However, The Smiths’ frontman, Morrissey, had a tape recorder, and Marr’s then girlfriend – now wife – Angie, fresh from passing her driving test, had loan of her parents’ car. “I said, ‘Get me round to Mozzer’s!’… So we got in the car like I was going to have a baby, you know?”
“Hand In Glove was essential – those words had to be sung”
Determined not to forget his new riff, the guitarist played it over and over during the journey to Morrissey’s house, though Angie – an avowed Iggy Pop fan – also threw in a suggestion which inspired Marr to make a crucial refinement to his promising new idea.
“She said, ‘Make it sound like Iggy!’” Marr recalled. “So I just took that Nile Rodgers thing and just played Iggy Pop chords. She said, ‘Yeah that’s cool!’ And I was like, ‘Oh really!’”
Fortunately for Marr, Morrissey was at home and able to produce his tape recorder. Indeed, the singer was so impressed by Marr’s melody that he reputedly wrote the song’s entire lyric in just two hours. By the time the band got hold of it and further honed the arrangement, The Smiths’ four members were convinced Hand In Glove was their strongest song to date.
Knowing they couldn’t let the grass grow under their feet, the band asked their then manager, the late Joe Moss, to fund the recording of Hand In Glove at Stockport’s Strawberry Studios in February 1983. At this stage, the band had played just a mere smattering of gigs in Manchester, but their belief in their putative debut single was unshakeable, and they captured a superb version of the song during a one-day session which they produced themselves.
“It was important to be searingly poetic and yet jubilant at the same time”
Now revered as one of the best Smiths songs, Hand In Glove certainly had that indefinable something that makes all great tracks stand out. Musically, the whole band put in a terrific performance, with Mike Joyce’s insistent beat driving what biographer Simon Goddard called Marr’s “Marr’s rain-soaked… minor chord wash” and one of Andy Rourke’s “most inspired bass patterns”. Yet if the music sounded deceptively euphoric, Morrissey’s striking lyrics – which included remarkable lines such as, “Though we may be hidden by rags/We’ve something they’ll never have” – exuded an equally compelling mix of pride, defiance and desperate sadness.
“It was to be our first record and it was important to me that there’d be something searingly poetic in it, in a lyrical sense, and yet jubilant at the same time,” Morrissey explained in an interview with Star Hits in 1985. “Being searingly poetic and jubilant was, I always thought, quite difficult because they’re two extreme emotions and I wanted to blend them together.”
Simon Goddard later declared Hand In Glove to be a “shattering left-hook of self-loathing, loss and desperation”, and the song hit Rough Trade label boss Geoff Travis right between the eyes when Marr and Rourke took a tape of it down to London in April 1983. When Marr handed over the recording (which also included a live version of another early Smiths classic, Handsome Devil), he said, “Would you listen to this, it’s not just another tape.” Impressed by Marr’s self-belief, Travis promised he would, later telling The Face, “I was helplessly won over.”