Strangeways, Here We Come

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Strangeways, Here We Come
Studio album by The Smiths
Released 28 September 1987
Recorded Spring 1987
The Wool Hall, Beckington, Somerset
Genre Alternative rock, indie pop
Length 36:37
Label Rough Trade (UK), Sire (US)
Producer Johnny Marr, Morrissey and Stephen Street
The Smiths chronology
The Queen Is Dead
(1986)
Strangeways, Here We Come
(1987)
Singles from Strangeways, Here We Come
  1. "Girlfriend in a Coma"
    Released: 10 August 1987
  2. "I Started Something I Couldn't Finish"
    Released: 2 November 1987
  3. "Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me"
    Released: 7 December 1987
  4. "Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before"
    Released: 1987
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[1]
Blender 4/5 stars[2]
Q 4/5 stars[3]
Pitchfork (8.3/10)[4]
Robert Christgau (B)[5]
Rolling Stone (favourable)[6]

Strangeways, Here We Come is the fourth and final studio album by English rock band The Smiths, released in 1987, reaching No. 2 on the album chart[which?] and staying in the chart for 17 weeks.[7] All of the songs on the album were composed by Johnny Marr, with lyrics written and sung by Morrissey. The album was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America on 19 September 1990.

Slant Magazine listed the album at #69 on its list of "Best Albums of the 1980s", saying, "Whether or not Strangeways, Here We Come ended the Smiths' brief career with their best album has been the subject of considerable debate for nearly a quarter century, but it definitively stands as the band's most lush, richest work."[8]

Recording[edit]

The Smiths recorded what was to be their final studio album at the Wool Hall studios in Beckington, Somerset, England. Between the album's recording in March and its release in September 1987, Johnny Marr exited the group, consequently dissolving the band. Strangeways is the only Smiths album to feature Morrissey playing a musical instrument: piano in the song, "Death of a Disco Dancer".[9]

Musically, Marr felt the band was ready to enter a new phase, and was determined to avoid formula and move away from their previous "jingle jangle" sound.[10] He started to look for different influences, finding an interest in The Beatles' White Album.[10] The band used synthesised saxophone and string arrangements and drum machine additions.

Recording in The Wool Hall made the sessions more relaxed, as the wine cellar was fully stocked and producer Stephen Street came slowly to understand the idea that the writing partners Morrissey and Marr were trying to put forth. Street (who engineered previous Smiths efforts) later said that after the recording days there would always be late-night drinking. "That was always after Morrissey had gone to bed... it wasn't really his bag. We'd carry on finishing overdubs and then the records would come out. We'd be partying all hours." Marr would later defend this by saying "But only after ten or twelve hours of making some really good music, not as a substitute... It wasn't all one Spinal Tap mongo fest!"[citation needed]

Morrissey and Marr feel the album is the band's best, with Morrissey asserting that, "We say it quite often. At the same time. In our sleep. But in different beds."[11]

Artwork and title[edit]

The sleeve for Strangeways, Here We Come, which was designed by Morrissey, features a murky shot of East of Eden co-star Richard Davalos. Davalos is looking at James Dean, who is cropped from the image. Dean was a hero of Morrissey's, about whom the singer wrote a book called James Dead Is Not Dead. Five years later, when designing the sleeve for WEA's Best compilations, Morrissey again chose Davalos as a cover star, and Davalos is looking at Dean, who is once again cropped.

As revealed in Jo Slee's collection of Smiths and Morrissey sleeve artwork, Peepholism, Davalos was not the original choice for cover star. Morrissey wanted to use a still of Harvey Keitel in Martin Scorsese's I Call First (also known as Who's That Knocking at My Door), but Keitel declined to allow him to use the image. In 1991 Keitel relented, and the image was used on T-shirts and stage backdrops for Morrissey's 1991 solo tour.

The album takes its title from Manchester's notorious (and now renamed) Strangeways Prison, whilst the line "Borstal, here we come" is taken from the novel Billy Liar. "Strangeways, of course, is that hideous Victorian monstrosity of a prison operating 88 to a cell," Morrissey has satirically explained.[citation needed]

On the title, Marr has said "I've learned to love the title... it was a bit overstating things somewhat. A little bit obvious. But it's OK. I was always intrigued by the word Strangeways. I remember as a kid, when I first heard that the prison was really called that, I wondered had it not occurred to anybody to change the name? It's still befuddling, really." Morrissey has also stated, "Really it's me throwing both arms to the skies and yelling 'Whatever next?'"[citation needed]

Release[edit]

The album rose to #2 on the UK Albums Chart and #55 on the U.S. Billboard 200.

Two final songs were recorded in May 1987 to provide B-sides for the album's lead single, "Girlfriend in a Coma". Two more singles were taken off Strangeways, Here We Come; their B-sides were drawn from archival recordings.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Morrissey and Johnny Marr. 

No. Title Length
1. "A Rush and a Push and the Land Is Ours"   3:00
2. "I Started Something I Couldn't Finish"   3:47
3. "Death of a Disco Dancer"   5:26
4. "Girlfriend in a Coma"   2:03
5. "Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before"   3:32
6. "Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me"   5:03
7. "Unhappy Birthday"   2:46
8. "Paint a Vulgar Picture"   5:35
9. "Death at One's Elbow"   2:01
10. "I Won't Share You"   2:48

Personnel[edit]

Band[edit]

Additional musicians[edit]

  • Stephen Street – additional drum machine programming on "I Started Something I Couldn't Finish", "Paint a Vulgar Picture" and "Death at One's Elbow", and strings arrangement for "Girlfriend in a Coma"

The sleeve notes list "Orchestrazia Ardwick" as being responsible for performance of the strings and saxophone arrangements; in reality, this is Johnny Marr and his synthesizer.

Technical staff[edit]

  • Johnny Marr, Morrissey, and Stephen Street – producers
  • Steve Williams – assistant engineer

Charts[edit]

Album

Year Chart Position
1987 UK Albums Chart 2

References[edit]

  1. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Strangeways, Here We Come – The Smiths". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 9 November 2011. 
  2. ^ Blender review
  3. ^ Q review
  4. ^ The Smiths: The Smiths Complete | Album Reviews | Pitchfork
  5. ^ Robert Christgau review
  6. ^ Rolling Stone review
  7. ^ David Roberts British Hit Singles and Albums, Guinness World Records Limited
  8. ^ Best Albums of the 1980s | Music | Slant Magazine
  9. ^ Goddard, Simon (1 Oct 2009). Mozipedia: The Encyclopedia of Morrissey and The Smiths. Random House. p. 96. Retrieved 8 January 2012. 
  10. ^ a b Goddard, Simon (1 Oct 2009). Mozipedia: The Encyclopedia of Morrissey and The Smiths. Random House. p. 422. Retrieved 8 January 2012. 
  11. ^ Brown Page=171, Len (2008). Meetings with Morrissey. Music Sales Group. Retrieved 8 January 2012.