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How The Smiths changed The Killers frontman Brandon Flowers' life

The impact of The Smiths is unquantifiable, and what the four now-iconic Mancunians created sent tidal waves across the world. As the Smiths spread to international acclaim, they even made their way to Utah just in time to change then 12-year-old Brandon Flowers’ life after he first heard the jangly tones of the group. From that moment on, everything immediately made sense.

Over the last few years, Flowers has faced difficult questions about his adoration of The Smiths and how he balances his love of their art with his loathing of views held by frontman Morrissey. It’s a problematic conflict that a large portion of the band’s fanbase has had to fight through in recent times, and Flowers is no different.

“It is difficult to separate it from him, and I’m not going around playing the music in front of my kids,” he told The Times last year. “Pick a song! Pick ‘What She Said’. If ‘What She Said’ came on the radio with my kids, I wouldn’t change it. It’s still an amazing song, so I’m not that serious, where I would change the station. I don’t agree with him, but I’m not going to burn my CDs by the Smiths or anything.”

The love that he holds for The Smiths is something that he’ll never be able to shake off, and Flowers is forever grateful for how the group allowed him to see life through a sparkling new lens as an adolescent. There was nothing else that spoke to him in the same way as The Smiths, and it made him feel like he was no longer an outsider.

“When you’re young you want pop music that is catchy – not many pre-teens are into death metal – and when I heard ‘Panic’, at 12, it made me feel immensely happy. It certainly didn’t make me want to wear black and be alone in a corner of the room,” he reflected to The Guardian in 2012 about the moment he fell in love with pop music.

“And nobody in Nephi, Utah had heard of the Smiths then and I doubt they have heard of them now, which made them something special. Everyone was listening to grunge and here was this song saying ‘burn down the disco … because the music they constantly play says nothing to me about my life.’ Morrissey was speaking directly to me!”

Even though The Smiths had split up years before Flowers discovered them in 1993, it was an affirming moment that spiralled into a love of alternative music. At the time, grunge had begun to dominate that area in America, and it didn’t speak with Flowers in the same way as The Smiths.

Flowers went into more detail about why bands like Nirvana didn’t connect with him to the Daily Star in 2009. “I don’t mean it in a bad way, but I think Kurt Cobain and grunge took the fun out of rock ‘n roll. Everything’s changing, though, and it’s starting to become a lot more playful and brighter.

“I grew up seeing people like Morrissey,” he added. “I think I’ve still got a lot to learn, but there’s something about performing a big show that makes it more incredible for me.”

The Smiths and Nirvana were both fuelled by self-loathing lyrics, but sonically, they couldn’t sit further apart on the spectrum. The fact that The Smiths came from a different country and from a different era likely made them more alluring to Flowers, who felt like he’d stumbled upon a treasure that nobody else knew existed.

When The Killers made their way to the pinnacle of live music when they headlined the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2019, Flowers made sure to pay homage to the group who made his journey a possibility. Johnny Marr joined the band on stage for a riveting cameo that saw Flowers’ childhood dreams become a reality, as he became Morrissey for one-night-only.