The Queen Is Dead

"I'd done the rhythm track for The Queen Is Dead, and left the guitar on the stand. The wah pedal just happened to be half open, and putting the guitar down made the guitar suddenly hit off this harmonic. We were back at the desk playing back the rhythm track and I could still hear this harmonic wailing away, so we put the tape back onto record while I crept back into the booth and started opening up the wah-wah, thinking 'Don't die, don't die!' Eventually I opened up the pedal, and 'Wooooohhhhhh!' Kept it going, too. Great accident.

For the frenzied wah-wah section on 'The Queen Is Dead,' I was thinking '60s Detroit, like the MC5 and the Stooges.

The album's title track was partly inspired by The MC5 and The Velvet Underground. A Velvets outtakes album called V.U. had just come out, and I loved 'I Can't Stand It', mostly because it had this swinging R&B guitar. I'd wanted to do something bombastic like that for a while, and 'The Queen Is Dead' was the right place to drop it.

I had The Queen Is Dead, the track, in my mind for a long time. I knew the song had the title, and I knew that was what the album was going to be called. To me, it was the MC5 playing 'I Can't Stand It'. I'd always felt let down by the MC5. When I was younger, people were going 'Oh, the Dolls, the MC5, the Stooges' -but when I first heard the MC5, it felt a little too gung-ho, too kind of testosterone-mad for me. I wanted to deliver what I imagined the MC5 to be - energy, coolness.

It was Morrissey's idea to include 'Take Me Back To Dear Old Blighty' and he said, 'I want this on the track'. But he wasn't to know that I was going to lead into the feedback and drum rolls. It was just a piece of magic. I got the drum riff going and Andy got the bass line, which was one of his best ever and one that bass players still haven't matched. I went in there with all the lads watching and did the take and they just went, 'Wow'. I came out and I was shaking. When I suggested doing it again, they just said, 'No way! No way!' What happened with the feedback was I was setting my guitar up for the track and I put it onto a stand and it was really loud. Where it hit the stand, it made that note of feedback. I did the guitar track, put the guitar on the stand, and while we were talking, it was like, 'Wow, that sounded good'. So I said, 'Right - record that!' It was going through a wah-wah from the previous take, so I just started moving the wah-wah and it was getting all these different intervals, and it definitely added a real tension.

I loved Morrissey's singing on that, and the words. But it was very MC5. Morrissey has a real love for that music as well. I remember him playing the Ramones as much as he played Sandie Shaw.

The record company want to put out some rarities, so we’ve spoken about the longer versions of The Queen is Dead: the eight-minute one and another one where we played for 12 minutes. It sounds like Can or something.

The song 'The Queen Is Dead' I really like. I used to like the MC5 and The Stooges and it's as good if not better than anything The Stooges ever did. It's got energy and aggression in that kind of garagey way.

Using Dame Cicely Courtneidge's voice at the top of that track was Morrissey's idea, but it was also very apt for The Smiths collectively. We were all fans of classic British films like The L-Shaped Room, A Taste Of Honey and Hobson's Choice. The aesthetic of those movies was a huge source of inspiration, feeding into our music and artwork. Morrissey's never really been given full credit for that."

- Johnny Marr

Here are the scans from the Complete Chord Dictionary:

Here are the scans from the Queen Is Dead piano songbook with guitar chord boxes:

Daniel Earwicker does an awesome cover on bass, drums and guitar:

maudit80 does a cool version of the bass part:


Ricci said...

Thanks for this fantastic blog of yours. I have visited several times and its been extremely useful for desciphering clues to Johnny Marrs sound and style.
Greetings from Monterrey, Mex

Thom said...

Thanks Ricci! If you ever see anything Smiths or Marr related in Mexico, scan it and send it in! ;D

Ricci said...

sure Thom, count on it

Simon Downes said...

This website is a brilliant resource. Just found it today but I've added to my feed reader.
Would be EVEN better if each song had hints on how to get the sound, type of guitar used on recording etc.


Mickaloch said...

Excellent site ... thanks for the job you made.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for putting this site together, great work. Love Marr's work with the Smiths and Electronic but it hasn't always been easy to find good info.