Released a little over 30 years ago in September, 1988, to fill a contractual obligation of the then disbanded Smiths, “Rank” is a live recording of a concert in the National Ballroom in Kilburn, London on the Oct. 23, 1986 during their The Queen is Dead tour. It was released by the Smiths’ British record company Rough Trade. Rank reached No. 2 in the British charts. It was released in the United States by Sire Records, and reached 77 on the charts.
Out of the 21 songs performed, 14 are included on “Rank.” Half of these tracks are from “The Queen is Dead” and Smiths’ classics. “Ask” and “Is It Really So Strange,” were fresh hits at the time of recording with “Ask” even being introduced as a new single by Morrissey who is met with uproarious cheers after every song and sentence spoken to the audience.
The album opens with the excitement of the audience and the beating of drums before the listener is immediately launched into the spectacle that is “The Queen is Dead.”
There is a seamless transition to the next track, “Panic,” that, while clearer and calmer, continues to build from the initial energy.
Morrissey does not cease injecting trills, squawks, grunts, and banter wherever he can despite being nearly out of breath. His spontaneity lends the listener an experience as close as they can get to the real thing.
While this album might seem like a mere fulfillment after the Smiths split, it still contains some surprises. In “His Latest Flame/Rusholme Ruffians,” the first verse of the Elvis Presley hit, “(Marie’s The Name) His Latest Flame,” is used as an intro to “Rusholme Ruffians,” a combination not heard outside of this album.
This is the same for the medley of “Rubber Ring/What She Said,” which picks up the pace after a single grunt from Morrissey.
The twelfth track on the album, lead guitarist Johnny Marr’s solo composition, “The Draize Train,” is an instrumental track that’s exclusive to this album. It allows for Marr to showcase his talent and adds a different element to this album. With this track in context of the entire album, the talent of the Smiths as performers and composers is evident to the ear.
Thirty years after its release, Rank is the final word from the Smiths. Often hailed as one of the most important bands of the 1980’s, The Smiths’ lasting popularity has yet to prompt a reunion. Morrissey has been particularly outspoken against the idea of reuniting in the past.
“I would rather eat my own testicles than reform the Smiths, and that’s something for a vegetarian,” said Morrissey in 2006 interview with “Uncut”.
If “Rank” is the last and only live album to be produced by the Smiths’, it should be noted that it is a perfect encapsulation of the Smiths’ raw rock-n-roll energy, as well as their ability to surprise audiences despite their popularity.