The Queen Is Dead is the third studio album by the English rock band the Smiths. It was released on 16 June 1986 in the United Kingdom by Rough Trade Records and released in the United States on 23 June 1986 through Sire Records.
The album spent twenty-two weeks on the UK Albums Chart, peaking at number two. Across the Atlantic, it reached number 28 in Canada on the RPM 100 album chart and number 70 on the Billboard 200 chart, and was certified Gold by the RIAA in late 1990. It has sold consistently well ever since and has received unanimous critical acclaim, with NME listing it as the greatest album of all time in 2013, ranking above The Beatles and others alike.
Guitarist Johnny Marr wrote several songs that would later appear on The Queen Is Dead while the Smiths toured Britain in early 1985, working out song arrangements with bassist Andy Rourke and drummer Mike Joyce during soundchecks. The title of the album is from the novel, "Last Exit to Brooklyn" by author Hubert Selby, Jr.. The title of the album could be a reference to the scene in Macbethwhere Seyton informs the title character of his wife's murder ("The queen, my Lord, is dead"). The title could also refer to a scene in Cymbeline where Cornelius, the doctor, informs Cymbeline, the king, "The queen is dead."
"The Boy with the Thorn in His Side" was, according to Marr, "an effortless piece of music", and was written on tour in the spring of 1985. The song's lyrics refer allegorically to the band's experience of the music industry that failed to appreciate it.:48 In 2003, Morrissey named this as his favourite Smiths song.
A demo of the music for "Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others" was posted by Marr through Morrissey's letterbox in the summer of 1985. Morrissey then completed the song by adding lyrics. Marr has stated that he "preferred the music to the lyrics".:405
"Frankly, Mr. Shankly", "I Know It's Over" and "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" were written by Morrissey and Marr in a "marathon" writing session in the late summer of 1985 at Marr's home in Bowdon, Greater Manchester.:136 The first of these is reputed to have been addressed to Geoff Travis, head of the Smiths' record label Rough Trade. Travis has since described it as "a funny lyric" about "Morrissey's desire to be somewhere else", acknowledging that a line in the song about "bloody awful poetry" was a reference to a poem he had written for Morrissey.:86
"There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" features lyrics drawn from "Lonely Planet Boy" by the New York Dolls. According to Marr: "When we first played it, I thought it was the best song I'd ever heard".:442 The guitar part of "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out' draws on the Rolling Stones cover of Marvin Gaye's "Hitch Hike", a song that, itself, was an inspiration for the Velvet Underground's "There She Goes Again".
The music for "Never Had No One Ever", completed in August 1985, was based on a demo which Marr had recorded in December 1984, itself based on "I Need Somebody" by the Stooges.:281 According to Marr: "The atmosphere of that track pretty much sums up the whole album and what it was like recording it.":282 The lyric to the song reflects Morrissey's feeling unsafe and, being from an immigrant family, not at home on the streets of Manchester.
"The Boy with the Thorn in His Side", "Bigmouth Strikes Again" and "Frankly, Mr. Shankly" were debuted live during a tour of Scotland in September and October,:120–2 during which "The Queen Is Dead" and "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" were soundchecked.:78 "The Queen is Dead" was based on a song Marr began writing as a teenager.:78 "Cemetry Gates" (sic) was a late addition to the album. Marr had not believed that the guitar part was interesting enough to be developed into a song, but Morrissey disagreed when he heard Marr play it.