"Shakespeare's Sister"
March 1985


Shakespeare's Sister
What She Said

UK 7" [Rough Trade RT181]
UK 7" [Rhino UK RHN181; 2008 reissue]
Holland 7" [Megadisc MD5297]
Sweden 7" [MNW RT181]


Shakespeare's Sister
What She Said
Stretch Out And Wait

UK 12" [Rough Trade RTT181]
Greece 12" [Virgin VG2035Z]
Holland 12" [Megadisc MD125297/MD125298]
Portugal 12" [Transmedia RTT181.30]
Spain 12" [Nuevos Medios 41-136M]
Sweden 12" [NMW RTT181]


Additional information:
"Shakespeare's Sister" was also released as a double a-side with "How Soon Is Now?" in the USA and as a double a-side with "Barbarism Begins At Home" in other countries.

The 2008 reissue of the 7" single by Rhino UK was also included in the "Smiths Singles box" which compiled the band's first 10 UK singles (plus two bonuses). On each of the five weeks leading to the release of the latter box, two singles from it were put up for sale individually. Collectors could therefore buy two single reissues every week, or wait at the end of the programme to get all of them in the box, alongside the two bonus 7"s.


Artwork information:
Pat Phoenix from the UK television programme "Coronation Street". The photo is not a still from the programme. The image is repeated in a light blue tint on one side of the 12" single's inner bag (view left). The other side of the inner bag features an illustrated discography of the Smiths at that point in time (view left).


Etchings on vinyl:
UK 7" and 12": HOME IS WHERE THE ART IS / none
Holland: HOLLAND CUTTING / none


Additional release date information:
UK: 18 March 1985
UK 2008 reissue: 1 December 2008


Chart peak information:
UK: 26


UK: White label copies of the 12", in full artwork, were sent to media for promotion of this single. A very limited number of 7" white labels also served that purpose, paired with a press release. It should be noted that this is the first single to be mainly promoted with white labels of the 12" format. This would be the main means of promotion until the band's split in 1987. For earlier singles, white labels used for promotion were mainly of the 7" format.



"There's no earthly reason why it should have [failed commercially]. The height of suspicion surrounds the fate of that record. I know for a fact 'Shakespeare's Sister' wasn't played on the radio. The record's merits are irrelevant here. With our status it should have automatically had a high profile, but it was blacklisted by the BBC because I denounced the BPI Awards. The sinner must be punished... I'm slowly edging away from certain issues... I think Rough Trade released the record with a monstrous amount of defeatism. They had no faith in it whatsoever. They liked it but they allowed it to dribble, to stall. They didn't service it or market it in any way."
- Morrissey, NME, June 1985

"But 'Shakespeare's Sister', regardless of what many people feel, was the song of my life. I put everything into that song and I wanted it more than anything else to be a huge success, and - as it happens - it wasn't. We can talk about independents and majors till the end of the day - but ultimately, when you make a good record, you want it to be heard."
- Morrissey, Record Mirror, August 1985

Was the relative chart failure of "Shakespeare's Sister" a key point in your relationship with Rough Trade?
"Not as much as people have made out. And a lot has been made out of it. It was a disappointment for me. As a 7" single for the group at that time, it was quite inventive. There was something about that riff that I always wanted to do. I just flipped recording it. I really loved doing it. We didn't get much support from Rough Trade on that one. As with 'Bigmouth Strikes Again', it was a valid 7" single to own, but maybe not to play on the radio. But that's all right by me. I was really happy to have certain songs on singles, like 'That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore', 'Shakespeare's Sister', 'Bigmouth Strikes Again' and 'Shoplifters Of The World Unite', because they were radical rock singles and that suited me. I was happy just owning it myself, like a lot of the audience were. The fact that we didn't get onto 'Top Of The Pops' with those records is neither here nor there. I actually preferred those to the ones that we did get on 'Top Of The Pops'."

"It didn't surprise me that a song like 'Shakespeare's Sister' didn't get in the charts. It was a very arch record to release at that time. Quite audacious, a bit mad. That's why I loved it. (...) [Morrissey] certainly drew my attention to some problems with Rough Trade that weren't just about getting us in the charts. They did take their eye off the ball several times for whatever reason. It wasn't sinister; it was a fair bit of incompetence, bad business, bad planning, distribution cock-ups. It was very important that we had presence, that each record was an event. If 'Shakespeare's Sister' was out there with a big presence it would have made us happy. It wasn't actually the number next to the chart placing in the Guinness Book Of Hit Singles. Well, it wasn't to me, anyway. I was more concerned with what my mates thought of the B-sides."
- Johnny Marr on the lack of success of this single, Uncut January 2006



"Did I hear a yawn? Yeah, well I know what you mean. We're all sick of Morrissey's tortured torso gleaming at us from every news-stand and of Johnny Marr's televised metamorphosis into Keith Richards, but behind all the posturing, the musical spell remains unbroken. 'Shakespeare's Sister' is a brief, brusque Diddleybuzz, a determined disturbing of the air after the balmy psychedelic for that was the beauteous 'How Soon Is Now'. It's just 129 second of our finest band (still) in a cruising gear, another sliver of greatness. All this and Pat Phoenix on the sleeve. The yawners want blood."
- Danny Kelly, New Musical Express, 16 March 1985

"Their least spectacular single. Their finest cover star."
- Dylan Jones, i-D, October 1987