essays arranged by artist:
the index ("the list")
Box Set Key: The Smiths: Complete
A better title would be, Nearly Complete. Of course, most compilations purportedly offering the complete studio works of a music artist end up incomplete, if only due to miniscule oversights. But the ways that this Smiths box is incomplete are numerous—and yet galling because easily rectified. The good news? The box did finally give us proper, if not great, digital remasters of much of the Smiths discography. In other words, what we expected around the late Nineties, when the C D reissue business was reaching its peak. By 2009, when this box came out, artists and recording engineers had learned some hard lessons from remastering errors and trends, and ensuing debates; as a result, had established superior methods, both technically and in organizing archival material, of crafting reissues. While you can hear the details of Johnny Marr's many overdubbed guitars to a greater extent than on any previous versions of Smiths releases, they could definitely be coming in clearer. When we turn to organizational matters, the Complete set really begins to falter. Other B.B.C radio recordings besides those released years ago on Hatful of Hollow and as B-sides; live recordings released on singles and obscure compilations; and a host of largely-insignificant, but very-rare, alternate versions... all were not included. We could have had a deluxe version of Hatful, featuring the rest of the crucial radio-session tracks from 1983 and the other non-album tracks from the years, 1983-1984 (namely, the live version of ‘Handsome Devil’ that served as debut single ‘Hand in Glove’'s B side; ‘Jeane’; ‘Wonderful Woman’; the ‘This Charmless Man’ remixes; and 7-inch edits of several of the singles). Since Morrissey seems to enjoy re-sequencing albums, perhaps he could neatly split Hatful into two halves: the B B C sessions and the studio single-only tracks. And of course the 1987 singles compilations, The World Won't Listen and its U S counterpart Louder Than Bombs, could benefit from their own reshuffling to include 7-inch edits, as well as the Strangeways singles released later in 1987.
Digging deeper, this Complete collection could suggest an exhaustive attempt to present an official canon of sorts, as if Johnny Marr, who was involved in the project, wanted to excise the chaff of rarities that never should have seen the light. For example, the box excludes the original, single version of ‘The Boy With the Thorn in His Side’. Granted, fans and (apparently) Marr himself consider that version to be inferior—more exactly, it sounds incomplete, as additions were made while recording the rest of the Queen Is Dead tracks, to great effect, making the masterpiece that we know and love. Nonetheless, the single version was included originally on The World Won't Listen. Complete replaces it with the album version, even as the album version of course is already heard on The Queen Is Dead. This late in the game, what is the point? Leave it be. Some have postulated that it was an error; however, this was likely speculation, perhaps based on drastic mistakes that were made in the pressing of deluxe editions of New Order's albums in 2008. Moving on... two crucial tracks of which alternate versions exist—‘Stretch Out and Wait’ and ‘You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby’—take us on a convoluted discographical journey. Both versions of ‘Stretch Out and Wait’ are included, even though the World Won't Listen version seems rougher when compared to the original, which was released as a B side to the ‘Shakespeare's Sister’ single and later on Louder Than Bombs—or, again, incomplete, like the original version of ‘The Boy With the Thorn in His Side’. But both versions of ‘You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby’ are not included. This song was the lone new track featured on The World Won't Listen and accordingly it was featured on Bombs, but mixed differently and made slightly shorter. The earlier version is now included on both albums. To put it another way, if you are a Briton who grew up with World, regardless of what you thought of the single version of ‘The Boy With the Thorn in His Side’, you got to know that album with that version of that song on there. Now it is not. If you are an American who grew up with Louder, you got to know the alternate version of ‘You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby’. Now you have trouble finding it, as official online editions of that compilation have been updated.
As if this tangle of tracks was not enough, download versions of the box set first released in 2011 have included an extra selection of tracks that had been featured on bonus 7-inch singles included with a limited, early edition of Complete. These extra tracks are appended to an amalgamation of The World Won't Listen and Louder Than Bombs, presumably made to avoid duplicated tracks. Granted, I would tend to favor a “complete” box set to re-order past singles compilations, either to make all the tracks arranged chronologically or, more simply in this case, merely not duplicate tracks. Obviously if a download/ streaming version of a release had two versions of the same track, even Smiths/ Morrissey fans accustomed to absurdist discographical adventures may protest, whereas any compilation that includes replicas of albums as originally released (or is supposed to) necessarily includes duplicated tracks. Sadly, these extra tracks on the downloadable Complete do not suffice. They still leave the set, Nearly Complete. Included are some of the Strangeways singles' B sides, but not all; ‘Jeane“ but not ‘Wonderful Woman“; some of 7-inch edits but not all. One of the Strangeways B-side tracks, ‘I'll Keep Mine Hidden’, is presented in new alternate version, the original apparently having been cast into the dustbin of history with the other rejected rarities. To top it off, both versions of ‘You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby’ are included, even as the U S version had seemingly been rejected in the C D and L P versions of the box (perhaps we can say it has merely been demoted). All this... and we have not even mentioned that these bonus 7-inch singles did not match their original counterparts, though they used the same art work. Instead, as hinted above, a sort of half-formed reinterpretation of the band's discographical history is presented. For the most part, even hardcore fans were not going to be interested in the bonus 45s, because they duplicate tracks found in the box set proper. But it turns out they did not always duplicate tracks. Who on earth makes these kind of decisions? A good example of the absurdity of this situation: the singles had already been reissued, in two distinct box sets, one of 7-inch 45s, the other C Ds, released in 2008 and 2009, respectively. These, unlike the 45s that came with the limited version of Complete, were supposed to be match the originals except... you can guess what comes next: in the case of the C Ds (actually, by the way, for the most part originally released as 12-inch 45s) they did not, a few tracks here and there replaced with different versions without explanation. And they stopped randomly after 12 singles, chronologically in the middle of 1986. [The problems with these sets, and all the exact information you need about these discographical matters, are noted at the excellent online resource, Passions Just Like Mine; especially useful is the detailed catalog of songs and versions.]
The Complete set annoys even further: while keeping the original, British nine-track sequence of Meat Is Murder (not the U.S version with ‘How Soon Is Now?’ added), it uses the U.S (and U.K cassette) sequence of the debut album, with ‘This Charming Man’ added to the original ten tracks (all U.S formats included the extra track, whereas oddly enough when a C.D version first came out in the U.K, it did not include it). This choice was made, of course, because without that ‘Charming’ bonus track, the set would lack one of the band's legendary songs: the version of ‘Charming’ on Hatful is a B.B.C recording. In short, because the compilers failed to include the singles-only tracks not on Hatful, The World Won't Listen, or Louder Than Bombs, they had to take an inconsistent approach to the studio albums as well. These are all minor matters to many listeners perhaps, but they attest to the importance of definitive compilation and archival releases, sequenced and presented clearly—a task that even labels dedicated to reissues (Rhino, Rhino, Rhino) have difficulty with, due to a combination of factors: their own incompetence, artists' inconsistent demands, or problems with procuring master tapes.
This discussion may be a headache-inducing litany of disconnected facts to non-obsessive Smiths fans. Yet us obsessives can assure everyone else that, if you do choose to delve into the Smiths discography, such rigmaroles await. Below we offer an approach to simplifying matters. First, a "canon" of sorts of the primary versions of 67 Smiths songs, including three B B C versions of songs for which studio versions, if they exist, have never been released.
This Charming Man
Back to the Old House
These Things Take Time
The Smiths, 10 tracks:
Reel Around the Fountain;
You've Got Everything Now;
Pretty Girls Make Graves;
The Hand That Rocks the Cradle;
Hand in Glove;
What Difference Does It Make?;
I Don't Owe You Anything;
Suffer Little Children
Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now
William, It Was Really Nothing
Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want
How Soon Is Now?
Handsome Devil [B. B.C]
This Night Has Opened My Eyes [B.B.C]
Meat Is Murder, 9 tracks:
The Headmaster Ritual;
I Want the One I Can't Have;
What She Said;
That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore;
Well I Wonder;
Barbarism Begins at Home;
Meat Is Murder
Stretch Out and Wait
The Queen Is Dead, 10 tracks:
The Queen Is Dead;
Frankly, Mr. Shankly;
I Know It's Over;
Never Had No One Ever;
Bigmouth Strikes Again;
The Boy With the Thorn in His Side;
Vicar in a Tutu;
There Is a Light That Never Goes Out;
Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others
Shoplifters of the World United
Half a Person
You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby
Sheila Take a Bow
Is It Really So Strange? [B.B.C]
Sweet and Tender Hooligan [B.B.C]
Strangeways, Here We Come, 10 tracks:
A Rush and a Push and the Land Is Ours;
I Started Something I Couldn't Finish;
Death of a Disco Dancer;
Girlfriend in a Coma;
Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before;
Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me;
Paint a Vulgar Picture;
Death at One's Elbow;
I Won't Share You
I Keep Mine Hidden
The six almost-canonical tracks: three non-vocal tracks and three covers.
Money Changes Everything
The Draize Train
Work Is a Four-Letter Word
What's the World (live - Glasgow, Scotland, U.K, 25 Sep. 1986)
Bonus: Also arguably in this category are the Sandie Shaw recordings of three Smiths songs (‘Hand in Glove’, ‘I Don't Owe You Anything’, and ‘Jeane’) on which she is backed by the Smiths (including Morrissey on backing vocals), especially since the tracks were included on a Smiths release as well: one of the two C.D versions of the 1992 ‘There Is a Light That Never Goes Out’ single. Moreover, an alternate mix of the Shaw ‘Hand in Glove’ was included on a Japanese C.D version of the band's eponymous debut album.
Nineteen additional recordings from John Peel and David Jensen sessions:
Reel Around the Fountain [Hatful of Hollow]
Miserable Lie [The Peel Session E P]
What Difference Does It Make? [Hatful of Hollow]
These Things Take Time [Hatful of Hollow]
You've Got Everything Now [Hatful of Hollow]
Wonderful Woman [unreleased]
Accept Yourself [Hatful of Hollow]
I Don't Owe You Anything [unreleased]
Pretty Girls Make Graves [unreleased]
Reel Around the Fountain [second] [unreleased]
This Charming Man [Hatful of Hollow]
Back to the Old House [Hatful of Hollow]
Still Ill [Hatful of Hollow]
William, It Was Really Nothing [‘Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me’]
Nowhere Fast [‘Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me’]
Rusholme Ruffians [‘Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me’]
How Soon Is Now? [unreleased]
Half a Person [unreleased]
Bonus: A various-artists compilation, The Old Grey Whistle Test: The Anthems, includes the audio of the Smiths' performance of Bigmouth Strikes Again from that long-running B B C television program. Alternately, this performance should be documented on a video release with other television appearances; audiovideo recordings are not covered here.
Concert recordings, 39 tracks:
Handsome Devil (live - Manchester, England, U.K, 4 Feb. 1983) [‘Hand in Glove’ 7-45, 1983; ‘There Is a Light That Never Goes Out’ 7-45 and cassette, 1992]
Girl Afraid (live - Glasgow, Scotland, U.K, 2 Mar. 1984) [Department of Enjoyment various-artists compilation, 1985]
Meat Is Murder (live - Oxford, England, U.K, 18 Mar. 1985) [‘That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore’ 7-45 and 12-45]
Nowhere Fast (live - Oxford, England, U.K, 18 Mar. 1985) [‘That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore’ 12-45]
Stretch Out and Wait (live - Oxford, England, U.K, 18 Mar. 1985) [‘That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore’ 12-45]
Shakespeare's Sister (live - Oxford, England, U.K, 18 Mar. 1985) [‘That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore’ 12-45]
William, It Was Really Nothing (live - Oxford, England, U.K, 18 Mar. 1985) [12-45 test pressing of live E P replaced by ‘That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore’ single release]
What She Said (live - Oxford, England, U.K, 18 Mar. 1985) [New Musical Express Poll Winners various-arists compilation, 1985]
Miserable Lie (live - Oxford, England, U.K, 18 Mar. 1985) [Rough Trade Records various-artists compilation, 1986]
Shakespeare's Sister (live - Los Angeles, California, U.S, 27 Jun. 1985) [early pressings, promotional copies only, of Rarities Volume 2 various-artists compilation, 2003]
Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others (live - London, England, U.K, 12 Dec. 1986) [‘I Started Something I Couldn't Finish’ 12-45; varied later releases]
Rank, 14 tracks
Hand in Glove (live - London, England, U.K, 29 June 1983) [‘There Is a Light That Never Goes Out’ C.D, 1992]
Live in Boston, 13 tracks [The Queen Is Dead, 2017 expanded version]
Thirty-nine alternate versions:
‘Hand in Glove’ [original mix] [single; Hatful of Hollow; Louder Than Bombs]
The first Smiths release, nonetheless relegated to "alternate" status since it was remixed for inclusion on the band's eponymous debut album. Also included in both of the Singles boxes.
‘Pretty Girls Make Graves’ [Troy Tate] [‘I Started Something I Couldn't Finish’ single]
Alternate version from the Troy Tate sessions; also serves as the ‘Started Something’ B side among the limited edition of Complete's selection of 45s; therefore also one of the extra tracks only found on the downloadable/ streaming version of the box.
‘Reel Around the Fountain’ [Troy Tate] [Complete deluxe edition 7-45; Complete download version]
Alternate version from the Troy Tate sessions, finally released as one of the 45s found in the limited edition of Complete; and thus included with the downloadable/ streaming version.
‘This Charming Man’ (London)
‘This Charming Man’ (New-York)
‘This Charming Man’ (New-York Instrumental)
‘This Charming Man’ [alternate mix]
These four tracks, plus ‘This Charming Man (Manchester)‘, which is the same track as the original single release of the song, were all featured on a U.S 12-inch and later included on U.S, U.K, and European C.D versions of the single. The London, New-York, and New-York Instrumental versions were included in the C.D Singles Box.
‘What Difference Does It Make?  [7-45 single]
Abridged version originally released only on the 7-inch; later included in both of the Singles Box releases.
‘Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now [extended] [early pressings of 12-45]
Apparently quite the rarity; presumably only released accidentally.
‘How Soon Is Now?’  [single]
‘How Soon Is Now?’ [Phil Brown edit] [U.S 12-45]
‘How Soon Is Now?’ [U.K Buzz edit] [various-arists compilation U.K Buzz #004]
‘How Soon Is Now?’ [alternate] [Italian ‘William, It Was Really Nothing’ 12-45]
The 7-inch edit was later included on some of the C D versions of the 1992 ‘How Soon Is Now?’ reissue. Phil Brown's edit is also a shortened version, unlike most 12-inch 45 tracks. U K Buzz was apparently a series of various-artists compilations presenting British artists to U S audiences. The version on the Italian 12-inch is more mysterious, and considered to be an outtake or work-in-progress edit from the sessions.
‘The Headmaster Ritual [Phil Brown edit] [U.S 7-45]
Another abridged 7-inch version, but only released in the U S.
‘Stretch Out and Wait’ [alternate] [The World Won't Listen]
Inexplicably included as a B-side track for two of the singles in the C D Singles box. Again, speculation that it was a mistake.
‘Barbarism Begins at Home [Phil Brown edit] [German/ Italian 7-45; Complete deluxe edition 7-45; Complete download version]
More inconsistency: not included in in the 7-inch Singles box, though the original full-length version is found in the C D Singles box; only then to be included among the Complete bonus 45s and thus also the downloadable/ streaming version.
‘That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore’  [7-45; The World Won't Listen]
Also included in the 7-inch Singles box.
‘The Boy With the Thorn in His Side’ [single version] [single; The World Won't Listen, pre-2009]
Also included in the 7-inch Singles box, the last time this version was officially made available.
‘Rubber Ring’ [edit; without segue into Asleep] [all releases except ‘The Boy With the Thorn in His Side’ 12-45 and C.D]
‘Asleep’ [edit; without Rubber Ring segue] [all releases except ‘The Boy With the Thorn in His Side’ 12-45 and C.D]
These versions that do not flow together became the common ones, if only because the two tracks were not sequenced together on The World Won't Listen and Louder Than Bombs. Given that the segued versions came first, they remain for me the "originals," though the opposing argument seems to have won out among the scattered individuals making decisions about Smiths reissues.
‘Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others’  [German single]
‘Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others’ [edit without fade-in] [Australian version of The Queen Is Dead]
Two pointless edits.
‘The Queen Is Dead’  [‘How Soon Is Now’ 1992 C.D reissue]
A version without the ‘Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty’ sample at the beginning.
‘The Queen Is Dead (Full Version)’
‘Frankly, Mr. Shankly (Demo)’
‘I Know It's Over (Demo)’
‘Never Had No One Ever (Demo)’
‘Cemetry Gates (Demo)’
‘Bigmouth Strikes Again (Demo)’
‘Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others (Demo)’
‘The Boy With the Thorn in His Side (Demo Mix)’
‘There Is a Light That Never Goes Out (Take 1)’
These tracks, along with some single-only tracks, comprised the second C D of the 2017 expanded box-set version of The Queen Is Dead; some had been available on bootlegs.
‘Rubber Ring (Early Drone Studios Version)’ [B side of ‘The Boy With the Thorn in His Side (Demo Mix)’ 7-45, 2017]
Nothing says, "rip off," like a 7-inch promoting a reissue and that 7-inch including an exclusive track on the B side; the Experience Hendrix operation has accomplished this feat numerous times with the Jimi Hendrix archival albums it released in recent years.
‘Ask’ [single mix] [single]
Only slightly different from the mix released on The World Won't Listen, Louder Than Bombs, and subsequent releases; later included on The Very Best of the Smiths .
‘You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby’ [alternate mix] [Louder Than Bombs, pre-2009]
‘Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before’ [alternate mix] [single, European versions]
Again, minor differences.
‘Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me’  [7-45 single]
Included among the bonus 45s in the limited Complete and thus the downloadable/ streaming version.
‘I Keep Mine Hidden’ [alternate] [Complete deluxe edition 7-45; Complete download version]
Since this version did not emerge until the Complete box, it is a bit of a mystery.
‘Work Is a Four-Letter World’  [‘Girlfriend in a Coma’ 7-45 single]
A 7-inch edit of a B-side track? A new low.
Bonus: one alternate version of a live track: Meat Is Murder (live - Oxford, England, UK, 18 Mar. 1985) [expanded], Various artists - Animal Liberation [U.K version only], 1987; this version includes additional audience interaction at the end of the performance.
–Justin J Kaw, April 2021