Meaning of “Still Ill” by The Smiths

The lyrics of the Smiths’ “Still Ill” see the narrator (Morrissey) talk about England changing for the worse. He misses the old England before it was ruined. According to the narrator, things have become so bad in England that he feels that people cannot “cling to the old dreams anymore”.

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for The Smiths's Still Ill at

To stress on how much England had changed for the worse, he goes as far as talking about affectionately kissing his lover and not feeling the same way he used to feel in the old days when they kissed. This is the narrator’s way of saying how extremely bad things have really become in his country.

He feels that the negative changes have only led to life taking everything from him and not giving anything in return, and as result of that his country England owes him a living.

“I decree today that life
Is simply taking and not giving
England is mine, it owes me a living”

Facts that support the explanation above

Morrissey’s lifelong hatred for the former Prime Minister of England Margaret Thatcher, whom Morrissey believes ruined England and is (up until today) responsible for the “bad state” the country is in.

Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister of England from 1979 to 1990, during which Morrissey and many others believe England became ruined. Even several years later in 2013 when Thatcher died, Morrissey still harbored hatred for her for the suffering he claims ordinary people like him went through under her leadership.

He thoroughly lambasted the late British Prime Minister a day after her death on 8 April 2013 calling her a “barbaric” person and someone who was a “terror” with no “atom of humanity”, among others.

Morrissey penned Still Ill during Thatcher’s rule as Prime Minister of England – a time during which England was not really in the best of states. For example, at that time Britain’s manufacturing industry was destroyed, there was mass unemployment as a result of Thatcher’s policies. Furthermore, free milk for school children in Britain was abolished. There was also the notorious poll tax that ended up seeing the poor paying more tax than the rich.

Morrissey grew up poor, and must have suffered just like millions of other poor people under Thatcher’s rule. As if that isn’t enough, there is also the issue of Thatcher’s government being against homosexuals, and everyone who knows The Smiths’ singer Morrissey knows that he is everything but straight.

Facts about “Still Ill”

  • The Smiths’ guitarist Johnny Marr wrote the music for Still, whereas Smiths’ singer and frontman Morrissey wrote the lyrics of the song.
  • The song appears as the 6th track from the group’s critically acclaimed debut studio album titled The Smiths.
  • Morrissey probably got the famous line “England is mine and it owes me a living” from the statement “Society owes me a living” which one of the perpetrators of the Moors Murders Myra Hindley once said in the 1970s. The Moors Murders was an issue that greatly had a lasting impression on Morrissey. It was even the subject of The Smiths’ famous song “Suffer Little Children”.
  • The line from “Still Ill” in which Morrissey talks about ending up with sore lips after kissing his lover under an iron bridge was borrowed from the famous British football pools winner Viv Nicholson’s 1977 autobiography titled Spend, Spend, Spend.

3 Responses

  1. Gran Jimi says:

    “… everyone who knows The Smiths’ singer Morrissey knows that he is everything but straight…”

    The proof being where and what, other than a couple of humourous lines in Handsome Devil?

    • Anonymous says:

      There are loads of songs that make it really obvious if you sit down and pick apart the lyrics such as “I want the one I can’t have” and “This Charming Man”.

  1. July 3, 2017

    […] Still Ill […]

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