The Smiths Biography
The Smiths were an English rock group active from 1982 to 1987. The group was based on the songwriting partnership of Morrissey and Johnny Marr, and were signed to the independent record label Rough Trade Records. Considered by some critics to be the most important alternative rock band to emerge from the British indie scene of the 1980s, the Smiths have had a major influence on subsequent alternative music, including the Britpop movement and bands such as The Stone Roses, Gene, Radiohead, Blur, Suede, Oasis, The Libertines, and Doves. At the time, the group was notable in particular for two things: Morrissey's unusual, witty, and controversial lyrics, and Marr's music, which helped return guitar-based music to popularity after it had fallen out of favour in the UK charts. The group released a total of four studio albums and several compilations in fewer than five years, as well as numerous singles.
Although not commercially successful outside the UK while they were still together, The Smiths won a growing following both at home and overseas in the closing years of the twentieth century, and they remain cult and commercial favourites to this day.
The group was formed in early 1982 by two Manchester residents. Morrissey (Steven Patrick Morrissey, though he does not use his forenames) was an unemployed writer who was a big fan of the New York Dolls and briefly fronted punk rock band The Nosebleeds. Johnny Marr (originally John Maher, he changed his name to avoid confusion with the Buzzcocks drummer) was already a very skillful guitarist with a talent for songwriting, and he provided the music for Morrissey's lyrics throughout the group's career. Mike Joyce was recruited as drummer after a short audition. Dale Hibbert initially played bass, and provided demo recording facilities at the studio where he worked as a sound engineer. However, after two gigs, Marr's friend Andy Rourke replaced Hibbert. Marr and Rourke had previously worked together in The Paris Valentinos along with Kevin Kennedy, who later became a household name in Britain as Curly Watts in the television show Coronation Street.
The precise origin of the band's name is unknown, although they stated that it was a reaction against names they considered fancy and pompous such as Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Depeche Mode. The name may also be an homage to Patti Smith, one of Morrissey's idols, or Mark E. Smith of The Fall, or Myra Hindley's brother-in-law David Smith, who informed on the Moors Murderers. Another theory regarding the origin of the band's name suggests that it was an ironic joke to give the band a quintessentially English name when all of the band members were of Irish descent. Somewhat contrarily, in a 1984 interview Morrissey stated, "I decided [to call ourselves "The Smiths"] because it was the most ordinary name, and I think it's time that the ordinary folk of the world showed their faces.". The band also considered the names "Smiths Family" and "Smithdom" before settling on "The Smiths".