28 Years Ago: The Smiths' debut LP released
On February 20, 1984, The Smiths' self-titled debut album was released on Rough Trade Records. With nearly three decades' hindsight, it's hard to remember just how odd the Manchester quartet seemed at the time. In defiance of the still-prevailing glam fashion trends of the New Romantics and their followers, their button-downs-and-jeans look (later adopted as the uniform of the C86 bands) was as out of step with the times as the fact that they didn't have a synthesizer player.
And then there was Morrissey. At a time when even Boy George played coy about his sexuality, Morrissey's openly gay lyrical persona (although he hedged his bets by claiming in interviews to be celibate) was downright shocking to some folks. His singing style, in which the vocal melodies often seemed like they had little to do with what the band was playing behind him, seemed even more alien at the time, especially when he made his jarring leaps into a harsh falsetto. Meanwhile, Johnny Marr's guitar lines made the bowl-haired Mancunian second only to R.E.M.'s Peter Buck as the most influential guitarist of his era.
The album was famously difficult to record: an early version produced by The Teardrop Explodes' Troy Tate (since widely bootlegged) was rejected by the band, and ex-Roxy Music bassist John Porter was brought in to helm the finished album. Morrissey, Marr and a sizeable subset of Smiths fans claim to prefer the earlier BBC session versions of the songs, gathered later that year on the compilation Hatful of Hollow.
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