The Smiths A-Z: "I Don't Owe You Anything"

BookishBoy

Well-Known Member









Next up in our Smiths A-Z project is this song from the debut album of 1984. (It was then covered by Sandie Shaw as part of her "Hand in Glove" release later that year.)

The song was played live 33 times by the Smiths. It has never been performed by Morrissey.

What do we think?
 
R

rubbersoul

Guest
My least favourite song on the debut but I still like it very, very much. The bass line is great, as are the lyrics and Morrissey's beautiful, mournful sounding vocal performance and melody. The opening verse in particular is just a stunning bit of writing. Not one of their best, but a lovely album track.
 

Watson

Well-Known Member
Sparse, beautiful and seductively melancholic. It's not a song I play often, but it always makes me stop what I am doing whenever I do. I'm not a massive fan of the Sandie Shaw version (of any of the Sandie Shaw versions, to be honest) as the main focus of the song is Morrissey's voice...it simply doesn't work with anybody else. I've never seen this live clip before - the chap could/can sing!
 

BookishBoy

Well-Known Member
This was never one of my favourites when I was a teenager but it's a song that seems to get better and better with age. Musically it reminds me of some of the stuff that Roddy Frame was doing on the first Aztec Camera record but (as mentioned by @Watson above) it's Morrissey's voice that makes it soar. The way he sings this bit at the end:

Life is never kind
Life is never kind
Oh, but I know what will make you smile tonight


...is just so beautiful.
 

Watson

Well-Known Member
This was never one of my favourites when I was a teenager but it's a song that seems to get better and better with age. Musically it reminds me of some of the stuff that Roddy Frame was doing on the first Aztec Camera record but (as mentioned by @Watson above) it's Morrissey's voice that makes it soar. The way he sings this bit at the end:

Life is never kind
Life is never kind
Oh, but I know what will make you smile tonight


...is just so beautiful.
Beautiful and saucy! The young scamp! What with his 'boy in the bush' he was obviously having some form of hormonal awakening in those wonderful early days.
 

Carlislebaz

Cock of the north
A rather underrated song and something I’ve really enjoyed over the years.
Sometimes simplicity is best, and simplicity is at the heart of this song.
I wouldn’t have this song playing full blast in the car, as it’s not that sort of tune, nor would I listen to it fairly regularly . But when I do here it, it reminds me of something that was so wonderful and beautiful from a previous life.

Sandi also does the song justice.
 

Mayfly

Well-Known Member
For me it was one of my favorites on that first album.
It will never be considered as a Smiths classic, yet it has a very endearing and soothing quality to it.
There’s also a pinch of melancholy here, reminiscent of some of his later work with Alain.
Yes, it made me smile tonight.
 

SuedeMoz

Well-Known Member
Very simple on one hand but the emotional purity and vulnerability really comes through. Whether the tale in the song is true or not, who knows... but Morrissey sounds completely genuine and believable as he expresses his yearning and frustration. It's one of only 3-4 songs from the debut I still listen to.
 

SuedeMoz

Well-Known Member
Sparse, beautiful and seductively melancholic. It's not a song I play often, but it always makes me stop what I am doing whenever I do. I'm not a massive fan of the Sandie Shaw version (of any of the Sandie Shaw versions, to be honest) as the main focus of the song is Morrissey's voice...it simply doesn't work with anybody else. I've never seen this live clip before - the chap could/can sing!
Totally agree - every time it comes on I have stop and just take it in. Maybe it's the emotional build-up that has a beautiful payoff at the end of the song?
 

Flibberty

Well-Known Member
I'm not sure why Morrissey has disowned this one as there are weaker songs on the first LP. John Porter's production is nothing special, but it is an improvement on the leaden Troy Tate attempt. The inclusion of Paul Carrack's keyboard perhaps suggests that the producer knew that the song needed something - anything - to add some life to it.

I think the arrangement actually works a little better on the Sandie version as it has a tad more energy.


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 60th from 73 of the group's songs.
In the poll on the Hoffman board this song ranked 31st from 73 of the group's songs.
 

SuedeMoz

Well-Known Member
Here is the Troy Tate attempt:



Mike's thumping drums intrude and sound a little out of place.


I don't find it horrible, but Morrissey's vocals seem a bit drowned out in this version. It's been years since I've heard any of the Troy Tate versions... kind of neat that an alternate version of the debut exists. I don't recall, was the debut fully rerecorded or just remixed by John Porter?
 

Flibberty

Well-Known Member
I don't find it horrible, but Morrissey's vocals seem a bit drowned out in this version. It's been years since I've heard any of the Troy Tate versions... kind of neat that an alternate version of the debut exists. I don't recall, was the debut fully rerecorded or just remixed by John Porter?
If memory serves, John Porter was contacted by Rough Trade initially about the possibility or remixing or adding to the Troy Tate tapes.

He told them that the recordings were out of tune and it would be quicker and cheaper to start again - which is what he ended up doing.
 

The.Truth.

Every.Single.Time.
I've never thought about this one before though I always liked it. The music just plays a basic supporting role but that's all that's needed. This one is all about Morrissey and for a song that doesn't get a lot of attention it's full of memorable lines.
 

Dirk Blaggard

Well-Known Member
Beautiful and saucy! The young scamp! What with his 'boy in the bush' he was obviously having some form of hormonal awakening in those wonderful early days.
Yes, it always amazed me that people thought his music was sexless. it was oozing out.

I liked the song for the reasons said above. It wasn't a stand out song but it has a beauty
 
Tags
the smiths a-z
Top Bottom