[20] The Smiths, ‘Panic’

The Smiths © Tom Sheehan

TIME TO TACKLE 1986 AT LAST and we start with Moz, j’en ai mar and litigious chums. But first, a final word on The Beatles. Enjoyed this little exchange in the Past Masters sleevenotes, Brian Matthew interviewing the chaps in 1964 on the release of Beatles For Sale:

BM: I’ve heard it said that a lot of these would make good singles. Do you think there’s any likelihood at all of them being released?
John: You can’t release singles off an LP after the LP’s been out.
BM: A Lot of people do.
Paul: Well, in America they do…
John: Well, they’re different over there, aren’t they?
Paul: In America they do that, but it’s a bit of a drag.

The Beatles were, of course, er, past masters at dishing out the quality singles without recourse (on the whole) to plundering their albums, but it’s become a rare practice. In this sense, The Smiths were one of their last natural heirs, hurling out singles and albums at breakneck speed without repetition – until the record company squeezed everything they could out of Strangeways, Here We Come. ‘Paint A Vulgar Picture’, indeed.

’Panic’ was one of those bonuses. Christ, it was released one month after The Queen Is Dead and doesn’t even appear on it. Throwaway downloads aside, I can’t imagine that happening now. Remind me if I’m forgetting something. Anyway, ‘Panic’ has a taste of will-this-do? about it, but it clangs and saunters amiably and is suitably apocalyptic, if on a provincial scale. Its signature line, “hang the DJ” smells a bit of sniffiness towards burgeoning club culture, but you can prefer to hear it as an early blood-on-the-carpet attack on Simes and DLT. Junior prefers to hear it as “gingerbread man, gingerbread man, gingerbread man”.

Gingerbread or not, she loves it, identifying with the title – “I do that sometimes, don’t I?” – and puzzling over the band members not actually being related. Like half the world, I’m in a Beatles moment right now, but she later makes me switch off Abbey Road to “play The Smiths again”. God, Dad, you’re so square.

The music they constantly play:

[18] James, ‘Come Home’

Come Home

Funny band, James. They flapped around in Morrissey-championed indie semi-obscurity for years before accidentally getting swept along by the Madchester wave, but they didn’t even seem to have that crucial dance element to their music. Instead, they introduced sloganeering and merchandise and student-friendly ditties, and snuck in through the back door. ‘Sit Down’ was the most obvious example – released earlier in 1989* yet requiring years and re-releases to hit the Top 10 – but ‘Come Home’ was the vital breakthrough.

A propulsive rhythm and Doppler-effect keyboards get Junior rocking, but she thinks the song drags on a touch too long. Grandad’s visiting and he’s more interesting than the final minute’s cacophony. I still have warm feelings towards the record. It was oddly fashionable at the time (again, a year before it charted) and it had just enough of a groove for me to stick it on the party tapes I’d make as self-appointed teenage DJ.

Within a year I’d be wearing an outsized, long-sleeved ‘Come’ t-shirt. It was quite the conversation piece on my first day at university.

*How much am I bid for my original 7″ single? It’s got a bad drawing on the cover.

[12] Electronic, ‘Get The Message’


Everyone liked this at the time. It’s a pleasant little ditty with rolling guitar loops and join-the-dots karaoke lyrics in true Barney Sumner-style, and it’s never going to polarise opinion. Junior and I let it wash over us, as she sat and smiled on the sofa and I took a couple of photos of her in her Fat Willy’s t-shirt. Just to prove to Aunt Aggie that she’s worn it.

Electronic were less than the sum of their parts, or maybe just dead-on. With Sumner, Johnny Marr and the occasional Neil Tennant, they were the cream of the discerning man’s 80s pop but the album was just, well, nice. We were missing the menacing Hooky basslines, Morrissey’s acerbicisms (actually anything other than facile lyrics) and Lowe’s sonic adventure. A supergroup missing the point, maybe.

The clattering drum rolls sound like tin cans being dragged up onto the curb. I like that.