"What Difference Does It Make?" is a 1984 single by British band The Smiths. The single version can be found on the band's self-titled debut album The Smiths. A different version recorded for the John Peel Show on BBC Radio One is featured on the compilation album Hatful of Hollow.
Morrissey is said to have left the studio for a quick snack during the recording of the single, leaving the rest of the band waiting in Manchester's Pluto studios. He reportedly changed his mind and decided not to return, instead taking a train to Rough Trade's London offices. There, he asked that the financial breakdown of the band's income be sorted out, before he returned to complete his vocal part. A verbal agreement of the controversial royalties split took place. The vocal part was completed at London's Eden studios the following month, after the song was finally mixed.
Morrissey has stated on more than one occasion that "What Difference Does It Make?" is among his least favourite Smiths songs. He picked on the "rockist" influences and the "cliche" lyrics in particular, saying he "regretted the track the day after the record was pressed". Marr has similarly voiced his cynicism, stating "I didn't think it was a particularly strong one....There was one stage where I was playing [What Difference Does It Make?] seven or eight gigs on the trot and I didn't like the feeling. I knew that this was not why I had got involved in a band in the first place." Conspiracy theories abounded that Morrissey disliked the song because it was too revealing about the personal life and sexuality he has closely guarded.
However, it became one of the band's first significant chart hits, peaking at #12 on the United Kingdom Singles Charts.
The song is recognized by the riff by guitarist Johnny Marr and the unique falsetto by Morrissey towards the end of the song.
The first known version was recorded as a Rough Trade demo tape. It is speculated that this demo preceded producer Troy Tate's involvement, or otherwise an overdub of the first Tate mix.
Another version was recorded during the Tate sessions. The mix was recorded in a key higher than the final version, featuring a piano part, and intermittent background wailing by Morrissey. The falsetto part was slightly different, featuring a tinge of vibrato and trill. Another mix (in another different key) was recorded for the Peel sessions; it would later be compiled on Hatful of Hollow. The Peel mix was the most simple version, featuring only a single track of guitar.
All earlier mixes featured a more "jungley" (by drummer Mike Joyce's words) and rolling rhythm section. Upon producer John Porter's decision, a new rhythm part was recorded, eliminating the earlier R&B-esque beat. This decision was evidently not well favoured by the band, as Joyce reverted to the earlier "jungley" rhythm in live concerts.
Top of the Pops (1984)Edit
The single was promoted twice on charts show Top of The Pops, one on the 26th of January that year, and once more on the 9th of February.
The Oxford Road Show (1984)Edit
The track was mimed along to on BBC show The Oxford Road Show. A stage invader can be seen jumping on and clinging to Morrissey, who reciprocates with a hug, 2 minutes into the video.
Pop Elektron (1984)Edit
The track was mimed along to in the style of Top of The Pops on Belgian BRT-TV show Pop Elektron, on 1st March 1984.
The song was the last of the main set, and was introduced by Morrissey with the words "What! Does! Make!". The performance of this track preceded Sandie Shaw's surprise appearance at the concert.
Anson Rooms, Bristol, England (1984)Edit
Versailles, Paris (1986) [last known performance]Edit
Morrissey sung in a playful manner, substituting the line "Oh, sacred one!" with a falsetto-pitch trill, while carrying a non-flowering plant bunch in hand.
The single cover is a photograph taken on the set of the film The Collector (cut in the actual film) of actor Terence Stamp. Stamp denied permission for the still to be used, reportedly due to the use of the image without his explicit permission, and some pressings featured lead singer Morrissey in a re-enacted scene. In the re-enactment Morrissey is holding a glass of milk, as opposed to a chloroform pad in the original. Eventually, Stamp changed his mind, and the covers featuring Morrissey are now very rare and collectible.