The Boy with the Thorn in His Side (song)

"The Boy with the Thorn in His Side" is a song by the English rock band the Smiths. It was released as a single in September 1985, reaching No. 23 in the UK Singles Chart. A slightly remixed version appeared on their third album The Queen Is Dead in June 1986.

"The Boy with the Thorn in His Side"
Single by The Smiths
from the album The Queen Is Dead
Released23 September 1985
RecordedAugust 1985
StudioDrone Studios, Manchester
GenreAlternative rock
Length3:17 (single version)
3:15 (album version)
3:18 (alternate mix)
LabelRough Trade
Songwriter(s)Johnny Marr, Morrissey
Producer(s)The Smiths (single); Morrissey and Johnny Marr (album version)
The Smiths singles chronology
"That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore"
"The Boy with the Thorn in His Side"
"Bigmouth Strikes Again"

This was the first single by the Smiths to be accompanied by a promotional music video, something the band had previously resisted. They also performed the song on an episode of Top of the Pops. The main difference between the single version and the album version is in the use of synthesised strings. They are largely absent from the single version, only appearing in the song's coda. In 2003, Morrissey named it his favourite Smiths song.[1]


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?"[2]

Track listingEdit

7" RT191
1."The Boy with the Thorn in His Side"3:17
12" RTT191
1."The Boy with the Thorn in His Side"3:17
2."Rubber Ring/Asleep"7:56
CD Single RTT191
1."The Boy with the Thorn in His Side"3:17
2."Rubber Ring"3:48

The original 12" and CD singles have "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 could only be found on the original 12" and CD singles, before the 2017 release of the remaster/re-issue of The Queen is Dead, which includes the same songs with the same segue as tracks 10 and 11 (respectively) of its "Additional Recordings" bonus disc. The two tracks are separated on all other compilations.

Artwork and matrix messageEdit

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

The British 7" and 12" version contain the etchings: ARTY BLOODY FARTY/IS THAT CLEVER...JM. "Is that clever" is an allusion to words in "Rubber Ring", a title which itself is a line from The Importance of Being Earnest, a play that was referenced in the etchings of "William, It Was Really Nothing" and Hatful of Hollow. "JM" is a reference to Johnny Marr, and was also an etching on the Sandie Shaw version of "Hand in Glove".


Chart (1985) Peak
Ireland (IRMA) 15
UK Singles (The Official Charts Company) 23


Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic     [3]

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

Cover versionsEdit

The song was covered by Scottish band Bis on the tribute album The Smiths Is Dead. Reviewer Stephen Thomas Erlewine harshly criticised the cover, writing: "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 Belle & Sebastian, Scott Matthews, Jeff Buckley, Emilie Autumn, Xiu Xiu, Dinosaur Jr's J Mascis and The Cat Empire[5] in live performances.[citation needed]

In popular cultureEdit


  1. ^ Reardon, Ben (July 2003). "Morrissey i-Q". i-D Magazine. London.
  2. ^ The Tube (UK, Channel 4), Season 4, Episode 3: 25 October 1985
  3. ^ a b Rabid, Jack. "The Boy with the Thorn in His Side Review". Allmusic. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  4. ^ The Smiths Is Dead album review, allmusic, The Boy with the Thorn in His Side at AllMusic
  5. ^ "Konzert im Kölner Palladium - Musik für die gute Laune". General-Anzeiger Bonn (in German). 12 November 2018. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
  6. ^ "Blackpool – an original six-part drama serial for BBC ONE". BBC Press Office. 21 October 2004.
  7. ^ "The Perks of Being a Wallflower: A look at which of the book's cultural references show up in the movie". The Washington Post. 28 September 2012.
  8. ^ "Production notes" (PDF). p. 15.