The Smiths A-Z: "Shakespeare's Sister"

BookishBoy

Well-Known Member









Our next track in the Smiths A-Z project is this song, released as a standalone single in March 1985 and reaching #26 on the UK singles chart. "Shakespeare's Sister" was also included on the compilation albums Louder Than Bombs and The World Won't Listen.

The song was played live by the Smiths 64 times, and has been performed 19 times so far by Morrissey.

What do we think?
 

Bonaparte Shandy

Active Member
Slight and throwaway. The gaps in quality control were starting to show and the whole thing is redeemed only by the force of the rhythm section and the brevity of the offering.

The 'Shakespeare' reference has always puzzled us in the context of the actual lyric. Is it the intention of the narrator to 'fling' this and 'fling' that as a response to the discrimination against women in contemporary society (as is the case with the original Virginia Woolf essay from which the title is nicked)? We suspect not. If this were true it would be a chillingly nihilistic observation on the position of early 80s feminism - yet our recollection is of a movement revitalised and fighting back across several - nuclear weapons / equal pay / sexual violence - fronts.

No, we are in familiar and increasingly cliched territory that has yet to crystallise around buses, underpasses and lights - just a quick leap off Beachy Head (or Platform 14 at Piccadilly Station) suffices here and it becomes instantly forgettable.

And so it begat a Bananarama spin-off, staggered to number 26 and was used as filler for two compilations.

So slight, so rushed and unfinished.
 
F

Fion s

Guest
Great little single, I never tire of it. Don't care if it's deemed "slight" or throwaway" by others, it's a fun & catchy pop-rock song. Not every Smiths song has to be 'I Know it's Over'.

I thought that if you had an acoustic guitar
Then it meant that you were
A protest singer

Great stuff.
 
M

Miss Ann Thorpe

Guest
Nice to hear this again, been a while since I listened to it. It's catchy as anything. Would love to see him at Glastonbury again - it would be better than what's on offer there this year / recent years
 

Flibberty

Well-Known Member
An interesting song and quite a departure at the time. The overall sound of the recording doesn't match Morrissey and Johnny's ambitious ideals and both Stephen Street and Nick Kent have savaged the mix.


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 56th from 73 of the group's songs.
In the poll on the Hoffman board this song ranked 61st from 73 of the group's songs.
 

Flibberty

Well-Known Member
Here is one of Johnny's inspirations (according to him the riff also appears in Bo Diddley's Diddley Daddy and Chuck Berry's You Can't Catch Me).

 

Amy

from the Ice Age to the dole age
Not keen on this one.

Paraphrasing heavily here but I can remember reading a producer (Stephen Street?) saying that the session for Shakespeare's Sister had been a "disaster of democracy", where all of the band turned their own instruments up as loud as possible and nobody edited the resulting mix properly, so it sounded clumsy and messy - as though they were all competing to be heard. Morrissey and Marr loved this song though.
 

Famous when dead

Vulgarian
Moderator
Not keen on this one.

Paraphrasing heavily here but I can remember reading a producer (Stephen Street?) saying that the session for Shakespeare's Sister had been a "disaster of democracy", where all of the band turned their own instruments up as loud as possible and nobody edited the resulting mix properly, so it sounded clumsy and messy - as though they were all competing to be heard. Morrissey and Marr loved this song though.
That was Nick Kent's assessment of it at the time.
Regards,
FWD.
 

The Wild Turkey

Wild T!
Turkerator
First time I went ahead and heard this was from Louder Than Bombs
and it just was another example of how different a lyricist Moz was.
Just the title Shakespeare's Sister was funny and that stuff about
throwin' ya body down and the acoustic guitar was weird.
Still listenin' to it to this day, it just reminds me how much of a breath
of fresh air Moz was and is with the lyrics and ideas.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
I love this song NOW, but it took me many years to truly appreciate it. Morrissey's voice is so wildly off-key and out of tune at points here (especially the middle section where it slows down, and the final 'No mama let me go bit') that it physically hurts to listen to.

Now I can appreciate the passionate, chaos of it - but it sounds like such a sonic mess that this should never have been considered as a single. It was never going to get airplay, and was always going to be a total flop in that sense.
 

Amy

from the Ice Age to the dole age

Fake C

Measured, Found Wanting
Saved for me by "I thought that if you had an acoustic guitar that it meant that you were a protest singer."
This isn't one of my favorites but I always enjoyed it and it's over so fast I think it could only bother those who are quite irritable to begin with.
6/10
 

Johnny

Well-Known Member
At the time I thought it was the most lightweight release by The Smiths. Nothing has really changed for me.

The version from Galstonbury is absolutely brilliant though. I loved that line-up and Little Barrie is an incredible musician.

I would have loved for him to have stayed part of the band.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
It would have made a great B-Side. As an A-Side it was misguided, and the Smiths weakest single in terms of commercial appeal.
 

BookishBoy

Well-Known Member
It would have made a great B-Side. As an A-Side it was misguided, and the Smiths weakest single in terms of commercial appeal.
Exactly this, yes, it's got B-side written all over it. Why on earth they thought it was A-side material, I've no idea. And releasing it a month after a #1 album on which it didn't appear, also odd. But it kept everything rattling along, I guess!
 

Dirk Blaggard

Well-Known Member
I like this song, I think it's way better than certain other Smiths songs, which are muddy in production or senseless in meaning etc . All these tearful years later if Meat Is Murder comes on I skip it - it doesn't even make logical sense " death for no reason is murder" I am happy the song exists and I'm aware of its importance, it's just ultimately s bore or let's take Please, Please, Please.. Its a great song, its just if it comes up I skip, these days
However SS is great, I think. The title from VW to Pat's cover star turn. Its classic smiths so far. Then you place the needle and off we go
"Young ones groan and the rocks below say "Throw your skinny body down son" ... and what a great opener. Johnny takes us on a stomping little twister of a journey and we can all sing along in religious abandon to "Im off to see the one I love" and " No, momma let me go, no no no " etc
Maybe the production isn't as great as it should be. It doesn't matter though the song is grand, in my mind
 
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