1986 – The Queen Is Dead – The Smiths

1985A - The Queen Is Dead

When we first started in the clubs I bought a Hondo II H1030 DC electric guitar from a music shop on Commercial Street in Rotherham but had decided that if I was ever going to sound like Johnny Marr I needed something better. I’d become a fairly frequent visitor to Carlsbro Sound Centre on City Road in Sheffield and spent a long time looking longingly at the racks of guitars and talking to a bloke known as Pod, the guitar specialist in the shop. Having done my research, studying pictures of The Smiths, I knew, of course, that what I really needed was possibly a Gibson ES355 or perhaps a Rickenbacker. However, I also knew there was no way I could afford either of those! I sat in the guitar booth up at Carlsbro many times playing various guitars and actually preferred the feel of the Fender Stratocasters; that was alright, Johnny Marr played one of those sometimes too. I couldn’t afford that either! In the end, Pod persuaded me to try one of the fairly new Squier Stratocasters – licensed by Fender, with American made pick-ups, but mostly made in Japan and quite a bit cheaper. Perfect. Eventually, I got a black one with a maple neck and loved it, it felt right. Of course, I now needed a new amp and spent years trying to explain to anyone who would listen, that the one I had just didn’t have the right “colour” sound. Unfortunately no one had a clue what I was on about.

“The Queen Is Dead” had all the ‘colours’ anyone could wish for. It swooped, swirled and sparkled in greens, blues and pinks. The guitars were layered like an artist would layer his oils; meticulously building up the textures and tones. There are rumbling rock songs, seaside postcard comedies and everything in between. And Morrissey’s words, always Morrissey’s words.

“But sometimes I’d feel more fulfilled making Christmas cards with the mentally ill, I want to live and I want to love, I want to catch something that I might be ashamed of,” from ‘Frankly, Mr. Shankly.’ “As Anthony said to Cleopatra, as he opened a crate of ale, ‘Oh, I say,’ some girls are bigger than others!” from ‘Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others’ and, of course, “If a double decker bus crashes into us, to die by your side is such a heavenly way to die,” from the masterful ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ – a song I’ve always said, somewhat morbidly perhaps, I’d like played at my funeral, mainly because it sounds so mournful but is so funny!

My new Squier Strat made its debut not long after at Flanderwell Club in Rotherham. Everything was going pretty well; my guitar felt great and people were up dancing for the last ‘spot’. Playing a new song for the first time is always a slightly nervy moment but we decided to give it a go and announced “The Heat is On”, a recent hit. Absolutely everyone who was on the dance floor immediately sat down! At least it wasn’t because we were playing it badly – we hadn’t even started yet. As it happens, we did play it badly but the guitar solo sounded great!

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