On This Day in 1987: Morrissey Goes Solo

Tuesday, September 12, 2017
This Day in Music

30 years ago today, New Musical Express ran an article bearing the headline “GOODBYE, SMITHS” which effectively served as the kick-off of Morrissey’s career as a solo artist.

“The Smiths are dead,” began the article, just in case the headline hadn’t successfully all of the band’s fans into fits of weeping. “After weeks of speculation about a replacement for Johnny Marr, NME discovered at the weekend that Morrissey intends to record under his own name in the future.”

Although Morrissey himself wasn’t quoted within the piece, his spokesperson, Pat Bellis, had plenty to say on his behalf, including the fact that Morrissey had found a new songwriting collaborator in the form of Stephen Street, who was already well known to Smiths fans for producing and engineering numerous tracks for the band over the course of their career.

“It’s taken some time to think things over, but now Morrissey has decided to end one era before beginning another,” said Bellis. “The Smiths were Morrissey, Johnny, Andy [Rourke], and Mike [Joyce]. Any other combination would not have been the same, so the auditions to replace Johnny were never taken really seriously. They just tried out a few people suggested by friends. There was a tremendous pressure on Morrissey when Johnny left, and he knew it would be a difficult task to replace him."

Indeed, if you’ve read Morrissey’s memoir, then you already know his thoughts on when the band ended, and it was well prior to NME’s pronouncement:

“At the close of the STRANGEWAYS [HERE WE COME] sessions, there took place a glut of meetings with accountants and lawyers at the Wool Hall Studio, and in the context of such, The Smiths breathed a last exhausted sigh, and folded. It happened as quickly and as unemotionally as this sentence took to describe it. No high-octane squabbles, no screams at midnight, no flying furniture, no one dragged head first into the snake-pit, no animated yelps from unused outbuildings. (These would, of course, come eight years later, eight years too late, at the Smiths High Court Trial.) In 1987, at Roland Gardens, Johnny and I stood – he smiling, I not master but servant. ‘Sing me to sleep / I’m tired, and I / I want to go to bed.’”

At the time, it was suggested that Morrissey might well be issuing his first solo material before the end of 1987, but that suggestion proved a bit too optimistic: his debut solo single, “Suedehead,” would not actually hit record store shelves until February 15, 1988.

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