Songs That Saved Your Life the Art of the Smiths 1982-87 by Simon Goddard
Genere(s): Band Bio, Rock and Roll
Publisher: Titan Books
Availability: Paperback, eBook
Description: One of the seminal groups of the Eighties, The Smiths‘ career was as brilliant as it was brief. Now, drawing on interviews with band members, producers, and colleagues, music journalist Simon Goddard presents a meticulous chronological survey of the group’s musical evolution, from their first demos in 1982 to their final fractured studio session five years later.
Meticulous is an understatement! I gathered from the forward in this book that Goddard was a fan, but nothing could prepare me for the love and care he put into this book. There are some bands out there that I really like, but this book will put all other so called fans of bands to shame. I have not read any of Mr. Goddard’s other stuff but the amount of love and minute detail that he put into this book pegs him as either the biggest Smiths fan ever or the Sherlock Holmes of Rock Band writing. I was at a suitable listening age when the Smiths were around.
Actually their reign on the alt charts and time as buzz clips on MTV had just passed as I entered high school. Echoes of The Smiths resonated through the south wing of my high school where the ECHs (Eighties Cult Hippies) or Wingers (In honor of their tendency to congregate in and around the south wing of our school) hung out. These young adults tended to wear Dock Martins and lots of black; I kind of like to think that they were the actual forefathers of what we might call Goth these days. While I had many wonderful friends that fit into the Winger category (you know those comfortable labels we like to put on folks in high school) I wasn’t impressed by their choice of music and The Smiths were a major part of their mix tapes. The image of a forlorn looking Morrissey adorned their faded to grey black t-shirts. As you can now deduce, I avoided The Smiths like the plague!
Fast forward to later in life when the music you listen to no longer defined who you are and I flirted with The Smiths, not because I was feeling introspective, but because their songs kept coming up on my 80s Alt channel on Slacker radio. Much of The Smiths musical manifesto still escaped me until I read Songs that Saved Your Life the Art of the Smiths 1982-87. This book takes the reader song by song through the tumultuous history of the Smiths from the initial meeting between Johnny Marr and Morrissey to their breakup 5 years later.
Now when I say that this book takes the reader song by song, I mean Goddard digs deeper into the origins of these songs than I think I have ever seen any other author go. If you think you are a Smiths fan you are wrong, as the depths in which Goddard goes in this book will make you feel like that punk Alt wanna be kid going into the used record store (remember those) to buy your first Smiths album because you liked one of their songs you heard on your older brother’s girlfriend’s mix tapes. A no point in the book does Goddard make you feel like he is lording his intimate knowledge of the Smiths over you, but the breadth and width of that knowledge is awe inspiring.
I will say that at times Goddard goes so into the weeds that as reader I felt surrounded and lost. The Smiths drew from so many sources that when describing the influences for some of the songs it felt like one of those conversations where someone is name dropping name people that you don’t know. You know they must be important but you don’t know why and you most likely won’t research later on. If you are not a devotee of the Manchester music scene or punk rock, several of the bands and people referenced in this book will just end up looking like a long list of names. If you are a Smiths fan and you want to know every single thing about every song they ever wrote, this will become your new Smiths bible!
So here are my final feelings about this book. Goddard knows the Smiths, the way a mother knows her children. The amount of time, love and research he put into this book shows in each and every description of every song. This is not a book for the casual Smiths fan, and if you are loyal enough to make it through the sheer volume of obscure Smiths information contained between these covers you will be an undisputed Smiths fanboy/fangirl. This book showed me just how deep and emotionally involved with their music Morrissey and Marr were and gave me a new appreciation for what they were doing. In retrospect I have to give those Wingers of my past credit, they were astute enough to listen to The Smiths at a time when I could only hear them.