Today, May 22nd, is Morrissey's birthday – his 55th, to be exact.
So, we have a wonderful opportunity to look afresh at his career. After all, it's a catalogue which stretches back across three decades, and – with new album 'World Peace Is None Of Your Business' due for release this summer – shows no sign of stopping.
With Smiths die-hards still fuming over the temerity of Miley Cyrus to cover 'There Is A Light That Never Goes Out' earlier this week, Clash decided to peer through the archives and find 7 Of The Best cover versions of the Manchester band's songs.
It's an intriguing list, one which moves from the DIY underground to the pop hierarchy, veering from left field techno to a certain afro-clad bunch of post-hardcore mentalists.
So let's begin...
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Kitten – 'Panic'
Considering their line up featured four blokes from Manchester, The Smiths are an oddly feminine experience. After all, Morrissey’s lyrics thrive in being gender neutral, coyly playing with sexuality in the process. All of which makes the group’s work perfect for renditions such as this – American group Kitten apply a soft, ethereal, synth laden approach to 1986 rocker ‘Panic’. Hang the DJ, indeed…
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Quicksand – 'How Soon Is Now?'
One of Johnny Marr’s defining moments as a guitarist, the mosaic of effects placed on the studio original have been much copied but never bettered. Post-hardcore dons Quicksand decide to ignore these effects, and focus on the barnstorming Bo Diddley rhythms underneath. A visceral riposte to the original, by ignoring The Smiths’ sound they somehow pay respect to their outsider status.
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At The Drive-In – 'This Night Has Opened My Eyes'
It’s a remarkable testament to Morrissey’s enduring influence on youth culture that this list stretches into such unexpected climes. On the surface, At The Drive-In would appear to have spent their adolescence devouring Fugazi and Robert Fripp, yet this tender and straightforward cover of ‘This Night Has Opened My Eyes’ – originally from ‘Hatful Of Hollow’ – suggests otherwise.
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Jeff Buckley – 'I Know It’s Over'
No list of Smiths covers could be complete without Jeff Buckley. Famously lauding the group, the late troubadour turned ‘I Know It’s Over’ into a concert staple. Using Marr’s simple, delicate arrangement as a framework, Buckley painted generous vocal renderings on top. A testament to Morrissey’s ability as a vocalist, Buckley’s octave soaring abilities are reined in to focus on pure feeling.
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Kirsty MacColl – 'You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby'
Published last year, Morrissey’s ‘Autobiography’ spared no punches. Vendettas were laid bare and scores were evened; yet within those pages tender portraits were also painted. Kirsty MacColl, for example, emerges with enormous credit, both as a friend and as an artist. Frequently dropping past The Smiths while they were in the studio, Kirsty’s version of ‘You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby’ could be read as a cocksure comeback to the man himself. If true, he would no doubt smile at such an accolade.
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Xiu Xiu – 'Asleep'
One of The Smiths’ starkest tracks, ‘Asleep’ lingers somewhere between the dream world and death. Xiu Xiu swap the original’s piano for subtle guitar, but the effect is the same. You feel dragged off into a daze, a drowsy haze with Jamie Stewart’s voice as the only glimpse of light in a dark, dark world – a salute from one outsider to another.
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Schneider tm – 'The Light 3000'
One of Morrissey and Marr’s true claims to greatness, ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ has become a modern standard. A true indie torch song, it’s been covered by everyone from Noel Gallagher to Miley Cyrus, with varying degrees of success. A frozen piece of electronics, Schneider tm (together with kptmichigan) re-tool the track as ‘The Light 3000’ – re-discovering club-land loneliness for the techno generation in the process. Sublime.
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Harry Hill – 'This Charming Man'
A long-term highlight of Harry Hill’s live shows, the comedian reduces Morrissey’s stage demeanour to little more to little more than gladioli-scented warbling – surreal nonsense, of course, and entirely meant in a loving sense of jest. If fan myth is to be taken as fact, though, Morrissey loathes the performance with a passion, more than justifying its inclusion here.
Happy birthday, Mozza!
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Related: more 7 Of The Best features