My Favorite Album: Jimmi Simpson on The Smiths’ “The Queen Is Dead” | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, June 20th, 2024  

My Favorite Album: Jimmi Simpson on The Smiths’ “The Queen Is Dead”

"Music kind of runs my life. I'm never not soundtracking my own experience."

Jan 22, 2020 Jimmi Simpson Photography by Billy Small Bookmark and Share

For an actor who relies on music as much as Jimmi Simpsonhe carefully crafts playlists while prepping characters for Westworld (for which he was nominated for an Emmy), House of Cards, Black Mirror, the recent critical darling Perpetual Grace, LTD, and morepicking a favorite album can be a very tricky proposition.

“It’s a tough one, because music kind of runs my life. I’m never not soundtracking my own experience,” says the 43-year-old. “When you asked me to talk about my favorite album, 10 different ones surfaced in my head.”

But of all the LPs that sustained him as an out-of-place goth in Hackettstown, New Jersey, as a teen, to the albums that more recently help him get in the headspace of some of television’s most popular characters, Simpson chose The Queen Is Dead by The Smiths.

As a 16-year-old in that small Jersey town, which was only about an hour and a half from New York City but “felt like it was three days away, just because we weren’t city folks,” Simpson was introduced to The Queen Is Dead by his friend Jeff. “In those small-town environments it seems like there’s only a few people who happen to be reaching further to discover new music. And my guy was Jeff,” says Simpson. “This was before anyone was online, and he just subscribed to the right magazines and hung out with skaters, and he was my single portal into the music that ended up defining my life. It’s crazy how one person you know can end up doing that.”

When Jeff slipped young Jimmi a copy of The Queen Is Dead, he couldn’t resist Johnny Marr’s sinewy guitar drones and Morrissey’s fearlessly melancholy, theatrically sullen singing.

All these years later, Simpson still looks back fondly on how that magnetic, boldly vulnerable frontman spoke to him. “Most of us find Morrissey when we’re teenagers,” he says. “And he makes us feel like dreamers, like: ‘We’re going to meet and write poetry in the cemetery, because we’re gothy, and we don’t fit in anywhere else.’ And to have someone sing about that, in such a frolicking way, it’s like ‘Ohhh, you get me.’”

As much as he loves the album from front to back, Simpson says he’s especially fond of The Queen Is Dead’s “centerpiece, this trifecta.” Fellow fans of course already know what he means: “Cemetry Gates,” “Bigmouth Strikes Again,” and “The Boy with the Thorn in His Side.”

“You can’t listen to those three songs in a row and not be a fan of The Smiths,” says Simpson.

When asked about “Bigmouth Strikes Again,” in particular, the shimmering-ly strummed, punchy drummed key track from that seminal Smiths album, Simpson says: “Of course I understood it right awaya song about when you love someone until you hate them. Because you’re just so overwhelmed with feelings when you’re that age.”

And while The Smiths certainly encapsulated the pangs of his youth, Simpson still returns to The Queen Is Dead on nearly a weekly basis, despite it being 33 years later. “The thing that’s so great about The Smiths is it transcends that angst of your teenage years,” he says, adding: “You can pop it on in your 30s, 40s, or 70s, and just feel understood for a second.”

[Note: This article originally appeared in Issue 66 of Under the Radar’s print magazine, which is out now. This is its debut online. For the issue we interviewed musicians and actors about their all-time favorite album.]

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