They were, their fans believe, the best band in the world. Critics and sales figures told a similar story: six albums between 1984 and 1988 made number one or number two in the UK charts. Twenty-five years after their break-up, the band remain as adored and discussed as ever. To this day, there is a collective understanding that The Smiths were one of the greatest of all British rock groups.
The Smiths – Morrissey, Johnny Marr, Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce – were four working-class youths who came together, by fate or chance, in Manchester in the early 1980s. Their sound was both traditional and radically different, a music that spoke to a generation, and defied the dark socio-economic mood of the Thatcher years. By early 1984, barely a year after their first headlining gig, they were the hottest – certainly the hippest – name in modern music. In the years that followed the group produced an extraordinary body of work: seventeen classic singles, four studio albums, and some seventy songs composed by the team of Morrissey and Marr. Yet for all their brilliance and adoration – their famously energetic live shows routinely interrupted by stage invasions - The Smiths were continually plagued by their reticence to play the game, and by the time of 1987’s Strangeways Here We Come, they had split. The Smiths have never played together again – their enormous contribution to pop culture forever condensed into a prolific and prosperous halcyon period, their legacy intact and untarnished.
Thirty years after their formation, twenty-five since they broke up, The Smiths’ firmament remains as bright as ever. It’s time their tale was told. Tony Fletcher’s A Light That Never Goes Out is a meticulous and evocative group biography – part celebration, part paean – moving from Manchester in the nineteenth-century to the present day to tell the complete story of The Smiths. Penned by a contemporary and life-long fan, and the product of extensive research, dozens of interviews, and unprecedented access, it will serve to confirm The Smiths as one of the most important and influential rock groups of all time.
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Tony Fletcher’s account is a highly enjoyable way of revisiting [the] story. Crucially, he avoids areas well-served by other Smiths tomes and brings sufficient new material to reward even well-read fans…It’s a tale that’s been told before, but in his biography of the Manchester four-piece Tony Fletcher reveals new details and brings new depths to the story of Morrissey, Marr, Rourke, Joyce and the birth of the band. - Mojo
[A] meticulous biography…This exhaustive, well-researched account brings fresh detail and thought to the party. - The Sunday Times
The story of the Smiths told on the basis of interviews with just about every surviving participant in the Smiths' story. As the story winds on, a chain of no-shows, fits of pique and self-sabotage ... reaches its denouement with an episode from April 1987, just prior to the band's formal break-up. Fletcher is the first writer to have got the full story. Such material highlights the extent to which Fletcher has done his research. - Guardian
There [are] fascinating passages about the bands producers: Troy Tate, John Porter, Stephen Street. Pages on the members’ childhood add meaningful context, and there are some thrilling glimpses of the Smiths on tour. - Independent
The story itself is riveting and Fletcher tells it lucidly and fairly. The drive to continue reading is provided by Marr’s no-nonsense spirit and by Morrissey’s eminently quotable lyrics and interviews. - Irish Times
A thorough and detailed investigation. - Metro
An exhaustive labour of love that was three years in the writing but which will be lapped up by fans of the band...written with a real sense of love and affection for the group who, though they were only together for a mere five years, tilted the world on its axis to a degree not seen since the heyday of the Beatles and the Stones…Fletcher is excellent when it comes to widening the view to include the cultural and historical factors behind the band's emergence and the city from which they came. - Irish Independent
the story itself is riveting and Fletcher tells it lucidly and fairly…a worthy… addition to rock-music biography - Irish Times
a finely judged re-telling of a remarkable tale with valuable first-hand accounts of the band’s American adventures, their rapid development into a wonderful live act, plus insights into the spiralling pressures and frictions that faced the individual band members. - Sabotage Times
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About the Author
Tony Fletcher is the bestselling author of five non-fiction books and one novel. His biography of drummer Keith Moon, Dear Boy, has been named in many Best Music Book lists, and his biography of R.E.M., Remarks Remade, has been published in over half a dozen countries. During the 1980s heyday of the Smiths his magazine Jamming!, regularly featured the band as cover stars, and he was a co-presenter of the television show The Tube, for which he conducted Morrissey’s first television interview. Fletcher saw the Smiths in concert for the first time at the London Lyceum in 1983, and for the last time at the Kilburn National, in 1986, on their final tour.
A contributor over the years to a multitude of magazines, newspapers, radio and television shows, primarily in the UK and USA, Fletcher now lives with his wife and two sons on a mountaintop near the village of Woodstock in New York State. There he runs, skis, maintains his web site www.ijamming.net, and plays Hammond B-3 and Rickenbacker in the Catskill 45s, a group that only performs songs from 45 calendar years ago. They look forward to covering the Smiths as of 2028.