Monday, 13 May 2013
The Smiths are the best band ever
The Smiths are the best band ever . By reading that sentence you instantly fall into two camps. Those who agree with me (hello, love the quiff) and those who disagree. To paraphrase Tony Wilson, you are entitled to your opinion, but your opinion is wrong. Stop your internal dialogue, you are, I’m afraid, mistaken.
They are the greatest because the simply did not write a bad song. Not one. Which ever band popped into your head when you read the opening nine words, they released a stinker at some point. The Beatles? When’s the last time you sat down and enjoyed Polythene Pam? Bob Dylan? That one about the Pillbox Hat. (And while we’re here, should protest songs be there to nod and drink coffee too? Really?). Elvis? Never wrote a word or a chord. Bowie? Laughing Gnome and that comeback one everyone got excited about that actually sounds like the song Ozzy Osbourne did with his daughter. The Smiths? Impeccable record of, er, records.
They are, of course, those who would disagree. Those are they kind of people who hear the word Morrissey, and suddenly say ‘Ooh, Morrissey!’ in a camp voice and/or do the wrist slit mime. This has always struck me as a very odd way of reacting to art. Imagine if you told someone you liked the film ‘The Green Mile’, and the person reacted by exclaiming ‘The Green Mile! The Green Mile!’ in the manner of Quentin Crisp and doing a mime of boo-hoo crying and chair based electrocution. You would think this person a tit of the highest order, and rightly so.
Smiths fans, however, are lovely. It’s easy to have a crush on a Smiths fan. If you’re a fan of football team, at some point a friend will say to you “ Oh, you should meet Keith, he supports Team X too”. When you meet Keith he turns out to be a borderline racist who watches Man Vs Food and has read one book, which turns out to be Bravo Two Zero. But if someone says “Oh he/she likes the Smiths” you are almost certain to get on with them. Perhaps that due to The Smiths, between the four members, cover all bases. They are as funny as they are sad. As sexy as they are virginal. As cool as they are daft. As rock and roll as they are shy. It’s hard not to fall for a band like that.
Also, The Smiths are enjoyed by people who really love music. There are people who use music as pleasant distraction. A CD put on in the car, a radio switched on to accompany the washing up. And of course there’s nothing wrong with that. But for others, they see music as not just as an escape but another world to run away too. To believe in. A light to look for to prove that their heart still beats. The Smiths are that kind of band. They really are.
There was a documentary on The Smiths on the BBC last night. It was OK (it must be hard to cover a band that fans know the story of back to front and inside out), but a bit Morrissey-centric I felt. There is a danger, I think, of the cult of Morrissey pushing the Smiths horribly over-ground. Remember when Top Shop started doing Joy Division T-shirts? If a band as darkly life affirming as Joy Division can be made so mainstream and inoffensive it can happen to The Smiths. Maybe it already has. The Salford Lads Club pictures and the conventions are wonderful and healthy (How I longed for those when I was sixteen). But listen to the records. This is where the band really, truly live on. These are the albums and singles that won our hearts and held them so gently for so long. This is where they truly belong to us, uniquely and unshakably our own. The Smiths are mine, and they owe me a love bite. I wont share them.