“Sheila Take a Bow” by The Smiths

The “Shelia” referred to in the Smiths’ “Sheila Take a Bow” is actually Shelagh Delaney (1938-2011), a notable mid-20th century English writer. 

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for The Smiths's Sheila Take a Bow at Lyrics.org.

Her signature work is a well-known play titled A Taste of Honey (1958), and it just so happens that Morrissey, himself being from Manchester, is not only deeply into classic literature but also acknowledged Shelagh as being “50 percent of (his) reason for writing”. So it is that aforementioned story that these lyrics apparently revolve around or were inspired by.

The play’s narrative revolves around the following themes:

  • class
  • race
  • age of sexual consent
  • gender
  • sexual orientation

All the topics mentioned above are certainly controversial topics even to this day. 

Or put otherwise, it can be said that Delaney was ahead of her time as far as being an outspoken female, and based on the aforenoted synopsis, perhaps the main subtheme of A Taste of Honey deals with the concept of female liberation (particularly in a romantic/sexual sense).

And so it is with these lyrics, with Morrissey initially noting that the addressee is “someone so young” yet wise enough to be saddened by the state of the world, if you will. What’s also implied is she being the type of person who isn’t afraid to lash out accordingly, upon which the vocalist encourages the addressee to indeed “boot the grime of this world in the crotch”, i.e. not be afraid to express her counter-mainstream leanings. 

The song ultimately climaxes with the two of them wandering off as sort of this genderless couple, as A Taste of Honey also, as implied earlier, dealt with the topic of homosexuality.

“Sheila take a, Sheila take a bow
Boot the grime of this world in the crotch, dear
And don’t go home tonight
Come out and find the one that you love and who loves you
The one that you love and who loves you (oh)”

So as far as Morrissey telling Sheila to “take a bow”, to reiterate, that would be his way of saying that she was someone worthy to be celebrated. Or put differently, from his perspective a young woman like herself would have every reason to “throw (her) homework onto the fire”, i.e. question the status quo instead of blindly going along with the flow.


Simply put, The Smiths are apparently using this song to pay tribute to Shelagh Delany, a pioneering female author who appeared to be Morrissey’s most cherished writer

Sheila Take a Bow

Release of “Sheila Take a Bow”

Released as a non-album single on the 13th of April 1987, “Sheila Take a Bow” was included, as the second track, on The Smiths’ compilation album titled “Louder Than Bombs”.


This single is credited as written and produced by Morrissey and Johnny Marr.


“Sheila Take a Bow” ranks high on The Smiths’ hits. The song achieved the 10th position on the official singles chart in the UK.

Additionally, this track has received high ratings from several prominent magazines. For example, it was ranked at number 33 by Rolling Stone magazine on their list of best songs from the group.

1 Response

  1. Aaron H. says:

    Excellent synopsis on one of The Smiths’ finest singles!

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