Ep. 047 – The Smiths – “Paint A Vulgar Picture”
From 1982 to 1987, the English rock band The Smiths fashioned a unique sound that broke from many musical conventions in rock and pop at the time. Founded on Johnny Marr’s distinctive jangly guitar riffs coupled with Morrissey’s playful lyrics addressing class differences and love and longing all with a particularly dark sense of humor, the band established a cult following. They are frequently cited by countless rock musicians as an influence and inspiration and new fans continue to discover the band’s music.
“Paint A Vulgar Picture” comes at the end of the band’s spectacular five-year run of successful albums and singles. The band had already called it quits by the time their last studio album, Strangeways, Here We Come landed in stores. A harsh critique of the music industry for its greed, the song tells the story of label executives discussing ways to profit off of a musical star’s recent death with repackaging and re-releasing material to sell to grieving fans.
Scott and Jason discuss the irony of Morrissey’s disgust with the music business as he portrays it in the song. The Smiths had compilations and reissues even during their short time as an active band to promote themselves. Morrissey was quite vocal in the press about feeling the band should be more popular and they had even signed with a major label, EMI Records, shortly before their breakup. Scott and Jason reflect on the band’s history, Morrissey’s persona, and how Morrissey and Marr are never going to reunite The Smiths. Through this lens, “Paint A Vulgar Picture” is an interesting tale of past, present, and future.