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The Smiths: Songs that Saved Your Life

4.09  ·  Rating Details  ·  746 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
One of the seminal groups of the 80s, The Smiths’ career was as brilliant as it was brief. Here, drawing on interviews with band members, producers, and colleagues, Simon Goddard presents a chronological survey of the group’s musical evolution, from their first demos in 1982 to their final studio session five years on. Investigating the stories behind the songs, he also of ...more
Paperback, 351 pages
Published May 1st 2006 by Reynolds & Hearn (first published December 1st 2002)
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May 28, 2013 April rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The root cause of my love for these four really dates back to first hearing Frankly Mr Shankly on an old record in 2002 (at which point I'd have been about six years old). After that I pretty much fell in love with each of their songs and the harsh reality of life they presented whilst growing more and more enamoured with Morrissey but well never mind, never mind. I curse myself for not existing during the time when these guys were at their prime; by the time I was able to appreciate them in ful ...more
Tim Chaplin
Feb 10, 2012 Tim Chaplin rated it it was amazing
This is the perfect book for fans of the Smiths and Morrissey. Every song, concert or TV appearance is listed and it's a great history of The Smiths from the beginning to the bitter end with the royalty disputes, court cases and the beginning of Morrissey and Marr's solo careers.

I loved it so much that I have started to listen to the complete collection on Spotify "reissue! repackage! repackage!" (Paint a Vulgar Picture).
Sep 04, 2008 Corey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am obsessed with the Smiths. This is well known. I bought this book (one I've been after for a few years) while in Portland at Powell's City of Books. It's a chronological breakdown of every Smiths song: the where, when, and how of it. Fantastically done, very thorough and with lots of great little stories.
Jun 12, 2008 Jessica rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A start-to-finish index of all the songs The Smiths ever played or performed. While you can look up individual songs and just read about your favorites, the book read cover-to-cover provides an overarching look of the band's history. Don't expect a narrative, though; each song listing is a separate entry.
Sep 11, 2007 Craig rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Smiths fans
Definitely geared towards the hardcore Smiths fan, this book has all the info & stats on every song they ever recorded/performed... We're not getting any new music out of them, so a deeper knowledge of what we have is the next best thing. For the misunderstood teenager in all of us...
Dec 06, 2015 Shad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, music
Being a middle-aged dude and a Smiths fan since I was 15, it was a fun read.

Interesting to hear the stories behind the songs and I like how it's laid out chronologically. It made me think about how important it is to listen to an album in its entirety as laid out by the artist. I don't do that like I used to now that I use digital media. Also made me miss liner notes. I wish I hadn't sold all my vinyl in 1993.

All in all, I appreciate the book as a fan. The whole thing is like reading a DIY zin
Feb 07, 2011 Alex rated it it was amazing
I bought this after (like many people my age) my life was turned on its head when i first heard "Bigmouth Strikes Again" and after that i became (almost)crazily obsessed with The Smiths (moreso with the (IMO) alien frontman Morrissey). I have to say this is a beautifully written book both professional in its conviction to not read like the gushing ideas of a strong fan who gathered bits and pieces to fomr his take on what happened, But also in the very human approach to not simply make it words ...more
Drew Athans
Mar 25, 2014 Drew Athans rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My full and detailed review is on my website:

GREAT book...even if you have the first edition (like I do), you MUST get this updated and revised's far superior in almost every way and essential for any Smiths fan.
Nov 01, 2015 Charlie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating, even now, nearly 30 years (!) after the event. Brilliantly written with a genuine sense of awe and wonder.
Aug 29, 2015 Alix rated it it was amazing
A great book! You can tell the author is a big fan and thoroughly researched this stuff.
Stefan Bell
Feb 26, 2016 Stefan Bell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jack Beltane
Oct 13, 2014 Jack Beltane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you're looking for a gripping Smiths biography, this is not the book for you. There is plenty of "story" behind and between the songs, but the focus here is on how the songs came together and fit into the five-year career of the band. If you're a big Smiths fan or a fan of "the process" of music, you'll love this book. If you want gossip and interviews, you'd be better off looking somewhere else. Me? I loved it. Despite an angle that could be very dry and boring, Simon Goddard kept it interes ...more
Joe Price
May 30, 2013 Joe Price rated it it was amazing
Exactly what I was hoping it would be, 'Songs That Saved Your Life' will quench the curiosity of even the most extreme fans of the band. Goddard not only explains the songs themes and meanings, but goes into when, where, how, why, and even each tracks effect and achievement. The level of detail is truly incredible.

Thanks to Goddard I look at The Smiths in a new light and love them more than ever!

I only wish I knew more about the making of music in an attempt to better understand and appreciate
Mar 09, 2016 Dara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I'm not using hyperbole when I say this is my favorite book of all time.
Una guía definitiva para amantes de la banda. Recorre su historia completa (los cinco años) canción por canción, detallando fuentes de las letras, logros técnicos en las grabaciones y las peripecias de los cuatro genios que crearon esos discos tan esenciales. Se puede leer seguido o tomar como referencia, lo cual es una ventaja. Su tono es el de un fan dedicado, definitivamente, lo cual a veces riñe con la calidad de los datos presentados.
Apr 08, 2014 jasmine rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
I'm a Smiths fanatic so I'm not sure what I was hoping to find out in this book. Not much, really. Although it did lead me to Elizabeth Smart's "By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept", which Morrissey has stolen, sometimes word for word, some of my favorite lyrics of his. Smiths fans - pass on this. Trying to take your Smiths fandom to the next level? Go for it.
Sep 29, 2012 Brian rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction

This book does exactly what any music biography should aspire to: make you enjoy the music more. I've listened to this music for 25 years, so my experience with it was pretty much set in stone. But Goddard's mini-histories of each song brought a fresh perspective to each tune and had me going back and listening to them like the very first time.
Jun 16, 2015 Jonathan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music
Informative and entertaining, this is almost a biography of the band, following the chronological recording of the Smiths' songs, along with a potted history just to give some background. The book follows them song by song, with slightly more emphasis on the music rather than the lyrics. A great read for any fan of The Smiths.
Glenn Harper
Sep 11, 2008 Glenn Harper rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in The Smith and Morrissey.
Great, except for two things. Why is it that people always underate Unloveble? And, in that song, Morrissey quotes a published James Dean letter with the lines "I wear black on the outside because black is how I feel on the inside" and "if I seem a little strange, well that's because I am", which Moz biographiers always miss.
Dec 06, 2008 Christopher rated it really liked it
This book brilliantly compiles a chronological encyclopaedia of The Smith's music, performances and television appearances while giving context to some of modern pop-music's most influential music. It's less a biography of a band and more a biography of modern Indie Music's greatest influence.
Edwin Gomez
Sep 08, 2013 Edwin Gomez rated it really liked it
If you are a Smiths fan this is the ultimate account of how every song was written, recorded and released (or not). It also tells the brief but powerful story of one of the best pop bands of all time. It was written with love and admiration and it was definitely received that way when I read it.
Craig Mcintyre
Jun 25, 2013 Craig Mcintyre rated it it was amazing
The only thing that could make this any better is complete lyrics, but you can't have everything. For a band who have survived, through legend, for so long it is pitiful how much is genuinely written about them. A good and concise reference guide.
Bryn Powell
Nov 03, 2012 Bryn Powell rated it really liked it
An in-depth look at the writing and recording process for every Smiths song ever recorded. Even if you hate Morrissey & Marr the pre-digital tricks pulled off by engineer Stephen Street are worth the admission price alone.
Daniel Sevitt
Jul 25, 2016 Daniel Sevitt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Acknowledges its debt to Revolution in the Head and then goes on to knock it out of the park. Simply delicious review of song genesis and structure. Written by an unashamed fan for unashamed fans. What a treat.
May 23, 2015 Gemilia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pop
this was brilliant!! definitely gave an in-depth look at the meanings behind all the songs, but never got into boring territory. would definitely recommend for anyone who considers themselves a fan.
Detailed book on every Smiths song and unheard tapes.Well written without all that digging in the past (see Johnny Rogan).This is to Smiths Fans what 'Revolution in the Head' is to Beatles fans.
Evan Ross
Apr 24, 2014 Evan Ross rated it liked it
Long time fan of The Smiths but never knew anything about them other than that Moz was an is a morose vegetarian. This wasn't what I was expecting but still a good read.
Nicholas Why
Nov 26, 2013 Nicholas Why rated it really liked it
A chronology of the songs that did indeed save my life & taught me about British humour. A must-read for all Smiths fans on the greatest songwriting duo since Lennon & McCartney.
May 23, 2013 Mike rated it really liked it
Hagiographic in some spots but a really great look at The Smiths and the songs. The highest praise I can give it is that it made me re-evaluate their debut album.
I bought this to mark having lived two years past the day I had marked off as for suicide. Appropriate title is appropriate. Anyway, this is a great resource.
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Simon Goddard is the British author of several books about popular music which have been described as “thrillingly unusual” (The Observer), “ludicrous and brilliant” (The Scotsman) and “endlessly entertaining” (The Independent). They include: Rollaresque, a bawdy picaresque homage to The Rolling Stones; Ziggyology, a creation history of Bowie's Ziggy Stardust; and Simply Thrilled, the preposterous ...more
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