The Smiths A-Z: "Paint a Vulgar Picture"


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Next up in our Smiths A-Z project is this song from the Strangeways Here We Come album of 1987.

The song was never played live by the Smiths but has been played 46 times by Morrissey, all in 1997.

What do we think?
This is a case where I think the demo is better than the final version. I wish Morrissey had left this lyric in:

And still they paint a vulgar picture
of how you really were
but they can never change you in my eyes...

It provided some meaning and context that's missing on the Strangeways version.

Never really a top favorite but one I've come to appreciate over the years - especially after hearing the demos.
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Probably one of Morrissey's most
Sarcastic songs. With it being littered with plenty one liners and Quotes that we’ve all became accustomed with over the years and
Fits in well on the album.
I adore this song, particularly this part:

I walked a pace behind you at the soundcheck
You're just the same as I am
What makes most people feel happy
Leads us headlong into harm
So, in my bedroom in those 'ugly new houses'
I danced my legs down to the knees
But me and my 'true love'
Will never meet again...

I mean, nobody else writes about pop stardom/fandom like that.
I haven’t really been very active in this thread, mostly because The Smiths are so universally loved and every song they did is rightfully heralded as brilliant. Almost every song, I should say. Paint a Vulgar Picture still feels terribly underrated and overlooked. To me it’s up there with the very best they ever did. And the guitar solo is the greatest guitar solo of all time. It, just like the song itself, is drenched in unrelenting melancholy and the lyrics show just how Moz really is one of us. He’s just as much of a music fan as he is an artist.
A quality song and I have fond memories of seeing it being performed in 1997.

Stephen Street has said that he believes that it's a verse too long, but I've never really noticed a problem. There are some great lyrics from Morrissey and a very fine tune from Johnny.

I think it's one of the strongest songs on Side Two of Strangeways.

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 33rd from 73 of the group's songs.
In the poll on the Hoffman board this song ranked 41st from 73 of the group's songs.
I really love Johnny’s guitar solo in the middle, it’s brilliant.
For me its inclusion because it enriches the song sonically.
Sadly, we lost that brilliant paint a vulgar picture verse in the process.
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