120 Reasons To Live: The Smiths

Nothing did more to further the cause of Alternative Nation-building than 120 Minutes, MTV’s Sunday-night video showcase of non-mainstream acts. For nearly two decades, the program spanned musical eras from ’80s college rock to ’00s indie, with grunge, Britpop, punk, industrial, electronica and more in between. MAGNET raids the vaults to resurrect our 120 favorite and unjustly forgotten videos from the show’s classic era.

#120: The Smiths “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before”

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There’s a fine line between nostalgia trip and beating a dead horse, so the final installment in this series of digging up old music videos goes to the band with the most appropriate song title for the occasion. The Smiths were the most furiously creative band of the 1980s; from 1983 to 1987, Morrissey and Johnny Marr redefined the aesthetics of popular music in an astonishingly conservative, classical way. The Smiths wore normal clothes and hardly ever wore makeup or used keyboards. That’s the idea the video for “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before” purports—everybody’s a Smith. Of course, that’s untrue. Morrissey and Marr were extraordinary. This writer interviewed Johnny Marr some years back and came away with the feeling that the Smiths were a pathological entity:

“The thing that brought us really close together is the essence of why Morrissey lives his life and why I live my life,” said Marr. “Without the art of pop music and pop culture, life doesn’t make any sense. It was a pretty serious, deep need. It wasn’t just the need to escape our social situation, because underneath it all, one of the things that makes us the same is that we’re both incredibly sensitive. There was this burden with serious mental problems that were taken care of by records.”

Thank god for mental illness.

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