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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 170
Thurs. July 18, 2013

“Well I Wonder”
The Smiths

1985

“♫ Please,
keep
me in
mind
♫”

I can remember staying up late on those sweltering rainy Louisiana nights, watching the storms fall outside, while inside, I would re-read Simon Goddard’s The Smiths: Songs that Saved Your Life and listen to Meat is Murder’s “Well I Wonder” on repeat. I loved the way the Manchester rain captured so eloquently on my Smiths’ vinyl, meshed so effortlessly with the southern showers outside my uptown, New Orleans apartment.

Johnny Marr talked about the atmosphere surrounding “Well I Wonder” when he told Uncut UK, “I remember the start of the record because I moved back to Manchester very deliberately – to get the atmosphere right for the instrumental tracks I was writing. And that worked out immediately because ‘Well I Wonder’ came out of that, with the rain and everything. When we did it we knew it would be popular because it had that real sense of yearning in it.”

The genius of Meat is Murder‘s seventh track is in its intrinsic simplicity which Marr was fond of when he told Record Collector, ““Well I Wonder” I really like as well. It’s one of those things that a modern group could try and emulate but never get the spirit of. It’s so simple.” It’s no surprise because, like Meat is Murder’s “How Soon is Now,” “Well I Wonder” sounds like such a near perfect recording that band never tried replicate. According to James Lancaster in The Guardian UK, “Well I Wonder, a recording so special M&M refused to play it live. Genius.”

One of the best descriptions of “Well I Wonder” comes from Gavin Hopps. In his book Morrissey: The Pageant of His Bleeding Heart, Hopps captures the inevitable spirit of Morrissey and Marr rainy day opus when he wrote, “[…]in “Well I Wonder” the act of utterance holds the despair whole imminence it simultaneously signifies, in this case the song is the agency of its own epiphany.” Hopps is quite the perceptive Smiths fan. Unlike the desperation of “I Know it’s Over” there’s an over all sense of hopefulness within the showering honesty of “Well I Wonder.”

In Songs that Saved Your Life, we learned that sampled raindrops were “an accidental homage to the showers featured on The Ronnetts’ classic Phil Spector production “Walking in the Rain.” According to Johnny Marr, the idea of ambience wasn’t his as he told Goddard in Songs that Saved Your Life, “That was Morrissey’s idea. He was always good at adding these little bits of atmosphere.” It’s no coincidence Simon Goddard named “Well I Wonder” one of his favorite Smiths songs, It’s that aura of atmospheric rain that gives “Well I Wonder” it’s timeless charm as Johnny explained in Tony Fletcher’s A Light That Never Goes Out, “We hung a lot of music on the atmosphere. [“Well I Wonder”] has a feeling of suspension in it and is very delicate. I could have put a lot of overdubs on that song, but I left it as is.” Thankfully, Johnny let The Smiths performance of “Well I Wonder” stand as nature intended

All it took was hearing the opening strands of Johnny Marr’s delicate guitar strands of “Well I Wonder” and I was back there on my balcony, staring outside at the puddles, connecting me to the mythical magic of The Smiths. Whenever I want to return to those sweaty southern soaking nights, I drop the record needle on Meat is Murder‘s seventh magnificent track on and lose myself within Morrissey and Marr’s quintessential rain epic—“Well I Wonder.”

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