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There is a light that hasn't gone out for 30 years

I'M sure there's many an indie fan (from when the term actually meant something) who wept for their lost youth this week, when they realised that Thursday marked the 30th anniversary of the release of The Smiths. Yes folks, that album first appeared in record shops (remember them?) on February 20, 1984. My, doesn't time fly?

The buzz had been building up in the music press in the year before the release, with appetites whetted by the release of the singles Hand in Glove in May 1983, the landmark This Charming Man that November and What Difference Does it Make? a month before the album itself.

CONTROVERSY

The songwriting partnership of Morrissey and Johnny Marr was already shaping up to be a potent force, the interviews with Morrissey were revealing a potentially iconic figure and the TV appearances were mesmerising and thoroughly entertaining.

Already the UK tabloids were sniffing around looking for controversy, due to references to the Moors murderers in the lyrics, so this was already the most eagerly-awaited collection of the decade.

Such excessive anticipation can often result in disappointment and while The Smiths didn't fall flat on its face there was something of a sense that it wasn't as great as it could and should have been.

Certainly there were great melodies and a unique lyrical voice but the production, by John Porter, felt rather flat, a fact that the band soon acknowledged.

GENERATION

Not including This Charming Man on the record robbed it of a certain momentum but that didn't stop the feeling that, despite technical gripes, here was a band ready to soar. And soar they did.

For many fans the November release of Hatful of Hollow – a compilation of new songs with session versions of several songs from the debut – was The Smiths' debut proper, the launch pad from where they went on to become the most important band of their generation. Not to mention arguably the best Irish band ever. God, they were magnificent.

> George Byrne


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