‘Like the music it discusses, Songs That Saved Your Life is its own unique kind of anthem’ – Songs That Saved Your Life (The Art of The Smiths 1982-1987) by Simon Goddard

stsylsgAs a piece of music journalism, there are several things which Songs That Saved Your Life could be criticised for. It is certainly not objective or unbiased. There’s no attempt to paint a picture of the music scene as a whole during this time period, and Goddard never pretends to want to discuss the other side of some of the arguments The Smiths caused. But, that is what makes Songs That Saved Your Life quite as brilliant as it is. The best thing about the book is that it is completely unapologetic. This is a piece of writing by a man who loves The Smiths, who claims his life was shaped by their songs, and who wants to let his audience know just how much they mean to him.

What also lends a unique air to this work is that Goddard doesn’t just present a standard autobiography. This isn’t about where Morrissey, Marr, Rourke, and Joyce grew up, what their schools were like, and what they had on their toast in the morning. In fact, besides considerations of how Marr and Morrissey met, and the drama that surrounded the band’s sudden split, this book is about only the most important thing in the history of The Smiths. The songs. Any fans of the band will have listened to hits like ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’, ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now’, and ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’, and wondered just what Morrissey was on about. If you’re one of those people, then this is the place to find out.

Interestingly, though, despite the lack of standard autobiography traits, I finished this book feeling that I knew more about The Smiths than I ever have about any other band. Goddard gets inside his heroes through their lyrics, their guitar solos, and the politics of the songs’ production procedures, rather than through their parent’s jobs and childhood dreams.

Any Cop?: I went out and bought new copies of every Smiths album while reading this book. I found myself singing the lyrics everywhere I went, and suddenly with a new and enlightening understanding. Goddard, like me, is clearly a huge fan, and it shows in the way he writes this tribute. Like the music it discusses, Songs That Saved Your Life is its own unique kind of anthem.

Fran Slater


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