Song of the Day #3,677: ‘Still Ill’ – The Smiths

‘Still Ill’ is a track from The Smiths’ 1984 self-titled debut, one that was a staple of the band’s live shows throughout their existence. This is a prototypical early Smiths songs, with Johnny Marr’s intricate guitar pairing beautifully with the rhythm section and Morrissey’s yearning vocals.

I know, I know, most of you will absolutely hate it!

Lyrically, most interpretations of this song veer between the political and the sexual.

Is it about pre-Thatcher England, with the opening lines referring to the welfare state and the lines about the mind ruling the body a reference to government ruling over the people vs. government ruled by the people?

Or do the body/mind lyrics refer to the argument that homosexuality is a choice, and “am I still ill” a nod to the time when being gay was labelled a mental illness?

A compelling case can be made either way, which may well have been the intention.

[Verse 1]
I decree today that life
Is simply taking and not giving
England is mine, it owes me a living
But ask me why and I’ll spit in your eye
Oh ask me why and I’ll spit in your eye
But we cannot cling to the old dreams anymore
No, we cannot cling to those dreams

[Refrain]
Does the body rule the mind
Or does the mind rule the body?
I don’t know..

[Verse 2]
Under the iron bridge we kissed
And although I ended up with sore lips
It just wasn’t like the old days anymore
No, it wasn’t like those days
Am I still ill?
Oh am I still ill?

[Refrain]
Does the body rule the mind
Or does the mind rule the body?
I don’t know..

[Verse 3]
Ask me why and I’ll die
Oh ask me why and I’ll die
And if you must go to work tomorrow
Well, if I were you I wouldn’t bother
For there are brighter sides to life
And I should know because I’ve seen them
But not very often

[Verse 4]
Under the iron bridge we kissed
And although I ended up with sore lips
It just wasn’t like the old days anymore
No, it wasn’t like those days
Am I still ill?
Oh am I still ill?

One thought on “Song of the Day #3,677: ‘Still Ill’ – The Smiths

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    “I didn’t mean to cry.”

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