The Smiths A-Z: "Reel Around the Fountain"

Aubrey McFate

Burn down the disco
Prefer the Troy Tate version of the song.

Same. I am forever indebted to the friend who gave me a copy of his bootleg of the Tate sessions in the nineties. This is one of my favorite Smiths songs in almost any incarnation, but in the Tate version, it is upmost echelon. Johnny Marr possessed a peerless elegiac genius in many of those early songs—Reel Around the Fountain, Suffer Little Children, Wonderful Woman, &c., and Morrissey’s poetry was the ideal match.


Well-Known Member
A wonderful intro to the world of The Smiths as the opening track on the 1st album. Songs like this and "I Don't Owe You Anything"... were relatively basic... but communicated so much emotionally. Morrissey's gift for phrasing and storytelling was so vibrant in these early songs. I agree with @Gregor Samsa that The Smiths of the debut and Hatful were a different band than MIM forward. I love what they became but I also love where they started.

I dreamt about you last night
And I fell out of bed twice
You can pin and mount me like a butterfly
But take me to the haven of your bed
Was something that you never said


Yes. I'm not sure "completely different" . . . but this is well said.

I wonder what accounts for this? How much is the earlier quality in Morrissey's vocals, vocal melodies, lyrics—or is it in Marr's music too?
One thing I think about the early stuff, is that lyrically it is both very direct, but can also be very obscure. It's like Morrissey is hinting and alluding at stuff that's half loving, half menacing, and with tracks like 'Reel' and 'The Hand That Rocks the Cradle' you're never entirely sure exactly what he means, or which way to spin it.

There's a kind of claustrophobic bleakness in some of the earlier music too, which I think lifts once Johnny really goes to town on multitracking and layering instruments on later records. The music opens up, whilst the lyrics become more focused and less mysterious.


Let me get my hands on your mammary glands
I do think it's about child abuse, told from a unique perspective. I don't believe Morrissey when he says otherwise, there are too many phrases than can be interpreted that way, and even his denial is awkwardly phrased. I am not open to discussion about it because some people who post here are not capable of that kind of discussion.
I think the vocals are beautiful, the lyrics are sublime, it's a juxaposition of an ugly subject explained in a sensitive way. I have thought this since the first time I heard it. You just can't ignore the opening line, and many others.
Are you saying that he was abused?

Aubrey McFate

Burn down the disco
Morrissey had the words and the voice, a tremulous choirboy's cry.
(Rolling Stone - October 9, 1986).

To nitpick: this writer gave a poor description. A choirboy's singing is wispy, angelic, and ethereal. Morrissey's voice on the early records is (to my ear) dour, nasal, and almost bovine. It is, of course, beautiful and one of a kind. The melancholy in Johnny Marr's music, preternatural for a nineteen-yr-old, was met with the weighty sadness and peculiar wisdom that Morrissey's voice carried. The Smiths did what every great group does: they got better and more exciting, but the early songs remain enigmatic and very special.



Well-Known Member
A fine song and I can't say that I have ever heard anything remotely contentious in the lyrics.

Perhaps a controversial opinion to some, but I prefer the studio version with Paul Carrack's keyboards adding a little something extra. The BBC and Troy Tate recordings have plenty of emotion, though.

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 9th from 73 of the group's songs.
In the poll on the Hoffman board this song ranked 13th from 73 of the group's songs.
the smiths a-z
Top Bottom