The Smiths A-Z: "Handsome Devil"


Well-Known Member

Our next track in the Smiths A-Z project is this song, released as a live B-side on the band's debut single in May 1983. The Peel Session version of "Handsome Devil" was also included on Hatful of Hollow (released the following year).

The song was played live by the Smiths 99 times, but has never been played live by Morrissey.

What do we think?

Phranc & Open

I've known no war
My first Smiths song (Peel version on a tape of a good friend entitled "A little bit of Wave for Phranc") before hearing anything from Morrissey solo in the late 80s. The classic rock bloke, I was, happily passed away and I became bequiffed and began wearing women blouses as a straight man. Them were happy days. The tune by MARR and the voice + lyrics by MORRISSEY were irresistible. This song alone made me an instant addict. Viva The Smiths (RIP 1987)!
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Probably best not to take things too seriously.
A rollicking, intense, joyous blast of Stones-ish rock melodrama. I love both versions and still chuckle at "a boy in the bush is worth two in the hand" - absolute Carry-On genius. I've said it before, but the fact that this was thought deserving nothing more than a b-side and a session track, says everything about the quality of the stuff they were putting together. A song that always makes me very happy.


I got to this one really late because in the US it was easier to get Louder Than Bombs. It's a fun song. It still feels like an extra song to me but I always like hearing it.


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Love this, from Andy Rourke, about the song:

"It took a week or two to get my head round it. I knew I wanted to do it, but it took a while to get used to, with him singing those sort of lyrics."

Deleted member 30524

A real stomper with sexual innuendo thrown about almost every where.
I can’t quite put my finger on when, or where I first heard this think it was from HOH . Probably at my first job in the back of a shop .
Anyhow this is still a kick ass tune still today. Fast, and almost Anthem like.
A big thank you to Frank and open
As I now have an image lodged in my head with Frank mincing about with his mother’s blouses on 😬

Vegan Cro Spirit .888

Moz masterpiece with mediocre backing AGAIN by the Pep and his fellow lawnmowers:straightface:


Ketamine Sun

What a stomper of a song!

Love this, from Andy Rourke, about the song:

"It took a week or two to get my head round it. I knew I wanted to do it, but it took a while to get used to, with him singing those sort of lyrics."

in spite of his desire to have a band (be in a ‘gang’) or how many times he’s seen in a pub, Morrissey could never be, just one of the ‘lads’.

& thank heavens for that.

I take it that most interpret that it’s being sung from the point of view of a teacher to student.

"...the message of the song is to forget the cultivation of the brain and to concentrate on the cultivation of the body. 'A boy in the bush...' is addressed to a scholar. 'There's more to life than books you know, but not much more' - that is the essence of the song. So you can just take it and stick it in an article about child-molesting and it will make absolutely perfect sense. But you can do that with anybody. You can do it with Abba."

- Morrissey on "Handsome Devil", in the NME, 24 September 1983

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Well-Known Member
Great little stomper and interesting to see they played it live into 1985. Certainly the first and only pop song to contain the phrase "mammary glands." My very first Smiths boot had the version linked above with the intro: "I repeat the only thing to be in 1983 is Handsome... Handsome Devil..." Love it!
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Famous when dead

October, 1982 - Hibbert on bass, Maker dancing...
I wonder what those few people hearing Handsome Devil for the first time thought?


Senior Member
Probably the first Smiths song that I felt I needed to translate into French and make some research to understand it. I still adore it and quote it from time to time. Live version at the Hacienda is my favorite version. Raw, violent and so poetic.


Well-Known Member
The Troy Tate version is rather puny, but the Peel recording is a keeper.

Some great lines that are very quotable.

Several years ago Morrissey mentioned that there are some early songs that he wouldn't feel comfortable singing nowadays and I wonder whether this was one of them.

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 27th from 73 of the group's songs.
In the poll on the Hoffman board this song ranked 39th from 73 of the group's songs.



Not great sound quality in this interview, but Handsome Devil mentioned 6:46 by Morrissey as not being about a teacher or sex attacker.



Oh, I guess it comes from this interview. Sorry, haven't got time to go through all that!
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