Girlfriend in a Coma (song)

"Girlfriend in a Coma" is a song by the English rock band the Smiths. Released in August 1987, it reached No. 13 in the UK Singles Chart. It was the first of three UK singles from the band's fourth and final studio album, Strangeways, Here We Come.

"Girlfriend in a Coma"
Girlfriend in a Coma.png
Single by The Smiths
from the album Strangeways, Here We Come
B-side"Work Is a Four-Letter Word"
Released10 August 1987
RecordedMarch-April 1987
StudioThe Wool Hall, Beckington, Somerset
GenreAlternative rock, indie pop
LabelRough Trade
Songwriter(s)Johnny Marr, Morrissey
Producer(s)Morrissey, Johnny Marr, Stephen Street
The Smiths singles chronology
"Sheila Take a Bow"
"Girlfriend in a Coma"
"I Started Something I Couldn't Finish"


Released on 10 August 1987, "Girlfriend in a Coma" was the last single by the Smiths to include newly recorded material on the B-side. It contains the band's last recorded song, "I Keep Mine Hidden", as well as a cover of a Cilla Black song, "Work Is a Four-Letter Word", both recorded in May 1987.

Morrissey's insistence on including the Cilla Black B-side annoyed Marr and he left the band soon afterwards. Marr said to Record Collector in 1992: "'Work Is A Four Letter Word' I hated. That was the last straw, really. I didn't form a group to perform Cilla Black songs. That was it, really. I made a decision that I was going to get away on holiday. The only place I could think of was L.A. L.A. was the only place I knew where there'd be sunshine, so off I went. I never saw Morrissey again."

Music and lyricsEdit

The song is a narration by a man whose girlfriend is in a coma. The narrator describes his conflicting feelings ("There were times when I could have murdered her/But you know I would hate anything to happen to her"). He says he does not want to see her then says he does. The repeated assertion "I know it's serious" is undercut by his careless tone and "the light playful accompaniment by the other members of the band".[1] Armond White of Rolling Stone calls "Girlfriend" a song about AIDS which responds "to the crisis that took the lives and broke the hearts of so many friends and lovers" and situates it firmly in the eighties.[2]

The song received little airplay on BBC Radio 1. Morrissey later said, "You're not really supposed to like those songs. They're very depressing and not supposed to be played on radio."[3]

Music videoEdit

The music video, which featured clips from the film The Leather Boys (starring Rita Tushingham), was directed by Tim Broad.

Track listingEdit

All tracks are written by Morrissey and Johnny Marr, except where noted.

7" RT197
1."Girlfriend in a Coma"2:02
2."Work Is a Four-Letter Word" (edited) (Guy Woolfenden, Don Black, Cilla Black)2:09
12" RTT197 / Cassette RTT197C
1."Girlfriend in a Coma"2:02
2."Work Is a Four-Letter Word" (Woolfenden, D. Black, C. Black)2:45
3."I Keep Mine Hidden"1:57

Artwork and matrix messageEdit

The single's cover features playwright Shelagh Delaney, from a 1961 edition of A Taste of Honey. The photo was tinted grey for 7" versions in all countries, except in Australia where it was tinted green as for the 12" versions. This was the second time Delaney appeared on a Smiths cover; she also appeared on the cover of Louder Than Bombs album.

The British 7" vinyl contained the matrix message: AND NEVER MORE SHALL BE SO/SO FAR SO BAD. The British 12" version contained the etching: EVERYBODY IS A FLASHER AT HEART/AND NEVER MORE SHALL BE SO.


Chart Peak
Ireland (IRMA) 12
UK Singles (The Official Charts Company) 13


  • Mojo Nixon's cover of "Girlfriend in a Coma" on his 1995 album Whereabouts Unknown is in his usual psychobilly style. After the bridge, Mojo asks that the listener not blame him for the lyrics, launching into one of his trademark "rants" in which he finally declares that "I, Mojo Nixon, am the anti-Morrissey!"
  • Archive covered this song on their unplugged record in Paris in 2003, the album was released in 2004.
  • Joshua Radin's version can be found on his 2004 EP First Between 3rd and 4th.
  • Bleach covered the song on their 2005 greatest hits CD/DVD album Audio/Visual.
  • Bon Voyage covered the song on their 2008 release titled Lies.
  • Million Dead covered the song for the Smiths tribute compilation album How Soon Is Now?
  • Noah and the Whale covered the song on the CD single of "5 Years Time", released in summer 2008.
  • Both Tim Brooke-Taylor and Tony Hawks sung the words of the song to the tune of "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" on different episodes of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue.
  • Panic! at the Disco covered the song on Australia's Take 40 Live Lounge.
  • Bombones' album Una luz que nunca se apagará (Tributo a The Smiths).


  1. ^ Nicholas P. Greco, "Only If You Are Really Interested": Celebrity, Gender, Desire and the World of Morrissey, McFarland, 2011, p.48.
  2. ^ White, Armond (10 August 2017). "The Smiths: The Open Secret of 'Girlfriend in a Coma'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 13 November 2019.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  3. ^ Plender, Andrew, "Mr Miserable Spreads Joy", The Independent: 17 May 2006

External linksEdit