50 reasons to adore the smiths, 50 great record covers
August 11, 2010, 3:51 am
Filed under: 50 great record covers, 50 reasons to adore the smiths

the smiths “girlfriend in a coma” (1987), written by morrissey & marr, produced by morrissey & marr & stephen street. a stand alone single on rough trade records that was included in their next album “strangeways, here we come”. cover design: morrissey and jo slee.

today, august 10th, marks the anniversery of the last single to be released by the smiths before they uncerimoniously split up. “girlfriend in a coma” was released just prior to their upcoming album “strangeways, here we come”, and was followed later by three other singles, all culled from “strangeways” which was released only three week later on september 10, 1987. “girlfriend” was the last single to contain the usual smiths’ two extra tunes on its “b” side. morrissey wanted to release “work is a four letter word” a cover by the hopelessly untalented cilla black as the “a” side, much to johnny marr’s displeasure. this was part of the row that led to the split between the two tunesmiths. pictomat would have given morrissey a slight edge, if this was the sole reason for the breakup. “work is a four letter word” as covered by the smiths, fit ever so comfortably into their oeuvre even though it was cover version (something that may have displeased marr), but only if one can keep miss black’s version out of one’s head.

the single is perhaps not the pinnacle of their writing career, but it is a more than serviceable tune, and quite jaunty despite its gloomy title. as with every proceeding smiths’ single it also included another non-album track, the last song the smiths ever recorded, “i’ll keep mine hidden”. all said the package was another pleasing outing giving no hint of the troubled train-wreck that permanently derailed the group. between the time “girlfriend” was released and before their new and soon to be last studio album was in the racks, rumblings in the press told of their imminent breakup. that hasty affair did occur before the album’s release, shattering fans around the world.

however, the smiths released this single housed, as always, in a sleeve designed by morrissey with the help of jo slee, a graphic artist. the smiths, themselves, never appeared on a single or album cover in their entire career and all singles were released without a song title. only albums had titles. every true smith fan can probably name the title of the single just by looking as its cover star. “girlfriend in a coma” has morrissey’s favorite playwright the british writer shelagh delaney at its cover star. she had previously appeared on a compilation album “louder than bombs”. she wrote the play that later became what is known as a british kitchen sink film titled “a taste of honey” about a young unmarried mother and her gay best friend. the back of the cover always named the star, and the band with simple headings such as the voice: morrissey or the guitar: johnny marr. some of the records had secret sayings etched into their grooves after the song slid into the center of the disc. pictimat can’t plow through its library to see if one exists on this particular record, but an example of some are “are you loathsome tonite” or “tomb it may concern”. these little touches, unnoticed by mere listeners,  endeared the smiths to their legions of fanatic followers. pictomat, was, and still is one of the biggest. this day, some 23 years ago, pictomat was in the very city that the smiths put on the map, manchester, england reading about their pending doom in the brit music rag “the new musical express”. it was a sad day then, and tinges of it remain behind today.


50 forgotten songs, 50 amazing faces, 50 great record covers, 50 grand designs, 50 fashion mavens

grace jones, singer, born spanish town, jamaica (1948)

“pull up to the bumper” by grace jones (1981, written by jones, dana mano, sly dunbar & robbie shakespeare, produced by chris blackwell &  alex sadkin, single released on island records)

not forgotten by anyone who spent any of their nights dancing in discos during almost the entire year of 1981, but not a big hit on the charts in the u.s or the u.k. perhaps because the ever crafty miss jones managed to write an entire song where every sentence was an innuendo:

“… now in the park and lock garage,

you’ll find the proper place,

just follow all the written rules,
you’ll fit into the space.

pull up to my bumper baby,
in your long black limosine,
pull up to my bumper baby,
and drive it in between.

pull up, to it, don’t drive, through it,
back it, up twice, now that, fit’s nice …”

and that is just the beginning. one particular line might have caused the most problems and that was “grease it / spray it / let me lubricate it”. needless to say it remains one of the great dance tracks of all time, but perhaps missed by any non-dancers. housed as always in one of grace jones’ provacative record covers. (record cover, 1981, designer: jean-paul goude, born saint-mandé, france, 1940, graphic artist and jones’ lover at the time.)