Dick’s Picks: This week’s pick is this rare and original Smiths Rough Trade era artwork, ‘cos “not everything has to be a record right?”
Unlike most bands who, when looked at retrospectively, can be seen to who have had either a) a great beginning b) a purple patch mid-career c) hit their stride towards the end – the Smiths came fully formed. Not for them an array of embarrassing early releases featuring a different drummer with dodgy clothes, or a mid-period ‘Jazz Odyssey’ album, or even the ’80s perm bad haircut years – Nope, instead the Smiths ‘aesthetic’ was carved in stone from Day 1: each release would feature a chosen ‘cover star’ that would tip a nod to the types of films/art that informed the Smiths world, the font used was pretty much the same throughout, similarly, the fact that each band members role was described as ‘The Voice’, ‘The Bass Guitar’ etc also carried with it an air of difference, not forgetting the witty messages scratched into the run-off grooves (Kiss My Shades, Arty Bloody Farty, The Wythenshawe Waltz etc’) – factor in Morrissey’s insistence that each ’45 should have a four prong centre like those beloved singles from the ‘60s the band were born and raised on and you should be left in no doubt – for the Smiths, how they looked and were presented was as important as the music.
The ‘cover stars’ chosen for the record sleeves were deeply significant too – the casual observer may assume that most of the images are of northern, working class, female TV personalities, not that there’s anything wrong with that mind ((hello Pat Phoenix, Yootha Joice), but that’s just half the story. The sleeves were also an arena for their favoured politics, sexuality and art to be writ large.
‘I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish’
Although released posthumously, (Nov. ’87) to be precise, that didn’t mean any lessening of quality as far as the images was concerned. Utilising the long serving design team of Jo Slee (Art co-ordination) and Caryn Gough (Layout), the sleeve featured a close-up of British actress Anvil Angers who had found fame with the war-time era Tiller Girls before moving onto the West End and then TV with parts in Coronation Street, Dad’s Army and Are You Being Served (how very Smiths!). The still chosen for the single was from her part in 1966 movie ‘The Family Way’, where she played Hayley Mills shrewish mother. The Family Way was also scored by none-other than Paul McCartney (the first Beatles solo recording no less – hang on, that’s another Dick’s Pick!)
What we have here is a work in progress, and is in fact the thin card printer proofs used for the front and reverse image of the 7″ single. The piece measures 15″ x 8″ and is set within an untrimmed 22″ x 15″ surround, proofing bars (used to get the correct alignment) are visible, along with a green sticker in the top right hand corner used to ensure the correct colour was used! Thirty years on it’s a rare window into the working processes of this now iconic act – somewhere a wall and frame are crying out ‘please choose me’!
If you’re looking for anything else Smiths related – including a whole host of super rare posters and proof artwork, keep an eye on the Smiths Collectors Store at eil.com as new titles are being added daily and are selling faster than those proverbial hotcakes…..