Napster – P2P’s Sacrificial Lamb

Napster was a pioneer in peer-to-peer file sharing services. The service specialized in sharing audio files, especially music files encoded in the still-popular MP3 format.  

The service allowed its users to easily exchange songs through a decentralized file sharing system – the first of its kind, really – which changed the way everyone got their music.  What seemed like an amazing breakthrough in accessibility to all music eventually led the music industry to lay charges of massive copyright infringement against it. Napster then had to cease operations.

The original Napster service ran between June 1999 and July 2001. Although the service was closed by court order, it opened the way for many other peer-to-peer programs: Gnutella, Freenet, Kazaa, LimeWire, Scour, Grokster, Madster, eDonkey2000, and many others. Many of these services were based on the Napster model and implemented the same decentralized peer-to-peer architecture, which has made them similarly despised over the years by those who believe the Napster model is nothing more than a platform for piracy.  The battle rages on…

History of Napster

The idea for what Napster would do (share files in a decentralized system quickly and easily) was the brainchild of creator Shawn Fanning, a computer programmer from Brockton, Massachusetts who came up with the basic code for Napster when he was 18 in a broom closet in his uncle’s office.

It all began when Shawn Fanning, nicknamed on a hacker chat forum because of his nappy hair (I guess before she shaved his head), had a room mate at Northeastern University in Boston who was having trouble downloading his favourite music from the internet.  Even though Shawn disliked his roommates taste in music, it gave him an idea.  Hmm…

The internet itself had only been in available to the public for a few years by this point, and was still in the “dial up” era, where connections to the internet were quite slow still. 

Some people, like Shawn Fanning and his buddy Sean Parker, had met through early internet forums, and bonded over this new social connection the internet provided.  This way of connecting to people was still a novelty at this time, and Shawn and Sean were like cyber penpals.  Today, people meet in this way all the time and it’s the norm.  Back then, it was rather unusual to make friends in such a way.

Thanks to Shawn’s roommate’s issue with downloading music, Shawn figured he could make file sharing easier, and set about creating Napster by roughing out some code which would constitute the basic gist of what Napster was meant to do. 

After a while, Shawn, his brother John Fanning, and Sean Parker decided to turn Napster into a start-up business and take some serious action on the idea.  Tech start-ups were just starting to become a thing back in those days, and Napster was just another kooky tech start up.

Before Napster, services such as Internet Relay Chat (IRC), Hotline Communications, and Usenet facilitated file distributions over the web, so the idea of sharing files was not entirely unprecedented.  But Napster was subtly different from these communities in a few different ways, even though the code still needed work. 

Shawn then handed the code over to some more expert coder dudes, like Jordan Ritter, who became the chief server architect for Napster, and that’s when the real fun began, because Jordan was able to take Shawn’s idea and make it actually work, even without Shawn showing him the source code which he presumably wanted to keep to himself.  

Downloading in Dorms

Once the Napster system actually worked, Shawn was quick to share his creation with the students at his university, who took it for what it was – a way to get free stuff!  With its friendly interface and growing base of users, Napster began to catch on quickly and soon thousands of kids were using the service.  The MP3 was the new file format which made the sharing of music files super easy, and soon MP3’s were being shared en masse.  

MTV, the gossip hounds of the music biz, were there to interview students about this new “fad” that was starting to catch on.  What was this whole “Napster” thing all about, anyway?  LOL.

The service was an interesting combination of centralized / non-centralized system models.  For instance, Napster had their servers which contained their growing user base, but the servers didn’t hold any songs.  The users downloaded the Napster application to their computer and they became the servers, while Napster just facilitated the interaction of those users.  Hence, once music companies started freaking out, it was hard for them to know who to sue – the users themselves, or Napster.  Well, they of course started with Napster and tried to nail the users later.

It’s A Small World After All

While Napster was starting to catch on with users in colleges and universities, there was, around this time in the late 1990’s, a strong desire for people around the world to connect with each other, and Napster gave them an excuse to do that over sharing music with each other.  This made Napster practically the first successful social network, albeit for more introverted music-loving types of people.  It was no Facebook, and yet it sowed the seeds for such interactions to happen later.

It should also be mentioned that Napster as a company was basically a not-for-profit, in that it wasn’t designed to make money, and it didn’t – the entire time it was online – except for some T-shirt sales.

The MP3

As Napster was going viral (as we call it these days, but that slang didn’t exist then), people concurrently were making new ways to play and store music, so that users could take advantage of file formats like MP3.  MP3 players becoming a big thing, and soon enough, MP3 was the de facto file format for songs to be encoded in, so they could be played or stored on a computer lickety split. 

This was despite them being inferior audio-wise to most other forms of audio that had been created up until that point, such as the CD, tapes, and, of course, vinyl records.  Audiophiles to this day do not prefer the MP3, due to it’s overly compressed nature and loss of audio quality in order to shrink down the file size to be more easily shareable.  Regular people who aren’t listening closely for audio quality still don’t mind MP3’s, and they are still hugely popular today.

Making History

One thing that should be pointed out is that Napster was making available for the first time ever, all of the music that was in a digital form from all of human history.  Never before had this been done, and for free.  It was a moment in time that some saw as a great moment, since it was tapping into everyone’s collective vaults of digital music and exposing them to the world.

As part of this, Napster made it so that if you wanted to share in the fun, you needed to download the application, and so expose yourself and your hard drive to all the other users, who were connected through the application as well.   This seemed rather risky, but since Napster made it seem like you were just joining their fun little community, users didn’t really think much about the risks involved.

Even Shawn Fanning’s friends had their doubts that people would want to share the contents of their hard drive with total strangers, but, as it turned out, music lovers said “OK” to this possible breach of privacy for the chance to search through others’ music libraries. 

As a user of the software, you simply “asked” Napster if the file was out there (ie. typed in a song you wanted to get), and Napster would quickly and easily point you to someone who had the file, if anyone in the network did.  Usually someone did, but their connection might be slower or faster depending on their computer set-up.  From there, if that person was online, you could then download the file from them right then and there, and then you had it as a file on your computer.  Kind of like trading baseball cards, except with songs, and online… and somewhat anonymously… and ignoring all copyright laws. 😉

The Age Of File Sharing Innocence

As the service caught on more and more, the ease of finding and downloading music files quickly made Napster very popular among basically everyone who tried it.  Some liked the service because it allowed them to find copies of songs difficult to obtain otherwise, such as old songs, unpublished recordings and amateur recordings made at concerts.  

Others felt justified in downloading digital copies of recordings they had already purchased in other formats such as albums or cassettes.  Still others used the service to protest record companies forcing them to buy a full album when they only wanted one or two songs of an album.

Finally, many Napster users simply appreciated the opportunity to exchange or download music for free.  Some called it a revolution.  Some called it piracy.  Whatever it was, it wasn’t stopping once it started. 


Napster quickly created problems for institutions, like colleges and universities.  The high-speed networks in universities and high schools had by this point become overcrowded with file sharers, with Napster hogging up 60% of the traffic to these networks.  Little work was getting done, as people were becoming addicted to the service and downloading all they could in a manic free-for-all.

As a result, many colleges blocked the service because of the congestion it caused on their network, before they even worried about their potential complicity in a potential copyright infringement on their network.

At its peak, Napster service had about 80 million registered users.  The music industry was starting to get wise to the service, and objections were getting louder by the day.  Meanwhile, Shawn was getting his moment in the spotlight as an influencer and game changer.  And it’s not like he wasn’t that – he really was.  He was a kid that had a great idea and made it a reality, and changed the world.  

The ease of downloading individual songs with Napster and subsequent services is often cited as the cause of the end of the era of albums in popular music, which, to be honest, never really “recovered” after Napster.  Like it or not, everyone was forced to look at music differently after that.

Mac Version

Initially, the service was available only on Windows. In 2000, Black Hole Media wrote a Napster client for Macintosh called Macster. Macster was later bought by Napster and named the official customer under the name Mac Napster (Napster for the Mac).  At this point, the Macster name has been dropped.

Even prior to Napster’s acquisition of Macster, the Macintosh community had a variety of Napster customers, developed independently by various groups. Most notable were the client open source MacStar, released by Squirrel Software in early 2000 and Rapster published by Overcaster Family in Brazil.

The release of MacStar’s source code has paved the way for Napster customers across all computing platforms, giving users ad-free music distribution tools.

The Real Problem

The argument for Napster being innocuous and innocent (ie. fun) seemed to stem from a certain naivety on the part of its creators.  The desire to “share” media of all kinds and make it “universal” to anyone who had the Napster software seems like a nice idea, in the same way you might loan an album to a friend.  There seems to be no harm in sharing music between “friends” or “peers”, as this was a peer-to-peer system, with the little smiling Napster guy being the facilitator of all of this innocent “sharing”. 

The problem with the whole concept seemed to come from file duplication, not so much the sharing itself.  Since sharing MP3’s was essentially copying them, which has always been illegal in most forms of both print media and digital media, this posed a problem because it took the idea of demand away from the artists who created that media in the first place.  And so, even though Lars managed to piss off Metallica fans and everyone else by calling them thieves, he did have a point in some way. 

In 2001, Dave Grohl was on the Dennis Miller show and had a decent retort to the Lars argument of millionaire rock stars being pissed at their fans for stealing their hard work from under their noses.  Should music be free to everyone, or a privilege to those who could afford it? 

Clearly, one could argue either way that Napster was good or bad, but, of course, when it comes down to the matter of pure capitalism, the big music companies weren’t about to take this file sharing bullshit any longer, and they eventually did bring the hammer down on the whole situation, and the Napster software was eventually forcibly taken down in 2001, after several years of legal proceedings in the United States for infringement of copyright law.

What happened?  Just to recap, from the outset, the role of Napster in the transfer of music and service efficiency had raised the ire of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which very quickly, on the 7th December 1999, filed the first lawsuit against the popular file-sharing service.

This initial lawsuit aimed at snuffing out Napster ASAP, but only offered it free publicity instead – at first. The media coverage of the lawsuit has inflated Napster’s customer base by millions of new users.  But that didn’t stop various entities from taking the revolutionary idea of making music free for everyone that Shawn initially thought of, and basically beating the shit out of it legally.  As mentioned earlier with Lars of Metallica, certain artists absolutely HATED Napster (Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and many many more), and sided with the music industry in an effort to destroy Napster.

The plaintiffs alleged that Napster facilitated copyright infringement, and filed an application for a preliminary injunction to stop the exchange of musical selections immediately.

Judge Marilyn Hall Patel of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California  granted the preliminary injunction on the basis that the plaintiffs demonstrated a reasonable likelihood of success.  It did take years to grind Napster down, with the help of a memo written by Napster co-founder Sean Parker who mentioned the word “piracy”, basically giving everyone enough evidence in that one word or sentence to assume that Napster was never about anything but theft.

Napster Goes Offline

Napster was forced to shut things down in July 2001, but even after they did that, it wasn’t dead yet because people had Napster appendages running off site that kept the system going even without the main hub being active.  Eventually though, those were stamped out too.

Napster then filed for bankrupcy in June of 2002, they had to raise 100 million dollars to essentially pay people off, including Dr. Dre and Metallica (two of the more vocal and powerful opponents of Napster), including investors and so forth.  In the documentary Downloaded, they said it was about 500 million that needed to be raised and then just as quickly the funds were absorbed back into the industry, as Napster was on its way out the door. 

It was shortly after that that new file sharing systems like Limewire, Gnutella, and eDonkey came about, effectively replacing Napster and being even harder for the music industry to eradicate.

After Napster ended, the co-founders went their separate ways, entering into new enterprises and continuing to explore the potential of the online world. 

Shawn Fanning, for his part, did what he could to try and restore some of the rights that Napster had “taken away” from artists, by creating an “independent copyright database” called Snocap.  The idea here was to give artists a chance to register their work, and then whatever wasn’t registered was then considered “free”.  Unfortunately, this business didn’t take off, due in part to iTunes beginning its ascent at this time. 

From there, Shawn created Rupture, a gaming company, which he then sold off to EA for 30 million dollars. 

Co-founder Sean Parker went on to create Plaxo, which never reached its full potential, and then got involved with Facebook, where his career really took off.

The Changing Music Industry (2002-2010)

In this interim after the death of Napster, many things happened.  For one, music fans started to resent the music industry for killing off Napster, and refused to support them.  Record sales dropped and dropped and dropped, so that by 2010, the record industry as it was 10 years prior was no longer existed. 

As many predicted, the offspring of Napster in the form of various decentralized peer-to-peer networks rose up, taking the place of Napster and being even more virulent and impossible to shut down.  The music business actually took the time to sue the pants off of regular people for illegal downloading using these new services, further instilling a sense of resentment to the big record companies. 

A culture war had begun, and even though the creators of Napster were forced to pay their debts (both real and imagined) and move on, there was no stopping what had begun. 

As people became more tech savvy, the dinosaurs of the industry who wanted to keep the old model of the music business happening were being laid to waste by a new population of creative thinkers thanks to what Napster started.  This battle continues on to this day, with websites like the Pirate Bay being shut down by authorities and re-spawning not longer after. 

Big companies still try to sue people, and file sharing networks get more sophisticated all the time.  Free music and other media (movies, etc) is still very much available, although you may be punished if you download it.

Napster Today

After all of that, you’d think Napster would be dead and gone.  But nope.  Today, in 2018, Napster has 3 different headquarters in different parts of the world (Seattle, Frankfurt, Sao Paulo), and operates 100% legally, with a number of patents under its belt.  Here is their motto on their about page as it stands right now:

“Napster’s leading streaming music services give members ad-free access to millions of songs. Whether they’re listening on their phone, at home, at work, or in the car, Napster goes where they go. Our expert team of editors create a curated music experience that’s easy for members worldwide to gather and enjoy new original content including videos, playlists, reviews, and radio stations — anytime and anywhere.”

This is quite the change from their early days of distributing pirated music, but it is also a 180 degree turn from the user base they once had, who were morally, let us say, flexible.

Downloaded Documentary

In 2012, a documentary made by director Alex Winter  was released to much acclaim, and gave an in depth look at the cultural shockwaves that resulted from the Shawn Fanning’s original creation.  I highly recommend anyone interested in learning more about file sharing, music, culture, or human rights check it out, as it is brilliant and will give you a whole new understanding of our changing world.

Rent it on Amazon (or torrent it, you sleazy pirate you)

Here’s an interview with Alex Winter about the documentary.  Worth a watch!

Here’s some guy in 2016 trying to use the old Napster client.  Somewhat entertaining if you’re a computer geek!

Well thanks for reading.  Bye!

The Smiths – A Brief History of the Legendary English 80’s Rock Band

The Smiths is an English rock band that formed in 1982 and separated in 1987. It was a musical quartet of lads from Manchester, originally founded by two people – Steven Patrick Morrissey (born on May 22 , 1959), the flamboyant and controversial singer and lyricist, and Johnny Marr (born October 31 ,1963), the ground-breaking wizard guitar player. 

The band lineup was soon after completed by drummer Mike Joyce and bassist Andy Rourke.  They made 4 official albums together, and rival The Beatles in terms of popularity in the UK.  Of course, the world loves them, too.

Morrissey and Johnny Marr (whose real name is Johnny Maher, but he changed it to not be confused with the Buzzcocks drummer) officially met each other on May 20th, 1982, at Morrissey’s home in Stretford (384 Kings Road).  They had seen each other previously, at a Patti Smith gig where they were first introduced.

Here is a Smiths fan doing a drive-by of the Morrissey’s old house.  It all started right there!

The Smiths – Band History

Before The Smiths came together, Johnny Marr was looking for a good lyricist and singer, having been in a few bands that didn’t work out, and he met with Steven Morrissey, whose lyrics he’d heard through a friend, Billy Duffy, future guitarist for The Cult and former member of a band whose Morrissey was briefly the singer, The Nosebleeds.  Hard to believe Morrissey sang in this band, even for a short time.  Ladies and germs – the Nosebleeds!  (without Morrissey singing, sorry)

Marr one day showed up on Morrissey’s doorstep to implore him to join his band, which Morrissey eventually agreed.  In the beginning, the two songwriting partners were truly on the same wavelength, although Morrissey was several years older than Marr.

Morrissey presented Johnny with some lyrics he wrote, including “Suffer Little Children”, a dark-themed set of lyrics inspired by the infamous Moor murders, and the two worked on several other songs as well, such as the cast off “Don’t Blow Your Own Horn”, and “The Hand that Rocks The Cradle”. 

After recording several tracks with Simon “Si” Wolstencroft (future member of The Fall) on drums, Morrissey and Marr recruited drummer Mike Joyce in the fall of 1982 after Wolstencroft failed to show interest in joining the band.

Joyce was once a member of punk bands The Hoax and Victim. They then recruited as bassist a fellow named Dale Hibbert, who provided the group with the use of the studio where he worked as recording engineer.  Here is a more recent picture of Dale Hibbert.

And here is a song they recorded with Dale on bass at the time, “I Want A Boy For My Birthday” (1982), which was a cover of a song by the band The Cookies, a girl group from the ’60’s.

According to Marr, neither the personality nor the musical style of Hibbert were well suited to the group (Hibbert thinking the band acted too homosexual on stage) and they replaced him after The Smiths’ first concert, which took place at the Manchester Ritz on October 4 , 1982, put on by a friend of Marr, Andy Rourke.

The group was to be called The Smiths, from that point on. According to Marr: “We wanted a very normal name…not something that would have sounded like space men or that kind of bullshit”.  It was also around this time that Steven Morrissey became simply “Morrissey”, and forbade people from calling him Steven, which he always hated.

The band were beginning to gig more, and had a new swath of demoes, including “Miserable Lie”, “Handsome Devil”, and “What Difference Does It Make?”  They used this demo to hopefully get signed by EMI, but they were declined.  Not deterred entirely from making it to the bigtime, they then approached the indie label, Rough Trade.

Their first single, “Hand in Glove”, was released in May of 1983 on Rough Trade, who had agreed to cut that single only and see where it went from there.  The single did not chart, but it made an impact nonetheless, with its evocative cover art suggesting homoeroticism. 

In turn, this small buzz lead to them appearing on John Peel, who loved the band, and eventually having their first interviews with Sounds and NME.

Here is a live version from 1984 of “Hand In Glove” when The Smiths performed on The Tube.

“Hand In Glove” was then followed by “This Charming Man”, which reached number 25 on the British charts in November 1983, and then “What Difference Does It Make?”, reaching number 12 in January of 1984.  It was at this time that The Smiths started cracking the chart positions and gaining a fanbase.

In February 1984, their first album, simply dubbed The Smiths, sold 300,000 copies, taking second place on the British charts. Two songs, “Reel Around the Fountain” and “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” were considered controversial, because some tabloids claim that they evoked pedophilia, an assertion vigorously denied by the group.

The first Smiths album is followed the same year by the “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” (the first top-ten hit of The Smiths) and “William, It Was Really Nothing” singles, which includes the future mega hit, “How Soon Is Now?” on side B.

Around this time, The Smiths toured a lot in the UK, but rarely in the rest of Europe (for instance, their concerts in Paris on May 9th, 1984 at the Eldorado, and on the 1st of December that same year at the Exhibition Center, Porte de Versailles, are the only French dates in the history of the Smiths).

In late 1984, The Smiths released their first compilation, called “Hatful of Hollow”, featuring singles, B-sides, and songs recorded for the BBC.  At this time, The Smiths is voted best group of 1984 by the readers of the NME (a title that the group took every year until their break up in 1987).

In 1985, the band released their second album, the socially conscious “Meat Is Murder”. At this time, the band was touring extensively in the UK and the US and were working on their next studio album, the eventual classic, “The Queen Is Dead”. 

Meanwhile, controversy abounded as Morrissey said and did things to draw attention to the group, such as make provocative statements of all kinds to the media, arousing their ire while simultaneously giving them things to talk about.

However, the group was having a number of difficulties. A dispute with Rough Trade delayed the album, completed in November 1985, by almost seven months, and Marr begins to feel stress due to an exhausting schedule: many recordings, and tours. He will say later: “I was very sick … I drank more than I could handle”. Andy Rourke was fired from the group in early 1986 because of heroin use. Andy received the notice of his dismissal by a post-it glued to the windshield of his car, penned by Morrissey.  Andy still claims that this happened, while Morrissey denies it.

Rourke is replaced as Smiths bassist by Craig Gannon (former guitarist of Aztec Camera and The Bluebells), but is restored to his original position after a fortnight. As a quintet, with Gannon on rhythm guitar, The Smiths recorded the singles “Panic” and “Ask” (with Kirsty MacColl on chorus), and did concerts in the United Kingdom and the United States. Gannon left the group in October of 1986.

“The Queen Is Dead” was released in June 1986 with Alain Delon on the cover of the album. This album would go on to be what many consider to be their crowning achievement (no pun intended), with many of their most beloved songs on the album, with perhaps “There Is A Light And It Never Goes Out” being perhaps the perennial Smiths track. 

At the end of 1986, the band changed labels and, after some tug of war between labels, The Smiths ended up with their original dream label, EMI, stirring the brewing discontentment among fans and media alike.

The Smiths put out two new singles (“Shoplifters of the World Unite” in January and “Sheila Take a Bow” in April), performing at the San Remo Festival in May, but it seems that at this time, the man behind the guitar sound of The Smiths, one Johnny Marr, was severing his ties with the band.

The guitarist felt stifled in a band which was, at that time, focused mainly on Morrissey’s persona. Also, Johnny’s enthusiasm for other forms of music such as dance and electro did not find a field of expression: “The Smiths had become a kind of club where all new influences were discredited, even taboo,” he confided to Johnny Rogan for his book on the Smiths, “Morrissey and Marr”: The Severed Alliance (1992).

The August 8 , 1987, Johnny Marr announced that he left the group by sending a message to the NME: “What in the past made me happy makes me unhappy, I had to leave”.

So, “posthumously”, The Smiths released on September 28th, 1987, their last album, “Strangeways, Here We Come”. 

As an epitaph, the band decided to release a live album called “Rank” (1988) from a concert given at the National Ballroom in Kilburn on October 23, 1986.

Legacy of the Band

Although their level of commercial success was relatively modest in their day, The Smiths became one of the most celebrated groups in the British rock pantheon. According to the BBC, it is “the group that inspires a deeper devotion than any British band since the Beatles”.  According to music journalist Simon Goddard, the band is “the most influential guitar band of the 1980s”.

In 2002, The Smiths were named the most important musical artist of all time in a survey conducted by NME. In 2013, The Queen Is Dead was voted best album of all time by NME as well. In both cases, The Beatles took second place. In 1996, The Queen Is Dead was voted Best Album of the Decade 1986-1996 by the inRocKuptibles, which was the subject of a tribute album, The Smiths Is Dead.

Johnny Marr, Post-Smiths

The band split the following year after the departure of Johnny Marr, who would accompany various artists for the next two years (Midge Ure, Kirsty MacColl, The Pretenders, Talking Heads, Pet Shop Boys) before joining The The (Mind Bomb album in 1989, Dusk in 1993) and then founding the group Electronic with Bernard Sumner of Joy Division and New Order and Neil Tennant of Pet Shop Boys . The single “Getting Away With It” by Electronic went on to be a success, a meeting of pop icons.

He also joined Portland alt-rock indie legends Modest Mouse in 2006 for a few years.  Music fans didn’t see that one coming, but he stayed with them for years touring, making TV appearances, and working on at least one popular album.

Marr’s first attempt as a front man came under the band name of Johnny Marr and the Healers with the album Boomslang in February 2004. 

Johnny also continued to broaden his horizons at the beginning of 2006, adding some instrumentation for Jane Birkin’s album, Fictions.

Johnny Marr then joined the band Modest Mouse, where he composed some songs from their album We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank LP.  In 2008, he joined the The Cribs as a member of the band, with whom he participated in the recording of the album “Ignore the Ignorant”, released in 2009.

Since 2010, Johnny has been working on all sorts of projects, including recording solo albums (The Messenger, Playland), working on film soundtracks (Inception, The Amazing Spiderman 2, , and guesting on others’ albums (Hans Zimmer, Noel Gallagher, Blondie).

Morrissey, Post-Smiths

After The Smiths ended, Morrissey hooked up with Stephen Street, producer of the Smiths, and begin to work on new compositions with Vini Reilly of the band The Durutti Column as a guitarist.  Thus, he began a solo career in the spring of 1988 by releasing the excellent album “Viva Hate” which, not surprisingly, sounds very Smiths-like, and which spawned the hit singles “Suedehead” and “Everyday is like Sunday”.

The next album was released in 1991, that being Kill Uncle (anti-American plea), recorded with guitarist Mark E. Nevin of Fairground Attraction. Unlike the first album, Kill Uncle is met with less fanfare and it seemed that Morrissey’s career might be behind him, according to the media at the time.

Then, in 1996, Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce sued Morrissey and Marr, arguing that they unknowingly received only 10% of the album royalties from The Smiths’ albums each, whereas 40% went to the “composers”.  This was what many consider to be the final nail in the Smiths reunion coffin, as it drudged up a lot of confusion and ill will between the former bandmates. Rourke and Joyce eventually got what they wanted, with the law being on their side in the end.  Morrissey held a grudge since this took place, especially as he ended up looking to the public like a greedy control freak.

With Morrissey’s next album, “Your Arsenal”, containing very rockabilly tones (thanks to the contribution of guitarists and composers Boz Boorer and Alain Whyte) and glam-rock (via Mick Ronson, former guitarist and producer of David Bowie during the Ziggy Stardust era), Morrissey returns to the foreground and is considered by many to be back in fighting form.  A comeback has officially occurred.

In 1994, “Vauxhall and I” comes out and the single “Interlude” is recorded as a duet with the singer from Siouxsie and the Banshees.

The next two albums, “Southpaw Grammar” (on RCA) and “Maladjusted” (on Island) are commercial flops, and Morrissey’s creative vein seemed to be drying up (again, according to the media, who know nothing of art).

Then, as the pheonix is reborn from the ashes, Morrissey, now based in Los Angeles, then made a successful comeback with the album “You Are the Quarry” on Sanctuary Records.

A live “Morrissey Live at Earls Court” album was released in early 2005, playing songs from all throughout the Smiths and Morrissey’s solo career. Finally, a new album, Ringleader Of The Tormentors with the participation of Tony Visconti (Bowie, T.Rex , The Sparks, Rita Mitsouko and Ennio Morricone), was released on April 4, 2006, and in February 2009 Years of Refusal, with “I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris” for the first single. In July 2014, Morrissey returned to the front of the stage with an album recorded in the South of France, World Peace is None Of Your Business.  2017 sees the release of Low in High School.

Mike Joyce – Post Smiths

Although Morrissey and Marr tend to get most of the attention when it comes to The Smiths, drummer Mike Joyce has also been heavily involved in music since the band’s breakup way back in 1987.

After the Smiths packed it in, Mike went on to tour with Sinead O’Connor in support of her classic album, I Do Not Want What I Have Not Got.  Here’s Mike playing drums with her and her band at Pinkpop ’88.

Since the break-up of The Smiths mainly revolved around Morrissey and Marr not getting along, it was not surprising that Mike recorded on some of Morrissey’s solo material after the band split, such as his songs, “Interesting Drug”, and “The Last of the Famous International Playboys”.  You can clearly hear his tight, crisp drumming in the mix.

Mike Joyce has also worked with a number of well known bands over the years, such as Suede, Public Image Limited, and The Buzzcocks, in addition to other projects.

The lawsuit that was mentioned earlier which occurred in 1996 was a big deal when it happened, as it pitted Mike against Morrissey and Marr over past band royalties, and things got ugly fast – particularly with Morrissey, who seems to hold a grudge to this day (as you’ll notice if you read Moz’s autobiography).  The sad truth of the matter seems to be that none of the members of The Smiths knew anything about contracts when they started out, and it came back to haunt them later on.

In 2007, “Inside the Smiths” was released, featuring Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce in a documentary about the band that lacked the other two members.  Despite the wrath Morrissey seems to have for Mike, both Mike and Andy put a more positive spin on The Smiths and the two star members.

More recently, Mike Joyce is a DJ and has been known to play shows as such.

Andy Rourke – Post-Smiths

Like the rest of the band, Andy Rourke has kept busy doing music and is still heavily involved in it.

After the Smiths broke up, he and Mike Joyce followed the same path for a while, performing with Sinead O’Connor for her seminal album, I Do Not Want What I Have Not Got, and then recording with Morrissey for his first deluge of solo recordings.  In addition to what Mike did, Andy also appeared on a few other tracks like “November Spawned a Monster” and “Piccadilly Palare”.  He also wrote music for several Morrissey tracks as well, including “Get off The Stage”, “Yes, I Am Blind”, and “Girl Least Likely To”.

Andy has also performed with several well known acts, like Ian Brown (of Stone Roses fame), Badly Drawn Boy (with whom he toured for two years), Moondog One (with Oasis member Bonehead, Mike Joyce, and Craig Gannon), as well as recording with The Pretenders.

Andy was also responsible for forming Manchester Vs Cancer, which became a series of concerts, which began in 2006 and, at one point, saw the on stage reunion of Johnny Marr and Andy Rourke playing several Smiths tracks, including “How Soon Is Now?”

More recently, Andy Rourke has a band with Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries called D.A.R.K.  Here is footage of that band practicing.  It’s not perfect, but it’s cool!

The Smiths – Discography

The Smiths – Rough Trade (ROUGH61 – February 1984)

Meat Is Murder – Rough Trade (ROUGH81 – February 1985)

The Queen Is Dead – Rough Trade (ROUGH96 – January 1986)

Strangeways, Here We Come – Rough Trade (ROUGH106 – September 1987)

Live Albums

Rank – Live at Kilburn National Ballroom (10/23/1986) – Rough Trade ROUGH126 – September 1988

The Peel Sessions (BBC, May 1984) – Strange Fruit SF PS 055 – October 1988


Hatful of Hollow – Rough Trade ROUGH76 – November 1984

The World Won’t Listen – Rough Trade ROUGH101 – March 1987

Louder Than Bombs – Sire 9 25568-1 – April 1987

The Sound of The Smiths – November 2008

Trivia and Such

The Smiths has also influenced many bands / artists, such as:

  • Peter Doherty / The Libertines / Babyshambles
  • Oasis
  • The Kooks
  • The Stone Roses
  • The Drums
  • Sweden
  • Placebo
  • Kaiser Chiefs
  • Blur
  • Radiohead
  • Coldplay
  • Belle and Sebastian
  • Supergrass
  • Pulp
  • Chelsea

Watch this video showing bands talk about their favourite Smiths track.  Hard choice!

The song “How Soon Is Now?” has been covered by Love Spit Love, a version that was used for the television series, “Charmed” for the theme song.  This song has been referred to as a seminal ’80’s song and known for its groundbreaking sonic structure on many occasions.  

Johnny Marr has also been known to play “How Soon is Now?” during his concerts in recent times.

The song, “Asleep” was covered by Emily Browning, for the soundtrack of the movie “Sucker Punch”.

The song “Asleep” speaks of the loneliness that accompanies the last moments of a dying person, and his desire to die to go to a better world. The song is part of Charlie’s playlist, who is the main character from the movie Charlie’s World.

The Smiths are a part of the plot in the movie “500 Days of Summer”. The first thing Summer and Tom have in common is their passion for the Smiths. Summer sings “There Is A Light And It Never Goes Out” in the elevator scene.

The Austrian band Mika has a song called “Now I Know How Morrissey Felt”, recalling the phrase about Joan of Arc from “Bigmouth Strikes Again”.