The Smiths A-Z: "I Started Something I Couldn't Finish"

BookishBoy

Well-Known Member



Next up in our Smiths A-Z project is this song from the Strangeways Here We Come album of 1987, also released as a single in November of that year and reaching #23 on the UK chart.

The song was never played live by the Smiths and has been performed 21 times in concert by Morrissey.

What do we think?
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Little to say, other than it's both musically and lyrically perfect. For a band about to split, The Smiths sound incredibly fresh and full of life here.
 
I was never fussed about this one, mostly because it was spoiled for me by the pretentious Morrissey lookalikes acting out the lyrics at the Star & Garter on a Friday night.

Morrissey fans are the worst, self included.
 

ErsatzHawkChad

New Member
Love it, the aggressive glam arrangement coupled with the anti-libidinous words creates a delicious musical irony and Morrissey's warm and rolling lyrical style for which he is famous is on full display here.
 

Orson Swells

Well-Known Member
Actually, I've always preferred it to Stop Me If You Think... for some reason. Great vocal from Morrissey. Musically, Marr seems to have been heavily influenced by Bowie's Cracked Actor.
 

Flibberty

Well-Known Member
It's a real shame that Stop Me was blocked from being a single as it would have stood a much greater chance of chart success. Of course, either song wouldn't have been helped by the fact that the group had split and there were no new b-sides.

I Started Something was further damaged by a savage review in The NME. "This is a fairly pointless bit of posthumous whingeing with some horrible guitar playing from Johnny Marr." Ouch.

It's interesting that while it is well known that Morrissey was not keen on one guitar part, Johnny has said that it was the first time that he was aware of Andy and Mike really not liking a track and, "that became another big tick in the box for me leaving."

Intriguing also that Johnny has admitted that Amateur Hour was the inspiration.




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 46th from 73 of the group's songs.
In the poll on the Hoffman board this song ranked 51st from 73 of the group's songs.
 

Carlislebaz

Cock of the north
One of their greatest singles ever.

As one poster has already said, you wouldn’t think that they were about to split up as they were releasing some of their best work.
 

The Wild Turkey

Wild T!
Turkerator
I'll be honest with ya, as the time slides by it's gettin' more
difficult for Wild T to go ahead and relate to this one.
Sure there were a time when I weren't finishin' things.
These days I been gettin' to much done though.
Sometimes the trick to finishin' might be waitin' awhile,
but it still do get done eventually.
 

SuedeMoz

Well-Known Member
Looks like I'm a little less enamored with this one than most. Don't get me wrong, I like it... but it probably wouldn't appear on my list of top 10 Smiths songs. I enjoy Morrissey's playful lyrics and vocals... seems like he was having fun. While I like Strangeways I've always found it a bit disappointing. Hard to explain why, but I'll try...

Someone above said for a band that was about to split they sound fresh and full of life. Maybe that's it. It doesn't sound that way to me. While still brilliant, it sounds like they were running thin creatively. Maybe the disconnected way they wrote songs was starting to wear on them? Didn't Johnny mention in that uncut article that he was getting frustrated with only writing music for a 'recluse'... something like that? Rather than unity, I hear more discord in Strangeways (this song included) than I do in TQID and MIM.
 

Amy

from the Ice Age to the dole age
Not keen on this one... a rare instance of Johnny asleep at the wheel.
 

Mayfly

Well-Known Member
We were lucky enough to get Stop me as the second single in euroland.
This is still a very solid album track. I find Morrissey’s vocal fascinating here. It’s hard to describ, but I would say it is the intonation and accentuation of certain words, like ‘clearly’, or ‘Uh that’s what tradition péans’, or the ‘typical même part already mentioned by someone else. I just feel it is so idiosyncratic, no other singer would sing it this way.
 

Ketamine Sun

Now, today, tomorrow and always
Unfortunately there seemed to be some weird power struggle going on in The Smiths at that time.


But I would imagine Morrissey being excited by the possibilities of this song when first hearing it as an instrumental, it’s strong and leaves
a lot of space for him to paint a picture, lyrically of course.

Well, he must like it, to have done it
21 times solo.
 

Mayfly

Well-Known Member
Looks like I'm a little less enamored with this one than most. Don't get me wrong, I like it... but it probably wouldn't appear on my list of top 10 Smiths songs. I enjoy Morrissey's playful lyrics and vocals... seems like he was having fun. While I like Strangeways I've always found it a bit disappointing. Hard to explain why, but I'll try...

Someone above said for a band that was about to split they sound fresh and full of life. Maybe that's it. It doesn't sound that way to me. While still brilliant, it sounds like they were running thin creatively. Maybe the disconnected way they wrote songs was starting to wear on them? Didn't Johnny mention in that uncut article that he was getting frustrated with only writing music for a 'recluse'... something like that? Rather than unity, I hear more discord in Strangeways (this song included) than I do in TQID and MIM.
That’s the other side of Morrissey’s unique approche to songwriting. I imagine that he won’t have an extensive discussion about his vocal harmony with his songwriting partner, and that can be frustrating. Johnny can now write both the music and the vocal harmony and do the singing. It may feel more like a unified piece of work. Still, I wouldn’t mind this f***ing recluse putting his vocals over Marr’s music any time.
 

Flibberty

Well-Known Member
That’s the other side of Morrissey’s unique approche to songwriting. I imagine that he won’t have an extensive discussion about his vocal harmony with his songwriting partner, and that can be frustrating. Johnny can now write both the music and the vocal harmony and do the singing. It may feel more like a unified piece of work. Still, I wouldn’t mind this f***ing recluse putting his vocals over Marr’s music any time.
It's also easy to understand why this song was the one time where Johnny expressed anger at Morrissey's response.

For Johnny to work on a guitar part for hours (with Morrissey not present) only for Morrissey to say, "I don't like it" would annoy anyone. Especially as Morrissey didn't have the musical training to express exactly what he did or did not want.
 

SuedeMoz

Well-Known Member
That’s the other side of Morrissey’s unique approche to songwriting. I imagine that he won’t have an extensive discussion about his vocal harmony with his songwriting partner, and that can be frustrating. Johnny can now write both the music and the vocal harmony and do the singing. It may feel more like a unified piece of work. Still, I wouldn’t mind this f***ing recluse putting his vocals over Marr’s music any time.
No doubt. I wish Johnny and Morrissey created a lot more songs together. I was just pointing out that for me I feel like the inner frustrations were starting to show through on Strangeways. Absolutely still brilliant but their dysfunctionality and intense work ethic was taking its toll. Could they have at least given themselves 6 months off after finishing TQID tour and starting a new album? For Johnny who had to initiate the songwriting process every time as well as other management duties, it must have felt like a grind by then.
 
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Ketamine Sun

Now, today, tomorrow and always
not to mention the combination of drugs that were being used, or not used. A conflict of moods and behaviors, doesn’t help matters.
 
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