"The Boy With The Thorn In His Side"


The music was written by Johnny while the band was on the Meat Is Murder tour in the spring of 1985. Rehearsals of the instrumental could be heard at some of the band's soundchecks on the latter tour.

The song really took form in July when Morrissey gave it lyrics. It was recorded in August 1985 at Drone Studios in Manchester and mixed later in the month at RAK Studios in London (where the band also recorded the video). Morrissey and Johnny produced the recording, with Stephen Street as recording engineer.

After releasing it as a single, overdubs were added to it in October-November 1985 at Jacobs Studios in Farnham (Surrey) during the recording sessions for the album "The Queen Is Dead", to make it fit sonically with the rest of the material.


single version {3:17}
"The Boy With The Thorn In His Side" 7" and 12" singles, except on the 7" edition included in the "Complete" box set
"The World Won't Listen" album, except on the Rhino edition included in the "Complete" box set then sold separately
"The Very Best Of The Smiths" [remastered 2001]
album version {3:17}
"The Queen Is Dead" album
"The Boy With The Thorn In His Side" cd-single
"Best...II" album
"The Complete Picture" (video)
"Singles" album
"The Sound Of The Smiths" [remastered 2008]
• "The Boy With The Thorn In His Side" 7" included in the "Complete" box set
• "The World Won't Listen" album included in the "Complete" box set then sold separately

The differences between the single and album versions are very subtle. They are best described by Simon Goddard, author of the essential "The Songs That Saved Your Life": "[The album version] features extra guitar overdubs as well as an additional string arrangement [...]. The two versions are easily distinguishable at 0:07; a symphonic surge pre-empts Morrissey's opening line on "The Queen Is Dead" version, whereas the original single mix bears only the plain marimba three-note scale up."


Top Of The Pops 10 October 1985 [tv]
"The Complete Picture" video compilation
The above compilation has the studio version of the song dubbed over the original footage. The original video with original audio may be available on video bootlegs (to be confirmed), but then since the band lipsynched, this audio would still be the studio version of the song with the cheering audience noise over it.
San Remo Festival 7 February 1987 [tv]
This 5-song performance (including "Shoplifter Of The World Unite", "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out", "Panic" and three takes of "Ask") is circulated on video bootlegs. The audio from this broadcast is not circulated on bootlegs because the performance was lipsynched.


The song has been performed live 48 times by the Smiths, perhaps even up to 50 times if we take into account the fact that some setlists from the American leg of the Queen Is Dead tour have been lost. It was done every night on the September 1985 Scottish leg of the Meat Is Murder tour and the handful of dates from early 1986 (total 12 times). After the release of the Queen Is Dead album in the middle of 1986, it was done another 36 times (perhaps even 38 times) before the end of the year, which means almost every night of the Queen Is Dead tour.

live Kilburn 23 October 1986 {3:48}
"Rank" (live album)

It has been performed live a further 62 times by Morrissey after the Smiths. The first 56 of those performances were during the 2007-2008 Greatest Hits tour when it was done consistently at the beginning, then more and more sporadically as the tour wore on. Morrissey brought it back to the setlist for 6 of the 15 dates he did in 2013.

live Omaha 11 May 2007 {3:41} [Morrissey after the Smiths]
"That's How People Grow Up" UK 7" #1
live Hollywood High School 2 March 2013 {:} [Morrissey after the Smiths]
"25Live", a live concert on video


studio outtake {3:23}
Taken from a record company cd-r of a scrapped reissue project, this has not yet leaked on bootlegs.


"If you listen to The Smiths' The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, the rhythm part from verse two onwards - that chick-a-chick part - it's pure Nile Rogers..."
- Johnny Marr, The Guitar Magazine, January 1997

"That was the first time I used a Strat on a record. I got it because I wanted a twangy Hank Marvin sound, but it ended up sounding quite highlify."
- Johnny Marr, Guitar Player, January 1990