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The Smiths' Album Covers

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The Smiths were formed in Manchester in 1982. Based on the song writing partnership of Morrissey (voice) and Johnny Marr (guitars), the group also included Andy Rourke (the bass guitar) and Mike Joyce (the drums). The band picked their name as a reaction

The Smiths were formed in Manchester in 1982. Based on the song writing partnership of Morrissey (voice) and Johnny Marr (guitars), the group also included Andy Rourke (the bass guitar) and Mike Joyce (the drums). The band picked their name as a reaction against the elaborate names used by synthpop bands of the early 1980s.

The Smiths dressed in ordinary clothes, contrasting with the exotic high-fashion image cultivated by New Romantic groups such as Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran. In 1986, when The Smiths performed on the British music program The Old Grey Whistle Test, Morrissey wore a fake hearing aid to support a hearing-impaired fan who was ashamed of using one, and frequently wore thick-rimmed National Health Service-style glasses.

The group had a distinctive visual style, which was exhibited on their album and single covers.  Designed by Morrissey and Rough Trade art coordinator Jo Slee, these regularly featured images of film and pop stars, usually in duotone, Single covers rarely featured any text other than the band name. The band themselves did not appear on the outer cover of their UK releases. However, Morrissey did appear on an alternative cover for ‘What Difference Does It Make?’, mimicking the pose of the original subject, actor Terence Stamp, after the latter objected to his image being used.

The ‘cover stars’ were an indication of Morrissey's personal interests in obscure or cult film stars, including Stamp, Alain Delon, Jean Marais, Warhol protégé Joe Dallesandro, James Dean and figures from 1960s British culture, including Coronation Street actors Viv Nicholson, Pat Phoenix, and Salford playright Shelagh Delaney.

The Smiths

The sleeve for the group’s eponymous was designed by Morrissey. It features American actor Joe Dallesandro in a cropped still from Andy Warhol's 1968 film Flesh. In the uncropped version, Dallesandro appears to be masturbating a male co-star.

Meat is Murder

The Smith’s second album, Meat is Murder, featured an edited still from Emile de Antonio's 1968 documentary In the Year of the Pig. The legend on the soldier's helmet originally read ‘Make War Not Love’. Morrissey replaced it with his impassioned declaration of vegetarianism.  On vinyl and American CD releases, four copies of the image were used, whereas only one was used on European CD issues.

The Queen Is Dead

The Queen Is Dead was the third studio album by The Smiths. The album cover features French actor, Alain Delon, from the 1964 film L'Insoumis.

Strangeways, Here We Come

The sleeve for The Smith's final studio album, Strangeways, Here We Come, features a murky shot of James Dean’s East of Eden co-star Richard Davalos. Davalos is looking at James Dean, who is cropped from the image. Dean was a hero of Morrissey's, about whom the singer wrote a book called James Dean Is Not Dead. Morrissey had intended to use a still of Harvey Keitel in Martin Scorsese's I Call First, but Keitel declined to allow him to use the image. In 1991 Keitel relented, and the image was used on t-shirts and stage backdrops for Morrissey's 1991 solo tour.  The album takes its title from Manchester's notorious Strangeways Prison. ‘Strangeways, of course, is that hideous Victorian monstrosity of a prison operating 88 to a cell,’ as Morrissey put it.

Louder Than Bombs

Louder Than Bombs was a compilation released as a double album in March 1987 by The Smiths American record company, Sire Records. The sleeve features British playwright Shelagh Delaney of Salford. The photograph was originally published in the Saturday Evening Post after Delaney, at the age of 19, had made a striking literary debut with her play A Taste of Honey. The play inspired many early lyrics written by Morrissey, particularly the song ‘This Night Has Opened My Eyes’.




Simon Goddard, The Smiths: Songs That Saved Your Life. Reynolds & Hearn, 2004

Simon Goddard, Mozipedia: The Encyclopaedia of Morrissey and the Smiths. Ebury Press, 2009


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