get a sense of what the singles were all about. The band had a habit of re-recording every single thing they did and then releasing various versions of them on singles and EP’s. They were basically the same song but with slight variations and different accents on the musical arrangements.



For the record:

"Rolling Stone named it one of the TOP 500 records of ALL TIME -- where it ranks at
number 365..."

The theme of the song gets complicated very quickly. We are looking at someone who has moved on with their life for the better. Morrissey is asking for the subject to remember him and the times that they lived in. The music they shared is of great importance and then there is the great uncertainty that this person will remember them.

But don't forget the songs
That made you cry
And the songs that saved your life
Yes, you're older now
And you're a clever swine
But they were the only ones who ever stood by you

** Then there is the haunting part of the song where Morrissey asks, “Do you still love me like you used to?”. After this point the song goes off into a droning spiral of uncertainty and it is a cacophony of sadness and misery. The beat loses its jazzy edge and goes into this driving dream-like state of uncertainty. It’s leading up to one of the weirdest moments in rock music history but only if you have the knowledge and the ear for it.

The story about – RUBBER RING – is actually quite horrible. From what I’ve heard THE SMITHS had found this album that contained a séance  with talking to the dead. The LP was from the 60’s. The voice you hear at the very end of, “Rubber Ring” asks, “You are sleeping – you do not want to believe, YOU ARE SLEEPING!” is the actual voice of a disembodied spirit. That is the official story that I heard. Now I have no idea if that album they lifted it off from is a fake or not. But this is what I heard. I never used to think about it much when I heard it and used to wonder what it was on there for. But when you get down to the complexity of the song, and the meaning about life, slothfulness and ultimately loneliness then this track takes on a whole other dimension. It’s very scary and it stops your heart for just a second every time you hear it. Even though you've heard it a thousand times you can never really get over the strangeness of it.


"[My] interest in James Dean was purely a physical obsession, and certainly nothing to do with his films or the art he may have striven for. I'm not really sure that he had any [acting skills]. He was just a fascinating symbol of self-destruction".


This song is one of desperation. Death has a way of creeping into many of the songs themes and as usual it is never a subtle intro. The complete lyrics are worth investigating because they are so unnerving. Within a few words of the song we are transported to some sort of dangerous and deadly cliff where the end of life is about to occur. I cannot help but to think about the Dover Cliff’s in England. Even though that would be a terrible way to end your life, (think The Who’s Quadrophenia) this is still what comes to mind. The rocks are talking to the subject in this song asking him to throw himself down and kill himself. We are INSTANTLY transported into a mind that is NOT WELL.

Young bones groan
And the rocks below say :
"Throw your skinny body down, son !"

But I'm going to meet the one I love
So please don't stand in my way
Because I'm going to meet the one I love
No, Mamma, let me go !

Young bones groan
And the rocks below say :
"Throw your white body down !"

But I'm going to meet the one I love
At last ! At last ! At last !
I'm going to meet the one I love
La-de-da, la-de-da
No, Mamma, let me go !
No ...

I thought that if you had
An acoustic guitar
Then it meant that you were
A Protest Singer
Oh, I can smile about it now
But at the time it was terrible
No, Mamma, let me go
No ...



Everyone has one of these lurking around in their past. It is a place of sour memories, (or as Morrissey says – There’s too many bad memories). Maybe they are sweet ones touched with sadness. This can also be remembered as a place in time that can never be repeated due to a variety of circumstances. Either way it is best left unexplored and that is the message of this song.

The glimpses we see of this memory are touched with a big dose of regret, “And I never even told you… how much I really liked you, oh but I MEANT TO…… Are you still there? Or have you moved away?”

Johnny Marr’s guitar is really something here because it touches on a raw nerve ending. This guitar is amplified to the point where you can hear his fingers slide across the strings making a harmonic hiss. The sounds are so deliberate that they are left in the track and add another dimension of texture to the song. The song glides across as the guitar scales pick up every nuance of feeling. Again, this is another one of Marr’s hypnotic songs that grabs you by the lapels and shakes you vigorously. The song is timeless. You want to hear it over and over again.

This particular track grabbed my attention in my adult years on another level. It is something I rarely talk about even with the best of friends. I am reminded of a childhood playmate I had as a boy who lived on my street named Donna. We grew apart and I moved away across the country and I later lost all contact. In my adult years I was horrified to learn that she had been viciously murdered. As the song says, I liked her – very much but never told her… hence, I do not want to go back to the old house -- too many bad memories.


Home :: The Queen Is Dead :: Strangeways Here We Come :: Louder Than Bombs :: Rank - Live :; The Moors Murders in Art ::
England Is Mine - Morrissey Film :: Linder Sterling
::Morrissey at Royal Oak Music Theater ::

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