What is the most successful song by The Smiths

As a founding member, guitarist, singer and songwriter of the band Die Ärzte, Farin Urlaub is one of the most successful German musicians of the past three decades. SUMISU appeared on his first solo album in 2001Finally holidays! and was its second single.

I. History of origin

After the reunification of his band Die Doctors (1993), Farin Urlaub is said to have commented several times on plans for a solo release. The final impetus for their implementation is an interview with the group in which drummer Bela B. announced the release of an album for 2001. Farin Urlaub then recorded 20 pieces in his own recording studio, recorded most of the instruments himself and only called in the producer Uwe Hoffmann, who was involved in numerous medical publications, for the final mix (cf. Karg 2001: 377).

II. Context

The song SUMISU is to be understood as an homage to the band The Smiths. This is already reflected in the song title, because the Japanese word “Sumisu” can be translated into English as “Smith”. The Smiths were founded in 1982 - the same year as Die Ärzte - existed only until 1987, but are still one of the most famous British bands to this day. The public perception of the Smiths is shaped by attributes which in their entirety create a "dark" image - melancholy and pessimism are frequent associations with the musical creation and the visual characteristics of the group (cf. Müller / Rhein / Calmbach 2006: 2). In particular, the appearance of the front man Morrissey is conducive to such assignments of meaning: The singer is considered to be the embodiment of a specific juvenile attitude towards life of the 1980s, as a “‘ spokesman ’for a generation of disaffected youth” (Bannister 2006: 150). As a result, SUMISU also takes up these topics in textual, musical and visual terms. The Smiths also served as a style templateNosferatu- A symphony of horror by Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, who took up the Dracula subject on film for the first time in 1922 (cf. Alt 2012: 16). Norbert Heitker, director of the SUMISU video clip, describes that he recognized in Morrissey's texts “a tendency towards the dark side of life” (Heitker 2011: 104), which led to the idea of ​​adapting the vampire film (cf. ibid. : 104-105).

III. analysis

SUMISU has a relatively short duration of 2:14 minutes. The lyrics only consist of two four-line stanzas, a four-line chorus and another two lines in the outro of the song. Farin Urlaub describes in this brief context the mood of two young people, which is characterized by melancholy, disappointment and incomprehension on the part of those around them. The young people are dressed in black, lonely and disappointed - but the Smiths' music helps, which is expressed at the end of the chorus. Thus, the lyrics reflect the emotional state of the “disaffected youth” and at the same time refer to the melancholy and gloomy aura surrounding The Smiths.

Analogous to the clear layout of the lyrics, the musical form is kept relatively simple. It consists of an eight-bar intro, which is essentially characterized by a guitar riff to the chord sequence Em, Em, G, A, Bm, a subsequent sixteen-bar verse with the chord sequence Em, Em, G, Bm and the eight-bar chorus, the Am , Am, D, D is based. This process is repeated once, with the repeated intro now having a second guitar riff, which is also played in the outro of the song after the second chorus. The use of such simple harmonic structures is initially regarded as a typical design feature of indie rock of the 1980s, with which The Smiths are usually associated (cf. Bannister 2006: 72). The musical reference in SUMISU is much more striking when looking at the introductory guitar riff. This is characterized by a rhythmic pattern, which mainly consists of ternary phrased eighth notes and primarily uses the tone supply of an Em seventh chord. The similarity to the guitar riff of The Smiths song "What Difference Does It Make?" Obviously, it stands out above all in terms of sound design. The Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr experimented with “a shower of atmospheric guitar overdubs” (Goddard 2009: 474) when recording the song, which resulted in the characteristic guitar sound. When recording the riff, Farin Urlaub also audibly used several guitar tracks, which in their sum and above all due to the slight distortion and the subtle phase effect create the sound that is based on that ‘atmospheric’ Smiths sound. The guitar riff also sounds solo in both songs and fulfills an introductory function before a drum fill consisting of three eighth beats announces the use of the remaining instruments. In the course of the song, further elements are added to these forms of design, some of which reveal references to The Smiths in a more subtle way: on the one hand, the bass line, which mostly plays chord tones in the verses and thus initially fulfills a rhythmic function; on the other hand in the chorus, where walking bass elements are used - such combinations can be found, for example, in the Smiths song “This Charming Man”. In keeping with the simple harmony, the vocal melody also dispenses with complex structures or large leaps in intervals: the lead voice only steps from the ambitus of a fifth from g ’to d’ throughout the song (Farin Urlaub adds a second voice in the chorus and outro). Such “'primitive' melodic devices” (Bannister 2006: 72) are also regarded as identifying features of indie rock of the 1980s, and Farin Urlaub prefers to use a weak vibrato at the end of the line and thus seems to refer to Morrissey's vocal style ( see ibid .: 75).

Finally, the motifs of melancholy and gloom are taken up visually in the video clip: Farin Urlaub's role is over for Count OrlokNosferatu. A symphony of horror based on the original played by actor Max Schreck. On the one hand there are elements in the clip that go directly toNosferatu Reference, on the other hand, those that are to be understood as references to The Smiths - occasionally combinations of the elements of both models can also be recognized. References to knownNosferatuScenes can be found especially at the beginning of the video clip: for example Farin Urlaub rising from the sarcophagus, his stooped corridor on a staircase, which can only be seen as a shadow, and the amulet in which he keeps a picture of his loved one. Direct references to The Smiths are particularly evident from the album covers that can be seen. In keeping with the line of text “And then we heard the Smiths”, Farin Urlaub picks up the albumThe Queen Is Dead and plays it on a gramophone. At a later point is the cover of the albumRank to see, the “Rank” lettering of the original has been expanded to “Rankle” - in German: “worms”; the album title is modified in favor of the intended mood. A scene combining the references shows the honored Farin Urlaub, which is based on the figure of EllenNosferatu when making an embroidery. This depicts the words “Morrissey San”: “San” is a Japanese suffix expressing worship (cf. Heitker 2011: 107), in this case addressed to the singer of the Smiths, whose portrait can be seen in a small picture frame in the background. In the original, Ellen embroidered the words “I love you” into the fabric. Farin Urlaub Admirable is played by a Japanese woman, the model Masako Furuichi, matching the title of the song (cf. ibid .: 109).

By negotiating attributes that decisively shape the image of the band The Smiths, a multilayered network of references is created. By picking up the inNosferatu With the processed vampire material, the gloomy and melancholy mood is additionally intensified and the textually and musically constructed reference is expanded. Fittingly, the SUMISU role models The Smiths andNosferatu fame, among other things, because of their well thought-out eclecticism. With regard to the work of the Smiths, the taking up of cinematic models is sometimes praised (cf. Brooks 2011: 263–264),Nosferatu is regarded as an “aesthetically autonomous adaptation of the Dracula material”, which has remained unattainable due to the negotiation of motifs from the visual arts and opera, among other things, with regard to “density of references, abundance of allusions and culture of reflection” (Alt 2012: 16). Farin Urlaub finally uses the highly regarded role models to construct his own reference construct.

IV. Reception

SUMISU reached number 60 in the German single charts and stayed in the top 100 list for three weeks, the albumFinally holidays! however, was much more successful by taking third place in the album charts. The video clip was released in 2002 by the magazineMusic Express Nominated in the “Video of the Year” category as part of an annual top list.




Guitar, vocals, bass, drums: Farin Urlaub
Music / writer / songwriting: Farin Urlaub
Producer: Uwe Hoffmann
Label: Völker Hört Die Tonträger
Recorded: 2001
Published: 2001
Length: 2:14


  • Farin Urlaub. “Sumisu”. On:Finally holidays!, 2001, Völker Hört Die Tonträger, 108 906-2, Germany (CD / album).
  • Farin Urlaub. “Sumisu”, 2001, Völker Hört Die Tonträger, 108 908-2, Germany (CD / maxi single).
  • The Smiths. “This Charming Man”. On:The Smiths, 1984, Rough Trade, ROUGH 61, UK (LP / album).
  • The Smiths. “This Charming Man”, 1983, Rough Trade, RT 136, UK (7 ”/ single).
  • The Smiths. “What Difference Does It Make?”. On:The Smiths, 1984, Rough Trade, ROUGH 61, UK (LP / album).
  • The Smiths. “What Difference Does It Make?”, 1984, Rough Trade, RT 146, UK (7 ”/ single).


  • Alt, Peter-André: The Transformations of Myth. Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau: Nosferatu. A Symphony of Horror (1922). In:What does the cinema teach? 24 films and answers. Ed. by Stefan Keppler-Tasaki and Elisabeth K. Paefgen. Munich: edition text + kritik 2012, 15-38.
  • Bannister, Matthew:White boys, white noise. Masculinities and 1980s indie guitar rock. Aldershot: Ashgate 2006.
  • Brooks, Lee: Talent Borrows, Genius Steals. Morrissey and the Art of Appropriation. In:Morrissey. Fandom, Representations and Identities. Ed. by Eoin Devereux, Aileen Dillane and Martin J. Power. Chicago: University Press 2011, 257-270.
  • Goddard, Simon:Mozipedia. The encyclopedia of Morrissey and The Smiths. London: Ebury 2009.
  • Heitker Norbert: Music video production and production process Farin Urlaub “Sumisu”, 2001. In:Imageb (u) ilder. Past, present and future of the video clip. Ed. by Henry Keazor, Thomas Mania and Thorsten Wübbena. Münster: Telos 2011, 96-111.
  • Karg, Markus:The doctors. An oversized guinea pig is eating the earth. Berlin: Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf 2001.
  • Müller, Renate / Rhein, Stefanie / Calmbach, Marc: “‘ What difference does it make? ’The empirical aesthetics of The Smiths: An audiovisual study on the social significance of musical taste”. In:Ludwigsburg contributions to media education 9. URL: http://www.ph-ludwigsburg.de/fileadmin/subsites/1b-mpxx-t-01/user_files/Online-Magazin/Ausgabe9/Mueller9.pdf [07/22/2015].


Nosferatu. A symphony of horror. Director: Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau. Transit film, 1922.

About the author

Benjamin Burkhart is currently a PhD student at the University of Music FRANZ LISZT Weimar and a research fellow at the Center for Popular Culture and Music at the University of Freiburg.
All contributions by Benjamin Burkhart


Benjamin Burkhart: “Sumisu (Farin Urlaub)”. In:Song dictionary. Encyclopedia of Songs. Ed. by Michael Fischer, Fernand Hörner and Christofer Jost, http://www.songlexikon.de/songs/sumisu, 10/2018.