I was initially reluctant to read Tony Fletcher’s A Light that Never Goes Out: The Enduring Saga of The Smiths. This reluctance mainly stemmed from the fact that The Smiths were together for about six years and Fletcher’s biography of them is over six-hundred pages. That’s roughly one-hundred pages per year. But like most good biographers, Fletcher starts long before the four members of The Smiths ever played together. He even gives a brief history of Manchester, the city The Smiths and other bands such as New Order and Oasis hailed from.
Fletcher gives the backgrounds of all four members of The Smiths but focuses mainly on lead singer and lyricist Morrissey and guitarist and music composer Johnny Marr. It’s in fleshing out stories like the fabled meeting of the singer and the guitarist that really makes A Light That Never Goes Out a success. Fletcher examines every step leading up to and during the time The Smiths were together in a way that keeps the book from becoming just a detailed timeline.
The book does end rather abruptly after Fletcher tries to sort out why The Smiths broke up in 1987. Since then, Morrissey has released plenty of solo material and continues to tour, and Marr has been involved with a number of different bands. Including their careers after The Smiths would likely have put A Light that Never Goes Out over the one-thousand page mark. As far as whether or not this book might appeal to people who aren’t familiar with or big fans of The Smiths, it probably won’t. Unlike a lot of the biographies that have come out on classic rock era musicians recently, most of the other bands and solo acts mentioned in the book are even more obscure than The Smiths. Fletcher is clearly writing for fans who want a better understanding of the band’s history and music.