40 Days of Rewind: The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead (1986)

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The Queen Is Dead is widely regarded as one of, if not the, greatest album of all times. The third studio album from English rock band The Smiths received instantaneous critical and commercial acclaim upon its release. Written whilst on tour in 1985, the album’s release was delayed for almost a year following disputes with the band’s record label, Rough Trade. Yet, when it was finally released The Queen is Dead soared to number two in the UK album charts (and then spent another 22 weeks in said charts), and since its release in 1986 the record has sold consistently well.

Often referred to as the greatest release in The Smith’s back catalogue, The Queen is Dead is funny, aggressive, mournful and everything in-between, all within the short 37 minute playing time. It’s utterly relatable, with frontman Morrissey acting as a mouthpiece for every morose and questioning youth who listens to it. Looking back on The Queen is Dead now, almost 30 years after it’s first release, you can see the huge influence it’s had on music, particularly in the emergence of Britpop in the 1990s.

The songs themselves are incredibly varied. Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr created ten intelligent, well-arranged indie pop songs, each one having something special about it. ‘Frankly, Mr. Shankly’ is a witty intermission, with lyrics that poke fun at the label boss Geoff Travis, and elements of ska and reggae in the music. Morrissey’s virtuosic singing slides with ease over each of the tracks, and the clever production and interesting guitar tones effortlessly lift the track from pretty good, to extraordinary.

It also includes ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’, which is arguably the track most synonymous with The Smiths’ sound. When deciding what would be the lead single from the album ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ was initially passed over in favour of ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’, but received a belated release in 1992. Since then it has been used in numerous films, covered by high profile stars (like Noel Gallagher, and Miley Cyrus) and is regularly included in ‘top songs of all time’ lists.

There’s no doubt that The Queen is Dead is one of the most highly regarded records of all time, even Prime Minister David Cameron said it was is favourite album of all time (a statement which caused Marr and Morrisey to unite in ‘forbidding’ Cameron to like The Smiths). It’s an album that withstands time and marks a pivotal point within British music. An absolute classic.

The Queen Is Dead was released on 16th June 1986 via Rough Trade Records.

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Snack queen and entertainment journalist. Records Editor 2014-2015 & News Editor 2013-2014 for The Edge.

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