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(Credit: Rough Trade)


The two singles that feature an extra member of The Smiths


The Smiths were one of those bands that lasted for such a fleeting moment in time that there was hardly ever any room for lineup changes. The core of Morrissey, Johnny Marr, Andy Rourke, and Mike Joyce stayed together throughout the band’s brief five-year existence. Early rehearsals were attended by guitarist Steven Pomfret, and when he was given the boot, Dale Hibbert stepped in on bass before being replaced by Rourke. When Marr left in 1987, guitarist Ivor Perry was briefly brought in to try and salvage the group, but the rest of the members decided to dissolve instead.

There was one additional musician who found his way into the band’s ranks: Craig Gannon, a second guitar player who actually got to contribute to the band’s recorded output. Gannon was originally hired when Morrissey fired Rourke, allegedly for his heroin habit. Rourke’s dismissal was reversed a short time later, but Marr enjoyed having Gannon in the band and instead offered him a role as a second guitar player.

The new five-piece version of The Smiths recorded two of the band’s most memorable singles in 1986. The first was ‘Panic’, the scathing anti-consumerist pop anthem about hating current pop music. Gannon’s playing isn’t terribly easy to hear – his rhythm guitar sounds quite a bit like the kind that Marr himself would frequently lay down during most Smiths sessions. But his inclusion certainly didn’t harm the band, and ‘Panic’ ascended to number 11 on the UK Singles Chart.

Gannon’s second appearance on record was on the song ‘Ask’. Gannon claims his contribution was even more substantial this time around: he claims to have written the central chord progression. With an established songwriting team already in place, Gannon says that his request to be included in the songwriting credits was denied.

“Me and Johnny were sat in the library playing acoustic guitars and they must have been miked up as we were probably putting down the acoustic tracks for ‘Panic’,” Gannon would later recall. “I just started playing the chord sequence which would later become ‘Ask’ in exactly the way it appears on the record. […] The only section of the chord structure that I didn’t come up with for ‘Ask’ was the middle eight section with the chords E-minor, D and C. That was actually what Johnny came up with. […] Up until the release of ‘Ask’ I still thought I’d be given a writing credit.”

Despite the lack of credit on ‘Ask’, Gannon stayed in the group long enough to embark on a US and UK tour in the fall. Not long after, Gannon left the band. All in all, the guitarist was only featured on six recorded tracks from the band: ‘Panic’, ‘Ask’, ‘London’, ‘Half a Person’, ‘You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby’, and ‘Golden Lights’. All six tracks appear on the compilation Louder Than Bombs and all but ‘Golden Lights’ appeared on the compilation The World Won’t Listen.