First up, you pick a few popular titles so as to establish a rapport with your enquirer (Bohemian Rhapsody, We Are the Champions etc), then you add a few early titles so as to show that you’re not a Johnny-come-lately to the band (Seven Seas of Rye or anything earlier if you dare) and then pick a few obscurities to round off the list just to prove that you know all their albums and not just the singles. Job done.
But do you actually like any of these songs? At the time, you may think so but I’ll wager not all of them are true favourites. The way to test this assumption is to create a playlist of about a dozen of these so-called favourites and then play them every day for weeks. Very soon, you begin to realise that there are some on the list that you can’t wait to get to and others where your finger is itching to press the skip button.
I discovered this phenomenon when I complied what I thought were my very bestest loved Smiths songs into a playlist of about 15 culled mainly from ‘Hatful of Hollow’ and their four studio albums. After a few days I’d already pared this list down to 10 and after a few more it was down to about half a dozen. Interestingly, many of those songs that I would’ve sworn blind were my all-time favs fell off the list early on – and all of them were from ‘Hatful of Hollow’, still my favourite Smiths album.
Finally, the list stabilised for some days and comprised the following five:
- Hand in Glove
- The Headmaster Ritual
- I Want the One I Can’t Have
- Bigmouth Strikes Again
- Stop Me if You Think You’ve Heard This One Before
I think it is safe to say that these are my true favourites, born of trial by fire and Ipod playlist, but whether I would’ve come up with this list before is very debateable. Interestingly, two of these songs have been covered by others and there is no doubt that the act of a new interpretation has elevated them in my estimation as a different side to their nature has been revealed. The two in question are ‘Hand in Glove’ covered by Sandie Shaw and ‘Stop Me…’ covered by Sarah Blackwood of Dubstar and both show how the songs can live outside of the unique Morrissey/Marr environment.
I must try and remember these the next time I’m asked.