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"There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" is a song by the British alternative rock group The Smiths, written by singer Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr. It was originally featured on their third album The Queen Is Dead (1986), and was released as a single in 1992, five years after The Smiths split up. Morrissey released a live version of the song as a double A-side with his cover of Patti Smith's "Redondo Beach" in 2005. It reached number 25 on the UK Singles Chart.[1]



  • 1 Origin and recording
  • 2 Composition and lyrics
  • 3 Releases and reception
  • 4 In popular culture
  • 5 Track listing
  • 6 Notes
  • 7 External links

Origin and recording[edit][]

The Smiths began working on "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" during its late 1985 recording sessions at London's RAK Studios. In early September, the band recorded a rehearsal tape of the song performed in the key of F# minor. Four days later, the group made a monitor mix in the key of C# minor, this time accompanied by a synthesised string arrangement Marr created on an Emulator (credited to the "Hated Salford Ensemble" on the album release). While Morrissey was cynical about using synthesised strings, the lack of a budget to hire a real string ensemble as well as a reluctance on the band's part to allow outsiders into the recording process changed the singer's mind. The recording was completed in November at Jacobs Studios in Farnham, where Morrissey redid his vocal part twice and Marr added a flute melody.[2]

Composition and lyrics[edit][]

There Is a Light That Never Goes Out



Sample of "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" by The Smiths, from their third album The Queen Is Dead (1986).

Problems playing this file? See media help.

Written in tandem with "Bigmouth Strikes Again", the two songs share the same key as well as similar chords. Simon Goddard noted that both the guitar break in "Bigmouth Strikes Again" and the flute section in "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" (originally written as a guitar part) are based on C# minor arpeggio figure.[3]

The song features an ascending F#m–A–B chord sequence that guitarist Johnny Marr took from The Rolling Stones cover of Marvin Gaye's "Hitch Hike". Marr said in 1993 that he included the figure as an "in-joke" to determine if the music press would attribute the inspiration for the part to "There She Goes Again" by The Velvet Underground, whom he contended "stole" the figure from "Hitch Hike". Marr commented, "I knew I was smarter than that. I was listening to what The Velvet Underground were listening to".[2]

AllMusic's Tim DiGravina argues that while depressed characters were a regular feature in Morrissey's work, his lyrics on "There Is a Light" "ups the sad-and-doomed quotient by leaps and bounds."[4] Goddard argues in his book Songs That Saved Your Life that the basic narrative story is similar to that of the James Dean filmRebel Without a Cause, in which Dean—an idol of Morrissey's—leaves his tortuous home life, being the passenger to a potential romantic partner. In fact, a line from that movie ("It is not my home") is quoted in the song. According to Goddard, an earlier version lacked some of the finished version's ambiguity, culminating in the line "There is a light in your eyes and it never goes out".[5]

Releases and reception[edit][]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic [6]

Due to a dispute between the Smiths and its record label Rough Trade Records after the group completed The Queen Is Dead, nine months passed after the release of "The Boy with the Thorn in His Side" before the group issued another single. Once the matter was resolved, Rough Trade owner Geoff Travis felt that "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" should be the band's "comeback" record. However, Johnny Marr was insistent that "Bigmouth Strikes Again" be the band's next single.[7] Despite Travis's advocation of the song, Simon Goddard expressed doubt that the song's "explicit glamorisation of suicide" would've endeared it to daytime radio. Regardless, "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" became the Smiths's second song to top BBC Radio One disc jockey John Peel's Festive Fifty poll in his 1986 tally. The song was shortly thereafter included on the 1987 compilation album The World Won't Listen.[8] In December 1992, "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" finally received a single release by WEA to promote the ...Best IIcompilation. The song reached number 25 on the UK Singles Chart,[8] making it their last UK Top 40 appearance to date.

Music critics consider "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" to be one of The Smiths' finest efforts. Simon Goddard wrote, "In a straw poll among Smiths fans today, 'There Is a Light That Never Goes Out' would more than likely still come out victorious", which he credits to the "perfect balance" of Marr's compositional skills and Morrissey's lyricism.[8] AllMusic's Tim DiGravina calls it a "a standout among standouts from the Smiths' masterpiece third album, The Queen Is Dead."[4]

In popular culture[edit][]

There is a chapter in Irvine Welsh's novel Trainspotting named after this song, which mentions the song directly.

The song appears on the soundtrack to (500) Days of Summer; in the film, it is used to bring the main characters together.[9]

It was covered live with some strings arrangement by Noel Gallagher during the Teenage Cancer Trust.

It was covered live by William Francis of Aiden on his UK solo acoustic tour.

It was covered by member of alternative rock band Duncan Dhu, Mikel Erentxun.

It was covered by alternative rock band Anberlin as a bonus track in their 2007 album, Cities.

It was covered by noise pop band Dum Dum Girls on their EP, He Gets Me High.

It was covered by folk rock band The Becca Stevens Band on their album, Weightless, featuring bassist Chris Tordini.

It was covered live by Neil Finn in collaboration with Johnny Marr on the live tour of Neil Finn's "Seven Worlds Collide".

It was covered by Australian pop band The Lucksmiths.

In Dota 2, one of Razor's quotes, he says "There's a lightning that never goes out", in reference to the song.

It was covered by The Ocean Blue as a live recording on the Peace and Light EP in 1994.

It was covered by alternative rock band The Divine Comedy on the 10-year-anniversary tribute album of The Queen Is Dead entitled The Smiths Is Dead, released in November 1996.

It was covered by Loquat on their album Before the Momentum from 2003.

It was covered by the electro pop band Null Device on their album Sublimation from 2002.

In the opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, there is a part named after the song's title in which the seven young athletes lit the torch before converging to create the cauldron.

The song is played in episode five of the British show My Mad Fat Diary in 2013.

Model Levy Tran has a tattoo of the title across her collar bones.

It was covered by Miley Cyrus in 2014 during several stops of her Bangerz Tour.[10][11]

It was covered by Four Phonica (ex-Marakesh). The cover was entirely made of musical, vocal and video contributions from fans.

Track listing[edit][]

CD 1 (1992)
  1. "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" – 4:02
  2. "Hand in Glove" (live) – 2:48
  3. "Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others" (live) – 5:03
  4. "Money Changes Everything" – 4:41
CD 2 (1992)
  1. "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" – 4:02
  2. "Hand in Glove" (with Sandie Shaw) – 2:58
  3. "I Don't Owe You Anything" (with Sandie Shaw) – 4:06
  4. "Jeane" (with Sandie Shaw) – 2:52
7" and cassette single (1992)
  1. "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" – 4:02
  2. "Handsome Devil" (live) – 2:55
7" (1987)
  1. "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" – 4:02
  2. "Half a Person" – 3:36