The Smiths were seen by many to be a landmark band of the 1980s post-punk era. Morrissey's ambiguous sexuality, provocative iconoclasm, and heartfelt lyrical compositions blended with guitarist Johnny Marr's highly melodic songwriting to stun listeners. The band became an enormous success in the UK, Ireland, and Australia while only a cult obsession in the United States of America.
The band broke up due to conflict between Morrissey and Marr, after an enormously productive period from 1986 to 1987 when they released several highly successful albums: Louder than Bombs, Strangeways Here We Come, and the colossal hit The Queen is Dead (a regular member of "Best Albums of All Time" lists and easily one of the most influential of the 1980s).
Morrissey's subsequent career has provided equally influential albums and in 1994 he achieved his highest ever chart position with the best-selling Vauxhall and I (1994) and its single The More You Ignore Me (the Closer I Get). After producing several albums in the early years of his solo career with a production outfit not unlike his collaboration with Marr, Morrissey moved on from the songwriting services of Stephen Street for Viva Hate (1988) and Bona Drag (1990) and Mark Nevin for Kill Uncle (1991). The band he assembled for 1994's hit album Your Arsenal sharply renewed his sound and sales success with a fresh, American rockabilly sound evocative of Marr's melodic seriousness but with rejuvenating rhythmic energy. Composition duties were split between guitarists Boz Boorer and Alain Whyte, who have been the core of Morrissey's band ever since.
Famously uninterested in compromise or record company marketing principles, Morrissey has long suffered the consequences of operating as a quasi-outsider in the music industry. Though his large and rabidly loyal fans follow his every move, his albums since 1996 had great trouble reaching a wider audience. For several years since 1999, the legendary Morrissey was unable to find a record contract at all (at least one that satisfied his demands).
Lampooned by music writers, to the point of tiresome cliché, as the producer of melancholy, mopish music, Morrissey's widest public image is largely one-dimensional. Nonetheless, Morrissey vacated his English home for Los Angeles in the late-1990s and found an entirely new life in the American West. He has developed an enormous chicano and hispanic fan base, and begun setting his traditional English themes of gangsters and heartbreak in the LA streets.
In June, 2003 Sanctuary Records Group announced a deal with Morrissey. He was given the one-time reggae label Attack as a platform to record new material and, reportedly, to sign new artists.
Morrissey, now past his popular peak, remains a critical and counter-cultural figure still calling, in the lines of his 1987 song, Panic to "Burn down the disco, Hang the blessed DJ / For the music that they constantly play / Says nothing to me about my life".