In the book The Songs That Saved Your Life by Simon Goddard, Johnny Marr says that it was never discussed why they never did, but offers that he and Morrissey thought that “it had something magical we might not be able to recapture in concert.”
Indeed, Well I Wonder is so fragile a creation that it seems like it could evaporate into thin air at first listen. It’s only after a few plays that it reveals the very strong undercurrents that course through it, held in restraint so strong lest it completely fall apart at one’s fingertips. “Gasping, dying, but somehow still alive,” sings Morrissey. “This is the fierce last stand of all I am.” No matter if the lines were first written by Elizabeth Smart, when he sang them it became his—and it became mine, too. He never sounded so true as he did to me then.
Of all the music that The Smiths recorded, this is the song that has meant to me the most. I may have listened to This Charming Man, Panic, or Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now a lot more but it was always this song that I put on when I was alone. Even now, I can still remember rewinding the cassette to play it over and over only because there was nothing else I wanted to hear.
Alan Bennett, one of Morrissey’s favorite writers, once wrote: “The best moments in reading are when you come across something — a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things — which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.”
If anything, this song held my hand when no one else did