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Reissue Theory: The Smiths, “Meat is Murder”

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“Re-issue ! Re-package ! Re-package !
Re-evaluate the songs
Double-pack with a photograph
Extra track (and a tacky badge)”

– “Paint a Vulgar Picture,” The Smiths

Sometimes one wonders why a band as listenable, influential and obsessed over as The Smiths doesn’t get much in the way of back catalogue treatment. Outside of a few compilations (most recently 2008’s The Sound of The Smiths) and a box set of reproduced singles, that’s been more or less it; the albums haven’t been repressed since Sire/Warner Bros. acquired the band’s repertoire in the early 1990s. Granted, given lyrics like those above, maybe it’s not so surprising.

But why not? There’s a lot to discover from those few studio albums. Earlier this year, fans campaigned on Facebook to get “How Soon is Now?” – easily one of the band’s most memorable tunes – to the top of the U.K. charts in honor of the 25th anniversary of sophomore LP Meat is Murder. It didn’t work, but it might have gotten people thinking about the band – and that record was as good a place as any to start.

The “hits,” so to speak, aren’t as copious on Meat is Murder; aside from “How Soon is Now?” (which was only included on the U.S. version of the album) and “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore,” that was really the extent of it. But Meat is Murder succeeds as an album, perhaps even better than The Smiths’ self-titled debut, thanks to a cleaner production (credited solely to the band) and the continual gelling of the Morrissey-Johnny Marr songwriting partnership. Hard-driving tunes like “Barbarism Begins at Home” and “Nowhere Fast” exemplify this step up greatly.

The months leading to Meat is Murder also saw the release of some non-LP singles that stand among The Smiths’ greatest records. The one-two punch of “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” and “William, It Was Really Nothing” (and their respective B-sides – single-only track “Girl Afraid” from “Heaven” and both “How Soon is Now?” and “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want” on the “William” single) indicate the beginnings of a creative streak paralleled by few bands of the era.

Thanks to the fastidious research of author Simon Goddard and his biblical tome The Smiths: Songs That Saved Your Life, we know there’s a bit of vault content that would enhance any theoretical reissue of Meat is Murder. Let’s start the day off right with a Reissue Theory look at this, one of the best rock albums of the 1980s, after the jump.The Smiths, Meat is Murder (originally released as Rough Trade ROUGH 81 (U.K.), 1985)

Disc 1: Original LP, B-sides and outtakes

  1. The Headmaster Ritual
  2. Rusholme Ruffians
  3. I Want the One I Can’t Have
  4. What She Said
  5. That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore
  6. Nowhere Fast
  7. Well I Wonder
  8. Barbarism Begins at Home
  9. Meat is Murder
  10. Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now (single A-side – Rough Trade RT 156, 1984)
  11. Girl Afraid (12″ B-side – Rough Trade RTT 156, 1984)
  12. William, It Was Really Nothing (single A-side – Rough Trade RT 166, 1984)
  13. How Soon is Now? (Alternate Mix) (Italian 12″ B-side – Virgin VINX 71, 1984)
  14. Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want (single B-side – Rough Trade RT 166, 1984)
  15. Oscillate Wildly (12″ B-side to “How Soon is Now?” – Rough Trade RTT 176, 1985)
  16. Shakespeare’s Sister (single A-side – Rough Trade RT 181, 1985)
  17. Stretch Out and Wait (12″ B-side – Rough Trade RTT 181, 1985)
  18. Fast One (previously unreleased studio outtake)
  19. I Misses You (previously unreleased studio outtake)

Disc 2: Live at the Apollo, Oxford – 3/18/1985

  1. William, It Was Really Nothing
  2. Nowhere Fast
  3. I Want the One I Can’t Have
  4. What She Said
  5. Hand in Glove
  6. How Soon is Now?
  7. Stretch Out and Wait
  8. That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore
  9. Shakespeare’s Sister
  10. Rusholme Ruffians
  11. The Headmaster Ritual
  12. Still Ill
  13. Meat is Murder
  14. Miserable Lie
  15. Barbarism Begins At Home
  16. You’ve Got Everything Now
  17. Handsome Devil

All tracks on Disc 2 previously unreleased except Tracks 2, 7, 9 and 13 (12″ B-sides to “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore” – Rough Trade RTT 186, 1985)

Written by Mike Duquette

May 19, 2010 at 10:59

Posted in Features, Reissues, The Smiths

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2 Responses

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  1. Apparently Rhino had a 6-disc “complete recordings” box set (including all radio sessions and other unreleased goodies) compiled in 2008 and the problem was getting everybody else to sign off on it. “The Sound of the Smiths” was the compromise we got instead. Not a bad comp at all, but I would have much rather had the box set!


    May 19, 2010 at 21:13

    • A box of that magnitude would’ve been amazing! First I’d ever heard of the idea to be honest.

      The Sound of The Smiths is fantastic, but as I’ve said before, the 2-disc version is a tough buy, since half the B-sides are on other discs (Hatful of Hollow, Louder Than Bombs), meaning one will inevitably buy some tracks twice. Plus there are a few songs/mixes still unreleased in CD (the B-sides “Rubber Ring” and “Asleep,” as heard with the segue on the original “Bigmouth Strikes Again” 12″, I think, is the most notable).

      Mike Duquette

      May 20, 2010 at 15:52

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