The Smiths A-Z: "Suffer Little Children"

Famous when dead


Performed once by The Smiths and never by Morrissey.
The Ritz '82 performance has never surfaced.

The subject matter has always been a raw topic and The Sun going after The Smiths via interviewing people like John Kilbride or Ann West (Morrissey "must be as sick as the killers") was probably inevitable.

Morrissey would subsequently meet Ann West.
Via Autobiography:

"Ann West also calls at Hornton Court, and we sit and talk of her tireless campaign to keep Myra Hindley and Ian Brady incarcerated (both had sexually tortured and then murdered Ann’s daughter Lesley Ann in 1964). Ann is Chorlton working class, now living at Grindley Avenue, just across the road from Southern Cemetery, where Lesley Ann is buried. Ann is frequently interviewed on current affairs programmes, where the depths of her feelings are often constricted by her cross-examiners (who of course have never been in her position), and this is curious treatment for a woman who has endured so much but who has never once shrunk back from her duty to her daughter."

And further met Winifred Johnson:

"I am contacted by Winifred Johnson, whose son Keith was buried on Saddleworth Moor by Brady and Hindley. Keith’s body was never found, and Mrs Johnson asks me for support with her struggle to persuade the police to resume the search for Keith’s body. Of course, had Keith been a child of privileged or moneyed background the search would never have been called off. But he was a poor, gawky boy from Manchester’s forgotten side streets, and minus the blonde fantasy-fetish of a cutesy Madeleine McCann."

In December, 1984's Jamming Magazine, Morrissey stated:

"There was all that fuss about 'Suffer Little Children' in the newspapers, all these comments and opinions from people who knew nothing about the group and nothing about music. I felt very sad and angry about that, so much just being headlines. Nobody had approached me and there were long, inflated comments, "Morrissey says this..." and "Morrissey wrote it for this reason...". All of it was totally untrue and I couldn't understand why nobody had asked me. At one point, someone from The Daily Mail rang up, giving me the chance to give my side of the story. Of course, they weren't interested that I got on famously with the parents of the victims. So, they wouldn't print the story. Well, that really upset me."

For Dale Hibbert's notes about the track parts he shared (2018), see here.

A powerful song that sits quietly on an album waiting to hit you...
You've got be a little bit genius, a little bit brave and a little bit mad to even think of turning this subject matter into a pop song. Thankfully, Morrissey is all three.

An amazing piece of music.
When I first got the debut album I knew This Charming Man and What Difference Does It Make? from the radio, and mostly listened to those on repeat. The first time I listened in its entirety it was The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, and this song that mesmerized me with its haunting depth and beauty. A perfect marriage of Johnny's music and Morrissey's lyrics and voice. If memory serves it was among the first songs they wrote together - amazing!

It certainly set a template for the type of topics Morrissey would be willing to take on.
I think this song is so lovely The sad part is people often completely misunderstand it and think he did one of these M Manson, NiN serial killer-loving songs. When ist the reverse,
A friend of mine who lives in LA said lots of the fans out there get it wrong. thinking M is some Ted Bundy lover and shit. He said " You have to ask yourself do these people not listen to the songs?"
For me this song and Reel Around. showed M had more soul and poetry than anyone else in the game and I will forgive any right-wing dalliance, because of these
Agree, but maybe some think that way because they heard ‘Last of the Famous’ first.
Not an easy listen and something I don't play often. A bleak, painful song. I don't know how someone could hear a line like, "You might sleep but you will never dream" or "until the day you die, this is no easy ride" and not realise that he empathises with the families.

Strange to think that at the time, the full truth of the Moors case hadn't come out and so the song only names three victims. Hindley was still pretending to be innocent, but "whatever he has done, I have done" reveals the truth . The recent coverage concerning the nutter who claimed to 'find' Keith Bennett was so distasteful, he really should be prosecuted for wasting police time.
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