So mythologized are the Smiths that the list of required works doesn’t end with their albums—even certain books on the topic of the Smiths have now achieved canonical status in fan circles. Want the definitive story of the band’s tumultuous history? Read Johnny Rogan’s Morrissey and Marr: The Severed Alliance. Looking for an exhaustive analysis of every song in the band’s catalog? Check out Simon Goddard’s The Smiths: Songs That Saved Your Life. Need photos of Morrissey from the Smith’s late ‘80s heyday? Kevin Cummins’ The Smiths and Beyond is the ticket. How about a detailed travel guide to Smiths-related locations in England? Phill Gatenby’s Panic on the Streets: The Smiths and Morrissey Location Guide should do quite nicely.
Given the fanatical following that the Smiths inspired in their short tenure, it’s not entirely surprising that the band has its own travel guide. What is surprising, however, is that the guide is so damn interesting—that is, if you happen to be one of the aforementioned fanatical fans. Whether read on the plane ride over to dear old Blighty or from the comfort of your own couch, Panic on the Streets is packed with enough obscure Smiths-related trivia to please even the most knowledgeable of Smiths and Morrissey scholars.
Originally released as a guide to the band’s hometown of Manchester, Panic on the Streets has since been expanded and reprinted in order to include London locations, as well. While the whole guide is clearly a labor of love, the Manchester section in particular is packed with the sort of insider knowledge that could only have been gleaned by someone who was there during the times chronicled. What’s more, many of the locations profiled also have linkages to related histories—Madchester, Factory Records and the punk and post-punk movements—all of which are duly noted by Gatenby.
What ever happened to Tony Wilson’s famed Haçienda nightclub? Its been converted to a condo building, though the original name remains. How about the Salford Lads Club, made immortal in the photo printed inside the The Queen is Dead LP jacket? Believe it or not, the more than century-old club still stands, though lasses are now admitted. as well. And the cemetery gates where Morrissey once “gravely read the stones”? Why, it’s just up Kings Road from the iron bridge under which the protagonists kiss in “Still Ill”.
Though it should go without saying, while Panic on the Streets is refreshingly readable for a travel guide, only die-hard Smiths fans need apply. That said, if you are the sort for whom no bit of Smiths trivia is too, well, trivial, you’ll want to add Panic to your collection of Smiths tomes, as few others can probably match Gatenby’s privileged knowledge of the band and its environs.
You know what they say: it takes one to know one. And when it comes to Smiths fandom, it seems that few can compete with Gatenby. “You may think that it’s not worth the bother of visiting The Lyceum Theatre, Brixton Academy or Kilburn National Ballrom just because The Smiths played there over 20 years ago,” he writes in the book’s introduction. “I would disagree.”