I remember clearly the first time I saw a Smiths T-shirt. It was the summer of 1985 at Seaside Heights on the Jersey Shore. I was playing one of the myriad of wheel games, trying to win Dokken’s “Under Lock and Key” cassette, wearing my Iron Maiden “Trooper” T-Shirt. I looked over at another player, and he was wearing a Smiths T-shirt.
I had no clue who they were, and while I drifted into some British music during my mid 80s metal years, The Smiths never entered the picture. Well after Morrissey went out on his own, I became familiar with some of The Smiths’ songs, and while I was never a devotee, I was enough of an Anglophile to know how much of an influence that the band had on the British music scene.
In the new documentary Inside The Smiths, filmmakers Mark Standley and Steve Petricco interview Smiths rhythm section Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce. The duo recall their sometimes tumultuous years in the band. Both come off as likable interview subjects, though Joyce really gives some deep insights into the politics of the band and how they dealt with the pressures of fame, internal struggles, and the eventual implosion. Andy Rourke spends a great deal of time going on about his drug addictions which imperiled his musical career and sent his personal life spiraling out of control.
While it’s interesting to hear anecdotes, the documentary fails to really gel for me. The big missing piece of the pie is the lack of music. Evidently, Morrissey and Johnny Marr refused to give their blessings to use the music. This also comes into play with the lack of stage performances. Also, during one of the DVD’s special features, Joyce rifles through a box of rare Smiths tracks that never made it on the record. It’s a dangling carrot pulled away quickly as none of the rarities are featured either.
The movie itself is filmed well, though black and white interviews in a cemetery are never explained. Also, with an abundance of extra interviews and features, you have to wonder whether a longer movie would have been better. Maybe commentaries on specific songs and more recollections of time in the recording studio.
With the extras and interviews, Inside The Smiths is recommended for the more hardcore Smiths fan. But for a casual admirer of their music or someone looking to learn about the band, it’s not the ideal place to start.