The Boy with the Thorn in His Side (song)

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"The Boy with the Thorn in His Side"
Single by The Smiths
from the album The Queen Is Dead
Released 16 September 1985
Format 7", 12"
Recorded August 1985
Genre Alternative rock
Length 3:18 (album version)
3:16 (alternative mix)
Label Rough Trade
Songwriter(s) Johnny Marr, Morrissey
Producer(s) The Smiths (single); Morrissey and Johnny Marr (album version)
The Smiths singles chronology
"That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore"
"The Boy with the Thorn in His Side"
"Bigmouth Strikes Again"
"That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore"
"The Boy with the Thorn in His Side"
"Bigmouth Strikes Again"

"The Boy with the Thorn in His Side" is a song by British alternative rock band The Smiths. It appears on their third album The Queen Is Dead, but was released as a single (albeit in a different mix) several months before, reaching no. 23 in the UK Singles Chart in autumn 1985.

This was the first single by The Smiths to be accompanied by a promotional video, something the band had previously resisted. The Smiths also performed this song on an episode of the British television programme Top of the Pops.

The jumping man on the cover of the single release is a young Truman Capote.

Margi Clarke asked Morrissey if this song was inspired by Oscar Wilde, and Morrissey replied: "No, that's not true. The thorn is the music industry and all those people who never believed anything I said, tried to get rid of me and wouldn't play the records. So I think we've reached a stage where we feel: if they don't believe me now, will they ever believe me? What more can a poor boy do?"[1]

The chief difference between the single version and the one appearing on the album The Queen Is Dead is in the use of synthesised strings. They are largely absent from the single version, only appearing in the song's coda.

Track listing[edit]

7" RT191
No. Title Length
1. "The Boy with the Thorn in His Side" 3:17
2. "Asleep" 4:09
12" RTT191
No. Title Length
1. "The Boy with the Thorn in His Side" 3:17
2. "Rubber Ring/Asleep" 7:56
CD Single RTT191
No. Title Length
1. "The Boy with the Thorn in His Side" 3:17
2. "Rubber Ring" 3:48
3. "Asleep" 4:10

The original 12" and CD singles have "Rubber Ring" and "Asleep" segued into a continuous piece with the voice sample at the end of the former looped and faded into the wind noise preceding the latter. Described by Simon Goddard (in Songs That Saved Your Life, 2nd edition, p. 154) as a "spectacular combination"—a suggestion with which Johnny Marr concurs—this carefully executed sequence can only be found on the original 12" and CD singles, the two tracks having been separated on all subsequent compilations.

Etchings on vinyl[edit]


"Is that clever" is a lyric from "Rubber Ring", which itself is a line from The Importance of Being Earnest, a play that was referenced in the etchings of "William, It Was Really Nothing" and Hatful of Hollow. "JM" is a reference to Johnny Marr, and was also an etching on the Sandie Shaw version of "Hand in Glove".

The Record Store Day 2017 version of the single release includes the following etching on the A side: 'TRUMP WILL KILL AMERICA'


Chart (1985) Peak
Ireland (IRMA) 15
UK Singles (The Official Charts Company) 23


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[2]

Jack Rabid of Allmusic called this single "just another feather in a jeweled cap".[2]

Cover versions[edit]

The song was covered by Scottish band Bis on the tribute album The Smiths Is Dead. Music reviewer Stephen Thomas Erlewine criticised the cover, writing: "In particular, the Bis utterly disembowel 'The Boy with the Thorn in His Side' with a single-minded stupidity that is just bewildering."[3]

The song has also been covered by The Crusifixtion, Belle & Sebastian, Scott Matthews, Jeff Buckley, Emilie Autumn, Xiu Xiu and Dinosaur Jr's J Mascis in live performances.[citation needed]

In popular culture[edit]


  1. ^ The Tube (UK, Channel 4), Season 4, Episode 3: 25 October 1985
  2. ^ a b Rabid, Jack. "The Boy with the Thorn in His Side Review". Allmusic. Retrieved 29 October 2012. 
  3. ^ The Smiths Is Dead album review, allmusic, The Boy with the Thorn in His Side at AllMusic
  4. ^ "Blackpool – an original six-part drama serial for BBC ONE". BBC Press Office. 21 October 2004. 
  5. ^ "The Perks of Being a Wallflower: A look at which of the book's cultural references show up in the movie". The Washington Post. 28 September 2012. 
  6. ^ "Production notes" (PDF). p. 15. 
  7. ^ "Faylan – Dead End Lyrics (2011)".