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Book Review: The Smiths -The Early Years by Paul Slattery

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In May 1983, Paul Slattery, a young rock photographer, went to a gig at the University of London to see a new band. The band was The Smiths in one of their first shows.

Slattery, along with the other 50 or so people in the crowd, was mesmerized by Morrissey, Johnny Marr, Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke. He jumped at the opportunity to photograph them as part of an interview session a few days later in Manchester at their manager Joe Moss’ office. Some pictures, including a famous one he took of them on a security camera monitor, were taking at the office and some were taken at the Manchester Central Train Station, a derelict wreck of a building and symbolic of the state of things in England at that time.

Many of his pictures of The Smiths were published and are included in The Smiths -The Early Years as well as many more that were not published. They show a clever and unique band at their early fun years through the rise to popularity to the inevitable breakup. It is not a surprise that when you look at the last picture he took of the band. Although all four members are standing together, you see all four looking and appearing to be heading in different directions. Contrast this with one of the first pictures that he took of the band where the members were so close as to be one facing in the same direction.

There is a good mix of black and white and color photographs. Slattery describes each photograph with a couple of sentences, including where it was taken as well as little details that help you appreciate each picture more. Some are posed, some candid, all very good. Slattery may have been young and inexperienced too, but he shows a good eye and timing.

The book is very informative for a picture book and captures a time and place with a band that was a perfect storm of talent, brains, and ambition that were doomed from the start.

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About Russ Evenhuis

I'm a writer with a mid-life crisis. I'm into sports of all kind, a Seattle fan to my bones. A retired rugby player, now I punish myself with triathlons when I'm not hanging out with the family, drinking Guinness and playing PlayStation.