The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #185: There Is A Light That Never Goes Out by The Smiths (KEXP)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #185: There Is a Light That Never Goes Out by The Smiths.

“There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” comes from The Smiths third of four albums, “The Queen Is Dead”. This was the album that saw The Smiths at their most successful, in terms of mainstream reach and acceptance. The song was written by Morrissey and arranged by Johnny Marr, who added strings to this song, which was a departure from how The Smiths usually recorded their songs. But, according to Marr, once they began playing the song live, he declared “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” to be his favourite song in their catalogue and the best Pop song he had ever heard, period!

Any discussion concerning The Smiths tends to always centre upon their wonderful ability to “see the unseen” when it came to writing literate songs about the lives of their fans. “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” touches upon themes of loneliness and redemption in the arms of a lover that strike a universal theme. This is especially evident in lines such as:

Take me out tonight

Where there’s music and there’s people

And they’re young and alive.

Driving in your car

I never, never want to go home

Because I haven’t got one


The inspiration for the song was the Hollywood movie, “Rebel Without a Cause” starring James Dean. Because Dean ended up dying in a car crash not long after this movie was made, there were many critics/fans who claimed that “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” was a song written about death and suicide. Consequently, it has become a song that is routinely played at many funerals; including that of Cranberries singer, Dolores O’ Riorden, who had covered the song just prior to her own death.

Live performances of “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” showcase Morrissey’s voice like no other song does. He sounds magnificent in every live version of this song I have seen. As well, the reaction of fans during this particular song is typical of the reactions of Arena-esque rockers, even though this song isn’t a particularly raucous song. There is just something tragic and emotional that resonates with so many when it comes to a song about feeling detached from life, with nowhere to turn and nowhere to go, the only hope of absolution being a ride in a car with a lover and, ultimately, the release that can only be found in such a glorious death. As the lyrics note:

To die by your side

Well, the pleasure, the privilege is mine.

The Smiths released their four albums in consecutive years, from 1984-87. The Queen is Dead came out in 1986 and contained an incredible mix of elements such as growing fame and influence, coupled with exhaustion from touring relentlessly, an increasingly political mindset (especially, from Morrissey) and the usual set of rising tensions that tend to be characteristic of many bands who have been in close quarters for too long together. The Smiths were twelve calendar months away from breaking up when they released “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out”, which is regarded by many as their finest work. Let’s see if you agree.

Below, I will post the usual live concert video so that you can hear the rich timbre of Morrissey’s voice. I will, also, include a couple of cover versions, too, just to give you some idea of the universal appeal of this song and how well the song’s structure and lyrics hold up, even in the hands of others. For now, here are The Smiths with “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” from their album, “The Queen is Dead”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” by The Smiths, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Smiths, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”, as sung by Morrissey solo, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”, as sung by The Cranberries, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “”There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”, as covered by Choir! Choir! Choir!, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for shining their light on the best music and artists from all round the world. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

Author: Tom MacInnes

Among the many characters I play: husband, father, son, retired elementary school teacher, writer, Cape Bretoner, lover of hot tea and, above all else, a gentleman. I strive to make a positive difference in the lives of others. In Life, I have chosen to be kind.

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