Front man, Morrissey, met guitarist, Johnny Marr, in 1982. Marr told Daily Mail in 2009: "When I first turned up on his doorstep in 1982, the connection was instant, even though we were complete opposites."
Morrissey's full name is Steven Patrick Morrissey. Johnny Marr's real name is John Maher, but he changed it to avoid confusion with The Buzzcocks' drummer of the same name.
Morrissey claimed that the band called themselves The Smiths because "it was the most ordinary name" that they could think of, adding: "I think it's time the ordinary folk of the world showed their faces." This came at a time when there were many pretentious names in pop, including Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Depeche Mode
and Spandau Ballet
All band members are from Manchester, England, though all are of Irish descent. Morrissey once stated: "We are more Irish than U2."
Marr married his teenage sweetheart, Angie, in 1986. The couple have a daughter, Sonny, and a son, Nile. In 2013, both contributed backing vocals to Marr's debut album, The Messenger.
Morrissey's sexuality has long been the subject of debate. Morrissey claimed to have lost his virginity in his early teens, but stated it was "an isolated incident, an accident." Fans assumed that he was celibate until 2006, when he told NME: "I'm not celibate and haven't been for a long time." Speculation that he is homosexual has been frequent, partly due to a number of Smiths songs which can be seen as gay statements ("Hand in Glove," "This Charming Man," etc), however Morrissey has never confirmed or denied this. Many think that he is simply asexual.
The Smiths are one of the few artists to perform on the remote Shetland Islands, off the north coast of Scotland. The band performed at the Clickimin Centre, Lerwick, in September 1985.
Bassist, Andy Rourke, was temporarily fired from The Smiths in 1986, because of his alleged heroin addiction. Rourke claims that Morrissey left a note on his car windscreen that read, "Andy, you have now left The Smiths. Good luck," though Morrissey denies that he ever wrote this. Craig Gannon was hired to replace Rourke. Within a fortnight, however, Rourke was reinstated and Gannon was moved to rhythm guitar.
The Smiths' fourth and final studio album, Strangeways, Here We Come, is named after Strangeways prison, which is located in Manchester. Morrissey told Q in 1987: "If I ended up in Strangeways I wouldn't be at all surprised."
Towards the end of The Smiths' career, Marr became increasingly dependent on alcohol. Marr revealed to Daily Mail in 2009: "Basically I was using alcohol to lessen the unbearable strain I was under. Not only was I expected to keep knocking out hit single after hit single; I was effectively managing the band." Nowadays, Marr is teetotal: "The reason I don't drink is that the drinking lifestyle robs me of my musical intensity and sharpness."
The Smiths split up in 1987, after which all members pursued different music projects. Despite several lucrative offers to reunite, both Morrissey and Marr have stated that they do not plan to play together ever again.
Marr has recorded and toured with the Pretenders
, The The, the Talking Heads
, Modest Mouse
and The Cribs. In 2010, he contributed to the Inception
movie soundtrack and in 2013, he released his debut solo album, The Messenger
In 1989, drummer, Mike Joyce, sued Morrissey and Marr for unpaid royalties. The judge ruled in favor of Joyce, who was awarded damages in excess of $1 million. Morrissey and Marr have both refused to speak to Joyce since the court case.
The Smiths frequently issued songs as singles only. Consequently, they are one of the rare artists with more compilation albums than studio albums. Many of these compilations were released after the band had split.
Morrissey, a strict vegetarian since his teens, convinced the rest of The Smiths to abstain from meat. The band implored their fans to become vegetarian in the song, "Meat is Murder." Morrissey and Marr are devout vegetarians to this day. Morrissey is also a vocal animal rights activist - in 2009, he infamously stormed off stage at Coachella in Indio because he could smell meat, and in 2013, he insisted that Staples Centre in Los Angeles close their McDonalds branch on the evening of his concert.
The Smiths regularly spoke out against Margaret Thatcher and her right-wing Conservative government. Morrissey once said: "The only thing that could possibly save British politics would be Margaret Thatcher's assassin." In 2006, the new head of the Conservative Party and Britain's future Prime Minister, David Cameron, told BBC Radio 4 that he was a huge fan of The Smiths - much to the amusement of the band's left-wing fanbase. Marr subsequently "forbid" Cameron to listen to The Smiths.
Morrissey and Rourke are fans of the football team, Manchester United, while Marr and Joyce are fans of derby rivals, Manchester City.
According to scientific research, The Smiths are very popular among depressed people. A study found that the depressed related to - and empathized with - Morrissey's lyrics, which tackle themes such as social isolation and loneliness. One person who was interviewed stated: "The Smiths' music is like a pair of arms coming out of the music box and holding you." Morrissey has been open about his own battle with depression, which he claims started in his early adolescence.
Simon Goddard's illustrious book on The Smiths, Songs That Saved Your Life, is named after a lyric from the B-side, "Rubber Ring."
The Smiths were big fans of 1960s cinema, and their artwork often featured stills of cult film stars. The video for 'Girlfriend in a Coma' stars Morrissey performing alongside footage from the 1964 film, The Leather Boys. Morrissey frequently quoted from British cinema in his lyrics, and the song, "The Queen is Dead," features a soundbite from the 1962 film, The L-Shaped Room.
The closest The Smiths ever came to a #1 in their home country was in 2007, when the English-American producer, Mark Ronson, scored a #2 hit with a cover of "Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before."
Despite lasting only five years, releasing just four studio albums and splitting up many years ago, The Smiths still have a passionate and dedicated fanbase. In 2002, the British music magazine, NME
, named the band the "Most Influential Artist Ever," over The Beatles
The first songs Johnny Marr learned to play on the guitar aged 11 were T. Rex's "Jeepster
" and "Life's a Gas."