The Smiths were, and always will be, a fantastic band no matter how much Morrissey seemingly tries to besmirch their legacy. The fact of the matter is that they represent four artists tirelessly creating original work and the fruits of that labour are thankfully left untouched by any politics that have followed. In short, disavowing the band because of the unfurling diatribe of despicable twatary from their former frontman that has occurred 30 years after the fact, would be like your favourite bar burning down and saying it was never any good anyway.
Thus, with that obligatory disclaimer out of the way and a rightful judicious condemnation of modern-day Morrissey, let us have a look at the seminal band that once was and the undisputed brilliance of Johnny Marr’s entirely original guitar work. With tremolo wizardry, Marr managed to turn himself into a one-man atmosphere machine that not only defined the guitar sound of a generation but helped to save indie music from the dreaded synth-pop sedation that infected the era.
With lush and soaring melodies, The Smiths managed to couple moody folk introspection with the visceral edge of rock ‘n’ roll and soundtracked a thousand coming-of-ages thereafter. While a doppler slide can be murky, Marr has a unique way of giving it a light flourish that he has been propagating to sumptuous effect ever since. Rarely has such butter-cutting ease of melody been coupled with such mercurial depth — and it is this deeply personal style that informs his favourite Smiths song.
“I’m often asked what’s my favourite Smiths song,” Marr declared at a Q&A event upon the release of his memoir, Set the Boy Free. “I’ve always been able to say it’s ‘Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me’ because I think it captured all those things that are transcendent, esoteric, that spiritual quality that means so much to me, that was captured not just by me but by every member of the band.”
And indeed, he has always been able to say this, as a 1993 quote from Select Magazine ratifies, “Strangeways suffers because it was our last record, so people think there were arguments and horrors in making it, but there weren’t. Morrissey and I both think it’s possibly our best album. That and some of The Queen Is Dead, which accepted opinion says is our masterpiece. That might be true, but Strangeways has its moments, like ‘Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Love Me.’ Last time I met Morrissey he said it was his favourite Smiths song.”
The members of the band are not alone in championing it as a favourite either, David Bowie also said that this is his favourite Smiths song in an interview with Q Magazine in 1992. Later, in 2003, Outkast’s very own Andre 3000 told MTV that ‘Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me’ was the song he wished he wrote more than any other. “I personally wish I would have written that Smiths song ‘Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me.’ Genius song,” He said. “This girl named Hannah in Atlanta turned me on to them. Because I was telling her that I loved The Hives and The Buzzcocks and she said, ‘Hey, you need to check these guys out.'”
The song is the quintessential peak of The Smiths. It rumbles along on an esoteric mix of pillow-propped contentment and sorrowful yearning, perfectly coupling mournful lyrics with a sonic backdrop that both comforts and compounds, contrasts and compliments. It might have been a swansong, but the band certainly didn’t go out with a whimper.