A full account of the singularly influential English band, drawing on extensive research and interviews with some (but not all) of the major players.
Ever since they broke up 25 years ago, The Smiths have been subjected to an endless stream of biographies and cultural studies. So what does Fletcher (The Clash: The Music that Matters, 2012, etc.) have to add? Up-close scrutiny and a broad sense of perspective. He takes in the local history, delving into the 19th-century politics that formed the gloomy industrial landscape of Manchester, U.K., and shaped the lives of two of its sons: an asexual, vegan, Oscar Wilde wannabe named Morrissey and a T. Rex-worshipping prodigy named Johnny Marr. Fancying themselves the next Leiber and Stoller, they hired bassist Andy Rourke and drummer Mike Joyce and set out on an extraordinary five-year run. Lush, decadent, mopey ballads—about bullying, pedophilia, murder and all-around terminal alienation—appeared at such a frantic rate that not even four studio albums could contain them; some of their best works were singles that arrived in bursts of inspiration. Fletcher, working with the full cooperation of Marr and Rourke, but not Morrissey and Joyce, delivers a credible view of life from inside this whirlwind; he captures the lightning-in-a-bottle chemistry of the two leads and closely follows the band’s brief journey from local indie curio to New Wave phenomenon. It isn’t always smooth sailing; the endless backstage business details are a drag to read, and at times (although not always), Fletcher is too charmed by Morrissey to notice just how unpleasant he can be (especially when he’s fantasizing about murdering Margaret Thatcher or romanticizing suicide).
An up-to-date and revealing rock biography that sets a standard of completion that will likely prove hard to beat.