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Smiths album cover. (Credit: Rough Trade)

The Story Behind The Song: ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’ as The Smiths jab at the music business

On May 22nd, 1986, The Smiths would release ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’. It featured on The Queen Is Dead that was released only a matter of weeks later which would go on to become one of the most revered records in the history of alternative music.

‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’ was the third instalment in a trilogy of songs written by Morrissey as an attack on the industry that he found himself reluctantly locked in to. Ironically it’s an industry still holds a level of disdain that has only increased 34 years on.

In the summer of 1985, the songwriter vented his frustration at the business by writing ‘The Boy With A Thorn In His Side’, ‘Rubber Ring’ and lastly ‘Bigmouth’ which concluded the arc.

The riffs for the three tracks were formulated by Johnny Marr during soundchecks in 1985 as part of their tour and it gave Morrissey a springboard to juxtapose with his clever lyricism, with ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’ being the finest of the trilogy.

In Simon Goddard’s Songs That Saved Your Life: The Art of the Smiths, Marr is quoted as saying that he wanted the song to be The Smiths equivalent to The Rolling Stones’ ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’, he said: “I wanted something that was a rush all the way through, without a distinct middle eight as such. I thought the guitar breaks should be percussive, not too pretty or cordial.”

Morrissey uses the track to prod fun further at the media circus surrounding everything he said and decided to provoke the beast further by likening himself to French martyr, Joan of Arc with the joke unsurprisingly passing them by at the time.

When he was interviewed by NME in June 1986, they queried Morrissey on whether there was ever anything that he regrets saying as they tried to decipher what made him write this angsty anthem. The singer fiercely responded: “I can’t think of one sentence. We’re still at that stage where if I rescued a kitten from drowning, they’d say: “Morrissey Mauls Kitten’s Body”. So what can you do?”

The band had originally planned to incorporate Kirsty Maccoll onto the track as they thought her vocals would add an extra layer to the song and invited her down to RAK studios to which she obliged. Marr is on record as saying: “That’s the first time we met her. She came down to the studio and put on these really weird harmonies.”

Morrissey and Marr didn’t think her vocals worked on the track so decided to leave it off the final mix and instead Morrissey did the backing vocals in a ‘chipmunk-style’ which he managed to create through the use of a harmoniser. The backing vocals were later comedically credited to ‘Ann Coates’ on the record which is a play on words of the Ancoats area of Manchester.

‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’ is the perfect combination of Morrissey’s playful self-deprecating lyricism coupled with Johnny Marr’s ferociously upbeat riff which is a combination that many other acts have tried to replicate but nobody has managed to capture the magic that these two would create in their five active years together.

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