"The Boy with the Thorn in His Side" is a song by The Smiths. It appears on their third album The Queen Is Dead but was released as a single (albeit in a different mix) several months before the album, reaching #23 in the UK Singles Chart in Autumn 1985.

This was the first single by The Smiths to be accompanied by a promotional video, something the band had previously resisted. The Smiths also performed this song on an episode of the popular British television program Top of the Pops.

The following year, the New Musical Express greeted the news that the band had signed a contract with EMI with the headline "The Boy With The Thorn-EMI On His Side".

The jumping man on the cover of the single release is a young Truman Capote.

Margi Clarke asked Morrissey if this song was inspired by Oscar Wilde and Morrissey replied: "No that's not true. The thorn is the music industry and all those people who never believed anything I said, tried to get rid of me and wouldn't play the records. So I think we've reached a stage where we feel: if they don't believe me now, will they ever believe me? What more can a poor boy do?"[1]

The chief difference between the single version and the one appearing on the album The Queen Is Dead is in the use of synthesized strings. They are largely absent from the single version, only appearing in the song's coda.

Track listing[edit source | editbeta]Edit

7" RT191
No. Title Length
1. "The Boy with the Thorn in His Side"   3:17
2. "Asleep"   4:09
12" RTT191
No. Title Length
1. "The Boy with the Thorn in His Side"   3:17
2. "Rubber Ring/Asleep"   7:56
CD Single RTT191
No. Title Length
1. "The Boy with the Thorn in His Side"   3:17
2. "Rubber Ring"   3:48
3. "Asleep"   4:10

The original 12" has "Rubber Ring" and "Asleep" segued into a continuous piece with the voice sample at the end of the former looped and faded into the wind noise preceding the latter. Described by Simon Goddard (in Songs That Saved Your Life, 2nd edition, p. 154) as a "spectacular combination"—a suggestion with which Johnny Marr concurs—this carefully executed sequence can only be found on the original 12" single, the two tracks having been separated on all subsequent compilations.

Etchings on vinyl[edit source | editbeta]Edit

  • UK 7" and 12": ARTY BLOODY FARTY / "IS THAT CLEVER"...JM[2]

The words of the B-side etching are the ones heard at the end of the B-side song "Rubber Ring", a sample taken from a recording of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. "JM" stands for Johnny Marr.

Reception[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic [3]

Jack Rabid of Allmusic called this single "just another feather in a jeweled cap".[3]

In popular cultureEdit

  • Episode 3 of the 2004 BBC miniseries Blackpool featured the recording, accompanied on screen by the singing and dancing of the characters, as part of the story.
  • The accompanying single 'Asleep', which did not appear on the band's album The Queen Is Dead, is referenced several times by the main character in Stephen Chbosky's 1999 novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
  • In the 2011 film Sucker PunchEmily Browning's character sang 'Asleep'.

Cover versions[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The song was covered by Scottish band Bis on the tribute album The Smiths Is Dead. Music reviewer Stephen Thomas Erlewine trashed the cover, stating: "In particular, the Bis utterly disembowel 'The Boy with the Thorn in His Side' with a single-minded stupidity that is just bewildering."[4]

The song has also been covered by The CrusifixtionBelle & SebastianScott MatthewsJeff BuckleyEmilie Autumn and Dinosaur Jr's J Mascis in live performances. The song's title was also adopted for the name of a book written byPete Wentz, bassist of the band Fall Out Boy.[citation needed]

Dinosaur Jr. frontman J Mascis covered the song on his 1996 solo album, Martin + Me.

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