"Suffer Little Children"


The song was written in May-June 1982 although Morrissey had already written the lyrics and Johnny had already composed elements of the music before the pair met. It turned out to be the second completed song by Morrissey and Marr.

It was first professionally recorded in August 1982 at the band's first studio session at Decibel Studios in Manchester, alongside "The Hand That Rocks The Cradle". This version exceeded 7 minutes and featured Johnny on guitar and bass, and Simon Wolstencroft on drums. It ended with a piano part featuring the sound of a music box and playing children.

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

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


album / single version {5:27}
"The Smiths" (debut album)
"Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" single, all formats
• UK cd-single#2 re-release of "How Soon Is Now?"


This song has never been performed specifically for radio or television.


There is only one known live performance of the song, at the band's first ever concert at the Ritz in Manchester on 4 October 1982. This has never been officially released and has not yet leaked on bootlegs.


demo {3:25}
Leaked on the internet in 2007
definitive Troy Tate studio recording {6:30}
This is found on record company cd-rs of Troy Tate's work for the band's debut album. It has not yet been officially released but has leaked in slightly inferior quality and shorter form (with less of the beautiful piano outro) on bootlegs.
Troy Tate studio outtake {4:54}
This studio outtake is similar to the above with additional work done to it. It is commonly found on bootlegs.
Decibel Studios demo {> 7:00}
This was sold by Dale Hibbert to a private fan/collector in 1996 and has yet to be given a release or leak on bootlegs.


"There was all that fuss about 'Suffer Little Children' in the newspapers, all these comments and opinions from people who knew nothing about the group and nothing about music. I felt very sad and angry about that, so much just being headlines. Nobody had approached me and there were long, inflated comments, "Morrissey says this..." and "Morrissey wrote it for this reason...". All of it was totally untrue and I couldn't understand why nobody had asked me. At one point, someone from The Daily Mail rang up, giving me the chance to give my side of the story. Of course, they weren't interested that I got on famously with the parents of the victims. So, they wouldn't print the story. Well, that really upset me."
- Morrissey on the "Suffer Little Children" controversy, Jamming!, December 1984

Did you anticipate the reaction to 'Suffer Little Children'?
"Yes, I did. Yes, I did anticipate it - and when it arrived, I wasn't ready for it in the least. I was quite confused. I was very distressed by that but I was only distressed because nobody would actually let me comment on it. It appeared in national newspaper the length and breadth of the country - Morrissey does this and Morrissey says that and Morrissey believes... and nobody asked me a thing. Nobody knew what I believed or why the lyrics were there. So that was the only distressing element. But I'm glad the record got attention, ultimately."
Were you alarmed at the way the sentiments of the song, the basic concept, the basic sympathies of the song were so disfigured?
"Well, this is the world we live in. It's not a reflection of me, it really reflects the absolute and barbaric attitudes of the daily press and so I don't really feel that I was in the dock, I feel that they were really. And in essence they were just really saying how narrow-minded and blunderous they were. Some of the reports in newspapers in Portsmouth and Hartlepool - all the places that really count - some of the reports were so full of hate, it was like I was one of the Moors Murderers, that I'd gone out and murdered these children. Some of them were so full of hate that one just had to do something, but not read them. It was incredible."
- Morrissey, Melody Maker, 16 March 1985

"I happened to live on the streets where, close by, some of the victims had been picked up. Within that community, news of the crimes totally dominated all attempts at conversation for quite a few years. It was like the worst thing that had ever happened, and I was very, very aware of everything that occurred. Aware as a child who could have been a victim. All the details... You see it was all so evil; it was, if you can understand this, ungraspably evil. When something reaches that level it becomes almost... almost absurd really. I remember it at times like I was living in a soap opera..."
- Morrissey on the Moors Murders, inspiration for "Suffer Little Children", The Face, May 1985

"Veiling the Moors Murders is wrong. We must bring it to the fore. If we don't overstate things, they'll continue to happen. We don't forget the atrocities of Hitler, do we? In the north, I was painted as a hideous Satanic monster, and the word was that I had upset Ann West [Lesley Anne's mother]. In fact, I had not, and have since become great friends with her. She is a formidable figure."
- Morrissey, Spin, 1986

"I think we probably did it on our first two gigs. I think we were writing better stuff - that's the answer. It was always considered an album track. Maybe we had a doubt about it at the time."
- Johnny Marr on why The Smiths ceased performing "Suffer Little Children" early on, Record Collector, November/December 1992

Who did the Hindley laugh on "Suffer Little Children"?
"It was a friend of Morrissey's called Anna."
- Johnny Marr, Record Collector, November/December 1992

"That was one of the very first rehearsals, and he just came in and hit us with that. It took a bit of getting used to. I remember taking a demo - before I'd even joined the band, they'd done a demo with Si Woolstencroft who drums with The Fall - and I took it home and played it to my brothers who were into the same music as I was into, Neil Young and Bob Dylan and so on, and they were going, 'Ere, what's he singing about there?'"
- Andy Rourke on 'Suffer Little Children', Select, April 1993