The Smiths were possibly the most influential British group of the '80s, for, though experiencing limited worldwide success during their run, they paved the way for countless British pop acts since, as they influenced a change from the popularity of synth-pop acts of the early '80s and heralded the return of the guitar to pop music. Coming out of that most musical of English towns, Manchester (there must be something in the water there), The Smiths were formed by Steven Patrick Morrissey (forever after known only by his last name) and Johnny Marr in 1982. After writing several songs together, they recruited bassist Andy Rourke and drummer Mike Joyce and throughout 1983 built a large local following that soon expanded into London. After releasing several singles, they released their first full-length album, The Smiths in 1984, followed by a compilation of their singles and B-Sides, Hateful of Hollow. Meat Is Murder debuted at #1 on the British charts in 1985, and next year's The Queen Is Dead gave them some stateside success, and has since gone on to be considered by many critics as one of the best albums ever released. However, tensions began to flare beyond control in the band, as Rourke was fired and replaced by Craig Gannon, but was soon rehired and Gannon moved to rhythm guitar. More importantly, Marr and Morrissey differed bitterly on musical direction, with Marr favoring a straight-up rock approach, while Morrissey was more smitten with 60's pop and soul. Marr announced that he was leaving the group shortly before the release of 1987's Strangeways Here We Come, and the group soon disbanded, leaving the members to pursue various solo careers and side projects.
The Smiths had a sound unlike any other of the time. The guitar sounds of Johnny Marr, sometimes jangly, as in "This Charming Man," sometimes rockin' out as on "How Soon Is Now," provided a stark counterpoint to Morrissey's exhausted croon. And Morrissey's depressing yet humorous and literate lyrics perfectly described the thoughts and feelings of the outsider and struck a chord with many of the disaffected youth. This approach has influenced many bands since, from Pavement to Radiohead, and have given the group (especially Morrissey) a rabid cult following that continues to this day.