The Smiths (album)

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The Smiths
Studio album by
Released20 February 1984 (1984-02-20)
RecordedSeptember-November 1983
Length42:55 (original UK vinyl release)
45:36 (versions including "This Charming Man")
LabelRough Trade
ProducerJohn Porter
The Smiths chronology
The Smiths
Hatful of Hollow
Singles from The Smiths
  1. "What Difference Does It Make?"
    Released: 16 January 1984

The Smiths is the debut studio album by English rock band the Smiths, released on 20 February 1984 by Rough Trade Records. After the original production by Troy Tate was felt to be inadequate, John Porter re-recorded the album in London, Manchester and Stockport during breaks in the band's UK tour during September 1983.

The album was well received by critics and listeners, and reached number two on the UK Albums Chart, staying on the chart for 33 weeks. It established the Smiths as a prominent band in the 1980s music scene in the United Kingdom. The album also became an international success, peaking at number 45 in the European Albums Chart,[4] remaining in the chart for 21 weeks.[5] After its exit of the European chart, it then re-entered in the Hot 100 Albums from September for another run of three weeks.[6]


After signing with independent record label Rough Trade, the Smiths began preparations to record their first album in mid 1983. Due to the suggestion of Rough Trade head Geoff Travis, the band selected Troy Tate (former guitarist of the Teardrop Explodes) as producer for sessions at Elephant studios in Wapping, London.[7] During the following month the group recorded fourteen songs.[8]

Guitarist Johnny Marr would later write in his autobiography that he "liked Troy...Troy's vision was to capture the way the band sounded live. He thought it was important that the record represented the way we were in the clubs and was an authentic document. He worked pretty tirelessly to get passion from a performance and was very nurturing with me..." However, the sessions would also prove to be arduous due to an ongoing heatwave in London. The Smiths were recording in a hot basement studio at Elephant, and according to Marr, not only was the heat uncomfortable but it made it difficult to keep their instruments in tune.[9]

While recording a BBC session for Dave Jensen in August 1983, The Smiths met producer John Porter, who was working in one of the studios. Travis, harbouring reservations about the group's session with Troy Tate, gave Porter a cassette of the sessions beforehand in the hopes that he could remix them. Porter told Travis that the sessions were "out of tune and out of time". Feeling the Tate sessions were unsalvageable, Porter offered to re-record the album himself. Despite praising the work with Tate, only a week prior, to the press by stating "we've done everything exactly right and it'll show", Smiths singer Morrissey accepted (as did Travis), while Marr hesitantly agreed.[8] Marr would later claim in his autobiography that when the band heard the finished work done under Tate, Morrissey didn't like the album and the others weren't entirely happy with the results either. "I could hear myself that the mixes sounded underproduced and were not the finished article that we needed as our introduction to the world," Marr wrote. "Why it was deemed necessary to scrap the album entirely rather than just mix it again I didn't know, but I wasn't going to make too much of was a document of how the band really were at that point though...".[10]

The Smiths began work with Porter in September 1983. Due to tour commitments, the group had to make the record in a piecemeal fashion. Marr later recalled that "working with John immediately got us results...he and I formed a musical and personal relationship that was inspiring...he nurtured not just me but all the band". Recording started at London's Matrix Studios, with the majority of the work undertaken during a week's stay at Pluto, just outside Manchester. A final overdub session was performed at Eden Studios in London that November.[11] After listening to a finished mix of the album the following month, Morrissey told Porter and Travis that the album "wasn't good enough". However, the singer said that due to the album's cost of £6,000, "[they said] it has to be released, there's no going back".[12]

Artwork and packaging[edit]

The sleeve for The Smiths was designed by Morrissey. It features American actor Joe Dallesandro in a cropped still from Andy Warhol's 1968 film Flesh. The photograph of Morrissey on the original card inner sleeve was taken at an early London concert by Romi Mori, who subsequently played bass guitar for the Gun Club.


The single "What Difference Does It Make?" was released in January 1984, reaching number 12 on the UK Singles Chart.[13]


The album was released on 20 February 1984, and debuted at number two on the UK Albums Chart.[12]

"This Charming Man" was included as the sixth track on all original US releases of the album on Sire Records (LP, CD and cassette) and on the UK cassette on Rough Trade. Since 1992, when WEA acquired the Smiths' catalogue, nearly all reissues worldwide also include this song, with the exceptions being a 2009 vinyl reissue on Rhino Records in both the US and the UK and the 2011 vinyl version box set collecting the Smiths albums titled "Complete".


Professional ratings
Review scores
Chicago Tribune[17]
Rolling Stone[20]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[21]
The Village VoiceB−[23]

The music critic Garry Mulholland included it in his list of the 261 greatest albums since 1976 in Fear of Music: "The Smiths made safe their early legend with a debut album about child abuse. The production was flat and dour, yet it succeeded in conjuring yet another Manchester-in-song, distinctly different from that of Ian Curtis and Mark E. Smith. But everything about The Smiths ran contrary to mid-80s pop, from Joe Dallesandro on the cover to the restrained jangling of the songs, but mainly through Moz's [Morrissey's nickname] dramatised disgust at sex, which here exists to ruin true love at best, and to ruin an entire young life at worst."[24]

Slant Magazine listed the album at 51 on its list of "Best Albums of the 1980s" saying "There's no reason why a mordant, sexually frustrated disciple of Oscar Wilde who loved punk but crooned like a malfunctioning Sinatra should've teamed up with a fabulously inventive guitarist whose influences were so diffuse that it could be hard to hear them at all and formed one of the greatest songwriting duos of the '80s."[25] PopMatters included the album on their list of "12 Essential Alternative Rock Albums from the 1980s" saying: "Morrissey's career are fully accounted for on The Smiths, where they are rendered all the more piercing by Johnny Marr's delicate guitar-picking and John Porter's stark production".[1]

In 1989, the album was ranked number 22 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 greatest albums of the 1980s.[26] In 2003, the album was #481 on that magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[27] The magazine ranked it at #473 on an updated list in 2012, calling it "a showcase for Morrissey's morose wit and Johnny Marr's guitar chime".[28] The album was ranked number 51 on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Best Debut Albums of All Time.[29] It placed at number 73 in The Guardian's list of the 100 Best Albums Ever in 1997.[30]

Track listing[edit]

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

Side one
1."Reel Around the Fountain"5:58
2."You've Got Everything Now"3:59
3."Miserable Lie"4:29
4."Pretty Girls Make Graves"3:44
5."The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" (quotation from "Sonny Boy" by Ray Henderson, Lew Brown and Al Jolson)4:38
Side two
6."Still Ill"3:23
7."Hand in Glove"3:25
8."What Difference Does It Make?"3:51
9."I Don't Owe You Anything"4:05
10."Suffer Little Children"5:28
US LP/cassette and UK cassette
6."This Charming Man"2:41


  • The track "This Charming Man" did not appear on the original UK LP release.[31] It appears as the first song on side B of the original US LP release. The first UK CD release in 1986 did not include the song, though all UK CD re-releases since 1993 include it. All US CD releases include the song.



Chart performance for The Smiths
Chart (1984) Peak
Australian Albums (Kent Music Report)[32] 77
European Top 100 Albums[4] 45
UK Albums[33] 2
US Billboard 200[34] 150


Certifications for The Smiths
Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[35] Gold 100,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ a b "Hope Despite the Times: 12 Essential Alternative Rock Albums from the 1980s". PopMatters. 27 August 2014. p. 1. Archived from the original on 30 November 2018. Retrieved 27 October 2015.
  2. ^ "Blender's 100 Greatest Indie-Rock Albums Ever". Stereogum. 14 November 2007. Retrieved 1 September 2016.
  3. ^ Jackson, Josh (13 July 2016). "The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums". Paste. Retrieved 26 August 2016.
  4. ^ a b "European Hot 100 Albums Chart" (PDF). Music & Media. 19 March 1984. p. 17. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  5. ^ "European Hot 100 Albums Chart" (PDF). Music & Media. 13 August 1984. p. 12. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  6. ^ "European Hot 100 Albums Chart" (PDF). Music & Media. 24 September 1984. p. 14. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  7. ^ Goddard 2003, p. 34.
  8. ^ a b Goddard 2003, p. 35.
  9. ^ Marr 2016, p. 174.
  10. ^ Marr 2016, p. 175.
  11. ^ Goddard 2003, p. 46.
  12. ^ a b Goddard 2003, p. 87.
  13. ^ Goddard 2003, p. 81.
  14. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "The Smiths – The Smiths". AllMusic. Retrieved 25 September 2015.
  15. ^ Payne, Chris (20 February 2014). "'The Smiths' at 30: Classic Track-By-Track Review". Billboard. Retrieved 25 September 2015.
  16. ^ Power, Tony (October 2004). "The Smiths: The Smiths". Blender. No. 30. Archived from the original on 30 June 2006. Retrieved 9 November 2015.
  17. ^ Kot, Greg (7 July 1991). "The Smiths And Solo". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 10 November 2015.
  18. ^ Wolk, Douglas (18 November 2011). "The Smiths: The Smiths Complete". Pitchfork. Retrieved 25 September 2015.
  19. ^ a b Cavanagh, David (December 1993). "Irreproachable". Q. No. 87. p. 139.
  20. ^ Loder, Kurt (21 June 1984). "The Smiths". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 25 September 2015.
  21. ^ Sheffield, Rob (2004). "The Smiths". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 753–754. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  22. ^ Dalton, Stephen (August 1998). "The Smiths Discography". Uncut. No. 15. p. 67.
  23. ^ Christgau, Robert (29 May 1984). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved 25 September 2015.
  24. ^ Garry Mulholland, Fear of Music, p.164 ISBN 0-7528-6831-4
  25. ^ The 100 Best Albums of the 1980s Archived 14 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ Rollingstone retrieved 16 October 2011, 20:52 BST
  27. ^ Levy, Joe (2005). Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. p. 212. ISBN 978-1-932958-61-4.
  28. ^ Wenner, Jann S., ed. (2012). Rolling Stone – Special Collectors Issue – The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. USA: Wenner Media Specials. ISBN 978-7-09-893419-6
  29. ^ "100 Best Debut Albums Ever". Rolling Stone. 13 October 2013.
  30. ^ "The Guardian 100 Best Albums Ever List, 1997". Retrieved 13 March 2012.
  31. ^ "The Smiths – The Smiths". Discogs. Retrieved 25 July 2020.
  32. ^ 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.
  33. ^ Roberts, David. British Hit Singles and Albums. Guinness World Records Limited.
  34. ^ "The Smiths". Billboard. Retrieved 11 February 2023.
  35. ^ "British album certifications – The Smiths – The Smiths". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 4 May 2019.

Works cited

  • Goddard, Simon (2003). The Smiths: Songs That Saved Your Life. Reynolds & Hern Ltd. ISBN 1-903111-47-1.
  • Marr, Johnny (2016). Set the Boy Free: The Autobiography. Dey Street Books. ISBN 978-0062438690.

External links[edit]