"Shakespeare's Sister"


The song was written in January 1985 right before the band went into Ridge Farm Studios in Surrey to record it. It was mixed later in the month at Utopia Studios in Primrose Hill. The Smiths (actually mostly Johnny) acted as producers, with Stephen Street as recording engineer.


single version {2:09}
"Shakespeare's Sister" single, all formats
• original USA and Canada 7" of "How Soon Is Now?"
"Barbarism Begins At Home" single, all formats (except in Greece)
"The World Won't Listen" album
"Louder Than Bombs" album
"Best...II" album
"Singles" album
"The Very Best Of The Smiths" [remastered 2001]
"The Sound Of The Smiths" [remastered 2008]


Oxford Road Show 22 February 1985 [tv]
This 2-song performance (including "The Headmaster Ritual") is circulated on video bootlegs. The performance is lipsynched so the audio is the original single version of the song.


The song has been done in concert a total of 64 times by the Smiths. It was played at each and every concert given on the 1985 Meat Is Murder tour, including the Scottish dates in the Autumn and the handful of loose dates in early 1986. It was done a further 13 times on the 1986 Queen Is Dead tour, mostly in July and August, rarely after.

live Oxford 18 March 1985 {2:12}
• 12" single of "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore"
• Holland-only 12" single of "The Headmaster Ritual"
live Hollywood Palladium 27 June 1985 {2:16}
"Rarities vol. 2", various artists promo compilation cd

The song was also done by Morrissey after the Smiths, 19 times on the 2004 You Are The Quarry tour, mostly in June and July with a few scattered airings later in the year.


No demos or studio outtakes of this song have leaked to the general public at this point in time.



"Shakespeare's Sister... That has got one of the best rhythm patterns and grooves I have ever heard. If Elvis Presley had had Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke in his band he would have been an even bigger name. I'm sure of it."
- Johnny Marr, Melody Maker, 2 August 1985

"We were on our way to the studio on Saturday and Morrissey said, 'Look, we need a song,' and we put it together."
- Johnny Marr on the writing of "Shakespeare's Sister", Record Collector, November/December 1992

"I was trying to draw on American music in a way that had been forgotten. I'm into writing with rhythms that are very infectious but don't have any traces of James Brown in because I wanted my band to be different. A very deliberate and keen interest in finding rhythms that other bands around me were not using, that I liked hearing my parents play: Eddie Cochran; Elvis Presley; and because I was such a Stones nut, Bo Diddley. I always was obsessed by that beat. 'Nowhere Fast' has that rockabilly rhythm and 'Shakespeare's Sister' was written entirely from that rhythm; some idea of a fucked-up Johnny Cash on drugs. It sounds half like that."
- Johnny Marr, The Guardian, September 2013