Top Ten 80s Songs #3: I Know It’s Over – The Smiths

The Queen is Dead

I’m a child of the eighties and proud of it. Musically, it was a funny old decade with some serious songs but also many bizarre ones as well. I think of the eighties as a colourful, fun decade of dominant cheesy pop but with some timeless masterpieces not far behind the chart toppers. Over the next ten days I will attempt to disclose what are for me the ten greatest songs of the eighties. It’s always hard to compile a list of this nature and my opinion is likely to change in the near future, but for now here are my golden ten.

I am indebted to and to all those that have contributed to some very interesting discussions about all the songs featured here. It’s important that everyone finds their own meaning in any song but some of the opinions I heard were certainly eye openers for me. I intend to share my own thoughts on these songs and how, after all these years, they still have a profound impact on my life.

The Smiths: I Know It’s Over (1986)

The Queen is Dead“I Know It’s Over” featured on The Smiths’ album masterpiece “The Queen Is Dead” and is considered by many, including me, to their best song. Breaking down the lyrics, the song’s meaning is open to debate. Though it appears to be the story of a man longing for a woman and trying to fight through the pain of loneliness, there is the added intrigue with the lines, “I know it’s over, and it never really began, but in my heart it was so real,” which suggests this is more about regret for not admitting one’s feelings to someone rather than having been in a relationship but seen it fall apart. The reason this relationship – real or imagined – is over seems to be that the object of the narrator’s musings is getting married and that fact is enough conviction for it to be the end of everything.

Sadly, “I Know It’s Over” was not released as a single in the UK but the positive feedback it gets from listeners makes me wonder if The Smiths missed a trick not choosing it as a potential hit. I once heard of a top ten list of songs that people turned to in order to get them through a tough time and “I Know It’s Over” finished no.1. With Morrissey singing slowly, the lyrics are easy to perceive and the song remains one of the most emotional journeys music could ever take you on. It’s another song that I found hope in with such lines as “It’s so easy to laugh, it’s so easy to hate, it takes strength to be gentle and kind,” making me reflect on my own demeanour as a generally nice guy, which is something I don’t find difficult but in “I Know It’s Over” my stance is perceived as one that many fail to achieve and that makes me proud.

The Smiths deserve a lot of credit for achieving chart success in the eighties despite the sombre nature in many of their songs. “Panic” sounds like an attack on cheesy disco music, while “How Soon Is Now?” and “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” are among the gloomiest of the group’s tracks but that didn’t stop the latter reaching the UK Top Ten in 1984. However, it is “I Know It’s Over” that is the group’s seminal masterpiece, evoking so much emotion with its vivid imagery and reaching out to thousands of us that have been unlucky or regretful in love.

Top Ten so far:

3) The Smiths: I Know It’s Over (1986)

4) Erasure: Ship of Fools (1988)

5) Ultravox: Vienna (1981)

6) Nik Kershaw: The Riddle (1984)

7) Marillion: Kayleigh (1985)

8) U2: Pride (In The Name Of Love) (1984)

9) Guns ‘N’ Roses: Sweet Child O’ Mine (1988)

10) Depeche Mode: Just Can’t Get Enough (1981)

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Dave Brown

I was born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England and have always been a bookworm and enjoyed creative writing at school. In 1999 I created the Elencheran Chronicles and have been writing ever since. My first novel, Fezariu's Epiphany, was published in May 2011. When not writing I'm a lover of films, games, books and blogging. I live in Barnsley, with my wife, Donna, and our six cats - Kain, Razz, Buggles, Charlie, Bilbo and Frodo.
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