The World Won’t Listen (1987)

…including a section on Louder Than Bombs (1987)

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Title: The World Won’t Listen’s title is another complaint from Morrissey that the band weren’t getting enough – or the right kind of – attention. This album is a kind of sequel to Hatful of Hollow, mopping up recent non-album singles and B-sides. I’ll restrict myself to discussion of songs not available on albums I’ve already reviewed.

Cover: A photograph by Jürgen Vollmer, a German art student who met the Beatles in the early 60s and took some now-famous pictures of them. Cassette and CD versions crop the original image significantly.

Best song:

* Rubber Ring was a B-side to The Boy With The Thorn in His Side. It begins with a jazzy bass lick, then settles into a vaguely reggae rhythm. The track is soulful and mysterious and enigmatic. An ode to the power of music, the lyrics are really well sung by Morrissey. The song also uses some samples: a snatch of John Gielgud from a 1969 audio recording of The Importance of Being Earnest (“Everybody’s clever nowadays…”), and a 1971 clip of a woman claiming to be reciting messages from the dead (”You are sleeping! You do not want to believe!”). On the 12”, the track cutely segued into fellow B-side Asleep – sadly, although both tracks appear on this album, they’ve been sequenced separately.

Honourable mentions:

* Panic (a single in July 1986) was the first Smiths recording with new fifth member Craig Gannon. He’d been hired to replace bassist Andy Rourke due to the latter’s drug habit; when Rourke was reinstated, Gannon moved to second guitarist but only lasted a few months. A short and punchy guitar song, Panic has lyrics attacking modern music. The refrain “Hang the DJ!” was – maybe apocryphally – inspired by Radio 1’s Steve Wright following a news report about the Chernobyl disaster with Wham!’s upbeat I’m Your Man. Anyone criticising Steve Wright is going to be in my good books.

* Ask was released as an A-side in October 1986, though this version is a slight remix. It’s based on a chord sequence allegedly cooked up by Gannon, who to his chagrin wasn’t credited. Lightweight but likeable.

* London, a B-side on the 12” of Shoplifters of the World Unite, has a terrific urgency about it. The incessant drums dramatise the lyric’s story about a journey to Euston, echoing a train’s buffeting rhythm. An almost punk guitar drives the track along, while the bassline chugs away brilliantly. With 40 seconds to go, the song switches mood and we get arpeggio guitar and madcap drumming.

* Shakespeare’s Sister was single flop in March 1985 (if number 26 can be considered a flop, which a lot of people did at the time). Another Smiths song about suicide, its title alludes to Virginia Woolf’s feminist argument that if Shakespeare had had a talented sister she would never have been given equal credit. It’s maybe an interesting song rather than a purely entertaining one. It’s only 128 seconds, but fits a lot in: a fun intro, changes of rhythm, and more action-packed drumming.

* Shoplifters of the World Unite had been a single in January 1987. It was recorded at Trident Studios in Soho, which the Beatles used in 1968 and which is only a two-minute walk from my office. Obviously punning on Karl Marx, its lyrics are said to be about Morrissey’s habit of cribbing material from other sources. The track has a surprising switch to rock at the 1.41 mark, when Johnny Marr cranks open a very 1980s-sounding guitar solo, his first true solo on a Smiths record.

* Money Changes Everything was only on cassette versions of this album at the time (and then subsequent CD reissues). It had been the B-side to Bigmouth Strikes Again and is a rare Smiths instrumental. Inconsequential fun, the track was later given lyrics and renamed The Right Stuff by Bryan Ferry. Marr himself played on the resulting travesty.

* Half a Person was Shoplifters’ B-side and is thoroughly gorgeous. Full of linguistic oddities, the words swim their way through some delightfully arranged music. A joy.

* Stretch Out and Wait had been a B-side on the Shakespeare’s Sister 12”, but this a slightly different version with some added sound effects. It has a great acoustic feel – check out the soft rattles of snare drum! – while a lyric celebrating sex is not something you hear often in the Smiths’ discography.

* Oscillate Wildly, the band’s first instrumental, had been a B-side to How Soon Is Now? in January 1985. Morrissey seems to have been happy not to feature (though he still insisted a co-writer’s credit). Built around a piano phrase, the track also uses a cello part played by Andy Rourke and some fake woodwind instruments. It’s rather magnificent.

* You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby was recorded in October 1986 as a potential single. But it was shelved in favour of Shoplifters, so is the only exclusive track on this compilation. It’s a jingle-jangle-tastic pop song with a catchy chorus.

Worst song: Golden Lights was originally a B-side to Ask, then added as a bonus track to CD reissues of this album. It’s absolutely *ghastly*.

Review: There’s loads of great stuff here, though obviously most of it would have been familiar to fans at the time.

Eight provincial towns you jog round out of 10.

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Louder Than Bombs: A few weeks after the release of The World Won’t Listen, US label Sire brought out Louder Than Bombs. This American compilation more or less merged The World Won’t Listen with the earlier Hatful of Hollow, but because it also contained three tracks not on any other LP it was soon available in the UK too. Its title is a quotation from Elizabeth Smart’s By Grand Central Station I Sat Down And Wept, a favourite prose poem of Morrissey’s. The cover is an image of Shelagh Delaney, the writer of A Taste of Honey and one of Mozzer’s heroines. The songs not available on previous albums are…

* Is It Really So Strange? (a B-side on Sheila Take a Bow) is from a December 1986 BBC radio session. An earlier attempt to record it had disappointed the group. It’s a decent track, though perhaps a strange choice for the opener to Louder Than Bombs. Morrissey’s lyrics are funny: “I got confused, I killed a horse/I can’t help the way I feel.”

* Sheila Take A Bow, released as a single in April 1987, is sadly one of the band’s poorest A-sides.

* Sweet and Tender Hooligans, a B-side on Sheila’s 12”, is a blistering burst of guitar rock. A return to the brutal attacking style of Handsome Devil, the song starts with a cunning bit of stereo mixing as the guitar riff flits around the channels. Like Is It Really So Strange?, this version was recorded for the BBC.

* The edit of You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby is a different mix.

* Stretch Out and Wait is the original B-side cut, which has slightly different lyrics.

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