You may get a chuckle when you read that title and learn I'm writing about The Smiths, but Morrissey's lyrics contain some of the most antisocial acts in music. Sure, albums like Cannibal Corpse's Butchered at Birth (1991) or songs like 1987's "Chainsaw Gutfuck" by Mayhem are conceptually worse, but they are purposefully written to scare off the squares. It's like when the class metalhead gets up to read his poem, "Digging Graves," and the class laughs; yet everyone squirms in their seat when the school jock follows it up by reading what he claims is a loving poem about his girlfriend, but it's peppered with scenes of rape and murder. Morrissey and The Smiths weren't trying to be vulgar, there was just a heavy underlying vulgarity in what they wrote.
Admittedly, the two songs they received the most negative public attention for were in fact calls to nonviolence. The press scolded them for "Suffer Little Child" off their 1984 self-titled debut record, claiming it was somehow championing the Moors Murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley's acts of cruelty against their five young victims. In reality, the lyrics were penned to memorialize the fatalities, and even the mother of 10-year-old sufferer Lesley Ann Downey thought so. The other track was "Meat is Murder," from The Smiths' same-titled LP from 1985. The media felt the band had become political, and I guess preferred to look back fondly to times when they wrote tracks about kicking people in the face.
Even so, The Smiths' lyrical content is filled with murder, sadism, masochism, suicide, and other acts of violence toward men and women. Let's take a long and hard look...
"Slap me on the patio, I'll take it now." and "Shove me on the patio, I'll take it slowly."
- masochism in "Reel Around the Fountain"
"I just want to be tied to the back of your car."
- masochism in "You've Got Everything Now"
"I decree today that life is simply taking and not giving. England is mine and it owes me a living."
- narcissism in "Still Ill"
"I stole and I lied. 'Why?' Because you asked me to."
- criminal behavior in "What Difference Does it Make?"
"I don't dream about anyone, except myself."
- narcissism in "William, It Was Really Nothing"
"...you leave on your own, and you go home, and you cry, and you want to die."
- suicide in "How Soon is Now?"
"I would like to give you what I think you're asking for." and "Let me get my hands on your mammary glands."
- sexual assault in "Handsome Devil"
"I crack the whip, and you skip, but you deserve it."
- sadism in "Handsome Devil"
"Why do I smile at people who I'd much rather kick in the eye?"
- antisocial violence in "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now"
"Sir thwacks you on the knees, knees you in the groin, elbow in the face, bruises bigger than dinner plates." and "Kicks me in the showers, and he grabs and devours."
- sadism in "The Headmaster Ritual"
"The last night of the fair by the big wheel generator, a boy is stabbed, and his money is grabbed, and the air hangs heavy like a dulling wine."
- antisocial violence in "Rusholme Ruffians"
"She said, 'How quickly would I die if I jumped from the top of the parachutes?'"
- suicide in "Rusholme Ruffians"
"He killed a policeman when he was 13, and somehow that really impressed me."
- murder and antisocial behavior in "I Want the One I Can't Have"
"Time's tide will smother you, and I will too, when you laugh about people who feel so very lonely, their only desire is to die."
- antisocial behavior in "That Joke isn't Funny Anymore"
"I'd like to drop my trousers to the world." and "The poor and the needy are selfish and greedy on her terms, and if the day came when I felt a natural emotion I'd get such a shock I'd probably jump in the ocean." plus "When I'm lying in my bed, I think about life, and I think about death, and neither one particularly appeals to me."
- antisocial behavior in "Nowhere Fast"
"A crack on the head is what you get for not asking."
- domestic abuse in "Barbarism Begins at Home
"Her very Lowness with her head in a sling. I'm truly sorry but it sounds like a wonderful thing."
- antisocial behavior in "The Queen is Dead"
"Sweetness I was only joking when I said I'd like to smash every tooth in your head." and "Sweetness I was only joking when I said by rights you should be bludgeoned in your bed."
- domestic violence and murder in "Bigmouth Strikes Again"
"Behind the hatred there lies a murderous desire for love."
- antisocial behavior in "The Boy With the Thorn in His Side"
"And if a double-decker bus crashes in to us, to die by your side is such a heavenly way to die. And if a 10-ton truck kills the both of us, to die by your side, well the pleasure, the privilege is mine."
- death in "There is a Light That Never Goes Out"
"Hang the blessed DJ, because the music they constantly play."
- murder in "Panic"
"Young bones groan, and the rocks below say, 'Throw your white body down!'"
- suicide in "Shakespeare's Sister"
"My only weakness is a list of crimes. My only weakness is... well, nevermind." and "Shoplifters of the world. Unite and take over!"
- antisocial behavior in "Shoplifters of the World Unite"
"Sing me to sleep, and then leave me alone. Don't try to wake me in the morning because I will be gone. Don't feel bad for me. I want you to know, deep in the cell of my heart I will feel so glad to go." and "There is another world. There is a better world. Well, there must be."
- suicide in "Asleep"
"I know I'm unloveable. You don't have to tell me. I don't have much in my life." and "I wear black on the outside because black is how I feel on the inside." plus "If I seem a little strange, that's because I am."
- antisocial behavior in "Unloveable"
"Call me morbid, call me pale. I've spent six years on your trail."
- antisocial behavior in "Half a Person"
"Oh yes, you can kick me, and you can punch me, and you can break my face." and "Oh yes, you can punch me, and you can butt me, and you can break my spine."
- masochism in "Is It Really So Strange?"
"And I got confused—I killed a nun. I can't help the way I feel."
- murder and antisocial behavior in "Is It Really So Strange?"
"I grabbed you by the guilded beams. That's what tradition means, and I doused another venture with a gesture that was absolutely vile. I started something. Forced you to a zone, and you were clearly never meant to go."
- sexual assault in "I Started Something I Couldn't Finish"
"The death of a disco dancer. Well, it happens a lot 'round here, and if you think peace is a common goal. Well, that goes to show just how little you know." and "Love, peace, and harmony? Oh, very nice, but maybe in the next world."
- murder and antisocial behavior in "Death of a Disco Dancer"
"There were times when I could have murdered her." and "There were times when I could have strangled her."
- antisocial behavior in "Girlfriend in a Coma"
"And the pain was enough to make a shy, bald, Buddhist reflect, and plan a mass murder."
- murder in "Stop Me if You Think You've Heard This One Before"
"I was detained, I was restrained, and broke my spleen, and broke my knee, and then he really lays into me."
- violence in "Stop Me if You Think You've Heard This One Before"
"I've come to wish you an unhappy birthday, because you're evil, and you lie, and if you should die I may feel slightly sad, but I won't cry."
- narcissism and antisocial behavior in "Unhappy Birthday"
"I say, 'No, I'm gonna kill my dog!'"
- animal abuse in "Unhappy Birthday"
"Surely you're happy it should be this way? I said, 'No,' and then I shot myself. So, drink, drink, drink, and be ill tonight."
- suicide and antisocial behavior in "Unhappy Birthday"