THE SMITHS - JOHNNY MARR MORRISSEY JOYCE 1987 Strangeways The Smiths 1987 Strangeways The Smiths 1987 Strangeways The Smiths 1987 Strangeways The Smiths 1987 Strangeways The Smiths 1987 Strangeways The Smiths 1987 Strangeways The Smiths 1987 Strangeways The Smiths 1987 Strangeways The Smiths
Farewell and Thank You...
As soon as it was over. It happened so abruptly. The release, “Strangeways Here We Come” was released in the Fall of 1987. The title was a nod to a piece of history – in this case, Strangeways Prison located in Manchester, England. It is also somewhat of a metaphor to the band. This was to be The Smiths final studio release. There would be no tour to support this album and no promotional videos until the following spring.

The tracks on this album were significantly darker than previous releases. MTV eventually promoted, “Girlfriend In A Coma” because of its uplifting beat even though the undertones of the track were something sinister. “Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before” was another track that saw the light of day while, “Death of Disco Dancer” stepped into uncertainty and enjoyed more of a spotlight on late night college radio.

Rolling Stone magazine wrote a little blurb in the notes column alluding to a black and white film that was shot of The Smiths in Concert in December 1987. This film has never surfaced to the best of my knowledge. At the time I was hoping that it was going to be released on video.
Strangeways Here We Come - The Smiths
THE SMITHS - JOHNNY MARR MORRISSEY JOYCE Strangeways Here We Come - The Smiths
Strangeways Here We Come in Review Strangeways Here We Come - The Smiths
MORRISSEY MOZ Strangeways Here We Come - The Smiths
Strangeways Here We Come in Review Strangeways Here We Come in Review Strangeways Here We Come in Review Strangeways Here We Come in Review Strangeways Here We Come - The Smiths

It's 1987... Is Anyone Listening?

In 1987, the doors to the Euro Indy New Music movement was in full swing. Radio was finally putting REM into rotation and in Michigan that was a huge step forward. I am sure it was already happening in other markets. Chicago and New York had a wide range of support when it came to promoting new acts and underground bands. The Fall of 1987 was the beginning of many bands seeing the light of day and they came in droves. Bands like The Lucy Show, That Petrol Emotion, A House, The Primitives, and The Proclaimers were taking over the college mindset. It was blinding.

“Strangeways Here We Come” slipped into that timeframe somewhat unnoticed. This album was aptly named due to the fact that it was signaled the end of The Smiths. They had broken up near the date of its release. The future seemed uncertain for all of the members the band.  Would they slip off into obscurity or into the history pages?  Strangeways Prison carries a certain notoriety that may serve as a suitable house for such a young and morose group of individuals. In fact, it may be the ONLY place for them. Was this how it was going to end?

By December 1987 there were rumors in the clubs floating around that Morrissey was supposed to embark on a solo career? How were people coming across this sort of information? This was long before the Internet had any kind of grip on the American public. Getting real information like this could only come from one place and it certainly wasn’t the American newsstands. At the time there wasn't magazines like MOJO in Michigan. We had the basics -- Spin and Rolling Stone. The only place where one can come across solid inside Indy UK record information in 1987 was in a college radio station.

In 1987, many of my friends were inside the offices of WCBN where they had their own student radio shows. Once inside they would stumble across trade publications, press releases, flyers, and industry newsletters. I relied on them for information on anything they could tell me about the band.

Rock Music Takes A Serious Turn

For a brief while mainstream media and MTV in particular was starting to pay attention. Rolling Stone journalist , Kurt Loder, joined the MTV staff and began to break news snippets on what was happening on a world wide musical scale. Sometimes you would hear news about the members of The Smiths. Johnny Marr wasted no time getting into new projects and was recording with The Pretenders, members of New Order. The word at that time was that he was getting a lot of work as a session player in a wide variety of bands…. As for the peoples poet – Morrissey was the subject of rumors, wish lists, and speculation.

One thing was certain. Many of these independent Euro acts were starting to take shape into the American mindset. The Cult had just released, “Electric” the in the spring of 1987 and was getting more airplay on MTV and in college radio. Even Love and Rockets was getting noticed with their, “Express” release and this signaled off a Bauhaus revival which was unexpected.

The doors were being opened.

Strangeways Here We Come - The Smiths 1987

"The oddest thing about this release is that once it hit the record shelves nobody talked about it. There was so many other things going on at that time.... it caught on years later and people began to give it a second listen -- but it was years later...."

Cantu - Hot Metro Finds Interview

Johnny Marr was influenced by the Beatles White Album when he worked on, “Strangeways”. I always was a fan of the use of film voiceovers, obscure actors photographs and the use of sound bites in The Smiths catalog. Over the years of the bands progression you can see a steady climb of this audio tapestry interwoven into their music. It made the songs into stand alone art pieces that encouraged another listen. In many respects it also invited curious debate. But overall I always felt that this added dimension into the emotion of the feelings the songs were trying to emote thus making them unforgettable. This in short made the songs better…

There is one small and almost insignificant musical coda on the tail end of, “Paint A Vulgar Picture” which is very Beatlesque. It reminds me The Beatles, “Baby You’re a Rich Man” and it comes at the very end of the track but it doesn’t really capture the song note per note. I think it was Marr’s way of toying with us or perhaps creating somewhat of a time capsule for the era The Smiths was tearing down.

There are a lot of similarities between The Smiths and The Beatles. Both of these bands experienced a meteoric rise in popularity in a very short time. Both of them had a ravenous fan base. The Smiths had a potential to grow even larger fan population but there were problems in the band that were beginning to emerge. The feud between Morrissey and Johnny Marr would come much later.

However, the big topic in the American Midwest was the one about the subject of Andy Rourke and his troubling heroin addiction. The word was that he was fired from the band and quite honestly don’t ask me how these sort of rumors get started.

Rourke was known for his heroin use but is there any weight to getting fired from the band because of it? Sunday nights were the best nights to get any sort of news about the, “New Music”, (God I hate that phrase) phenomenon in 1987 whether it be from MTV or from the radio stations in Canada. You could get interesting news off of sympathetic UK pop friendly radio stations and get news on your favorite underground acts, (yes in 1987 The Smiths were considered underground… think Rough Trade records) import records, and sometimes up and coming acts.


ANDY ROURKE Claims That Morrissey Placed A Postcard On His Car Windshield Informing Him That He Had Been Fired From The Band. Reasons: Heroin Use. An Allegation Morrissey Himself Denies....

These Are The Days Of Milk and Honey…
(Figuratively Speaking)

When 1988 hit I was relieved. Radio stations were accepting the fact that this music was too big to ignore. The formats changed and more radio stations included more songs from bands like The Church, The Replacements, and this eventually opened the door up to a new wave of sounds that may not have been previously possible such as Jane’s Addiction which was to come in the early 1990’s.

The clubs were now wide open to this sort of sound and places like The Nectarine Ballroom, (now called The Necto) in Ann Arbor was very Smiths friendly. The University of Michigan was always supportive of what I call the Holy Trinity, (Public Image Limited, Souixsie and the Banshees and The Cure) and the sounds of the Smiths quite literally filled the streets. You could hear them being blasted out of college dorms on any given Friday night, (think “This Charming Man” and the ever present, “How Soon Is Now?”).  The most popular Smith songs were the ones from other releases and not necessarily the ones from, “Strangeways” which is peculiar because it is such a rich album.

There are tracks on this release that are really haunting… “Last Night I Dremt That Somebody Loved Me” starts out with what sounds like a boxing match and a cheering crowd with this slow piano pound that is contemplating the next note. It holds the note and then pauses and makes another note and pauses as if it is questioning its own ability to make the next move. The out of the blue a blinding cacophony of sound comes crashing down upon the listener and you are immediately pulled into an undertow of deep despair with no way out and no glimmer of light. The song doesn’t even give you any hope. It is a sharp jaggery knife that rips into your soul with shrieks of your worst fear accompanied with strings and then it abruptly leaves you in the dark. Alone.

Other tracks are no less haunting. “Death At One’s Elbow” is a violent warning about a violent love gone incredibly violent. It has a country bopping bashy beat that throws you off guard. But make no mistake about it. Underneath all of that jangly charm someone will lose their life. They are either in danger of getting their ear lopped off, (“Who’ll take a hatchet to your ear…”) or worse. “Stay Home Be Bored Its Crap I KNOW !!...” warns Morrissey. This comes at a time in a young ones life where he is faced with unworkable situations, dramatic life and death consequences and other miserable circumstances. As a youth I was in some ridiculous love scenarios where I had to hide from people who wanted to either 1. Stone me to death 2. Chase me off into the woods and 3. Hole myself up in basements. One usually gets the love thing worked out in their adult years but what singer/band really addresses these concerns at all? The Smiths.

Reflections on Strangeways Here We Come - 1987

"Bleak subjects like rejection and death are always met with nervous laughter. "

Cantu 1989 - WCBN Interview


For the record:

"Strangeways Prison Is For Men Only. There Is A Permanent Gallows Installed On The Premises. The Walls Are 16 Feet Thick And The Prisoners Are Housed 88 Men To A Cell..."

The official word is that this was The Smiths 4th album. But there are others to consider such as the imported, "Hatful of Hollow" and, "The World Won't Listen" along with a handful of imported 33 LP singles that would float through the record shops from time to time.

The bands reaction to this release is favorable. It is regarded as the bands finest hour. It was one of the few things The Smiths could all agree on....


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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