It’s easy to forget that The Smiths were as seminal a band as they really were. For better or worse, they pretty much invented modern indie music as we know it, recording four studio albums and countless timeless singles in five years, before imploding in the animosity that endures to this day (last month singer Morrissey reportedly turned down a $75 million offer to re-form the band for a world tour).
Captured here between May 1983 and June 1984, Steven Patrick Morrissey, guitarist Johnny Marr, bassist Andy Rourke and drummer Mike Joyce are seen both on and off stage in the period leading up to (and just after) their eponymous debut album. The majority of the photos are rough and in black and white, depicting a fresh-faced band goofing around in Paris, Manchester, London and, er, Norwich and hanging around backstage. In the color shots, the yellow of Morrissey’s ubiquitous daffodils glare dazzlingly from the page. Images are accompanied throughout by comments, recollections and insights from photographer Paul Slattery.
Many of the live shots are fantastic, showing Morrissey in various states of dress and hurling himself all over the stage in what must have made for a thrilling show. The most awe-inspiring image is a black-and-white shot of the band on stage at England’s Glastonbury festival in June 1984. Taken from the back of the stage, it shows not only all four members but also a portion of the vast crowd and the campsite beyond, spread out over two full pages. The scale is dizzying.
Slattery’s images go some way in putting across the bluster, fury and humor that characterized The Smiths’ career. Fan of the band? You’ll be a fan of this book, too.
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