I don’t think there’s anything quite like hearing The Smiths’ legendary third album, “The Queen Is Dead”, in full for the first time. Thirty-one years after its initial release, record label Warner Bros have released a remastered edition, expanded with an extra disc of demos and B-sides, plus a recording and DVD of an iconic 1986 performance in Mansfield, Massachusetts. This reissue, though not the first, is essential listening for any Smiths fan, and recommended for all the incorrupt uninitiated.
The Smiths’ political activism is as present as ever on “The Queen Is Dead”, albeit nestled (as always) between Johnny Marr’s elegant, timeless riffs and Mike Joyce’s energetic percussion. Influential though they were – second album “Meat Is Murder” is said to have turned more to vegetarianism than any other recent cultural endeavour – to sing about breaking into Buckingham Palace to kill the Queen, “with a sponge and a rusty spanner” no less, would still be virtually sacrilegious today. Or, in other words, exactly as Morrissey would want it.
At the Mansfield concert, the start of “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” is greeted by a hushed audience, apparently unfamiliar with the month-old track. Unbeknown to them, music would never be the same again.