The Smiths announced themselves with a blast of material that was almost uniformly brilliant, but so imperfectly produced and packaged it all remains a jumbled mess. The band's proper debut offered a flat mix and duller versions of songs that had been explosive live and in demo form. The release of Hatful of Hollow revealed some bracing alternate mixes alongside discarded b-sides that would've taken Rough Trade/Sire's The Smiths to a whole other level ("These Things Take Time," "Handsome Devil," "Jeane"). Truly, assembling the perfect-world version of the Smiths' debut is the closest I will ever get to playing fantasy football, and recently I found a fascinating new piece for this puzzle: The Troy Tate version of "The Hand the Rocks the Cradle."
First of all, this version slays the gray haze version that landed on record. Also, I love this song, because, along with a few others in the Smiths early repetoire, it casts Morrissey in a much different role than the Oscar Wilde-ing ham of "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" and beyond. It's a darker, creepier character—one that seems to have both survived child sexual abuse and now finds himself drawn to repeat it. "I once had a child and it saved my life, and I never even gave a name," intones Morrissey in the version above. "I just looked into his wondrous eyes and said never never never again." This is some serious early-Velvet Underground-y eroticizing-the-outsider shit, and it's all the more valuable because Morrissey soon left it behind for (highly rewarding) campiness.