Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 326
Fri, Dec 7, 2012

“You’re The One”
The Marvelettes


“♫ I don’t
have to come
out and say my
choice/ you can
tell by the sound
of my voice/ You’re
The one/ the only

Before I started reading Tony Fletcher’s new brilliant Smiths biography, A Light That Never Goes Out: The Enduring Saga of The Smiths, I always thought it was Morrissey and Marr’s love for Patti Smith & The New York Dolls that lit their creative spark during their first fateful meeting at Morrissey’s home in Stretford in May 1982. But no, it wasn’t an underground American punk act or even Sandie Shaw but a Smokey Robinson penned b-side that actually birthed The Smiths.

Johnny Marr described the meeting of Morrissey and their love of The Marvelettes“ when he said, “I was really into girl groups at that time. Shangri-La’s was the thing I was into, and Marvelettes and Crystals, and all of that stuff. It was quite unusual in 1982, when it was all like sync pop and all of that kinda stuff, to be into that kinda music, even for rock musicians to be into that. And you know when I approached Morrissey and went round there; I knew that he really knew that music. And it felt like I had met the other person on the planet who cared, and actually who owned these things. So I was really, you know, impressed and interested in going through, and actually seeing …”oh right yeah, okay, that’s great…he’s got…brilliant….” I love ‘Paper Boy’ but, I was you know being kinda clever, and I thought it was kinda of obvious putting ‘Paper Boy’ on, so I flicked it off to the other side, and it was called ‘You’re The One’. I thought it was kinda cool I think [“You’re The One’s”] got an amazing rhythm and an amazing beat to it. It’s one of the first songs Smokey Robinson had a hand in writing and everything about it is just so perfect.”

It was Morrissey and Marr’s devoted love of girl groups, and especially one of Moz’s favorites The Marvelettes, that first brought two of Britain’s soon to be most famous songwriting duo since Lennon & McCartney together. I love the way Fletcher described the first meeting between Morrissey and Johnny who visited with a mutual friend Stephen Pomfret when he wrote, “The trio ascended to Morrissey’s bedroom, where, amidst a life-size cut-out of James Dean and shelves laden with books on feminism and a collection of neatly filled 45s. Marr, whose encyclopedia knowledge of popular music was arguably unrivaled among Mancunians his age, immediately gravitated to the vinyl. Morrissey invited his guest to play something. If it was a taste test, Marr was thrilled to take it.” Just like Dylan did in his superbly written Chronicles, Tony’s prose puts us directly in Morrissey’s room for the first meeting between he and Johnny in 1982. Fletcher’s descriptions make it feel like you’re the fourth wheel in the background there watching and waiting while music history is being made. I love the fact that with every word, we’re also experiencing this sense of anticipation, wondering which vinyl Marr would be selecting for Morrissey to hear.

Right as we’re waiting for Johnny to drop his choice on Moz’s record player, Tony writes “The singles were heavy on the 1960s girl pop that he himself had been busy accumulating on recent trips to secondhand stores, the sort of music he hadn’t dare assume anyone else in his vicinity followed with quite such a passion. Bypassing Sandie Shaw and the Shangri-Las, much though he liked the British pop star and, especially the New York girl group, he instead pulled out a rare 1966 flop single by The Marvelettes on Tamla Motown. So rather than play “Paper Boy” which had the traditional up-tempo Motown feel, Marr put on it’s flip, “You’re The One,” a slower Smokey Robinson composition, and then sang along to prove that he knew the song, that this was more than a cute gesture. Morrissey was impressed; Marr later said that he felt that was the moment that initiated their friendship.” Marr was right; this historical music moment not only sparked the friendship between Johnny and Moz but was the beginning of the birth of The Smiths.

Make sure to pick up a copy of Fletcher’s book, there’s so much I learned from reading Tony’s biography. Who would have thought it was a rare Smokey Robinson b-side that he penned for The Marvelettes for Motown along with their love of 1960’s girl groups would have been the catalyst that brought together two of Britain’s greatest indie rock songwriters? I’m a die hard Smiths supporter, until I read Tony Fletcher’s wonderfully written biography A Light That Never Goes Out: The Enduring Saga of The Smiths, I never knew “You’re The One” was the song that made Smiths.

[Editor’s Note: If you’re a Smiths fan intrigued by Tony’s book A Light, we urge you to check out Married to The Moz aka Julie Hamill’s stellar interview with Fletcher here.] Until then picture you’re self in that cramped Stretford room while listening to this scratchy Marvelettes vinyl with Morrissey and Marr, as Johnny Marr begins to croon along to the words Moz has been waiting to hear from his soon to be fated songwriting partner, “♫ You’re The One, the Only One ♫” and the rest is music history.