Originally I was planning today on writing a blog entry about my favourite Christmas songs, with the flurry of excitement for the festive season escalating in the past week, headlined by the premiere of John Lewis’ long-awaited Christmas advert. I absolutely adore Christmas, but as soon as I discovered that November 12th marks 32 years since The Smiths released Hatful of Hollow, I knew I wanted to write a piece about my all time favourite release from the 1980s gamechanger indie Mancunian band.
A band I surely must have expressed my admiration for their musical direction and creatvitity many times on my blog before, The Smiths may have had a much shorter existance than many other significantly cultural bands both before and after them, but they only required half a decade to shake up the music scene forever. Many a celebrated modern band including Oasis, Arcade Fire and The Courteeners have all paid homege to Morrissey, Johnny Marr, Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce’s group, emphasising the reputation and influence they continue to have almost thirty years since their split. The 1980s was a decade reknown for its flamboyance, and eccentricity – The Smiths admist the colourful fun sounds of Duran Duran, Culture Club and Madness unleashed their gritty, honest and gloomy sound, which was pioneering for their time and has since inspired countless musicians. I sadly was not around to ever experience the era of The Smiths in person, but such is their strong online fan following today that eventually I stumbled upon This Charming Man and never looked back!
Around a year or so after I’d discovered the band, a local record dealer sold me three of their vinyls, original copies and not modern re-pressings, and one of these was Hatful of Hollow. Released after the band’s debut, Hatful of Hollow differs from The Smiths’ official albums; rather than showcasing studio recorded new material, the compilation contained a selection of songs recorded in sessions for iconic radio DJs John Peel and David Jensen, as well as featuring the single William, It Was Really Nothing and its B Sides How Soon is Now and Please, Please, Please, Let me get what I Want. Released to take advantage of the momentum of the group’s sudden popularity, with debut album The Smiths reaching No2 in Feburary 1982, Hatful of Hollow peaked at No7 and has made several lists of music publications’ ‘Top Albums of All Time’, which included reaching No14 in Q’s 2000 list of 100 Best British Albums Ever.
There are countless reasons why Hatful of Hollow in my opinion is the peak of The Smiths’ illusterious career; there is not a below par song the group have in their discography (well, apart from Golden Lights but we can forget that moment ever happened), but the live sessions of their tracks included on Hatful of Hollow capture how well Morrissey could sing away from the comforts of a recording studio. There are discrete but effective instrumental changes which add dimension from the original recordings, such as the harmonica solo in the Peel version of Still Ill. Many of The Smiths’ material was beautifully poetic and tragic, but Hatful of Hollow mixes in the uplifting sounding Hand in Glove and William, It Was Really Nothing – the record is a rollarcoaster of feelings and emotions, and it is almost like an auditory representation of the up and down emotions you experience in life – I adore that it does not make you feel either exremely happy nor sad.
The tracks featured and their portrayal personally are very relatable, and each time I sit and listen to Hatful of Hollow all the way through I feel almost lost in a spell-binding spiritual music journey for the 56 minutes the album lasts for. Marr’s guitar riffs are wonderful as ever, and the hook and lyricism in the songs makes each track memorable; there is not one filler song in the entirity of the compilation. I feel that Hatful of Hollow also covers a vast range of subjects – lonerism, social anxiety, sacrifice in motherhood and love, perhaps even homosexuality and confronting sexual preferences and desires – that a lot of bands shy away from. Although I love all the releases The Smiths ever brought out, there is just something so special and meaningful about Hatful of Hollow which makes it their finest hour; 32 years later Hatful of Hollow has not aged in its sound, and is still as relevant to today’s audience than it was a few decades ago brand new.
The track listing for the original release of Hatful of Hollow:
1. “William, It Was Really Nothing” (Single A-side) 2:09
2. “What Difference Does It Make?” (John Peel session, 5/18/83) 3:11
3. “These Things Take Time” (David Jensen session, 6/26/83 ) 2:32
4. “This Charming Man” (John Peel session, 9/14/83 ) 2:42
5. “How Soon Is Now?” (B-side of “William, It Was Really Nothing”) 6:44
6. “Handsome Devil” (John Peel session, 5/18/83) 2:47
7. “Hand in Glove” (Single A-side mix) 3:13
8. “Still Ill” (John Peel session, 9/14/83 ) 3:32
9. “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” (Single A-side) 3:33
10. “This Night Has Opened My Eyes” (John Peel session, 9/14/83) 3:39
11. “You’ve Got Everything Now” (David Jensen session, 6/26/83 ) 4:18
12. “Accept Yourself” (David Jensen session, 8/25/83 ) 4:01
13. “Girl Afraid” (B-side of “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now”) 2:48
14. “Back to the Old House” (John Peel session, 9/14/83 ) 3:02
15. “Reel Around the Fountain” (John Peel session, 5/18/83) 5:51
16. “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want” (B-side of “William, It Was Really Nothing”) 1:50