"What Difference Does It Make?"


This song is among the very first ones written by Morrissey and Johnny, circa November 1982. It really took form during the rehearsal sessions at Spirit Studios in late 1982.

It was first recorded in a professional studio at the band's second recording session, at Drone Studios in Manchester in December 1982, alongside "Miserable Lie" and "Handsome Devil", to be sent to EMI in the hopes of securing a record contract with them. This recording features Marr on backing vocals over the last verse and the group applauding over the line 'no more apologies'.

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

Two more versions were professionally recorded 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 during sessions in November 1983 at Eden Studios in London.


single / album version {3:50}
• USA and Canada 7" single of "What Difference Does It Make?"
• 12" and cd-single of "What Difference Does It Make?"
"The Smiths" (debut album)
"Best...I" album
"Singles" album
"The Very Best Of The Smiths" [remastered 2001]
single edit {3:25}
• 7" single of "What Difference Does It Make?" (except in the USA and Canada)
"The Complete Picture" (video)


John Peel radio session 31 May 1983 {3:10}
"Hatful Of Hollow" album
"The Peel Sessions" EP
"The Sound Of The Smiths" [remastered 2008]
Top Of The Pops 26 January 1984 [tv]
This first TOTP appearance is easily found on video bootlegs. The performance is lipsynched so the audio is the original single version of the song.
Y.E.S. 6 February 1984 [tv]
This 2-song performance (including "This Night Has Opened My Eyes") is circulated on video bootlegs. The audio is commonly found in good quality on various manufactured bootlegs as well as in digital format on the internet.
Top Of The Pops 9 February 1984 [tv]
"The Complete Picture" video compilation
The above compilation has the single edit 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.
Oxford Road Show 10 February 1984 [tv]
This television appearance is easily found on video bootlegs. The performance is lipsynched so the audio is the original single/album version of the song.
Elektron Pop 18 March 1984 [tv]
This television appearance which includes a short Morrissey interview is easily found on video bootlegs. The performance is lipsynched so the audio is the original single/album version of the song.


This song has been done at least 83 times by the Smiths, perhaps even up to 104 times if we take into account the fact that information is missing for many early concerts. It was introduced at the band's second concert at the start of 1983 and was played on a majority of dates that year which preceded their first proper tour (27 confirmed performances in 1983, but more likely something close to 43). It was also on the setlist almost every night on the 1984 tours promoting the debut album and "Hatful Of Hollow". It was only skipped on the few September dates plus once in June and once in November, for a total of 56 airings, perhaps 61.

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


definitive Troy Tate studio recording {4:04}
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 on bootlegs.
Troy Tate studio outtake {3:19}
This studio outtake is quite different to the one above. It is commonly found on bootlegs.
early Troy Tate studio outtake {3:56}
This early mix is commonly found on bootlegs.
Crazy Face rehearsal for Troy Tate {4:06}
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.


"There's a couple of songs I don't like. In fact, I didn't really like them at the time. Like 'What Difference Does It Make', I thought was absolutely awful the day after the record was pressed..."
- Morrissey, Q, September 1992

"It was all right. I didn't think it was a particularly strong one. A lot of people liked it and it got to No. 10. It followed 'This Charming Man' and was part of that peak. It was all right. It went down great live, and that's when I liked it."
- Johnny Marr, Record Collector, November/December 1992

"We used to have a version of What Difference Does It Make? which was a lot more rumbly drum-wise, more of a jungley rhythm. John Porter listened to it and said, 'Try it like this,' very much straight 4s. I thought, Hmmm, I don't really like this, and Morrissey looked at me as if to say, 'No, I agree with you, Mike.' So, me and Morrissey would be sitting on one couch, and Johnny and John would be on the other, both grumbling away at the others. We tried it John's way and he was bouncing around the room, like, 'Cool, sounds more like a single!' And of course he was right — it turned out to be one of our biggest hits!"
- Mike Joyce, Mojo, March 2000

"There are a few solo singles that embarrass me, and I never liked 'What Difference Does It Make?' by The Smiths. Over 30 years, there’s bound to be a few stinkers."
- Morrissey, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 2012

"I had loved the song until its defilement on The Smiths album; the loose swain's saunter now sounded stiff and inflexible, the drums sounding too frightened to move, the voice sounding like something gone to its reward - or, at least, resting in peace.
- Morrissey, "Autobiography"