The Smiths: 20 Best Songs

The Smiths weren't ahead of their time, they were timeless.

The Smiths Group The Smiths weren't ahead of their time, they were timeless. They could have emerged at any point in the history of pop music and been an era defining group. Despite assumptions to the contrary, they weren't a fey jangly guitar band - musically they covered a ridiculous amount of genres: rockabilly, glam Rock, funk, folk, classical and heavy metal to name a few, but they always sounded like The Smiths. And Morrissey was the constant; his personality, tone and lyrical genius put the house style on the songs. Johnny Marr believed that one of the things that made the band unique was that they were both a singles and an albums band: I'd go one further than that and say that they were also, in the pre iTunes age, a B-sides band. If they were releasing records today, I'd wager that all three songs from whichever new single they released would go into the top 10. The quality was so high it was staggering. Consider this: when they released 'William, It Was Really Nothing', what were the B-sides? Well, they were 'Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want' and 'How Soon Is Now.' If you can name another group who put out B-sides of that quality, then I'm all ears.

20. Asleep If Coldplay released this as their next single, I can guarantee that it would go straight to number one and be hailed as the greatest thing they've ever written. Having recently found its way into the teen angst film The Perks of Being A Wallflower, 'Asleep' sticks to The Smiths template, a beautiful tune with heart-breaking lyrics. It also followed another strange habit I've mentioned - of throwing stone cold classics away on B-sides. 'Asleep' didn't even make it onto an album. If there's a musical influence on the song, it's certainly not from the world of pop music; instead it sounds more like 'Trois gymnopédies' by Erik Satie. Stripped right back to feature just voice, piano and some wind effects, 'Asleep' is a poem about suicide and the hope that loneliness doesn't last forever. It finishes with a child's piano playing 'Auld Land Syne' and the words "There is another world; there is a better world... well, there must be." Yes, the Smiths were very melancholy, but certainly not depressing.

19. Handsome Devil Makes the cut because of the sheer energy of the music and the pure cheek of the lyrics. Whilst Johnny Marr was casting a very wider musical net from day one, Morrissey equally defined the vocabulary of the band from the start, using words such as 'handsome', 'wonderful' and charming' in song titles. 'Handsome Devil' created a sh*t storm when the press got hold of it, with lines such as: 'A boy in the bush is worth two in the hand/I think I can get you through your exams/oh you handsome devil/let me get my hands on your mammary glands. ' Nick Kent described it as a song that even the Satanic Majesties themselves, The Rolling Stones, would never have got away with. One of the charms of Smiths' songs was their take on androgyny - they were consistently agnostic in gender and sexuality. Which other band did that? The answer is no one... not even Bowie.

What makes music fantastic? Star quality, amazing music, breathtaking lyrics and the ability to bring something new to the table, even if that means a new take on the classics. That's what I love to listen to and write about. As well as writing for What Culture, I occasionally write a blog and sometimes use Twitter, but sparingly @TedneyNash