The Smiths A-Z: "Back To The Old House"


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Next up in our Smiths A-Z project is this song, which exists in two main iterations: the Hatful of Hollow version (recorded for the John Peel Radio 1 show in September 1983) and the studio version which appeared as a B-side of "What Difference Does It Make?" in January 1984.

The song was played live by the Smiths 29 times: once in 1983 and the rest in 1984.

What do we think?


The studio version is decent, but the Peel session version is infinately superior, and shits all over it. Love the acoustic feel, and this song just doesn't need the bass or drums.


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The band version is ok, but I agree that the Peel session is infinitely more moving and evocative. It's an odd coincidence to be discussing the two non-Andy/Mike songs in succession.

Wonderful lyrics from Morrissey, a very effective vocal and I've always loved this one.

Just to show other viewpoints and not because they should be considered in any way definitive...

In the poll on this board this song ranked 47th from 73 of the group's songs.
In the poll on the Hoffman board this song ranked 17th from 73 of the group's songs.
It is very difficult to articulate how much these songs meant at the time on an emotional level.

It's so long ago now, it's like revisiting someone else's life.

But what a beautiful waltz-like reminisce through the mind it offers.

16/10 for this one.


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And you never knew
How much I really liked you
Because I never even told you
Oh, and I meant to

Just looking at those words, they're nothing special. But when you add Morrissey's voice, and his melody, over Johnny's simple but beautiful guitar, it's one of the most perfect distillations of unrequited love that I've ever heard.


Vegan Cro’s parents regret the condom splitting
Same as others have said, lovely song, the simplicity of just lyrics and guitar on Hatful makes it my favourite version.

Gregor Samsa

I straighten up, and my position is one of hope.
The Peel Session version is among the very best pieces of music The Smiths ever released. And that’s saying something. There’s nothing more melancholic, nothing more yearning or nostalgic than that version of BTtOH. Every time I hear it, I’m shattered. It’s really the zenith of Morrissey and Marr.


Cock of the north
One of those songs where it’s just moz and Marr that makes other singer/ songwriters rather plain.
Haunting and Beautiful all at the same time.
The lyrics take you back to somewhere in Morrissey’s past that presents as rather dark but probably
Very true.

Famous when dead

Marr seemed particularly keen on this track.
Listening to old Smiths boots, you can hear him play bits of it between songs on occasion (even after it was ditched from the setlist early in '84).
To then have Bragg sing it with him in '86 - well, that's a whole different thing.



Active Member
The Peel Session version is among the very best pieces of music The Smiths ever released. And that’s saying something. There’s nothing more melancholic, nothing more yearning or nostalgic than that version of BTtOH. Every time I hear it, I’m shattered. It’s really the zenith of Morrissey and Marr.

This Charming Bowie

Welcome to this knockabout world
The peel session version is one of the band’s greatest achievements: Marr channels his inner progressive Americana guitarist (foreshadowing his later work with Bert Jansch, a pioneer of this folk based sub genre, the fingerpicking in this seems to subconsciously reference early Neil Young, John Fahey and the intricacies of folk tune interpretations) to stunning effect. The slathering of generous echo gives the track an eerie, somewhat cold feeling; a reflection of the apprehension leaking from Moz’s lyrics maybe?
Talking of the lyrics, here they are simple, much like “Asleep”: and like the latter track, they provide the foreboding cherry on top of a deliciously melancholic cake.
“I would rather not go back to the old house. There are too many memories there.”
The studio version loses a lot of the two-man subtlety of the Peel variant: not the fault of Rourke and Joyce themselves; only the more commercial production on the guitar and bass tones make for a less impactful gut punch of the kind the “original” launches into you.
So, when considering the superior version, this is truly up there with the typical top ten fodder you see on countless lists, no question about it.
10/10 (or 6/10 for the redone version).

Ketamine Sun


best live version (I can find) ....

I love both versions Hatful and Louder, both have something very different and wonderful to offer.

And who can’t at least some point in their life relate to those words and songs emotion? A great example of when words and music belong to each other, so moving.

Southport Grandma

Active Member
Love those fret scraping sounds on the BBC Radio version. The b-side version takes me back to the summer of 1989 which was when I first heard that version via “Louder Than Bombs”


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The feelings of nostalgia, loss, longing, unrequited love, and inner turmoil ("I would rather not go back to the old house / I would love to go back to the old house") are so brilliantly expressed here. It's amazing how so few words can convey such emotional depth. The listener while not knowing the exact details of where the house is, who was the one cycling by... still knows exactly how Morrissey feels and can 100% relate. No one but Morrissey & Marr could deliver what we hear and feel on the Peel version... if this was the only song they ever did... well, I'd be sad but still in awe. Last but not least as all great Smiths songs... Marr's music is the perfect backing and support for Morrissey's voice and lyrics. (10/10 for the Peel version)
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Mike Rourke

Well-Known Member
Yep, an absolute beauty. Probably in my all-time top 10, let along Smiths songs. And one of several where Mr SPM changes his mind about something, mid-song.
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On his way out

A lovely construction, the leading architect applied similar principles to the more ambitious "Late Night Maudlin Street" during his Gothic Revival era. See also the fine earlier residential work of Messrs Foreman and Smyth (1982) and Nash (1970).
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