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on 6 December 2013
Of all the books out there about the Smiths, this, in my opinion is the best. A dissection of every song that they ever wrote and how they were recorded. I couldn't put the book down which says it all really. As for the other two reviews, particularly concerning the one mentioning the Beatles, it's an irrelevance as to how or why that band had more of a cultural impact than the Smiths. That does not make the Beatles a better band. This of course is subjective and a matter of preference and when one considers that the Smiths only released four studio albums of astonishing quality in such a short period of time, they for me, are the greatest ever band and last truly classic band.They were truly original in a way that the Beatles never were. Buy this book.
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VINE VOICEon 19 April 2003
Well I wonder, could you take many other artists entire catalogue and write inciteful, stimulating and page turning biographies of each of their songs? Would we be interested in the B side fillers, the sound checks, and learn much that anyone could care about? I've a few fave artists, but even for most of those no thanks. What a bore.
But The Smiths? They are different. Every song, each media expose is worthy of highlight. Because simply they were the most important band of their generation and remain one of the icons of popular music.
Goddard's book is a gem. For Smiths fans it is an absolute must read, but be careful, you'll need to have more than a passing interest to appreciate it and, most importantly, either a large Smiths record collection, or a fat wallet and a good record shop very close by! As you read, you'll be reaching for the vinyl and CD to listen to each track as its origins, its recording and its different takes and sessions are explained. And you just must listen to each track, you'll be compelled!
That said, there's quite few tracks explained here you won't be finding on the albums and compilations, those limited to vinyl, limited edition CD releases and bootlegs, some of which will be hard to find in a hurry. So expect to feel some frustration at not being able to hear everything you read.
If you're a fan with a comprehensive collection (if not why not!?) you'll be back to The Smiths in a whole new light.
Superb.
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on 1 January 2003
In this book you have an author, Simon Goddard who obviously loves his subject matter, and is a musician to boot. This gives you an extra insight because of his musical appreciation, for instance, on the 'Lost' track 'A Matter of Opinion' he comments on similar chord structure in other songs, and comments that the chords of 'I Won't Share You' are exactly the same as 'Ask'. The book is written in a non-preachy but in a very deeply factual style. You don't get any of the very annoying suppositions in Johnny Rogan's book, but just straight facts, including loads of details regarding lost tracks, and first drafts of lyrics. Having Mike Joyce on board has made a huge difference, and from the foreward onwards you get the feeling that what you read is to be trusted, which makes a huge difference.
The book lists in chronological order all the Smiths' recorded material from 'I Want A Boy For My Birthday' to 'Bengali In Platforms', and there is a wealth of information on every song... All-in-all, a superb read from a real fan, and very highly recommended.
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on 15 October 2013
Simon Goddard is quite simply the best writer out there on The Smiths and Morrissey. He provides a rare insight into the music and lyrics based on a lifetime spent studying the work of this iconic front man and the important cultural phenomenon that is The Smiths. Now re-issued and re-worked into a great new edition, every Smiths and Morrissey fan should own a copy. In approach and quality it stands alongside Ian MacDonald's masterful Beatles book Revolution In The Head, and is the perfect companion piece to Morrissey's Autobiography. And converts will also marvel at the definitive Mozipedia, Goddard's follow up book Mozipedia: The Encyclopaedia of Morrissey and the Smiths by Goddard, Simon (2012)
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on 28 May 2015
Bought for a Smiths fan- I had a flick through and looked really interesting. Iconic band with loads of music history.
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on 3 January 2004
Sometime during the mid 1980s my musical perspective changed due entirely to Messrs Morrissey, Marr, Rourke and Joyce.
This book is a must for Smiths enthusiasts everywhere. The author is a fan whose attention to detail is quite remarkable, (hands up who new 'How Soon is Now?' was first performed live at Gloucester Leisure Centre on 24th September 1984?).
A fascinating picture is painted of the band through detailed analysis of their songs/recording sessions. It's a book that reads like a biography while being the ideal accompaniment to the records themselves as a comprehensive reference work. Each song carries details about where and when it was recorded, who produced it, where it can be found, whether it was played live, performed on television, featured on the radio. As a fan, I love it.
Stop me if you think you've heard this one before, I know it's over, but there are some lights that will never go out.
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on 26 November 2014
This is an excellent book for fans of the smiths or indeed any music lover, it details so well how the songs came to be and the techniques used by both Morrissey & Marr when creating those golden moments of music. Loved every page of it.
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on 10 August 2014
I liked this- read it very quickly- all seems very full and well-researched (having Johnny Marr's input obviously helps here). Very much in the vein of Revolution in the Head, and at least as readable as that excellent book- but The Smiths are better than The Beatles anyway, so no surprises there.
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on 9 July 2003
This is an enjoyable read tracking the history of every song, but more interestingly acting as a sort of band biography and giveing the story of each track and albumn, which proves both interesting and often laugh out loud funny, as the author details some recording sesion or other and the antics of Morrissey and the rest.
My only problem with this book is the forced ideas it gives on what the songs are actualy about. The author gives only his veiw without taking into account that moz's words are of course open to the interpritation of the listener. As such this book can spoil your own relationship with certain songs, still a good read and near on essential for all smiths fans.
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VINE VOICEon 9 May 2003
I was so looking forward to this book, a track-by-track exploration of 1980s indie favourites The Smiths in the style of Ian MacDonald’s excellent study of The Beatles, 'Revolution in the Head'. For a Smiths devotee the prospect is irresistible.
The introduction promises an unfolding narrative, “the story of The Smiths music”, but despite dealing with each Smiths track in chronological order, it quickly becomes apparent that the author is severely over-reaching himself. The promised “story” never quite materialises and despite the solid structure that one would expect to be imposed by the chronological framework (i.e. the track by track commentary) we get rather than a steady progression through the Smith’s catalogue, instead a series of queasy lurches. The ultimate result is that even for someone reasonably familiar with The Smiths work confusion starts to set in.
Contextualisation, for example, is applied randomly, seemingly as an afterthought. To cite one minor case, Shelagh Delaney is mentioned many times. This is to be expected as she provided significant lyrical inspiration for the Moz, but it is only in the final reference to her that we get a very brief description of who she was, and her background and importance, precisely the sort of information that should have been included the first time she is mentioned.
Aiming at the trenchant style of 'Revolution in the Head', Goddard just doesn’t have the chops to pull it off. 'Songs That Saved Your Life' is riddled with mangled syntax, tortuous sentences, needless orotundity, unintentional ambiguity, non sequiturs and malapropisms. Because of the shaky command of language and construction the reader feels like they are stumbling about in a fog which occasionally clears but which soon closes in again. This seems doubly disappointing in a book about such clever and witty user of language as Morrissey, where one would hope that a commentator on his work would show the same care and precision with the mother tongue.
To be fair, Goddard undeniably knows his stuff, and when dealing with the technical, factual, and musical stuff he is quite informative, though hampered by his style. However where MacDonald’s analyses and explications of the finished Beatles tracks were intriguing and fascinating, this book’s attempts at the same for The Smiths’ songs are laboured and unenlightening. For example, this comment about The Smiths first single: “Ultimately Hand in Glove is the ballad of a helpless loner feigning to extol the virtues of a chance encounter with a false sense of superiority in itself a mask for all manner of emotional handicaps”. The words ‘elegant’ and ‘lucid’ do not spring to mind when reading such a sentence.
This is quite clearly the sort of thing a halfway decent editor should have spotted and indeed a halfway decent editor could easily have rescued this book. Goddard is a writer for Uncut magazine and there his articles and reviews are absolutely fine, being pithy and informative, which suggests that his metier is the short and snappy format of magazine writing rather than the full length survey. Sadly this remains a frustrating reading experience, all the more annoying because of the great opportunity that has been missed.
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