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 reached number two in the British charts. Sire Records released the album in the United States on 23 June 1986. The album reached number 2 on the UK charts and number 70 on the Billboard 200 and was certified Gold by the RIAA on 09/19/1990.
At the time the group was having difficulty with their label Rough Trade, which Street characterised as "Rough Trade and EMI trying to sign up everything". Street noted, "[B]ut this didn't get in the way of recording because the atmosphere in the studio was very, very constructive." The group recorded "Bigmouth Strikes Again" and "Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others" at RAK Studios in northwest London. After a brief tour, the group recorded and mixed the majority of the album at Jacobs Studios in Farnham, Surrey, during late 1985 and early 1986.
The album is popularly regarded as The Smiths' best album. With its unique blend of musical styles (including jangle pop, British Invasion, rockabilly and punk rock), it quickly became a British sensation and established The Smiths as one of the biggest bands of its era. Both Morrissey and Marr disagree, however, citing its 1987 successor (and unexpectedly final Smiths LP), Strangeways, Here We Come, as their peak.
"Cemetry Gates" was Morrissey's direct response to critics who had cried foul over his use of texts written by some of his favorite authors, notably Shelagh Delaney and Elizabeth Smart. Oscar Wilde, who was also accused of plagiarism, figures as a patron saint of Morrissey's in the song's lyrics. A Wilde quote, "Talent borrows, genius steals", was etched in the vinyl run-out grooves of the first single off the album, "Bigmouth Strikes Again".
"The Queen Is Dead", which leads off the album, starts with a soundbite from Bryan Forbes' 1962 British film The L-Shaped Room. Another instance of Morrissey's fascination with Sixties British cinema, the film, which featured performances by Cicely Courtneidge and Pat Phoenix (who had already appeared as a cover star on the 1985 single "Shakespeare's Sister"), contains a poignant scene in which a group of homesick Britons living in France sing "Take Me Back To Dear Old Blighty". The song was also notable for an expressionistic music video directed by Derek Jarman.
According to Johnny Marr (as recounted by Smiths biographers Johnny Rogan and Simon Goddard), vocals for "I Know It's Over" were recorded in one take.
A few songs, including "The Queen Is Dead" and "Bigmouth Strikes Again", feature pitch-shifted backing vocals by Morrissey. The singer liked to experiment with effects on his voice, so Street ran his voice through a harmoniser for the backing tracks. Street recalled, "At that time, apart from the harmoniser, he didn't go for much backing vocal or harmony work — he's done that more on recent albums — but he did like to experiment". The backing vocals are attributed to "Ann Coates" on the record sleeve (Ancoats is a district in Manchester, just North East of the city centre).