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Style Lessons From The Smiths

June 2016Words by Mr Mansel Fletcher

The Smiths, Clickimin Centre, Shetland Isles on the Meat is Murder tour, 28 September 1985. All photographs by Ms Nalinee Darmrong

Music journalism is always at its best when the author is a fan, and photographer Ms Nalinee Darmrong is clearly a huge Smiths buff. Her new book The Smiths, published by Rizzoli, collects photographs she took of the band between 1985–1986, when, in a lull between high school and college, she followed Messrs Morrissey, Marr and company on tour across the US, UK and Canada. These images, documenting shows from the Meat Is Murder and The Queen Is Dead tours, laid the foundations of Ms Darmrong’s career as a rock photographer, yet even 30 years on, they seem searingly personal. It’s noticeable that nowhere in the pictures of concerts are there shots of any other fans – it’s as if the band was playing just to Ms Darmrong. But then the key to the success of The Smiths was that it always felt personal. Every single one of their millions of fans could believe that the band was speaking directly to their unique worries, anxieties and insecurities.

Morrissey on stage in the US during The Queen is Dead tour, 1986

The band’s style still provides plenty of inspiration for a contemporary reader, particularly one who inhabits a world as image-obsessed as ours. Of course, there is the standout figure of Morrissey – a man who, in the book’s front matter is described as someone who “dresses like someone sent to earth to intervene with humankind in a controlling and purposeful way that may or may not be divine” by music critic Mr Marc Spitz. In Ms Armrong’s photographs, we see him flailing around in blouses, striped shirts and his signature quiff – which remains permanently intact no matter how forcefully he flings himself against the stage monitors. (There’s also a double-page spread devoted to one of the singer’s lurid paisley shirts).