In 1984, while studying for my 'A' levels I got my first job.(if you don't want to know the score look away now - I failed Maths and German, but did manage an unremarkable E in Economics).
Every Saturday plus three nights a week I donned a rather fetching blue overall and plied my trade at Laws Supermarket in Southwick, Sunderland. At the risk of sounding like a CV, my main duties included taking stock from the warehouse to the shop-floor, cleaning underneath the conveyor belt, loading and unloading the cardboard bailing machine and mopping the aisles. If I was really lucky I was also asked to use the scraper to de-chewing gum the shop floor. I was probably fortunate that there were no chimneys to sweep.
To ensure that all of the money (approx. £13.50 per week) earned could be used to buy records and cassettes I used to strap on my Walkman (not a real Walkman, a Sanyo copy) and walk the two miles to work and back to avoid the bus fare.
By this point my music collection was growing steadily and I had a considerable choice of cassettes for the journey. Three stood out from the crowd at the time however, and this ‘Holy Trinity’ got more than their fair share of play time. The three tapes in question were 'Forever now' by The Psychedelic Furs, 'Life's a riot with Spy vs Spy' by Billy Bragg and our subject for today, 'The Smiths' by The Smiths.
The Smiths' first album is now a part of our collective musical folklore but in 1984 it was merely a fantastic debut by an exciting new band that we'd all loved since first hearing them on the John Peel show (where else!).
With memorably quotable controversial lyrics, brilliant music, and images of gladioli-strewn stages the album became an instant classic which landed half-way between punk attitude and 1960s kitchen sink drama sensitivity. The high points are many but it would be remiss of me not to mention my own personal favourites, in order of preference;
· Reel around the fountain
· This charming man
· Suffer little children
· Still ill
Sandie Shaw’s version of ‘Hand in glove’ is very slightly better than The Smiths’ own for my money. And ‘Miserable lie’ still gives me exactly the same kind of headache as it did 29 years ago.
Another of the ‘Holy Trinity’ will feature soon – sadly it won’t be The Psychedelic Furs because when I removed it from its box this morning I noticed that the tape had snapped. I’ll have to find a replacement if life is to continue as normal.
Label – Rough Trade
Year – 1984