Sunday, March 11, 2012

ET(aatb) 20: RTT198 "I Started Something I Couldn't Finish"

[Link removed 20 November 2012] (57 MB)

"I Started Something I Couldn't Finish"
Rough Trade RTT198
Produced by Morrissey and Marr, engineered by Stephen Street
* Produced by Troy Tate
** Recorded by Grant Showbiz
November 1987


1 I Started Something I Couldn't Finish
2 Pretty Girls Make Graves *
3 Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others (live) **
4 What's The World (live) **
5 Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before


1, 5 from "Strangeways, Here We Come" (ROUGH CD106, September 1987)
2-3 from Stop Me (Victor [Japan] VDP-28025, Fall 1987)
4 from "Sweet And Tender Hooligan" (Reprise (USA) 9 43525-2, May 1995)


Gentle EQ as needed, a smidgen of tasteful noise reduction if required, and very cautious, gentle peak limiting.

Artwork for this, and every other release we'll be featuring, was sourced from the amazing Vulgar Picture treasure trove of sleeve artwork scans (with permission).


The band was no more. Johnny Marr had left for Los Angeles, the remaining Smiths tried carrying on with replacement guitarists for a couple seconds, and then the band was put to rest. Morrissey was amidst recording sessions for his debut solo LP, yet there was still a Smiths record to promote. With no new tracks in the can (ha! Just see the various demos that saw release in 2010...) to use as B-sides, the single was filled out with selected live recordings and alternate session takes.

The A-side itself was a last-minute substitute for the obvious single candidate "Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before", which was pulled from the schedule in the UK at the last minute due to concerns about bombings/murder references in the lyric. Other territories kept "Stop Me..." as the single, as planned - hence our inclusion of "Stop Me..." on this set too.

"I Started Something I Couldn't Finish" is one of the least interesting Smiths single A-sides; it's not a bad track, it's just not great. It's almost Smiths-by-numbers, though interestingly enough the well-paced drum stomp is rooted to an audible Linn drum. I guess the most interesting bit is the fade-out where you hear Morrissey calling out to Stephen Street about the vocal take...

The live "Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others" was performed only once, at the band's final UK gig ever, in December 1987. It was challenging to master as it's quite noisy; I think people will be pleased with the results. Oddly, Morrissey sings a third verse here not present on the studio version. Johnny plays like he has three hands.

"What's the World" is a James cover, performed during the band's brief Scottish tour in fall 1985. An odd choice for a B-side, it was featured only on the cassette single release in the UK. In the USA, Sire/Reprise felt the need to promote the 1995 Singles compilation LP with a subset of rarities, so the label released "Sweet and Tender Hooligan" as a CD and 12" single in the US backed with the two "Girlfriend" B-sides, and "What's the World" taken from an actual UK cassette single as the label couldn't locate a master.

Most interesting is the Troy Tate abandoned debut LP session version of "Pretty Girls Make Graves". It's got a unique clip-clop pseudofolk canter to the rhythm, and according to Simon Goddard in the wonderful book The Smiths: The Songs That Saved Your Life was released as an overdue fulfillment of a promise by Geoff Travis to the cellist who played on the track.

"Stop Me..." is one of the classics in the catalog: urgent guitars, strident lyrics, just a stunner. Marr returns to his old trick - first done on "This Charming Man" - of bashing his guitar strings with a knife. It was the obvious choice for the single and a shame it didn't get to serve that role in the UK.

- Analog Loyalist


  1. Thanks so much for this. The live "Some Girls" is taken from the last concert on British soil - at the Brixton Academy, December 12, 1986 - not 1987.

    And thank you again, kind sir. Lovely stuff.

  2. The scheduled UK release date for "Stop Me" unfortunately followed the Hungerford Massacre (19th August), when Michael Ryan killed 16 people including his own mother. There was no way the single would have received airplay, and it would (unfortunately for The Smiths)not have been well-received in any case.

    I've always thought that Morrissey's comment to Stephen Street at the end of "I Started Something" completely invalidates the track. Just as his self-indulgent burps, gasps and retches throughout Strangeways ruin it for me ...

    Thanks once more!!

  3. Many thanks. This will be the first time I've ever "owned" this single, which will also the case with "Last Night...". I left the UK to live in Canada for six months just before the release of "Stangeways", still shocked - yet somehow relieved - that Johnny Marr had pulled the plug.

    Despite some good b-sides on both this and "Last Night..." they never felt like proper releases, and they were the first Smiths records I hadn't bought on the day of release since "Hand In Glove".

    Despite that, I'm one of the small hardcore who believes that they finished with their best album.

    1. It's always boggled my mind that many fans hold *Strangeways,...* in such low regard; it's my favorite Smiths' record and the one where they really put everything all together into one cohesive statement. Jounny Marr in particular was really at the height of his musical prowness. To start off with a track like "Rush and a Push and the Land Is Ours" really made quite a statement (for better or worse it would appear) and really pointed a possible direction that any future releases may have took had things turned out that way but alas...

  4. Wow! Some Girls sounds amazing. More Black Magic at work there.

  5. ^You have incredibly good taste.

  6. I was at the Brixton gig. It was a rescheduled show replacing a date at the Royal Albert Hall which was cancelled due to Johnny's car crash earlier in the year. Spent about 30 mins after the show looking for my lost shoe!

    1. I lost my shoe at the Irvine Magnum gig. Yes, they did make me #awkward and plain# having lost one didn't make it any easier.

    2. Actually I do remember a lot of shoes coming off at Brixton. i found one that nearly fitted and was about about to put it on when it's owner turned up. I remember saying something like "no offence mate but until my trainer turns up you're not getting this back". Amazingly but in keeping with the spirit of the occasion he helped me look for my missing trainer and soon we were both reunited with our own footwear. And it was only twenty five and a half years ago

    3. What a story.
      If it had been an E.L.O. ("pray silence please....") or a Wings "(only the band The Beatles could have been") gig you had been at, it would make a brilliant Alan Partridge anecdote.
      God i feel so fucking old thinking back to the beginning, and the end, of The Smiths sometimes.

    4. Yep we may be old (personally I'm 49 this year)but at least we grew up during a time when music REALLY meant something. We had The Smiths and so many other great bands, it's those memories that keep me young

  7. ""I Started Something I Couldn't Finish" is one of the least interesting Smiths single A-sides; it's not a bad track, it's just not great"

    But it does have the amazing way Morrissey sings "fair enough" :-)

  8. I had a ticket for the Royal Albert Hall show - I remember it was cancelled on the morning of the gig. I got a cash refund because The Fall would not be supporting at Brixton (they were scheduled at the Albert Hall). Choosing the refund was one of the great errors I have made to date - in doing so I never got to see The Smiths live.

    1. Conversley I had no ticket for the Albert Hall (don't know why, think I wasn't around when they were bought) but did get a ticket for Brixton. I remember hearing the news that morning and was desperately ringing around (in the days before mobiles) trying to get the message to people not to go to the R.A.H.

  9. The extra tracks sound fantastic, very well done, especially on Pretty Girls Make Graves. That little acoustic guitar figure hidden in amongst the bass drum...never picked that up before. And the vocal on that track is quite beautiful.

    I have checked out a few guys on Youtube for a Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others tutorial. They make it look easy too. It isn't, its fucking difficult. God bless you Johnny Marr. If only the rest of the available bootlegs of the Brixton gig were anywhere like this quality.

    The lead track is not a good one, but you have made it as palatable as it's ever been. The drum machine tambourine bugs the hell out of me tho, and that snare crack around 0.17 into the first verse never fails to grate on me. The overbearing snare/Linn drum is a very 80's device. Loud and overbearing.

    I still think the whole period was handled very poorly by whoever the hell was making decisions in the name of the band. But you sir have made a great job turning a pigs ear release into something well worth revisiting.


  10. I disagree with you. I think is one of the most interesting singles, although Strangeways is the least interesting Smiths album.
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    Cheers,Veri Morrissey