In the interest of saving our ADHD friends from too much of a read, this snippet will hit quick at the importance of this record and the quality of The Smiths “Rank”.
“Rank” is a 1987 release. It didn’t come about during the band’s actual tenure, but posthumously as a contract requirement. I was recently asked about my thoughts on this record while DJ’ing the last CASUAL. I was asked by a person whose tastes differ on many different musical subjects, yet we both managed to come to the same exact conclusion on this album.
The Smiths legacy is massive. Actually, it’s unquantifiable. Most fans and critics will tell you that in order to “get into” the band, you should start with “The Queen Is Dead” or “Strangeways, Here We Come”. However, if you are anything like me, you’ll assess bands on their ability to translate their songs live. This is where “Rank” steps up.
My friend explained that it was easy to dismiss the band during his college years despite a particular friend of his lauding the band. He told me, “She’d walk up and say ‘Here!’ and hand him ‘Girlfriend In A Coma’ It was easy to discount.” It wasn’t until he found “Rank” that it clicked.
The reasoning for this is quite simple. “Rank” finally showcased what live concert-goers already knew about The Smiths. They ROCKED. Morrissey and co. open the record with a breathless version of “The Queen Is Dead”. It doesn’t stop. Even when the album slows down for an amazing “I Know It’s Over” the frenetic emotional pace of the album highlights the poignancy of the tune. Johnny Marr continues to put at least two of the songs on the album into his current setlist. (“Bigmouth Strikes Again”, “London”) “London” being an absolute blinder on “Rank” and in Marr’s set.
If you feel the need to understand the roots of most alternative/indie, or you feel the need to reevaluate The Smiths as a whole, you should go right past all of the studio work. Grab the nearest copy of the Alexandra Bastedo graced “Rank” and play it loud.
While we were ticketed concert goers (some of us more ticketed than others as Michael and Kitty were equipped with VIP passes), we chose to watch Johnny Marr from the fortunately placed balcony from Michael and Kitty’s room, which was perched several floors above the stage. The drinks were cheaper, we weren’t surrounded by aging new wavers who couldn’t be arsed to move over 6 inches so that they weren’t constantly rubbing on me, the sound was pretty good, and the drinks were certainly cheaper (yes, I meant to do that.) Here’s a video of his second song, a cover of The Smiths classic “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before”:
And here are a couple of stills – one of the stage from earlier in the day and one from Johnny Marr’s performance.
Johnny Marr’s setlist was as follows:
The Right Thing Right
Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before
Sun & Moon
There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
New Town Velocity
I Fought the Law
Getting Away With It
How Soon Is Now?
I guess Smiths drummer Mike Joyce was right all those years ago when he said that there was loads of unreleased Smiths material. Granted – there’s nothing new here… just alternate versions. I have to admit I like this version of “Accept Yourself” over the one we’ve heard for so many years. Here is a 39 min. cassette recording from around 1983. Not bad for a cassette recording.
The tracklisting is as follows:
‘You’ve Got Everything Now’
‘What Difference Does It Make?’
‘Reel Around The Fountain’
‘These Things Take Time’
‘I Don’t Owe You Anything’
‘Hand In Glove’
On a short list of my heroes – and I suspect Jake Ryan’s as well -, former Smiths guitarist, Johnny Marr is sure to land. His track record for being around (and likely the cause of) the worst period of every band he’s been a part of since The Smiths*, excluding his own projects (Electronic, Johnny Marr & The Healers), does little to tarnish his legacy with me.
The man not only embodies “cool” and always has, but he also emotes through his instrument. While Johnny Marr & The Healers’ “Boomslang” wasn’t the most amazing album, it certainly had it’s high points. The last I heard of any Johnny Marr solo stuff – I believe it was in the context of being a follow up to Boomslang with The Healers – but here we have it, no Healers… Johnny Marr’s new track, The Messenger.
Sounds like a bit of Tame Impala – as more than a few things do these days. It lacks big hooks but it’s a really enjoyable listen. Press play on the video and enjoy.
*I can’t blame him for The The, as Matt Johnson’s head seemed to be working it’s way up his ass following Mind Bomb, but there’s no excuse for what he did during his time with Modest Mouse or The Cribs. In their defense, when Johnny Marr joins your band and offers to contribute, how can you say no?