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What is The Smiths best song?

Updated on April 4, 2012

There is a light and it never goes out

I listen, and listen again, to The Smiths. I sometimes voluntarily choose not to play them for months on end just so I can for in love with them again. What is my favourite Smiths song? Is it possible to narrow down so much sublime quality into one song? Always remember that this is a band whose B sides reek of genius.

There is Meat is Murder; a song which, undoubtedly more than any other, inspired people to refrain from eating meat. Then there is Paint a Vulgar picture; where the record company muse about the financial gains of having “a dead star on their hands”. And who can ever cease to be amazed by the wonderfully melancholic “I know its over” with its criminally handsome alliterations. “Shy loutish lover treat her kindly…..see the sea wants to take you, the knife wants to slit you….”

If I absolutely had to chose. If I were forced, or if an unlikely series of events unfurled and my life depended it on it, I would choose “There is a light and it never goes out”. It’s almost sad when you consider it’s about isolation, maybe even dislocation.

Take me out tonight
Because I want to see people
And I want to see life
Driving in your car
Oh please don't drop me home
Because it's not my home, it's their home
And I'm welcome no more

Morrissey seems to effortlessly make statements that are ambiguous, yet conjure a vivid story with attached emotion, simultaneously. This song could be the melodrama of a hormonal teen struggling with the home pressures and seeking escapism in a social life that still eludes him, or her. It also speaks of frustration at wanting to experience life. A thread throughout Morrissey’s work is that he can detail a moment as if he’s recollecting a memory. Maybe perhaps as a result of studiously observing life through the bedroom window. In the first verse he” wants to meet people who are young and alive”. He refers to the outside as life thus implying being inside is death.

And if a double-decker bus
Crashes into us
To die by your side
Is such a heavenly way to die
And if a ten ton truck
Kills the both of us
To die by your side
Well the pleasure, the privilege is mine

The chorus has a hint of Shakespearian charm with a pinch of modern day Englishness. This is interesting as the character feels it’ll be a privilege to die “by your side” but the companion remains undescribed. All we are privy to is the fact that he, or she, has a car. Perhaps recollecting the status a young adult had when he learnt to drive with the freedoms, or escapisms, that provided when we were younger.

And in the darkened underpass
I thought Oh God, my chance has come at last
But then a strange fear gripped me
And I just couldn't ask

I love the poetry in this verse. The character’s “chance had come at last” but then shyness and sensibility spawned fear and “I just couldn’t ask”. There is a strong sense of wanting to reach out, wanting to connect and always recoiling at the last moment.

Driving in your car
I never never want to go home
Because I haven't got one
No, I haven't got one

And when Morrissey sings of home one wonders if home is literal or a metaphor for kindred. The car, for the social voyeur, will allow him to see life. Whiz into one drama and onto another with the comfortable separation of the windscreen acting as cushion to real life.

It is hard to articulate how good the Smiths are. It’s hard to express how I get a real sense of old working class kitchen sink drama. Oscar Wilde said “it’s the spectator and not life that art really mirrors”. I’m naturally cautious of lavishing praise onto lyricists for I know I could be projecting my own ideas onto their work. That’s one thing Morrissey can never be accused of. He can slip into any skin and detail the beauty of their melancholy with the driest whit.


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