Exactly 39 years ago to the day on May 13, 1984, The Smiths released a song defining them as a band and the general feel of the music which the band would become famous for. “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” was released as a single but ultimately was included in the band’s compilation album Hatful of Hollow.
At the time of release, the song reached number 10 on the UK Singles Chart which might not sound impressive given the band’s immense stature, which later followed, but this single was their first to reach the top 10.
Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now is peculiarly rather jolly to listen to, but the general rhythm of the song, aided by the brilliant work of Johnny Marr on the guitar, is paradoxical to the innate despair and depression expressed by lyricist and co-songwriter Morrissey.
Key themes within this song are not being able to supplement sadness by meeting societal expectations such as romance or finding a job. Those who know the lore behind Morrissey in that he never wanted to work, so didn’t, will appreciate the personal touch he put into such lyrics as “I was looking for a job and then I found a job, and heaven knows I’m miserable now.”
Perhaps this song's most famous and timeless performance is when The Smiths promoted this single on Top of the Pops. There’s just something about watching a shirtless Morrissey singing about life’s despair partnered by the morose and well-thought-out guitar riffs of his best pal Marr which still makes me watch over and over again.
A note on the B-side
The B-side of this single was one which is entirely overlooked for its cultural relevance. The B-side is “Suffer Little Children,” which ha rather explicitly refers to the Moors Murders in the 1960s.
The controversy of the B-side could be a reason why this single didn’t chart as well as it could have done. Critics of the band at the time said the reference to the Moors Murders was ill-timed and exploitative of the tragedy. As music fans have learned throughout the years, though, Morrissey cannot shy away from controversy.
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