The Smiths Playlist

Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before was released on 28th September 1987 as a song on the final album from The Smiths, Strangeways Here We Come. Released after the band had broken up, it reached 2 in the British album chart.
The Extras Hector Hazard The Spinoff

Stop Me If You Think That You’ve Heard This One Before

UNCUT magazine is the main source for this classic Smiths playlist with songs chosen by Brett Anderson (Suede), Carl Barat (The Libertines), Peter Buck (REM), Steve Diggle (The Buzzcocks), Noel Gallagher (Oasis), Johnny Marr, Mike Joyce, Mark Ronson, Andy Rourke, Suggs (Madness). With a little-known favourite from Radiohead.

Mark Ronson  – Stop Me If You Think That You’ve Heard This One Before.

Ronson recomposed the song as Stop Me in 2007 with additional lyrics from You Keep Me Hanging On by The Supremes, with Daniel Merriweather on vocals. Merriweather told The Guardian that it was Ronson’s favourite Smiths song.

He explained: “Mark said, ‘I want you to sing on this – it’s my favourite Smiths song,’ so I listened to it. I’d heard it once before, but I was never a Smiths fan. But I thought it was beautiful.”

Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before was released on 28th September 1987 as a song on the final album from The Smiths, Strangeways Here We Come.

Released after the band had broken up, it reached 2 in the British album chart. It was recorded at Wool Hall studios in Beckington, Somerset, owned by Tears For Fears.

The Fans

Mozipedia by Simon GoddardAccording to Simon Goddard, in Mozipedia, the Bristol-based fanzine Smiths Indeed was the source for the Morrissey lookalikes, with horn-rimmed National Health Service glasses and quiffs, to star in the now-famous 18th October 1987 clip.

There were twelve fans, the same number as the disciples. According to Andy Rourke, “That’s an example of something Johnny (Marr) would never have agreed to. A bunch of Morrissey clones following Morrissey? Well, it’s not a Smiths video, is it? It’s a Morrissey video. You could already see where he was going next.”

The Fans

 

 

The Joke

The JokeThe joke? Charles Hawtrey (as Seneca) mutters ‘Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before’ in Carry On Cleo. Hawtrey is also the cover star of The Very Best of The Smiths.

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One was originally a comedy radio series, created by Cal Tinney and sponsored by Quaker Oats. Hosted by Milton Berle, it aired Saturday evenings at 8:30pm on NBC beginning October 7, 1939.

The Tim Broad Film Clip

The music clip from 1987 was produced by the director Tim Broad.  It opens with a picture of Oscar Wilde, hanging on a brick wall, and features Morrissey and a group of Morrissey lookalikes cycling around Manchester and Salford, including famous locations such as the Salford Lads’ Club.

The cyclists go from the Strangeways road sign to the façade of Albert Finney’s father’s betting shop and the steps of Salford Lads’ Club.

The Morrissey Autobiography

The Morrissey AutobiographyMorrissey, taking Pastalin (“this hideous mood pill”) at the time, was told  by Rough Trade that if the singles from Strangeways, Here We Come were to succeed, they would need promotional videos.

Yet, the single (released on white label vinyl to BBC Radio One) was dismissed by programmers because of the recent Hungerford Massacre mass murder and the lyrics.

Morrissey, from his autobiography:

“Director Tim Broad steps in to make sense of it all, hotch-potching two videos for both Girlfriend In A Coma and Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before.” The results for both are frustratingly unwatchable, although Tim did his best with such a mealy-mouthed budget.” (Ten thousand pounds).

In the end, the reference to mass murder in the song means Rough Trade never release ‘Stop Me’ as a single. Morrissey: “I argue that it is surely a bit late in the day to worry about offending anybody.”

“Yes, but radio won’t play it,” offers Geoff (Travis), “his cadaverous smile as colourless as an Islington sky.”

“But they don’t ever play ANYTHING anyway!” I choke, finally ready for the taxidermist.”

The Extras

The Extras Hector Hazard The SpinoffOne of the twelve extras for the clip was Smiths fan Hector Hazard  – filmmaker, cycling enthusiast and best-known in New Zealand for his stint running the Chicks Hotel in Port Chalmers, near Dunedin.

Originally from Leigh in Greater Manchester he is pictured here in a feature by Helen Lehndorf from The Spinoff.

Hector Hazard: “I have one brother, Neil, he’s three years younger. It was 1987 by this stage, and I’d been a Smiths fan for a few years since ’84. My brother was following in my footsteps and really into The Smiths as well. He was part of a fan club called Smiths Indeed. They had a ‘zine – it was really good writing, the editor had talent. A few thousand people bought and contributed to it.

So the Rough Trade Records casting agent thought it would be a good idea to get Smiths Indeed to find the talent for the Smiths video. It was in the ‘zine: “If you want to be in celluloid history and be considered for a Smiths video, then send in a letter and a passport photo and Morrissey will pick ten of you.” My brother did it and then about two weeks later told me about it. His actual words were “Hey, I’m going to be in a Smiths video.”

You’ve Been Chosen!

I said “I’m going to enter too” and he said “No, it’s too late, the deadline was yesterday.” So the prick had purposefully not told me! But I checked and he’d got the date wrong so I still had two days! I sent in a letter and a photo in which I kinda looked like [Moors Murderer] Ian Brady with NHS glasses on.

At the time I had a shit job, my first job. I’d flunked my A-levels. I was working for the Keep Britain Tidy group as an accounts assistant. So the phone goes at work, its for me and it’s Jo from Rough Trade Records, all chirpy: “Hi! You’ve been chosen to be in The Smiths video! So if you could turn up next Sunday at the Britannia Hotel, Central Manchester, 9 o’clock. Bring a bicycle and wear a Smiths t-shirt and some jeans. We’ll send you a letter…congratulations!”

Murray Head and the Cover

Murray Head and the Cover

The cover of the single is a picture of British actor and singer Murray Head in the 1966 film, The Family Way.

The Family Way Murray Head

The Family Way

This great Smiths/Morrissey fan website lists many of the favourite films and books which are referenced in the songs. The Family Way not only provided a still for the single sleeve, it also provided a photograph of Avril Angers for the single, I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish.

Morrissey told the NME on 16th September 1989 that the film was one of his favourites in a feature called Headful of Heroes: Back Row. The phrase ‘back-scrubber’ may also come from the film. It’s one of many Smiths in-jokes, some of which can still be found on the run-out messages on early releases.

Recreating the Ride

The song inspired a fundraising event for Salford Lads’ Club by Manchester academic Ruth Martin, according to The Guardian.

On 30 September 2006, 62 passionate fans got on their bikes and recreated the music video from 1987’s Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before, in which Morrissey cycles round the city.

HM Prison Manchester

They stopped at such hallowed landmarks as Morrissey’s childhood home in Stretford, Southern Cemetery and HM Prison Manchester, and ended up raising £4,000. London-based tribute act the Smyths played to welcome cyclists back to the Lads Club.

The Manchester Evening News commented:

“Riders did a tour of the places mentioned in The Smiths songs including the Iron Bridge on Kings Road, Stretford; Southern Cemetery; The Holy Name Church on Wilmslow Road, and Strangeways Prison.

Morrissey sang about a visit to the cemetery on the Smiths song Cemetery Gates.

Coronation Street

The ride began at Salford Lads Club in Coronation Street, where the four members of the Smiths posed for one of the iconic images of the band which appeared on the sleeve of the 1986 album The Queen Is Dead.

It was inspired by a video for the song Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before, in which Morrissey cycled around the city at the head of a group of Smiths’ disciples.

The singer’s home on Kings Road in Stretford has become a mecca for fans of the band along with his former girlfriend’s home on Mayfield Road in Whalley Range, immortalised by the line, ‘What do we get for our trouble and pain? Just a rented room in Whalley Range’ in the song Miserable Lie.”

 The Lyrics

Stop me, oh, stop me
Stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before
Stop me, oh, stop me
Stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before

Nothing’s changed
I still love you, oh, I still love you
Only slightly, only slightly less than I used to, my love

I was delayed, I was way-laid
An emergency stop
I smelt the last ten seconds of life
I crashed down on the crossbar
And the pain was enough to make a shy, bald, Buddhist reflect
And plan a mass murder
Who said I’d lied to her?

Oh, who said I’d lied because I never? I never
Who said I’d lied because I never?

I was detained, I was restrained
And broke my spleen and broke my knee
And then he really laced into me
Friday night in-out patients
Who said I’d lied to her?

Oh, who said I’d lied? Because I never, I never
Who said I’d lied? Because I never

And so I drank one
It became four
And when I fell on the floor
I drank more

Stop me, oh, stop me
Stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before
Stop me, oh, stop me
Stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before

Nothing’s changed
I still love you, oh, I still love you
Only slightly, only slightly less than I used to, my love

 The Art

The song is immortalised in art held in the collection at MOMA in New York. 

Stop Me If You Think That You’ve Heard This One Before Jonathan Monk, 2003 is part of an ongoing fascination with The Smiths.

MOMA Jonathan Monk Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before

The Smiths’ Room

Salford Lads’ Club is home to a small shrine to the band.

It’s best seen as part of a Manchester Music Tour, and you can check for the next available dates here

YouTube Documentaries About Morrissey

Victoria Wood and Morrissey

 

Morrissey Inside Out (BBC)

 

The Smiths – Not Like Any Other Love (BBC)

 

The Importance of Being Morrissey

The Recording Studio for Stop Me

Now, sadly, apartments – the recording studio where The Smiths put down Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before was as 16th century building bought by Van Morrison from Tears For Fears.

Flanked by lions, it was the site of The Smiths’ final photo shoot before Marr departed, according to The Bath Chronicle.

Wool Hall Studio in The Bath Chronicle

Collecting the Single

The CBS Australian promotional single with a picture sleeve in near mint condition is valued at AUD $275 for collectors.

Collecting the Single

Noel Gallagher – This Charming Man

Noel Gallagher’s Favourite Smiths Song

I’ll never forget when I first heard this. I was working for a signwriting company in Levenshulme. My job consisted of using this bloody big staple gun to pin these signs together. I was working late one night on my own and it was dark, and This Charming Man came on the radio. I’d heard Hand In Glove and read an article on them in the Manchester Evening News, but the second I heard This Charming Man everything made sense.

“I’d been a bit too young for The Jam, and they’d split up the previous Christmas just when I was really getting into them, but this was different. The Smiths were my band. The sound of that guitar intro was incredible…I saw them on Top Of The Pops later when they did What Difference Does It Make? Johnny has this white polo-neck on and the Brian Jones hair and that was it for me. I just said to myself: “I’m going to be like you!” It made me realise what I was going to do with my life.”

Alex Kapranos – Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want.

Alex Kapranos’ Favourite Smiths Song

“It makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, probably the best reaction you can get from any piece of music. Although What Difference Does It Make is the song that got me into The Smiths. I remember that when I first heard the riff, I loved it — then when Morrissey started singing, I hated it. So it was Johnny Marr’s guitar-playing that got me into that band. All of Franz have been fans of The Smiths since being teenagers. We had heard through a friend of a friend that Morrissey really liked our first album. When we met, we were worried he wouldn’t somehow meet up to the expectations we’d placed upon him — but he was fantastic, just as enigmatic and witty as you’d expect.”

Ian Brown’s Favourite Smiths song

Ian Brown– Barbarism Begins At Home

“ I met Andy Rourke at a party when I was 16. My favourite memory of those days is that he used to wear a ’60s sheepskin coat, which belonged to the mother of my friend, Simon Wolstencroft [pre-Reni Roses drummer and later drummer for The Fall]. I thought it was really funny that he had me mate’s mum’s coat on. But it was dead fashionable at the same time.”

“I didn’t meet Johnny until a few years later. There’s a great story of Johnny going into a pub in Sale called The Vine when he was 17 and telling everyone he was going to have a No 1 album – and a year or two later, he did! He always had that belief.”

“The thing about The Smiths that never got written about was that the pre-Smiths groups that Andy and Johnny were in, the Paris Valentinos and White Dice, were funk outfits. When everyone else was a punk rocker, Andy was into The Fatback Band and Parliament. I think that’s what gave The Smiths the groove; Andy played the melody like a McCartney, but he had that funk undercarriage that he learned when he was a kid, when he first picked that bass up. That’s what gave Morrissey the cradle to jump on top. So my favourite Smiths track is Barbarism Begins At Home, because that bassline is what Andy would’ve playing when he was about 14.

That Morrissey sang with his own accent was a big deal. Obviously, the lyrics are great. The way that he arranges his songs… no one else arranges their songs like that. He repeats lines, but each one’s got a different melody.”

Brett Anderson – Reel Around the Fountain

“This track perfectly captures The Smiths’ dark beauty and brooding soul. Looking back, the debut album was flawed, but I still loved every bruised moment. I was fascinated with the wordplay in this song; the way the phrase “15 minutes with you” seemed to allude to the pursuit of fame in the Warholian sense. But The Smiths were always about so much more than the lyrics, and like any great band, they blended the interplay between melody and meaning expertly. They went on to make better records, possibly making the LP of the decade in The Queen Is Dead, but those early moments like Reel Around The Fountain are still special.

Bret Anderson’s Favourite Smiths Song

Andy Rourke – The Headmaster Ritual

“This one has always been a favourite of mine. I dig it out when I’m DJing, along with There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, Ask and Panic. It was good fun to play and well recorded. Johnny had been

working on it for a while. I think when you slow it all down, those intro chords are very close to something by Joni Mitchell. So it started as a ballad, then Johnny doubled the speed until it became the rock tune you hear today. Whenever we performed it live, it was a joy. It always went down really well. I remember doing it on [BBC2’s] Oxford Road Show [February 1985]. That’s when we first aired it.”

Radiohead Play The Headmaster Ritual

Suggs – Shoplifters of the World Unite

A fantastic song with a great sentiment. Every boy of a certain age has stolen a packet of Smarties from a sweet shop at some point – it certainly took me back to being a spotty child with my nose just over the counter. The idea of all these shoplifters uniting was an image only Morrissey could have come up with. The idea that everyone could take a little bit for themselves if they didn’t have too much.

I came to The Smiths quite late. What struck me was that bands like Madness, Dexys and The Smiths all had identifiable personalities. At first I didn’t get Morrissey. A lot of the DJs thought it was boring and depressing, and the humour took a long time to reach me. But then you’d read interviews and realise he was a witty and amusing person.

I went on to work with Morrissey because he professed to being a Madness fan. He was working with our producer, Clive Langer, and he asked me to do some backing vocals on Piccadilly Palare. He said, “Just sing the first thing that comes into your head!” So I did!

A lot of people remember Madstock. It was two nights in Finsbury Park, a comeback thing, and Morrissey wanted to play with us. The first night, he got his Union Jack out. It wasn’t the best reception, although I didn’t think it was that terrible. Unfortunately, there weren’t many Morrissey fans there, so he pulled out. I rang him up the next day and he was like, “Oh I can’t possibly do it, Suggs. I nearly lost an eye.”

Then, on the second night, there were 3,000 Morrissey fans there and no Morrissey! So they gave us a hard time. But in that ubiquitous way of his, he still ended up getting all the headlines!”

Mike Joyce – Hand In Glove

“I had a dream the other week. Myself, Johnny, Andy and Morrissey were in a rehearsal room. We’d decided to reform and put our differences aside. Morrissey asked what we should open the set with. At exactly the same time, in stereo, Johnny and I said Hand In Glove. We all burst out laughing. I suppose my reasoning was because it was the first record we ever made. Then I woke up with a jolt. I never realised you could put words in other people’s mouths in a dream. But for two people to say something at exactly the same time was disturbing. It was strange – the sort of dream that stays with you for a few days.”

“Once we’d heard it all come together in the studio, it added to our self-belief. We weren’t arrogant, it was more a feeling of pride. I remember looking at Morrissey – and him looking at me – and we both had the same knowing smile. He couldn’t contain his joy. It was like, “How great was that?”

Steve Diggle – I Know It’s Over

“It touches on the depths of despair in that human, Smiths way. Just listen to that opening line: “Oh Mother, I can feel the soil falling over my head”. And there’s that other line which is chilling – “If you’re so funny, then why are you on your own tonight?” Whether you listen to that in a bedsit or a fairy palace, it still hits you. It’s straight to the point. Only Morrissey could get away with that. The sparseness of the arrangement is incredible, too. Johnny Marr always did the right thing on the guitar. He was so concise. Andy and Mike were perfect. It would have been great to hear Elvis do a cover of I Know It’s Over, albeit in a rhinestone suit. I think he would have done a fantastic job…”

“Morrissey used to come to our Buzzcocks gigs in grey coat and National Health glasses. He’d be sat at the back taking notes. I remember he was very shy. He’d say hello, but then be stand-offish. When The Smiths got going, Morrissey did take the non-gender lyrics from us. I’ve never taken him to task about it, but I’m pretty sure that’s the case. But Pete [Shelley] and I were doing that with our songs. Listen to Fast Cars or Promises. It’s left open. I love Morrissey’s solo albums, but find them a bit stiff. But with the chemistry in The Smiths, it flowed. He’ll never capture that again.

Mani – Panic

“I first saw The Smiths in the early ’80s when they played the Hacienda with my mates’ band La Voyota Lakota. There was a buzz about The Smiths at the time. I was curious to see if they were as good as I’d heard, and was completely blown away. The chemistry between them was really strong and Morrissey seemed an interesting frontman. He didn’t talk much, but he moved around the stage a lot and threw gladioli into the crowd. My mates couldn’t afford flowers so they threw tampons at the audience…!”

“Panic is one of the best pop songs of the last 30 years. All my favourite songs usually make me want to dance or sing along and this makes me want to do both. I remember listening to it over and over with a big bag of weed, dreaming of forming a band and doing it myself. The rhythm section is really tight, the melody is tremendous and the lyrics are really witty.”

“I’ve always seen Morrissey’s songs as great pieces of social satire. Who else would come up with a chorus like “Hang the DJ, hang the DJ, hang the DJ/Because the music that they constantly play/It says nothing to me about my life..?”

Russell Brand – There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

“I have to say I’ve crossed over into that religious devotional area with Morrissey. When I interviewed him, he was saying how much happier he is these days. So I asked him “Have you accepted yourself now?” He looked at me all pleased and gave me a knowing, congratulatory look that said, “Well done you, for turning that song back on me”. It gave me a nice warm glow.”

“I didn’t get to see the last tour, but I know that he introduced himself on stage as Russell Brand – twice! It was unbelievable. He did it at Wembley Arena and Birmingham. And he mentioned me in Glasgow, too. When I interviewed him, I wasn’t overwhelmed in a gushing way. At one point, it got a little confrontational. I told him I’d seen him perform at the Palladium and he came back with “I don’t perform. Seals perform.” On a personal level, he speaks to me. In my entire life, there have only been two people I’ve ever asked for an autograph. The first was [Dutch footballer] Marco Van Basten when I was about 12, and the other was Morrissey a few weeks ago.”

“With There Is A Light…, I can’t think of another lyricist who can use humour without compromising pathos. And I can’t think of anyone else who could have used that “10-ton truck” line. It sounds laughable, but still sounds beautiful.”

Carl Barat – The Queen is Dead

“As a youngster I listened to Love, The Mamas And The Papas and The Velvet Undergound while The Smiths were grabbing the music business by the throat and administering a well-deserved kick in the shins. The Smiths were more Peter [Doherty]’s sort of thing. When we got The Libertines together, I think he thought I’d be Marr to his Morrissey… It became clear what I’d missed and I devoured every record I could get hold of. I loved their sense of Englishness and some of that came through in The Libertines’ songs. A little bit less ’60s kitchen sink perhaps and more, well, squat life and music hall.”

“Marr was always a brilliant guitar player – the best of his generation. I met him the first time The Libertines went to America, at Coachella in California. He was that rarest of beasts: a real gent. I’ve got one of his plectrums that I really value.”

I keep coming back to The Queen Is Dead. It’s the perfect melding of Morrissey’s idiosyncratic vision and Marr’s sonic assault. Even now, people think that Marr’s playing was all sub-Byrds jangle. But it was clear he was questing for new sounds. How Soon Is Now? is arguably his sonic masterpiece but for me, it’s The Queen Is Dead that showcases the passion in his playing.”

“Over and above the sound was Morrissey’s singing. Although singing is too small a word. The music sounds like the end of the world and it’s like the spirit of England, from Boudicca through to Betjeman and beyond, is proclaiming the last rites. The fact it’s royalty that’s getting the well-aimed boot only adds to the thrill…”

Peter Buck – How Soon Is Now

“The lyrics are great, but for me, I approach it as a musical thing. If nothing else, all the guitar tones are just so wonderful. There’s the tremolo and then the slide has this amazing texture. It’s a great ensemble piece, with the four musicians all playing together really well. It’s so evocative and so kind of eerie. How Soon Is Now? is very un-Smiths-like.

I bought it in America, where it was the B-side to a single, though I can’t remember which [actually a double A-side with Shakespeare’s Sister]. That was in the days when you’d buy the single just to hear the B-side, because they were so special. I heard Seymour Stein call it “the Stairway To Heaven” of the ’80s”, but I like it better than that. Stairway was played on radio stations in Georgia 10 times a day, but How Soon Is Now? was greatly underplayed. I don’t think I ever heard it on the radio…”

Johnny Marr – How Soon Is Now

“People say How Soon Is Now? isn’t a typical Smiths song, but neither was something like Sweet And Tender Hooligan. It all depends what period you’re talking about. Some people say This Charming Man and Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now, while others say Back To The Old House or This Night Has Opened My Eyes. But I know How Soon Is Now? tends to stand apart. We were trying to evolve all the time. I remember I left the studio around seven in the morning when we’d finished recording it. And in the cab on the way back to my flat in Earls Court, I remember thinking we’d really gone somewhere with that song. I was spinning out.”

Johnny Marr’s favourite Smiths song.

“I wrote it in that flat. I’d just done William… and Please Please Please… and needed another song for the extra track. I think the working title of Please Please Please… was The Irish Waltz, while How Soon Is Now? was originally called Swamp. And because, musically, the A-side and B-side of the single were very contrasting, I gave myself some freedom to see what I could come up with for the third tune. I could kick back a bit, which probably explains why How Soon Is Now? is the way it is. There’s a lot of space in it. If you think of it in context – having spent Friday and Saturday writing the other two – it gave me that freedom. I’d written William… in the van on the way down to London after we’d just played [Manchester’s] Free Trade Hall. Putting those three songs together was a real creative blast…”

Read the full-length interviews about best-loved Smiths songs at the UNCUT website. 

 

 

 

 

 

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