‘The Best Covers Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.
Who was the first band you felt truly understood you? The one who seemed to verbalize your every inexpressible thought with such pinpoint precision, who from the moment you first heard them made every other band that previously occupied your heart cease to matter? If you happened to have come of age in the ’80s, there was only one band in the entire universe that truly understood your pining and suffering. They were called The Smiths, and they totally got you.
The Smiths weren’t like the other (’80s) boys whose blonde highlights, synthesizers, and colorfully androgynous sartorial choices were dominating the pop charts and MTV. While Duran Duran and Wham! swanned on glamorous beaches and aimed themselves straight at your, uh, parts, The Smiths actively avoided the sun and made a beeline for your heart, mind, and bookcase. They didn’t care to make silly videos to promote their wares. Their metaphorical MTV was the music press and Morrissey’s eminently quotable interviews were the key pieces of catnip used to promote the band.
Of course, for all the intellect on display in the magazines, Morrissey was still an immaculately-coiffed heartthrob who knew how to work it in the pictures (Did I write him an unanswered fan letter in 1984 to tell him I loved him? Yes). But the music required no hard selling. Morrissey’s lyrics were revelatory, a magical mix of misery, humor, bitterness, and the embarrassing truth. Who among us hasn’t suffered at some point from “a shyness that is criminally vulgar” or had a “murderous desire for love” or wanted to “hang the DJ”? The union of Morrissey’s immaculate words with Johnny Marr’s chiming guitar melodies made rejection, frustration, and self-loathing sound positively majestic.
Over the years, The Smiths have become something of a code word used to describe the first band that became your friend, the first that looked you straight in your misty eyes, clutched both your hands to their chest, and said “I feel the same way.” This is why the band continues to be covered at such a relentless clip by artists old and new. And it’s why the songs being chosen to cover aren’t confined to the usual cluster of greatest hits. When it comes to The Smiths, it’s just a little more personal.
The Smiths are never, ever getting back together. The years of inter-band sniping far exceed the number that the band was actually together. Hell, as we were finalizing this list this week yet another Moz-Marr dustup occurred. But that’s okay. We don’t need more than they’ve already given. Let’s just celebrate the good times. We now present the 40 most triumphant and charming Smiths covers in the universe. Ready, handsome devils? Let us begin…
– Hope Silverman
The Dream Academy “Please Please Please…” didn’t make it? wow. The instrumental version was in Ferris Beuller’s Day Off.
What about J. Mascis’ version of “The Boy With The Thorn In His Side”?
Oh my land and garters, that version of “This Charming Man” !!!
Consider me an instant fan of The Skints forthwith.
The best smiths cover is “Please please please let me get what i want” it’s not even close but according to this clown is not even in the top 40.
It’s obviously one man’s taste but it seems like these lists are always made by people who are clueless .
Dang Alex and all, those are harsh words for what I consider a well-appointed list. Sure, we may disagree on some choices, but ‘clueless’? Not even close. Ray is an astute music fan and has a better sense of these things than many.
I’ll put it a different way: aside from this list not having what you’d like, did you discover any new versions you hadn’t heard that are cool? I sure did.
A superb range of covers! One of Cover Me’s best compilations ever imho. I knew a handful of the more obvious covers (Shaw, Buckley, Ronson, Eurythmics), but so many great ones that I wasn’t aware of. Noel is right about the Skints. Who knew about Bow Wow Wow and t.A.T.u.? Twin Shadow, Dum Dum Girls, Stars. That live E.B.T.G. cover. Best discovery – for me – Mayries – simply gorgeous and makes you want to immediately investigate their catalog further. And the write-ups – warm, sometimes funny, informative, but mostly music lovers just wanting to share. Huge round of applause to all involved in pulling this together. I love this site.
No Love Spit Love version of How Soon? Wow.
What about Death Cab For Cutie’s cover of “This Charming Man”? It sounds a tiny bit heavier than the original version and it is enjoyable overall. I thought it was worth mentioning on this list.