In an interview with Rolling Stone, front man Morrissey is quoted as saying that this song is about "loss of innocence, that until one has a physical commitment with another person, there's something childlike about the soul."
Suggestion credit: Myla - San Diego, CA
Guitarist Johnny Marr told Mojo magazine October 2012 about co-writing the song: "The melody came from me trying to play the Jimmy Jones R&B song 'Handy Man. 'I heard it as a kid on a jukebox when I went on holiday aged 12 or 13. It stuck in my mind. I liked the chord change and because I was on holiday I had to remember it, as I didn't have a guitar with me. Then around the time the band formed someone put it on a compilation tape, then (Smiths manager) Joe Moss and I were in (Moss's Manchester clothes shop) Crazy Face one morning and he played it, so it was in the air and when I tried to play it this string of strange chord changes fell from my fingers."
The lyric, "I dreamt about you last night, and I fell out of bed twice," is lifted from Shelagh Delaney's 1958 play, A Taste Of Honey. Morrissey told NME in 1986 that Delaney fans did not take too kindly to his appropriation of this line: "To this day I'm whipped persistently for the use of that line. I've never made any secret of the fact that at least 50 percent of my reason for writing can be blamed on Shelagh Delaney, who wrote A Taste Of Honey. But I have never in my life made any secrets of my reference points. Just because there's one line that's a direct lift people will now say to me that 'Reel Around The Fountain' is worthless, ignoring the rest of it which almost certainly comes from my brain."
John Porter, who co-produced The Smiths' self-titled debut album alongside the band, told Q magazine in 1994 that he was not completely satisfied with this song: "I must say I was never really happy with 'Reel Around The Fountain'. I don't think they ever really captured it. I always wanted to have another go at it."