10 Reasons to love: The Smiths, What She Said


If you can’t think of ten, you don’t really love it.

  1. It goes without saying that there were many choices I could have made from The Smiths back catalogue. Icons of the 1980’s, they released four studio albums and twenty singles, and this wasn’t even one of them – it was a track on the Meat Is Murder album and the B Side (remember the time when music had “sides”?) of Shakespeare’s Sister. The song. Not the band that came after.
  2. Live, the song was pre-empted by an instrumental sample from Rubber Ring, another track which stood tall in its own right. Marr is doing brilliant things on his guitar *standard* but it’s worth watching out for drummer Mike Joyce. The band were often known as “Morrissey, Marr and the other two,” but Joyce puts in a barn storming performance on this track.
  3. What She Said starts with a cacophony of drums and guitar. The feisty energy carries through the song making it one of their heaviest, most intense and startling creations.
  4. “What she said, how come someone hasn’t noticed that I’m dead? And decided to bury me. God knows I’m ready, la da da dee da dee.” This is not a happy lady – lonely, off the radar and depressed.
  5. “What she said was sad, but with all the rejection she had had, to pretend to be happy could only be idiocy, la da da dee da dee. What she said was not for the job or lover that she’d never had.” This is Morrissey to a tee – forever down to earth and realistic about the turmoil of life and lack of opportunities that many working class folks faced. The band name, The Smiths, was as ordinary as you could get and a complete antithesis to the flashy New Romantics of the time. National health glasses were no longer an embarrassment to me once Morrissey wore them.
  6. “What she read, all heady books, she’d sit and prophesise. It took a tattooed boy from Birkenhead to really really open her eyes.” THIS IS MY FAVOURITE SONG LYRIC EVER. Escaping reality in the pages of a book via the power of the carnal imagination, you can almost see the love hearts drifting from her eyes. We are left wondering whether it was a Fifty Shades of Grey encounter or a big deflation of her love bubble. There’s a theory floating about that in fact the song represents the relationship between Morrissey (the girl  – well he was deliberately vague about his sexuality) and Johnny Marr, The Smiths revered guitarist (the tattooed boy). The legend goes that Marr knocked on Morrissey’s door one day and invited him to form a band with him, thus opening his eyes.
  7. “What she said, I smoke cos I’m hoping for an early death, and I need to cling to something.” The Smiths were oft accused of being miserable by those who missed Morrissey’s dark humour. It might seem wrong to laugh at lyrics like this,  but dark humour and irony is so British.
  8. Morrissey was rightly hailed as a lyrical genius, but as a wide reader of poetry and literature, he wasn’t averse to “magpie-ing” clever words. These lyrics were lifted from Elizabeth Smart’s 1945 novella By Grand Central Station I Sat Down And Wept.
  9. For someone so gifted with words, Morrissey’s vocals often gave way to a lot of la-dee-da-deeing and yodelling and this track was no different.
  10. Just a word about the video – it’s not perfect due to age, but I felt it was important to use one of the band and not Morrissey as a solo artist. It’s rather lovely that he looks like he’s wearing his grandad’s night shirt, while Johnny Marr sports his grandad’s best suit (boy was it baggy in the 80’s). I was struck when reading Morrissey’s autobiography that while he was bitterly crushing in his use of words against those he despised, such as Margaret Thatcher, the tenderness for his fans (some of whom hold him at a level of utter adoration which could be deemed freaky) is evident and palpable. He’s pretty much gives his body to them in this clip.


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