“Barbarism Begins at Home” is almost certainly the funkiest of all songs by The Smiths. And, at almost seven minutes in length, it could be considered the perfect companion piece to the better-known “How Soon is Now?” not least of all because they are so different from each other and represent the two polar-opposite, sonic styles of the band.
The origins of this sound came from the music that guitarist Johnny Marr and bassist Andy Rourke had been exploring before The Smiths was formed. It was as influenced by James Brown as it was by the British white bands that had been promoting their takes on funk and jazz at the time and were enjoying increased popularity at underground clubs and bars.
Countering the danceability of the tune are Morrissey’s somber lyrics: an observation of abuse that children grow up with, and that he sees as the precursor of war. As he explained to Melody Maker upon the release of Meat is Murder in March 1985: “From the time you get hit when you’re a child, violence is the only answer. Conversation is pointless.”
“Unruly boys who will not grow up must be taken in hand / Unruly girls who will not settle down, they must be taken in hand / A crack on the head is what you get for not asking / And a crack on the head is what you get for asking.”