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Meat Is Murder

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Meat Is Murder
Studio album by
Released11 February 1985 (1985-02-11)
LabelRough Trade
ProducerThe Smiths
The Smiths chronology
Hatful of Hollow
Meat Is Murder
The Queen Is Dead
Singles from Meat Is Murder
  1. "Barbarism Begins at Home"
    Released: April 1985
  2. "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore"
    Released: 1 July 1985
Professional ratings
Review scores
Chicago Tribune[5]
The Encyclopedia of Popular Music[6]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[9]
The Village VoiceC+[13]

Meat Is Murder is the second studio album by English rock band the Smiths, released on 11 February 1985 by Rough Trade Records. It became the band's only studio album to reach number one on the UK Albums Chart, and stayed on the chart for 13 weeks. The album was an international success: it spent 11 weeks in the European Top 100 Albums chart,[14] peaking at number 29.[15] It also reached number 110 on the US Billboard 200 in the United States.

Writing and recording[edit]

After the band's 1984 debut studio album, lead vocalist Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr produced the album themselves, assisted only by engineer Stephen Street. They had first met Stephen Street on the session for "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" and requested his contact number.[16] Officially, the record's production is credited to "The Smiths".

To build the album's soundscape, Morrissey provided Marr and Street with his personal copies of BBC sound effects records from which to source samples.[17] Morrissey would continue this practice on future Smiths singles and albums.

Meat Is Murder was more strident and political than its predecessor, including the pro-vegetarian title track (Morrissey forbade the rest of the band from being photographed eating meat),[18] and the anti-corporal punishment "The Headmaster Ritual". Musically, the band had grown more adventurous, with Marr and Rourke channelling rockabilly and funk influences in "Rusholme Ruffians" and "Barbarism Begins at Home", respectively. "Rusholme Ruffians" interpolates the Victoria Wood song "Fourteen Again". Author John King has suggested that the title track was inspired by the 1983 song "Meat Means Murder" by the anarcho-punk band Conflict, which deals with the same topic and also opens at a slow pace.[19]

Morrissey also brought a political stance to many of his interviews. Among his targets were the Thatcher administration, the monarchy, and his musical contemporaries. When asked about Band Aid, which was being strongly promoted in the UK media at the time, he quipped, "One can have great concern for the people of Ethiopia, but it's another thing to inflict daily torture on the people of England".[20] Similarly, he began to promote vegetarianism in live shows and interviews, on one occasion convincing a Scottish TV show to air footage of slaughterhouses during the dinner hour.[21]

Cover art[edit]

The original un-altered photograph of Cpl. Michael Wynn.

The album's sleeve uses a 1967 photograph of an American marine, Cpl. Michael Wynn, in Vietnam, though with the wording on his helmet changed from "Make War Not Love" to "Meat Is Murder". The original image was used for Emile de Antonio's 1968 Oscar-nominated documentary In the Year of the Pig.[22][23][24] Wynn stated in 2019 that he was never asked permission for the use of the photo, and that he "wasn’t real happy" that the wording on the helmet was changed.[25]


In 2003, Meat Is Murder was ranked number 295 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time,[26] and 296 in a 2012 revised list.[27] The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die (2005).[28]

Use in other media[edit]

In 2016, animal rights advocacy group PETA released a video game titled This Beautiful Creature Must Die, based on the song "Meat Is Murder". The game, which featured a chiptune rendition of the song, tasked players with clicking on their screens before different kinds of animals get chopped up in a death spiral.[29][30][31]

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics are written by Morrissey; all music is composed by Johnny Marr

Side one
1."The Headmaster Ritual"4:52
2."Rusholme Ruffians"4:20
3."I Want the One I Can't Have"3:14
4."What She Said"2:42
5."That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore"4:59
Total length:20:07
Side two
6."Nowhere Fast"2:37
7."Well I Wonder"4:00
8."Barbarism Begins at Home"6:57
9."Meat Is Murder"6:06
Total length:19:40
6."How Soon Is Now?"6:44
Total length:46:31


  • "How Soon Is Now?" was added to the original American LP as the first song on side 2. All US releases prior to 2011 include the song. In the UK, the original LP and CD did not include it, though it was included on the 1993 CD re-release. The 2011 remaster, both CD and LP, restored the original UK track listing in both the UK and US.



Chart performance for Meat Is Murder
Chart (1985) Peak
Australian Albums (Kent Music Report)[37] 58
Canadian Albums (RPM)[38] 40
Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[39] 39
European Top 100 Albums[15] 29
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[40] 45
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[41] 13
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[42] 27
UK Albums (OCC)[43] 1
US Billboard 200[44] 110

Certifications and sales[edit]

Certifications and sales for Meat Is Murder
Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[45] Gold 100,000^
United States 245,385+[46]

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ Daley, David (9 December 2012). "The Smiths: Best band ever?". Salon. Retrieved 17 April 2021.
  2. ^ Hayden, Mack (10 February 2015). "Meat Is Murder, 30 Years Later". Paste. Retrieved 17 April 2021.
  3. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Meat Is Murder – The Smiths". AllMusic. Retrieved 25 September 2015.
  4. ^ Power, Tony (15 September 2004). "The Smiths: Meat Is Murder". Blender. Archived from the original on 30 June 2006. Retrieved 9 November 2015.
  5. ^ Kot, Greg (7 July 1991). "The Smiths And Solo". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 10 November 2015.
  6. ^ Larkin, Colin (2007). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195313734.
  7. ^ Wolk, Douglas (18 November 2011). "The Smiths: The Smiths Complete". Pitchfork. Retrieved 25 September 2015.
  8. ^ "The Smiths: Meat Is Murder". Q (87): 139. December 1993.
  9. ^ Sheffield, Rob (2004). "The Smiths". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 753–54. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  10. ^ Harrison, Andrew (May 1993). "The Smiths". Select (35): 104.
  11. ^ Black, Bill (16 February 1985). "Steak Your Claim". Sounds.
  12. ^ Dalton, Stephen (1998). "The Smiths: Meat Is Murder". Uncut.
  13. ^ Christgau, Robert (25 June 1985). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved 25 September 2015.
  14. ^ "European Hot 100 Albums Chart" (PDF). Music & Media. 6 May 1985. p. 26. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  15. ^ a b "European Hot 100 Albums Chart" (PDF). Music & Media. 4 March 1985. p. 26. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  16. ^ "Interview With Stephen Street". HitQuarters. 27 September 2005. Archived from the original on 14 March 2012. Retrieved 12 May 2010.
  17. ^ a b Goddard, S, 2013. Songs That Saved Your Life - The Art of The Smiths 1982–87. 2nd ed. U.K.: Titan Books. P. 151.
  18. ^ "How Morrissey helped turn vegetarianism into a mainstream movement in the UK". Vegan.com. July 2014. Archived from the original on 27 December 2014. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  19. ^ King, John (6 August 2014). "Meat Means Murder". Rebellion Festivals Programme - 2014. Rebellion Festivals Ltd. pp. 34–35. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  20. ^ Green, Jonathan (18 November 2004). "Band Aid vs. Morrissey ..." (http). Overyourhead.co.uk. Retrieved 22 April 2007.
  21. ^ Tamarkin, Jeff; Rockmaker, Deirdre; Mathews, Dan (November 1985). "Greening of Rock". Vegetarian Times. No. 99. United States: Active Interest Media, Inc. pp. 32–36. ISSN 0164-8497. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  22. ^ The Artwork of the Smiths - in pictures|Music|The Guardian
  23. ^ "In the Year of the Pig 1968,directed by Emile de Antonio|Time Out". Archived from the original on 17 November 2019. Retrieved 17 November 2019.
  24. ^ The Smiths – The Stories Behind All 27 Of Their Provocative Album And Single Sleeves - NME
  25. ^ "The story behind the cover of Meat Is Murder by The Smiths". Radio X. 5 August 2019. Retrieved 12 February 2022.
  26. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time: The Smiths, 'Meat is Murder' | Rolling Stone". www.rollingstone.com. Archived from the original on 4 June 2012. Retrieved 17 January 2022.
  27. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time Rolling Stone's definitive list of the 500 greatest albums of all time". Rolling Stone. 2012. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  28. ^ Robert Dimery; Michael Lydon (23 March 2010). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 978-0-7893-2074-2.
  29. ^ "PETA Gets The Smiths Back Together … for a Video Game", Washington DC: Associations Now. 15 August 2016. Retrieved 28 March 2017
  30. ^ Jonze, Tim (11 August 2016). "This Beautiful Creature Must Die: what is Morrissey's animal rights game like?". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  31. ^ Reed, Ryan (10 August 2016). "The Smiths' 'Meat Is Murder' Becomes Dark PETA Arcade Game". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
  32. ^ Goddard, S, 2013. Songs That Saved Your Life - The Art of The Smiths 1982–87. 2nd ed. U.K.: Titan Books. P. 356.
  33. ^ Goddard, S, 2013. Songs That Saved Your Life - The Art of The Smiths 1982–87. 2nd ed. U.K.: Titan Books. P. 137.
  34. ^ Kaminer, M, 1985. Smiths: Their latest release keeps up the pace of their first. Columbia Daily Spectator, 25 April 1985. 12.
  35. ^ "The Smiths: The Making of "Meat is Murder"" – via YouTube.
  36. ^ Goddard, S, 2013. Songs That Saved Your Life - The Art of The Smiths 1982–87. 2nd ed. U.K.: Titan Books. P. 142.
  37. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 279. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  38. ^ "RPM Chart Archives, 27 April 1985". Archived from the original on 10 February 2015. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
  39. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – The Smiths – Meat Is Murder" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 20 April 2022.
  40. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – The Smiths – Meat Is Murder" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 20 April 2022.
  41. ^ "Charts.nz – The Smiths – Meat Is Murder". Hung Medien. Retrieved 20 April 2022.
  42. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – The Smiths – Meat Is Murder". Hung Medien. Retrieved 20 April 2022.
  43. ^ "Official Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 20 April 2022.
  44. ^ "The Smiths Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved 20 April 2022.
  45. ^ "British album certifications – The Smiths – Meat Is Murder". British Phonographic Industry.
  46. ^ Morrissey/Smiths US album sales in 2007 and total sales since 1992-Morrissy-solo

External links[edit]