But we all grow up. Many of the groups that meant so much to us at that point in our lives fall by the wayside; replaced by a more mature choice. Is it possible to like the same band for the whole of your life? I have always doubted it. So it puzzles me greatly that I made the decision to immortalise my love for The Smiths by having a full sleeve tattoo. It wasn’t a decision I made lightly.
I have chortled in the past at business men with mis-guided Prodigy tattoos, resulting from a heavy weekend at Glastonbury while at University…rolled my eyes at how stupid people could be to imprint on their skin so indelibly, an aspect of their interests which are so likely to change. Evidently I forgot all of these incidents.
The Smiths are a bit like Marmite. Many people consider them to be one of the most miserable bands that have ever graced the charts. I have heard Morrissey’s voice described as whining, more times than I have scoffed a pack of crisps. I am not a slim woman therefore that really is quite a lot. But for those with a slightly artistic, sensitive bent with a penchant for a witty lyric, The Smiths offer it all. Perhaps one of the most iconic bands of the 80s, hearing them for the first time on Top of the Pops as a child was like a lightning bolt. The sight of an androgynous Moz, shirt open to the midriff, swaying majestically while swinging a bunch of gladioli was like nothing I had ever witnessed before. I was smitten.
As a student at University, their lyrics began to really touch me. The geek in me revelled in the fact that I got all the references…the Carry On films, working class musings and Shelagh Delaney. They have been the most constant thing in my life. As relevant now, blasting out of my class room, as they were all those years ago when I was living off beans in student accommodation. Surely that needed celebrating?
When I first started considering getting a Smiths tattoo, I thought I would do some research on the net. I was astounded to see so many people had already had Smiths and Morrissey inspired tattoos – there was even whole websites dedicated to finding the best ones. Desperate not to replicate something which had already been done, I set about finding an illustrator I considered to be up for the job. Cue the fabulous Amy Napper, illustrator at the marvellously macabre “Decadent Decline.” After seeing her work on the Pearls and Swine logo, I knew I just had to adorn my arm with her stunning art. Thinking of the content to fill the design was the hardest part. Of course, it was all about Mozza. I always envisaged a cartoon style portrait in a cameo taking up a large proportion of the lower arm, with pictures representing my favourite lyrics on the rest of it. Due to the fact that there are so many amazing Smiths lyrics to choose from, I ended up just giving Amy a list and she chose the ones with the best imagery.
Of course having a tattoo, especially one as big as a sleeve, is a massive decision. It is of paramount importance to get the right tattoo artist. For me the natural choice was Scott Scholes from Just Ink in Bolton. Not only is he an incredible artist, he is also sponsored by Quantum Ink who have some of the most mind-blowing colours I have ever seen. It is a match made in heaven and I am so pleased with the progress on it so far. I’m not going to lie. Tattoos hurt but I sit like a trooper, so managed to get all of the outlining done in one session and the bottom half of the arm coloured in on a later session. It will probably take another two sessions to complete and I can hardly wait to see the finished piece.
The reaction has been amazing and I have had such good feedback so far. Legendary photographer (who photographed The Smiths themselves) Kevin Cummins is going to shoot me for a project he is doing about people with Smiths tattoos when it is completed. Plus I nearly had a bit of a meltdown when somebody on my modelling page said that she had shown it to her uncle, none other than the band’s drummer, Mike Joyce and he loved it! Perhaps the most interesting reactions I get are from the pupils I teach at school. They have ranged from “Why have you got an Elvis tattoo?” to the surprising “There is a Light That Never Goes Out is my all-time favourite song.” Surely this just reinforces how timeless they really are.
Nowadays, people don’t seem to put much thought into their tattoos. Many are rushed decisions taken from the internet or flashes in the studio. They are more of a need to enter the club of tattooed people than a real and genuine longing to commemorate or represent something which means a lot to them. This tattoo is certainly the antithesis of that. Almost twenty years in the making, it is a heartfelt message from a super fan, who has had her life shaped and changed by the haunting beauty and meaning The Smiths have brought into her life. As the song ‘Rusholme Ruffians’ says: “Scratch my name on your arm with a fountain pen (this means you really love me)” Well, I reckon I went one better than that.