Such is the widespread influence and enduring legacy of The Smiths it is often difficult to believe that the band released just four studio albums over the course of its five-year existence. While each of those albums is quite special in its own unique way – none more so than The Queen Is Dead, which remains the band’s masterpiece – the sense of majesty and awe surrounding The Smiths is often at odds with the band’s otherwise relatively short-lived achievements. Well, on the surface at least.
Scratch beneath that surface however and you soon discover why The Smiths were (and are) held in such high regard. The sheer genius of Morrissey’s lyrics (for the most part), the often controversial and socially/politically challenging nature of those very songs, plus the brilliance of Johnny Marr’s music/guitar – just for starters – would prove an irresistible formula long after the band hit its own self-imposed use-by date in 1987.
And then of course there are all of those compilation albums … something that undoubtedly added gloss to not only the band’s discography, but it’s almost flawless reputation.
Excluding the Singles Box Set or rare Japanese imports and albums of that ilk, I can count at least nine compilation albums (* see below) issued under the band’s name, the first (and best) of which was the excellent Hatful of Hollow, released just weeks after the self-titled debut.Hatful of Hollow is essentially a collection of early BBC sessions (from 1983 and 1984), a few non-album singles, and an assortment of b-sides. Basically it is a kind of hodge-podge mix of early recordings; a key selling point being the different versions of not only those singles, but also the associated b-sides. Many hardcore fans of the band consider a number of these versions to be superior to those found elsewhere.
Highlights: ‘What Difference Does It Make’, the seminal ‘How Soon Is Now’ (believe it or not, originally a b-side), ‘Hand in Glove’, ‘This Charming Man’, ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now’, ‘William, It Was Really Nothing’, ‘Accept Yourself’, plus my own favourite, ‘Back To The Old House’ … and more!
* Nine compilation albums of The Smiths: Hatful of Hollow, The World Won’t Listen, Louder Than Bombs, Rank (the band’s only official live album), two volumes of The Best Of (1 & 2), Singles, The Very Best Of, and more recently, The Sound Of The Smiths … phew!