Both of today’s contenders have shown up already in Round One in other incarnations: The Smiths’ frontman Morrissey showed up as a solo act, while Ben Folds showed up in the form of his band, Ben Folds Five.
We’ll celebrate the 4th of July with a randomly selected song from across the pond, written and performed by a gay icon: ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’ from The Smith’s classic album The Queen is Dead.
Given that my first ever Song of the Day post was about The Smiths, it’s only fitting that they find a spot on this desert island list.
I was surprised to see that, unlike every other song I’ve featured over the past two weeks, I have never written about today’s song. ‘There is a Light That Never Goes Out’ is one of the band’s most beloved songs, a highlight of their best album, The Queen is Dead.
I can also make a strong case for the ‘Pure Pop’ category. Those who are only passingly familiar with the band’s discography might associate them only with self-pitying mope rock and remain unaware of guitarist Johnny Marr’s peerless knack for shimmering pop hooks.
The Queen is Dead – The Smiths (1986)
I think I just heard Dana’s head explode. Yes, more Smiths!
The Smiths released only four studio albums (among many compilations) and The Queen is Dead is by far the best of them. On this record, they tied everything together perfectly: the pathos, the humor, Johnny Marr’s shimmering guitar and Morrissey’s incomparable vocals.
The Smiths’ The Queen is Dead is on my shortlist of favorite albums by any measure. It doesn’t have a weak song on it, it epitomizes its genre, it engages me both emotionally and cerebrally and it puts me in a specific time and place (freshmen year at the University of Florida). If I had to bring ten albums to the proverbial desert island, it’s a safe best this would be one of them.
I wonder what kids today would make of the desert island scenario. They have thousands of songs on devices no bigger than a stick of gum… the idea that they might be restricted to ten of anything is probably absurd.
1986 saw the release of The Smiths’ third studio album, and their bona fide masterpiece, The Queen is Dead. Not only is this my favorite Smiths album but it’s a contender for my list of top ten favorite albums.
But my first memory of The Queen is Dead has nothing to do with the music. Rather, it’s of a girl in my tenth grade biology class who often wore a white shirt with this album cover on it. K___ was one of those quiet, pretty, smart girls who didn’t get much attention in high school but probably went on to fame and fortune. (Actually, I friended her on Facebook and she now works at the Library of Congress.)