"Shoplifters of the World Unite" as written by Johnny Marr and Steven Patrick Morrissey....
Learn to love me
Assemble the ways
Now, today, tomorrow and always
My only weakness is a list of crime
My only weakness is well, never mind, never mind

Oh, shoplifters of the world
Unite and take over
Shoplifters of the world
Hand it over
Hand it over
Hand it over

Learn to love me
And assemble the ways
Now, today, tomorrow, and always
My only weakness is a listed crime
But last night the plans of a future war
Was all I saw on Channel Four

Shoplifters of the world
Unite and take over
Shoplifters of the world
Hand it over
Hand it over
Hand it over

A heartless hand on my shoulder
A push and it's over
Alabaster crashes down
(Six months is a long time)
Tried living in the real world
Instead of a shell
But before I began
I was bored before I even began

Shoplifters of the world
Unite and take over
Shoplifters of the world
Unite and take over
Shoplifters of the world
Unite and take over
Shoplifters of the world
Take over


Lyrics submitted by weezerific:cutlery, edited by Mellow_Harsher

"Shoplifters of the World Unite" as written by Steven Patrick Morrissey Johnny Marr

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Universal Music Publishing Group

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Shoplifters of the World Unite song meanings
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  • +6
    General CommentAnother Smith's song where the lyrics are pretty obscure. But I think the interpretations that this is about homosexuality or sexuality are way off base. Morrissey obviously has no qualms about speaking the lingo when he does so. There is only a passing reference to 'love' in the first line, and that appears to be an ironic or sarcastic one.

    The interpretation about intellectual property makes sense, especially if the man said so in an interview though I never read that interview.

    My interpretation is that the song is a comment about Capitalism. The first two lines seems to be a spin on Elizabeth Barret Browning's poem, "How Do I Love Thee, Let Me Count the Ways". For Browning, love is pure and free flowing and someone can effortlessly count the ways they love another person. In Morrissey's world, you need to learn to love Capitalism and manufacture or 'assemble' the ways to love it. The Shoplifter in the song is the counterculture- the subversive who is doing his/her part to tear down Capitalistic society. I agree with the posters that Morrissey consciously echoes the Marxist Manifesto- Workers of the World Unite- in the song's chorus. Capitalistic society should be torn down because they make plans to go to war "...last night the plans for a future war, were all I saw, on Channel Four (never mind that Communist ones do too!). I think this interpretation makes sense in light of the 87 Record Mirror interview snippet that someone else posted where Morrissey mentions the absurdity that someone goes to prison for shoplifting, but not for making nuclear weapons.
    BillyBuddon December 12, 2009   Link
  • +5
    General Commentno kez, you are not stupid, everyone else is for assuming that every single smiths song is about being gay
    I think that this song is about defending poor people who commit little petty crimes because they have to, when there are peopl doing worse things that we dont class as "criminals"
    sambo28on September 17, 2004   Link
  • +4
    General Commentreading everything morrissey writes as a metaphor for his sexuality is homophobic. its like saying that just because hes bisexual, he cant write about any other part of his identity or experience since ALL he is is a bisexual first, a human being second. im bisexual as well, but that doesnt mean that i dont have a complicated identity. i also grew up poor and thus had to shoplift a lot. there are of course connections that can be made: both shoplifting and sodomy are listed crimes, and therefore poor people and non-heterosexuals are turned into society's criminals. the old slogan used to inspire poor people to "unite and take over" was 'workers of the world unite'. since many poor people today are unemployed, they cant really be considered workers, so morrissey is uniting poor people who are shoplifters. but who are the real thieves? the only way the rich got all their wealth was by stealing it from other people, stealing their land, their labor, even their cultures and self-esteem. they have even created an economy that depends on constant war in order to maintain affluence ("last night the plans for a future war / were all i saw on channel four"). the rich's lack of caring for the rest of us is expressed by morrissey in his experience getting apprehended by a store security guard: "a heartless hand on my shoulder / a push and it's over". even though these security guards might not be rich themselves, they're used by the rich to inflict violence. ive seen kids CHOKED by security guards, and you may have seen on the news how wal-mart security guards in texas KILLED a man stealing diapers for his baby.
    adamndirtyshameon November 11, 2005   Link
  • +4
    General Commentno it isn't about shoplifters and shirtlifters at all. I have an interview with Morrissey where he says that what he means is intellectual shoplifting, taking other peoples great art and words and using them to your own advantage. so - mhhh - quite autobiopgraphical, actually - since he "shoplifted" so many quotes from a taste of honey etc ;-)
    lilikoion March 15, 2007   Link
  • +4
    General CommentIm afraid, Morrissey in an interview said this song is indeed about stealing peoples ideas and art and passing it off as their own. Hence the cover of the single, a young Elvis Presley...perhaps the greatest entertainer of all time and indeed the greatest thief of black rhythm and blues music. Sure the gay connotations cant be denied in this song, but the lyrics do indeed go beyond that. Morrissey himself is a shoplifter with the elvis/james dean hair, oscar wilde flowers, and the countless couplets he's 'borrowed'!!!
    cmrock456on June 30, 2008   Link
  • +4
    General CommentI completely agree that this song is open to multiple interpretations. So I don't really disagree with anyone. Morrissey writes on a large range of issues and part of his genious is his ability to blend multiple issues and meanings into the same song. So many times one can interpret a song
    one way if you exaggerate the importance of one or two lines, and downplay other lines. Personally, this song has always meant something a little different to me. I always thought it was about alienation for any number of reasons. The last lines coming after a major change in the pace of the song are "I tried to live in the real world, instead of a shell, but...I was bored before I even began." Shoplifting is a misdemeanor known to be performed by people who are bored and seeking excitement.
    Shoplifters of the world unite is a reference to Marx who used the idea of alienation as a concept of what happens to the laborer in a capitalist society, where the capitalist essentially steals the fruits of the workers labor and gives a small wage in return, thus alienating the laborer from his labor as well as other laborers. Naturally there are other examples of alienation in the song like the common claim of references to homosexuality. Also "workers of the world unite" is a call to arms, to unite and change the world. In this case its a call to make the world a more open and interesting, and less alienating place for all who share in his frustration. Morrissey frequently references the issues that bother him greatly, but also mentions the boredom of watching the more destructive tendencies in human nature; war, crime, poverty, love (or lack of). Such pathological tendencies and frustrations with a lack of positive change push one back into a shell. As always it isn't always about what he says and how he says it, but what he doesn't say that provides further meanings to his lyrics. Furthermore, we all have such a tendency to focus on what he does say that we forget about what a brilliant band they were, and how much Marr brilliantly adds to the meaning and power of these songs through subtle changes in the music.
    Also Morrissey mentions it to be about spiritual or intellectual crime. Retreated to his shell he makes life interesting through incorporating little bits and pieces of shoplifted material and laboring to make them his own where they attain greater intrinsic value. What a genius. Guy writes 25 lines and we all go on for pages!!!
    Frankyshellon January 21, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI like this song because sometimes I think we should all unite and shoplift Tesco to the ground.
    orangebeakeron March 04, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General Commentyeh i know, all you people thinking every single smiths song is about being gay. Why the hell do you make up all these stupid insinuations? example: heaven knows im miserable now is about morrissey being miserable that he is gay. another example: asleep is about morrissey sleeping with a man coz if it was called sleep it wud be about him sleeping with a woman, yet another example: willaim it was really nothing must be about morrissey sticking his tongue down a lad called williams throat when he got drunk and he rings him up in the morning and says it was nothing. see how obvious was that?
    ok them examples wer not actually true but some ppl are actually stupid enough to go that far into it
    mdeaveson January 10, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentShirt-lifter is actually a derogatory term for homosexuals in England. It has it's equivalents in the like of bum boy, shit-stabber etc...
    Why do people always look for these hidden meanings all the time. The first thing that attracted me to Morrissey/the Smiths was Mozza's bluntness and honesty - his willingness to say anything he felt. I never saw him as a person to hide behind allusion and metaphors. I think rather than apply Mozza's lyrics to their lives many fans make the mistake of trying to apply Mozza himself.
    Boss Manon July 19, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentRecord Mirror, 1987:

    'Lyrically, 'Shoplifters' is an obscure affair, and the author is typically unhappy about expanding on the song's meaning.
    "Well, I never really like to say, I never really like to pin it down. Do you understand that? I mean, there's someone in Huddersfield who might have a fascinating, fiery explanation, and then I go and shatter it by saying it's about greyhound racing. Their life collapses."
    That's putting it a bit strongly, isn't it?
    "Well, you never know, it happens. I mean, I could talk about nuclear weapons, but it gets quite tiresome, doesn't it? Everyone gets quite bored with it. I often wonder why shoplifting can be such a serious crime when making nuclear weapons isn't. That should really be a crime, I think, but it isn't. We live in a very twisted world, with a very twisted morality."
    nightanddayon December 29, 2005   Link

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