28 years ago today, The Smiths reached number one in the UK Independent Chart for the twelfth time with ‘Shoplifters of the World Unite’. Released by the famous, London-based Rough Trade Records, it managed number twelve in the UK singles chart.
“Shoplifters of the world, unite and take over” sings Morrissey in the famous Smiths number. In typical form, the singer’s lyrics play on well-known turns of phrase or images – the communist slogan ‘workers of the world unite!’ is lampooned with his typical content blend of pessimistic mundanity and lonely superiority.
The music behind the words is anthemic, often compared to T-Rex’s 1972-hit ‘Children of the Revolution’. Johnny Marr rips a melodic solo that could be as easily chanted as the vocal refrain.
After The Smiths’ dissection, ‘Shoplifters’ was won into the custody of Morrissey, who has often described it as one of his “favourites”. Speaking to playwright Shawn Duggan in 1987, he said it was about “spiritual shoplifting, cultural shoplifting, taking things and using them to your own advantage.” The song would become a regular in Morrissey’s live performances.
It featured on the 1987 compilation albums The World Won’t Listen and the acclaimed Louder Than Bombs.