Meat Is Murder Explained

Meat Is Murder
Artist:The Smiths
Released:14 February 1985
Recorded:Autumn 1984
Genre:Alternative rock
Producer:The Smiths
Label:Rough Trade
Last Album:The Smiths
This Album:Meat Is Murder
Next Album:The Queen Is Dead

Meat Is Murder is the second studio album by the British alternative rock band The Smiths. It was released in February 1985 and became the band's sole number one album in the UK charts during the band's lifetime. It reached number 110 in the US. In 2003, the album was ranked number 295 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Meat is Murder is also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die (2006). The album's title is shared with the final album track, written by lead singer Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr who are vegetarian.


Meat Is Murder is the most eclectic album by The Smiths, with songs in the styles of funk, rockabilly, ballad, post-punk, dance music, and their signature, indie rock. As such, it contains some of the most unusual and lauded songs of the Smiths’ catalogue.

After the relative production disappointment of the band's debut album The Smiths, singer Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr produced the album themselves, assisted only by engineer Stephen Street. Officially, the record's production is credited to "The Smiths", with Rourke and Joyce allowed say about their instruments' sound-levels in the mixing. Commercially, it is possible that the album's in-crowd appeal is because no popular single derived from it. However, this could be doubtful due to the fact that the band diversified musically and lyrically, resulting in credibilty of alround musicianship and controversial thought-provoking subject matter. Fans appreciated such a stance. A cult band emerged.

The song "How Soon Is Now?", originally issued as the B-side of "William, It Was Really Nothing", was added on to the U.S. edition of Meat Is Murder after becoming a success in American dance clubs and on alternative radio. (It was also added to post-1992 WEA re-issues of the album.) It was eventually released as a single in its own right in the UK, reaching No. 24 in the charts. Two Meat Is Murder album tracks--"Well I Wonder" (from the "How Soon Is Now?" single) and "What She Said" (from the "Shakespeare's Sister" single)--were also originally B-sides of singles.

Meat Is Murder was more strident and political than its predecessor, including the rationality of the title track (Morrissey forbade the rest of the group from being photographed eating meat), the light-hearted "Nowhere Fast" and the anti-corporal punishment "The Headmaster Ritual" and "Barbarism Begins at Home". Musically, the band had grown more adventurous, with Marr adding rockabilly riffs to "Rusholme Ruffians" and Rourke playing a funk bass on "Barbarism Begins at Home."

As well as the album being more political than its predecessor, Morrissey also brought a political stance to many of his interviews, courting further controversy. Among his targets were the Thatcher administration, the Monarchy, and Band Aid. Morrissey famously quipped of the last, "One can have great concern for the people of Ethiopia, but it's another thing to inflict daily torture on the people of England."[1]

The subsequent single-only release "Shakespeare's Sister" was not a great success in chart terms, nor was "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore", the sole single from the album. Many considered this an odd choice for a single, with its backwards guitar and lack of any consistent hook. The charts reflected this, with it barely cracking the top 50, peaking at 49. September 1985's "The Boy with the Thorn in His Side", however, was an indication of bigger things to come.


The album's sleeve features an edited still from Emile de Antonio's 1968 documentary In the Year of the Pig. The legend on the soldier's helmet originally read "Make War Not Love". On vinyl and American CD releases, four copies of the image were used, whereas only one was used on European CD issues (presumably for reasons of legibility).

Track listing

All songs written by Morrissey/Marr.

  1. "The Headmaster Ritual" – 4:52
  2. "Rusholme Ruffians" – 4:20
  3. "I Want the One I Can't Have" – 3:14
  4. "What She Said" – 2:42
  5. "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore" – 4:59
  6. "How Soon Is Now?" – 6:46
    • Originally not released on UK and European issues of the album
  7. "Nowhere Fast" – 2:37
  8. "Well I Wonder" – 4:00
  9. "Barbarism Begins at Home" – 6:57
  10. "Meat Is Murder" – 6:06


Notes and References

  1. Web site: 18 November 2004. Band Aid vs. Morrissey.... http. 22 April. 2007.