In 1983, a quartet from Manchester had emerged with elegant guitars, ambiguously sexual lyrics, an outspoken frontman with his virtuoso guitarist-cum-composer, a group seemingly dedicated to throwing aside the decade's New Romanticism with some of the most beautiful music ever to be grouped within the indie rock section of your local HMV. The Smiths were new, innovative and different; but, as their critics were quick to point out, surely so very dour as to be intolerable?
Never ones to let a passing remark or twenty go unreplied, Morrissey and Johnny replied with another piece of finely-crafted pop, a witty and humorous song that still conveyed a sense of sincerity about it. Like so many of Morrissey's songs, parts of it are borrowed; 60's idol (and brief Smiths collaborator) Sandie Shaw had previously had a hit with "Heaven Knows I'm Missing Him Now". But the song itself is pure Smiths, and one of the standout tracks of the group's superb repertoire.
The song is very much an attack on the 80's themselves. Thatcherism was the order of the day, with millions unemployed, and yet Morrissey almost sighs "I was looking for a job, and then I found a job / And heaven knows I'm miserable now" as if he would rather roll over and die than face steady employment. (The man was never noted for enjoying 9-to-5 work; in "You've Got Everything Now", he practically boasts "No, I've never had a job / Because I've never wanted one") whilst at the same time lampooning relationships and such simple vices as a night's drunkenness.
Clearly, however, much of this is very tongue in cheek; Morrissey was, at the time, famously celibate and would gladly enjoy an early night in bed than a night out on the razz. By putting himself amid such gloomy lyrics as "In my life / Why do I give valuable time / To people who don't care if I live or I die?", he turns self-deprecation into good-natured, tongue-in-cheek humour, a gentle dig at himself and his critics.
Musically, the song doesn't disappoint; a departure from the leaden and heavy production of their debut album, here the music is cheerful and uplifting, with a simple but pleasant hook to help guide us through the song. Johnny Marr's guitarwork is at a peak, making this song a joy to listen to and a standout track from the band's early years. The rhythm section is equally good, and whilst neither Joyce nor Rourke particularly excel, they nonetheless provide an excellent backing.
The single was released in May 1984 on the Rough Trade label and reached number 10 in the charts, a new high for the group (and one which would only be met again once). It was released as a standalone single, not supporting any album, but was later released on the singles and BBC sessions compilation "Hatful of Hollow", again on the USA compilation "Louder Than Bombs", yet again on "Singles", and on "Best...II".
The cover art for all formats is a shot of Viv Nicholson from "Spend Spend Spend".
- The 7" single features the B-side "Suffer Little Children", taken from the album "The Smiths". The A-side etching is "Smiths Indeed", the B-side "Ill Forever".
- The 12" single features the B-sides "Girl Afraid" and "Suffer Little Children". The A-side etching is "Smiths Presumably", the B-side "Forever Ill".
- The CD single features the B-sides "Girl Afraid" and "Suffer Little Children", and has no etchings.
Song lyrics and details taken from my copies of the single; words by Morrissey, music by Johnny Marr. Likewise artwork and etchings taken from my copies. Release and chart information from "Passions Just Like Mine" (Link)