"Reel Around The Fountain"


The song was written in the spring of 1983.

It was first professionally recorded on 18 May 1983 for the band's first appearance on John Peel's BBC programme (first broadcast on 31 May 1983), with producer Roger Pusey.

It was professionally recorded again in July/August 1983 at London's Elephant Studios with producer Troy Tate during the initial sessions for the band's debut album.

It was recorded again on 25 August 1983 for the band's second appearance on David Jensen's BBC programme (first broadcast on 5 September 1983), with producer John Porter. However, because of controversy, the song was banned by the BBC and this version of "Reel Around The Fountain" was not broadcast until two years later when the whole session was repeated on Janice Long's programme.

The definitive version was recorded in mid-October 1983 at Pluto Studios in Manchester, with producer John Porter. Additional mixing was done during sessions in November 1983 at Eden Studios in London.


album version {5:54}
"The Smiths" (debut album)
"Best...II" album
Troy Tate version {6:14}
• "Reel Around The Fountain" 7" in the "Complete" box set
• iTunes edition of the "Complete" box set


John Peel radio session 31 May 1983 {5:50}
"Hatful Of Hollow" album
• Germany-only 12" of "Still Ill"
"The Peel Sessions" EP
David Jensen radio session 5 September 1983 {6:04}
A second radio session of this early classic was recorded but banned by the BBC before it had a chance to be broadcast. It was finally broadcast for the first time two years later when the session was repeated on Janice Long's programme. This radio session has yet to be compiled on a Smiths anthology but it is commonly found in good quality on various manufactured bootlegs as well as a digital file on the internet.


This song has been done in concert a confirmed 72 times by the Smiths, but this number could actually be as high as 91 if we take into account the fact that information is missing for many setlists of that era. The song was introduced in the sets at the beginning of May 1983 and was very likely played at every subsequent show until the end of that year, as it was the band's very first crowd favourite and was constantly requested. There are 27 confirmed performances of the song that year, before the band's first tour promoting their 1984 debut album, but this number is likely to actually be closer to 40. The song started the debut album tour as a setlist fixture, but after a few months its presence became more irregular. It was dropped during the summer, but returned during the Autumn and at the end of the year while promoting "Hatful Of Hollow" (total 35 performances in 1984, perhaps 41). It was only played 9 times on the 1985 Meat Is Murder tour, mostly at the beginning of the tour's initial UK leg and a few more times for the American audiences later in the summer. It was last heard on the American leg of the 1986 Queen Is Dead tour, when it was played once only (probably for setlist variety as the band was booked at the same venue for two consecutive nights).

There are no officially released live recordings of the song at this point in time, but bootleg recordings are circulated.


Troy Tate album version aka demo {6:14}
Taken from a record company cd-r of a scrapped reissue project, this is a pre-remastering version of the officially released one listed above. Prior to having been given official status, it was leaked in slightly inferior quality at the end of 2010 on the rarities LP bootleg simply titled "The Smiths", after having been available for years in lesser quality on various other bootlegs.
Troy Tate studio outtake {5:55}
This studio outtake is similar to the above with additional work done to it and with different vocals. It is commonly found on bootlegs.
Crazy Face rehearsal for Troy Tate {6:36}
This band rehearsal ahead of Troy Tate's involvement with the material that would become the band's debut album has leaked on the internet in 2012 in a package titled the "Pablo Cuckoo Tape". Information is found here.


"'Reel Around The Fountain' was my interpretation of James Taylor's version of 'Handy Man'. I was trying to do a classic melodic pop tune, and it had the worst kind of surface prettiness to it. But at the same time, Joy Division was influencing everybody in England. That dark element -- it wasn't that I wanted to be like them, but they brought out something in the darkness of the overall track."
- Johnny Marr, Guitar Player, January 1990

"I must say I was never really happy with 'Reel Around The Fountain'. I don't think they ever really captured it. I always wanted to have another go at it."
- John Porter, Q, January 1994