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A Light That Never Goes Out: The Enduring Saga of the Smiths [Import] [Hardcover]

Tony Fletcher
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
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Book Description

13 Nov 2012

They were, their fans believe, the best band in the world. Critics and sales figures told a similar story: six albums between 1984 and 1988 made number one or number two in the UK charts. Twenty-five years after their break-up, the band remain as adored and discussed as ever. To this day, there is a collective understanding that The Smiths were one of the greatest of all British rock groups.

The Smiths – Morrissey, Johnny Marr, Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce – were four working-class youths who came together, by fate or chance, in Manchester in the early 1980s. Their sound was both traditional and radically different, a music that spoke to a generation, and defied the dark socio-economic mood of the Thatcher years. By early 1984, barely a year after their first headlining gig, they were the hottest – certainly the hippest – name in modern music. In the years that followed the group produced an extraordinary body of work: seventeen classic singles, four studio albums, and some seventy songs composed by the team of Morrissey and Marr. Yet for all their brilliance and adoration – their famously energetic live shows routinely interrupted by stage invasions - The Smiths were continually plagued by their reticence to play the game, and by the time of 1987’s Strangeways Here We Come, they had split. The Smiths have never played together again – their enormous contribution to pop culture forever condensed into a prolific and prosperous halcyon period, their legacy intact and untarnished.

Thirty years after their formation, twenty-five since they broke up, The Smiths’ firmament remains as bright as ever. It’s time their tale was told. Tony Fletcher’s A Light That Never Goes Out is a meticulous and evocative group biography – part celebration, part paean – moving from Manchester in the nineteenth-century to the present day to tell the complete story of The Smiths. Penned by a contemporary and life-long fan, and the product of extensive research, dozens of interviews, and unprecedented access, it will serve to confirm The Smiths as one of the most important and influential rock groups of all time.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 704 pages
  • Publisher: William Heinemann (13 Nov 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0434020664
  • ISBN-13: 978-0434020669
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 4.4 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 268,127 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tony Fletcher is the author of six non-fiction books, a memoir, and a novel. His biography of drummer Keith Moon has been named in many a Best Music Book list, and his biography of R.E.M., updated in 2013 as 'Perfect Circle,' has been published in over half a dozen countries. His 2009 study, 'All Hopped Up and Ready To Go: Music From The Streets of New York 1927-77,' published by WW Norton, covered multiple musical genres and was internationally acclaimed. His most recent biography, 'A Light That Never Goes Out: The Enduring Saga of The Smiths' was published by William Heinemann in the UK, by Crown Archetype in the US, and is now available in paperback. His memoir of his South London schooldays, 'Boy About Town,' is also now available in paperback through Windmill Books.

Fletcher gained his entry into music journalism by founding a fanzine at his London school in 1977; by the time Jamming! ceased publication in 1986, it was selling 30,000 copies a month. Along the way he interviewed the likes of Pete Townshend, Paul McCartney, Paul Weller and U2, as well as dozens of up-and-coming, predominantly independent post-punk acts.

A contributor over the years to a multitude of magazines, newspapers, radio and television shows, primarily in the UK and USA, Fletcher now lives with his family on a mountaintop near the village of Woodstock in New York State. There he runs, skis, maintains his web site www.ijamming.net, serves on his local school board, and plays Hammond B-3 and Rickenbacker in the Catskill 45s, a group that only performs songs from 45 calendar years ago.

Product Description


"[A] meticulous biography…This exhaustive, well-researched account brings fresh detail and thought to the party." (The Sunday Times)

"A finely judged re-telling of a remarkable tale with valuable first-hand accounts of the band’s American adventures, their rapid development into a wonderful live act, plus insights into the spiralling pressures and frictions that faced the individual band members." (Sabotage Times)

"An exhaustive labour of love that was three years in the writing but which will be lapped up by fans of the band...written with a real sense of love and affection for the group who, though they were only together for a mere five years, tilted the world on its axis to a degree not seen since the heyday of the Beatles and the Stones…Fletcher is excellent when it comes to widening the view to include the cultural and historical factors behind the band's emergence and the city from which they came." (Irish Independent)

"The story of the Smiths told on the basis of interviews with just about every surviving participant in the Smiths' story. As the story winds on, a chain of no-shows, fits of pique and self-sabotage ... reaches its denouement with an episode from April 1987, just prior to the band's formal break-up. Fletcher is the first writer to have got the full story. Such material highlights the extent to which Fletcher has done his research." (Guardian)

"Tony Fletcher’s account is a highly enjoyable way of revisiting [the] story. Crucially, he avoids areas well-served by other Smiths tomes and brings sufficient new material to reward even well-read fans…It’s a tale that’s been told before, but in his biography of the Manchester four-piece Tony Fletcher reveals new details and brings new depths to the story of Morrissey, Marr, Rourke, Joyce and the birth of the band." (Mojo)

Book Description

The first group biography of one of the greatest British bands of all time - The Smiths.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic In Depth Biography of THE SMITHS... 13 Sep 2012
THE SMITHS were among the most influential bands of the nineteen eighties. Author Tony Fletcher does a wonderful job describing the origins of the band, their lightning-fast rise to prominence, and their demise a mere five years later.

Some might recall author Johnny Rogan's book about the Smiths from the mid-nineties with the same fondness as I do, and if you are among those who do you surely will enjoy reading A Light That Never Goes Out. Those who are familiar with the author will know that he has written two distinctly different types of musical biographies; short concise bios such as his Clash, Bunnymen and REM books, and complete compendium encyclopedic bios such as his Kieth Moon bio and his recent All Hopped Up book about the history of the music of NYC; this book falls into the latter category. Though some might criticize the book for being too long or diverging too far from the main theme, I found that his detailed description of Manchester and the early lives of Moz and Marr was insightful. I find it very interesting to try to understand where artists come from; what makes them who they are. Just as you can't understand The Ramones without understanding 60's pop & 70's NYC grittiness, it would be impossible to understand The Smiths without having the background that Tony does such a great job of relating. Maybe to some older readers who were around to have seen The Smiths and were teenagers during those years this all seems obvious, but 35 years later it is a history lesson for some that needs taught.

Once Tony gets through that essential and interesting background his descriptions of the Smiths Story as it happened (especially the American Tour which I always thought Rogan's book was lacking in good info) is well-written and fresh.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Definitive Story 26 Oct 2012
Dear Boy: The Life of Keith MoonTony Fletcher has done it again. His amazingly thorough bio of Keith Moon, 'Dear Boy' was a fascinating portrait of the troubled drummer and a must for any Who fan. So much has been written on the Smiths since their demise, what's left to tell? When you think you know the whole story, Tony probes deeper and is able to get the people who were actually present to give us their inside insights. The chapter on the creation of 'How Soon Is Now' is a perfect example of how exciting he makes the it - you feel like you were present. At 600 plus pages, you really can't be a casual fan, but casual isn't an adjective applied to many Smiths fans anyway. The way Tony writes is also a cut above a lot of music journalists. I picked up another music bio after finishing 'A Light That Never Goes Out' (which shall remain nameless) and it's wooden prose was a a stark contrast. He makes the story of the Smiths so compelling I couldn't wait to continue reading whenever I left off. Well done!
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The saga endures ... 11 Nov 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
It's almost twenty years since I read Johnny Rogan's seminal tome, Morrissey and Marr: The Severed Alliance. In those pre-internet days, before the Smiths were an "institution" worthy of the covers of such traditionalist music papers as Mojo and Uncut, Rogan's tell all biography was a revelation. Up until then, everything I'd read about my beloved band had been assembled in snippets - an NME article here, a music encyclopaedia entry there. The fact that Morrissey called down a fatwa on the author only made the content seem more scandalous, and probably a little more believable too.

Two decades later, and as Tony Fletcher points out in the forward to his own book, there's been little else to compete, other than Simon Goddard's excellent trainspotter guides, Songs that Saved Your Life and Mozapedia, and more fan-orientated books like All Men Have Secrets. However, despite the paucity of books on The Smiths, there has been a shedload of magazine cover stories in the above-mentioned magazines, and the webisphere thrives with numerous comprehensive sites, some sublime, most ridiculous. Given the closed nature of Morrissey's inner circle, and the very pubic nature of Joyce and Rourke's legal issues with their ex-bandmates (or should that be employers?) I really had to wonder if there was much more to uncover.

So what does A Light That Never Goes Out: The Enduring Saga of The Smiths offer? To a newcomer, it is an excellent and comprehensive history of the band, and to anyone who has read all of the above, not a lot more. Given the time that has passed since Rogan's (apparently tell-all) book, there seems little else to tell.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If music be the food of love, play on. 11 Oct 2012
What I enjoyed most about this book was that it has reintroduced me (and my kids) to a great time in British music. The Smiths albums have not been off loop now for a month, the kids are whistling along to What Difference Does It Make and singing about Double Decker Buses and Ten Ton Trucks. That shows the power of this band, the music was so darn good, and this book captures all the beauty of The Smiths in such a thoughtful and informative way, its an absolute pleasure to read. Its time the tale were told...
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars They weren't that important!
Not surprisingly, this book isn't really for women. It's written from a male fan's point of view, with lots of tedious facts and geeky details. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Carolyn Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 2 months ago by Matthew W.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read for smiths fans
really interesting and great book for smiths fan but if you havent heard of them or dont adore them you might not like it as much but it's still interesting and really well written
Published 5 months ago by daniel
5.0 out of 5 stars if only all biographies were as good as this
A very readable and enlightening take on an already well-worn saga. No new info but immensely enjoyable. Worth every penny
Published 7 months ago by Jonathan Muirhead
2.0 out of 5 stars Less is more ...
In many ways this is a very good and interesting book, and I don't want to take anything away from any positive comments made by other reviewers. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Biggis
5.0 out of 5 stars impressive detail and hard to put down
Having seen the Smiths live in 1984, I wanted to delve into their world once again and was not disappointed in Tony Fletcher's biography. Read more
Published 11 months ago by anna birschel
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
A really great read which shines through with honesty and enthusiasm for the subject.Not as essential as Simon Goddards songs that saved your life but still a truly fine... Read more
Published 12 months ago by steve
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, but...
A weighty tome of 600 pages should be the last word. But Morrissey and Marr don't meet until 200 pages in, and it essentially finishes in 1987 after what is basically a... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Pace Man
2.0 out of 5 stars dissappointed
i could not get into this book atoll , i love this genre of book and have read lots and lots , music , band , manchester scene . Read more
Published 17 months ago by david thompson
5.0 out of 5 stars An Outstanding read
Just an outstanding book, incredibly well researched by the author, delving back into not only the teenage years of the band and their backgrounds, but also the environment they... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Lee
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