Wednesday, June 4, 2014

UK Indie Hits: 1980-89 (No. 5)

I'm counting down my top 50 singles from the golden age of the UK Independent Charts.

5. The Smiths - "This Charming Man"

Other Contenders: Here is the complete list of the band's indie-chart singles... and in order. All but the first one and the last two hit the top spot. What's your choice? Let me know. Tough, innit?

"Hand in Glove"
"This Charming Man"
"What Difference Does It Make?"
"Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now"
"William, It Was Really Nothing"
"How Soon Is Now?"
"Shakespeare's Sister"
"That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore"
"The Boy With the Thorn In His Side"
"Big Mouth Strikes Again"
"Shoplifters of the World Unite"
"Sheila Take a Bow"
"Girlfriend in a Coma"
"I Started Something I Couldn't Finish"
"Last Night I Dreamt Somebody Loved Me"

Chart Entry: Nov. 12, 1983

Peak Position: No. 1

Comment: First, a few interesting stats: At 66 weeks, "This Charming Man" was the band's longest chart run for a single. It spent seven weeks at No. 1. Impressive, but second to the nine weeks logged by "What Difference Does It Make?" Between late 1983 and mid 1987, the 14 No. 1 singles spent a cumulative 53 weeks in that spot. Trust me, the album stats are even more eye opening. So, you'll get little argument the Smiths were THE indie band of the '80s.

During the years the band was active, for me, the sadder the song the better. "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" or "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore" would have probably been my pick from these singles. Yes, I was a real hoot to be around. On the one hand, the list above seems long, but then you realize so many of your favorites were never singles. "This Charming Man" is wonderful, and I feel good about the choice, but I wonder if there isn't maybe a dozen deep cuts and B-sides I love even more. In fact, just typing "I wonder" has made me think "Well I Wonder" might be one.

Buy "This Charming Man" on the self-titled debut.


Uncle E said...

Has to be What Difference Does It Make?, for me. The first Smiths song I heard, and the opening guitar motif(?) still thrills. Dramatic and unique and utterly timeless!

Brian said...

Certainly can't argue with you there. When I put this countdown to paper, that's the song I wrote down first. I have had a few of these crossed out along the way. You said it. Those early singles will stand up forever, and I imagine we will still be listening to them when we're eating prunes and taking out our teeth... which is creeping up much too quickly.

Echorich said...

For me it's the Jangle Wash of "William, It Was Really Nothing"...There's a level of accomplishment which they reached on "William..." take has always seemed to me to be the template for the C-86 sound.
It's always been curious to me that a band that was so successful with their singles, is known best in the US for the track that was forced to be a single - "How Soon Is Now" and a track that didn't become a single until the plethora of compilations albums followed the band's demise - " There Is A Light That Never Goes Out"

Brian said...

Another fine choice, Echorich. "William" is wonderful. "How Soon Is Now" is just too obvious and about the only one from the list that didn't get serious consideration. Radio has really dulled that one for me... which is really too bad. I would be curious if those in other lands feel the same way, or if that's a uniquely American problem.

friend of rachel worth said...

How soon is now . And to think it was initially thrown away as a b side

Brian said...

Here in America, if the announcer says, "Coming up the Smiths," 99% of the time it's going to be 'How Soon Is Now.' The other 1 percent is "There Is a Light..." It's as if the band was a one-hit wonder. Great song ruined by overplay here. I imagine it's how listeners of classic-rock stations must feel about "Stairway to Heaven." Probably once loved but reduced to elevator music you barely realize is there. It's a real pity. Not a Smiths problem... an American radio problem. Rigid and unimaginative.

george said...

It's a difficult choice, Brian. Sometimes it just depends on your mood, doesn't it? I have a particular liking for Sheila Take a Bow, but then again This Charming Man is a tremendous song. As is Big Mouth. Maybe there should be more than one in your top 50??

Brian said...

Ah, Sheila. Well done, George. If I took the governor off, however, there would be a couple of bands, the Smiths included, that would probably take up about five spots each. I like the variety. Next week, when this thing is all over, I'll share some of the picks that didn't quite make it.

Uncle E said...

Nobody picked Golden Lights...?

Séamus Duggan said...

I'd probably go for This Charming Man, which was my introduction to The Smiths although I do have a weakness for The Boy With the Thorn in His Side, which doesn't seem to be shared by many.. But they really did reel off some great 7"'s

Dirk said...

Funny, but I can only repeat what I said about New Order here: the B-Side of this ('Jeanne') is the best thing they ever did, I always thought.

Personally I would have chosen 'Heaven Knows' ...