The Smiths’ “Back to the Old House” Lyrics Meaning

“Back to the Old House” is undoubtedly one of The Smiths’ most melancholic tracks. The band’s discography is rife with melancholic songs but this one takes the melancholy a notch higher.

Morrissey is able to creatively use the lyrics to effectively deliver pure melancholic sorrow.

The narrator starts off the first verse by talking about not wanting to go back to a certain “old house” simply because it brings him a lot of “bad memories”.

In the verse that follows, we find him wondering about the whereabouts of someone from his past whom he “really liked“. He wonders if this person is still living in the community he grew up in or if they have relocated.

Now, the interesting part of this verse is that the narrator reveals that even though he “really liked” them, he was unable to muster the courage to let them know of his true feelings. His inability to tell them that he liked them apparently still haunts him till today.

On a related note, it is revealed that when he saw this person for the first time and fell in love with them, they were riding a bicycle. According to him, this is where all his dreams began. But sadly, his dreams were never fulfilled because he was unable to disclose his true feelings.


It is very possible that the lyrics are autobiographical. Also there is a very, very high likelihood that this is the same person that Morrissey is addressing in “There is a Light That Never Goes Out”. Why do we say so? Simply because in “There is a Light That Never Goes Out”, Morrissey also struggles in vain to tell his true feelings to someone whom he was deeply in love with. In that song, we find out that fear was the sole reason he was unable to do so. It is beyond obvious that in this case, fear also played a role in hindering him from confessing his love to this person.

I don’t want to go back to my old home  

The sad memories from his past in addition to the sorrow of losing the person he loved are too much for the narrator to bare. And going back to his “old house” in the town where he grew up would only make matters worse since it would conjure up the bad memories he is trying to bury. Owing to this, he has absolutely no appetite to go back there. But does he?

We ask this question because in the final verse, we hear Morrissey say that he “would love to go back” to his old house. Maybe he would love to go back to this town to find out whether this special person he loved still lives there. But even this thought isn’t strong enough to motivate him to go back there. He therefore instantaneously rubbishes that idea.

While there might be some good memories that would be evoked when he returns to the “old house”, there would also be the resurrection of some very bad ones. And the latter memories are too painful for him to relive. Owing to this, he has decided never to go back there.

It is apparent that while living in the “old house”, thoughts of this special person were the only things that made life tolerable for him. But even that eventually became his source of sorrow as he never was brave enough to reveal his true feelings to this person.

"Back to the Old House" Lyrics

Morrissey’s Childhood Home

Morrissey grew up in Stretford, Manchester. He and his family lived in a house on a road called Kings Road. Shortly after he and Johnny Marr formed the Smiths, he left Stretford and moved to Kensington, London. He has publicly stated that here, he never had a “social life” and was very depressed while living in Stretford. It was therefore a great relief to him when he was finally able to make it out of this uneventful and boring town.

It should be noted that this is likely the same town that Morrissey references in “William, It Was Really Nothing” and “Everyday is Like Sunday“.

Release of “Back to the Old House”

On November 12, 1984, the Smiths released a compilation album titled “Hatful of Hollow”. “Back to the Old House” was one of the songs on this compilation project. Since it was a non-single release, it shares the same date of release with the album. Talking about singles, “Hatful of Hollow” was supported by three singles, including the aforementioned “William, It Was Really Nothing”. “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” was the album’s first single. The final single of this project was “How Soon Is Now?“.

In 1987, “Back to the Old House” was also featured on another compilation album titled “Louder Than Bombs”.

Credits for “Back to the Old House”

As usual, the writing of “Back to the Old House” is credited to both Morrissey and Marr.

English record producer, John Porter, handled the song’s production. The Smiths worked very frequently with Porter throughout their short-lived career. In addition to The Smiths, Porter is also known for his collaborations with Roxy Music

Back to the Old House

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may also like...