BY JOHN B. MOORE
For a band that was in existence for just five years, The Smiths wield an amazing amount of influence in the world of music (and way beyond music, if we’re being honest). And judging from the library of books that keep getting churned out about the Manchester group each year that influence shows no sign of letting up any time soon.
The latest, A Light That Never Goes Out (Crown Archetype Books), coming in at over 700 pages is quite possibly the Alpha & Omega of the band’s history, from their founding up until the last months of their break-up. That caveat is necessary, as there has been plenty of drama post-break up with lawsuits, hurt feelings and truly fantastic snipes from various members (“I would rather eat my own testicles than re-form The Smiths, and that’s saying something for a vegetarian,” Morrissey once quipped.)
Journalist, R.E.M. biographer and former musician Tony Fletcher takes a scholarly approach to documenting the band’s existence, including plenty of viewpoints – from those close to the band and thrilled with their success to some who simply feel used by various members – as well as a slew of interesting facts and minutia relegated to the footnote pages. And while some of these notes boarder on obsession (Do you care what key some forgotten B side was meant to be recorded in versus what key it was actually recorded in? You’re in luck!), show me a Smith’s fan that isn’t fit to be committed due to stalker-quality obsession with Morrissey and the boys.
The book does drag a bit at the beginning; before a plucky teenaged Johnny Marr first rings the doorbell of the moody Steven Patrick Morrissey in the first step to creating musical history, Fletcher makes us wade through the industrial rise and decline of the duo’s hometown in Manchester, England. But his knack for engaging storytelling, not to mention his unique perspective as a fellow musician in the same music scene that birthed The Smiths, gives him a fascinating perspective as the band’s future chronicler.
As long as lonely, brooding teenagers across the globe are still discovering “Girlfriend in a Coma” and “How Soon is Now,” there will continue to be more books written about the band. But Fletcher’s deserves to be at the top of that pile.