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The Smiths: All 73 Songs, Ranked

Morrissey and Johnny Marr lasted only five years as a songwriting team, but these Manchester lads left a lifetime’s worth of absurdly great songs behind

the smiths all songs ranked morrissey johnny marr andy rourke mike joyce

The Smiths, circa 1985. The band would break up two years later in August 1987.

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It’s time the tale were told: 30 years ago this week, the Smiths broke up, and the world has never stopped mourning their demise. There’s no other rock & roll story like theirs – going back to the day in 1982 when Johnny knocked on the door of the local literary recluse and announced, “I’ve come to form the world’s greatest band.”

So let’s break it down: all 73 Smiths songs, ranked from bottom to top. The hits. The flops. The glorious highs. The gruesome lows. The B-sides, the deep cuts, the covers, the songs that made you cry, the songs that saved your life. The good, the bad and the “Vicar in a Tutu.” All of it. An insanely ambitious, brutally definitive, scholarly, subjective, opinionated, passionate and complete guide to a songbook like no other. The ultimate argument starter. Every Smiths fan would compile a different list – that’s the whole point – so if your feelings get hurt easily, be forewarned: Honey pie, you’re not safe here. But it’s a celebration of Morrissey, Johnny Marr, Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce – the Manchester foursome who made the dream real and changed the world. Here’s to the mind-blowing, back-scrubbing, Walkman-melting genius of the Smiths. 

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32

“Frankly Mr. Shankly” (1986)

An anthem for every pretentious famewhore poseur who ever decided it was time to quit the day job and become a legend. Like Prince in “Raspberry Beret,” Morrissey flounces through the workplace with the insouciance of a star who clearly wasn’t cut out for real life. Not a favorite of the other Smiths – too much music-hall burlesque – yet a catwalk for the singer, who declares he’d rather be famous than righteous or holy. Some people heard “Frankly, Mr. Shankly” as a dig at Rough Trade label boss Geoff Travis; Morrissey complains in Autobiography that “Geoff had zero appreciation for the songs that had saved him from life’s lavatory.”

Best line: “Fame fame fatal fame / It can play hideous tricks on the brain.” 

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31

“What She Said” (1985)

Now here’s a heroine who really deserves her own Smiths song. “What She Said” proves the lads noticed all those black-clad girls dancing in the front row – it’s a boy band’s tribute to their ride-or-die female fans, a la the Ramones’ “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker,” the Beatles’ “Thank You Girl” or One Direction’s “Girl Almighty.” This muse inspires the whole band to rock out, with one of the most non-tragic sexual encounters in any Smiths song: “It took a tattooed boy from Birkenhead to really, really open her eyes.”

Best line: “How come someone hasn’t noticed that I’m dead and decided to bury me? / God knows I’m ready.”