The Smiths A-Z: "Is It Really So Strange?"

BookishBoy

Well-Known Member









Next up in our Smiths A-Z project is this song, originally a B-side on the "Sheila Take a Bow" single in April 1987, and subsequently included on the Louder Than Bombs compilation as well as the Rank live album. (The version released on the single and on LTB is from the Peel Session recorded with John Porter in December 1986.)

The song was never played live 35 times by the Smiths, and has been performed 124 times by Morrissey.

What do we think?
 

butley

Well-Known Member
One of my absolute favourites. It might be my favourite. Such a brilliant batch of singles and B sides at the beginning of 1987. London, Half A Person, Sweet and Tender Hooligan and Is It Really So Strange. Fantastic. One of the funniest live lyric changes too when he sings “I left my wig in Newport Pagnell”. As an aside the Newport Pagnell reference is genius. If you travelled between the North and the South in the UK the coach was the cheapest option and you had to change buses in Newport Pagnell and you’d be dragging your bags all over the place and it was easy to misplace them. Lol.
 

BookishBoy

Well-Known Member
One of my absolute favourites. It might be my favourite. Such a brilliant batch of singles and B sides at the beginning of 1987. London, Half A Person, Sweet and Tender Hooligan and Is It Really So Strange. Fantastic. One of the funniest live lyric changes too when he sings “I left my wig in Newport Pagnell”. As an aside the Newport Pagnell reference is genius. If you travelled between the North and the South in the UK the coach was the cheapest option and you had to change buses in Newport Pagnell and you’d be dragging your bags all over the place and it was easy to misplace them. Lol.
Yes, it was amazing how they just kept the quality of the songs this high and were just casually throwing out A-sides and B-sides that any other band of that type would have considered a career high-point. This song is a stone-cold classic! And the way Morrissey sings "I CAN'T HELP THE WAY I FEEL" is one of my favourite things in all pop music.
 

Flibberty

Well-Known Member
There has been some suggestion that the BBC session was not entirely new and Craig Gannon has said that he thinks they used his guitar and other parts of the demo (with several additions).

Anyhow, I always loved how this sounded on the radio and I remember being disappointed at the mix on Louder Than Bombs. Still a fine song, but with a little less energy.

To me, it's one of the most fun Smiths recordings both due to Johnny's music and the mostly lighthearted lyrics.


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 43rd from 73 of the group's songs.
In the poll on the Hoffman board this song ranked 44th from 73 of the group's songs.
 

Carlislebaz

Cock of the north
This could have been a single in its own right.
Plenty of classic Moz lines in this one as well.
As some have already said about the Quality and output , just Amazing.
 

Amy

from the Ice Age to the dole age
I love the North-South journey songs (London, Half A Person, later Heir Apparent etc) and this one is no exception.

I say no
You say yes
And you will change your mind
 

Famous when dead

Vulgarian
Moderator
An odd little fact worth adding from The Smiths FAQ (re: Louder Than Bombs):

"Cracking the cellophane on the album, fans were treated to the six newest Smiths sides first, beginning with “Is It Really So Strange?” The song was still two weeks from release in the U.K. as the B-side to the “Sheila Take a Bow” single, giving North American fans the unusual treat of owning a Smiths track ahead of those in the group’s native land."

IIRC, it was heard on Peel and then seemed to take far too long to appear to buy - thank God for cassettes.
Probably one of the first 'imports' I ever bought - always enjoy this track.
Regards,
FWD.
 

Nikita

Senior Member
Another B side I prefer to the A side. I first heard it on Rank, and later bought Louder than bombs to have it as well as Sweet and tender hooligan, which I knew only from the Interesting drug single.

This is a good example of Morrissey’s words and singing really improving a tune.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Miles better than the A-Side - this was a real missed opportunity for hit single. I guess they baulked at the idea of releasing a Peel session as an A-Side, but they really should have persevered and completed a studio version they liked.
 

SuedeMoz

Well-Known Member
Such a brilliant track, to me it shows they were at the top of their game even close to the end. It also makes me think had they taken a much-needed break Strangeways might be better, tensions might have eased, and they might have lasted a bit longer. But I digress. This song somehow perfectly encapsulates The Smiths. Love, longing, wit, violence... murder but with humor: " I killed a horse / I killed a nun" but only because of being "confused"???
 
Last edited:

Mayfly

Well-Known Member
The Rank version nails this song perfectly. I really love Johnny’s thundering rockability guitar sound and Morrissey’s rolling rrrrr. As others already sai, better than the A-side.
 

Watson

Well-Known Member
Not much I can add to the excellent comments above. Very much with Mayfly on this - the Rank version rocks like a swine and turns a jaunty pop song into a monolithic monster. It's been said so many times now, but the quality of the b-sides they were churning out defies belief. Most bands at the time were putting instrumental versions of the a-side on the reverse or some throwaway tripe scraped from the studio bin....The Smiths were adding songs still spoken about reverently 35 years later.
 

Dirk Blaggard

Well-Known Member
M was the whole package ,
He was a guru in a Jordan Peterson way, he was counter culture in the way top YouTubers , can only dream of
He was a singer that sang from the soul , probably one of the few black or white singers who sang from the "soul" , since the 60s - in America, lots of black kids listen to his music, not as many as white or Mexican - though the Mexican thing is over done, mainly they think hes a gay and listen to Hip Hop
When on form he could write, in my mind, better the Jewish cannon's Dylan and Cohen.
It could be argued Tarantino probably got his bringing icons from the past back idea from M, shiiiiit even Natural Born killers, is like a film idea kinda based on The last of the famous, meaning , in a way - QT is a great film maker, but he hasn't the depth of M and hes too much the boy trying to be a man, a white man aping ego black culture, to be taken seriously.
M is way beyond that
M was stylish and started trends, like Bowie did and of course he was a supreme entertainer Finally this song has a line so spot on, a million joke writers have probably studied it, Perfect timing- Yes, the Newport Pagnell line
 
J

j*e*t

Guest
M was the whole package ,
He was a guru in a Jordan Peterson way, he was counter culture in the way top YouTubers , can only dream of
He was a singer that sang from the soul , probably one of the few black or white singers who sang from the "soul" , since the 60s - in America, lots of black kids listen to his music, not as many as white or Mexican - though the Mexican thing is over done, mainly they think hes a gay and listen to Hip Hop
When on form he could write, in my mind, better the Jewish cannon's Dylan and Cohen.
It could be argued Tarantino probably got his bringing icons from the past back idea from M, shiiiiit even Natural Born killers, is like a film idea kinda based on The last of the famous, meaning , in a way - QT is a great film maker, but he hasn't the depth of M and hes too much the boy trying to be a man, a white man aping ego black culture, to be taken seriously.
M is way beyond that
M was stylish and started trends, like Bowie did and of course he was a supreme entertainer Finally this song has a line so spot on, a million joke writers have probably studied it, Perfect timing- Yes, the Newport Pagnell line
I suppose it was inspired by the handbag left by Miss Prism at Victoria Station in The Importance of Being Earnest.
 

Dirk Blaggard

Well-Known Member
I suppose it was inspired by the handbag left by Miss Prism at Victoria Station in The Importance of Being Earnest.
Quite
Its all in the timing with that one. I think sometimes too much has been made of M's "poetry" as good as it was ( i think its fair to say was, I don't think he has cared as much about his "poetry", writing for a long long time.
I think a lot of the M's genius is his phrasing and timing


I can't blooming well wait for M's new lp . can't we start a petition , make it a mission make it 4 million names and pin it to the office of BMG
 
Tags
the smiths a-z
Top Bottom