Smiths – How Soon Is Now…. 80’s Underground Mondays

I knew a few songs from The Smiths in the 80s but I found out more in the last few years from bloggers like Dave from A Sound Day.  This intro is just plain epic. The Smiths had difficulty playing this song live. Johnny Marr, had troubles recreating the guitar effect in concert. The tremolo is perfect in this song.

Bassist, Andy Rourke, called the song “the bane of The Smiths’ live career.”

The song was released in 1985 and it peaked at #24 in the UK, #39 in New Zealand, an d #36 in the US Dance Chart… The single was re-released in 1992 and it peaked at #16 in the UK. 

This incridble song was the B side to William, It Was Really Nothing. It was on the album Hatful of Hollow. The album was a compilation album released in 1984 and it peaked at #7 in the UK. In 2000, Q magazine placed the album at No. 44 on its list of the “100 Greatest British Albums Ever”.

Guitarist  Johnny Marr has described this song as The Smiths’ “most enduring record.” It is supposedly about their singer’s Morrissey’s crippling shyness. It has since become an anthem for the alienated and socially isolated.

Johnny Marr: “I wanted an introduction that was almost as potent as ‘Layla.’ When it plays in a club or a pub, everyone knows what it is.”

Johnny Marr: “I wanted it to be really, really tense and swampy, all at the same time. Layering the slide part was what gave it the real tension. The tremolo effect came from laying down a regular rhythm part with a capo at the 2nd fret on a Les Paul, then sending that out in to the live room to four Fender Twins. John was controlling the tremolo on two of them and I was controlling the other two, and whenever they went out of sync we just had to stop the track and start all over again. It took an eternity.”

From Songfacts

Marr wrote this song, “William, It Was Really Nothing” and “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want” over a productive four-day period in June 1984.

The Smiths installed red lightbulbs in their London studio to create the perfect atmosphere to record this song in.

The oscillating guitar has been compared to the one heard in The Rolling Stones’ cover of Bo Diddley’s song, “I Need You Baby (Mona).” This would not be the last time that Marr would steal a riff from the Stones!

This song was named after a question posed in Marjorie Rosen’s feminist film study, Popcorn Venus – one of Morrissey’s favorite books.

Morrissey lifted the line, “The heir to nothing in particular,” from the 19th century novel, Middlemarch, by George Eliot.

Marr told The Guardian newspaper that the producer, John Porter, misjudged this song’s opening lyric: “I remember when Morrissey first sang, ‘I am the son and the heir…’ John Porter went, ‘Ah great, the elements!’ Morrissey continued, ‘…of a shyness that is criminally vulgar.’ I knew he’d hit the bullseye there and then.”

Unlike many British acts, The Smiths hadn’t made any music videos. By 1985, MTV was very popular in America and a key to promoting songs to a young audience, so Jeff Ayeroff, who was in charge of video promotion at Warner Music, parent to The Smith’s US label Sire, commissioned a video. Video directors weren’t easy to come by at the time unless you had a substantial budget, and Ayeroff only wanted to shell out $5,000. He hired Paula Greif, who had been designing album covers, to make the video, giving her the instruction, “Find some performance footage and put a girl in it.”

Greif did just that, using footage from a show in Leicester shot in 1984 by the band’s live sound engineer, Grant Showbiz. She combined this with Super 8 video she shot of a female model dancing as if she was at the show. The band had no involvement.

Morrissey told Creem magazine that he detested the video. “It had absolutely nothing to do with The Smiths,” he said. “Quite naturally we were swamped with letters from very distressed American friends saying, ‘Why on earth did you make this foul video?’ And of course it must be understood that Sire made that video, and we saw the video and we said to Sire, ‘You can’t possibly release this… this degrading video.’ And they said, ‘Well, maybe you shouldn’t really be on our label.’ It was quite disastrous.”

Morrissey and Marr receive 25% of the royalties for the Soho hit, “Hippychick,” which interpolates this song’s guitar riff.

The band Love Spit Love, which included Psychedelic Furs members Richard and Tim Butler, recorded a new version of this song for the 1996 movie The Craft, which is about a coven of strikingly attractive teenage witches. In 1998, this same cover version was used as the theme song to the TV series Charmed, which is about a coven of strikingly attractive teenage witches.

The song also appears in the movies The Wedding Singer (1998) and Closer (2004).

The Russian duo t.A.T.u. of “All The Things She Said” fame covered this song in 2002. Marr slammed the “silly” cover, though Morrissey called it “magnificent.” Their version was used in the 2008 episode of Gossip Girl, “Pret-a-Poor-J.”

This song featured in a commercial for Pepe Jeans in 1988, also appeared in a 1999 commercial for the Nissan Maxima (without lyrics).

This was the B-side to the “William, It Was Really Nothing” single, which was released in 1984. After British radio picked up on the song, it was released as a standalone single in 1985, when it charted at an underwhelming #24, much to the disappointment of Morrissey, who bemoaned to Creem magazine: “It’s hard to believe that ‘How Soon Is Now’ was not a hit. I thought that was the one.” It was reissued for a third time in 1992, when it charted at #16.

The single artwork was a still of the actor, Sean Barrett, from the 1958 film, Dunkirk. Barrett was praying in the image, but because he also looked like he was holding his crotch, the sleeve was deemed to be offensive and was consequently banned in the US.

How Soon Is Now

I am the son
And the heir
Of a shyness that is criminally vulgar
I am the son and heir
Of nothing in particular

You shut your mouth
How can you say
I go about things the wrong way?
I am human and I need to be loved
Just like everybody else does

I am the son
And the heir
Of a shyness that is criminally vulgar
I am the son and heir
Of nothing in particular

You shut your mouth
How can you say
I go about things the wrong way?
I am human and I need to be loved
Just like everybody else does

There’s a club if you’d like to go
You could meet somebody who really loves you
So you go and you stand on your own
And you leave on your own
And you go home and you cry
And you want to die

When you say it’s gonna happen “now”
When exactly do you mean?
See I’ve already waited too long
And all my hope is gone

You shut your mouth
How can you say
I go about things the wrong way?
I am human and I need to be loved
Just like everybody else does

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

33 thoughts on “Smiths – How Soon Is Now…. 80’s Underground Mondays”

  1. thanks for the link! One of the 80s best songs and the highlight of their career. I like much of their other stuff too, but this one stands out and is atypical of them, since most of theirs are short, jangly and sound upbeat even if the lyrics are a bit down.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It hooks you from the start no doubt. I had this one in the drafts for a month at least but then I started this Monday thing that fit them perfectly.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Every time someone mentions The Smiths, I listen to the song, because I think I should like their sound. But for some reason I don’t. And it’s not for lack of trying, again and again. 😀 This song comes close, though.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The intro is what pulls me in…something I want to ask you about the 80s…you know I’m not the biggest fan with some but…is it just me or were a lot of singers monotone? It seems a lot of them took on that flat low voice in that decade.

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      1. Thank you! I thought it was just me but I got really tired of that sound/voice.

        Like

      2. Yes… Modern English I hear right now… That is one of the reason some of the 80s didn’t appeal to me as much…that is why also when I hear The Replacements or REM I like it right away… they were different…more of a throwback but alternative at the same time.

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      1. I’ve been behind also for a few weeks…I didn’t think I’d hear from you for a while…you are fine…enjoy yourself Lisa.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This is one of my favorite Smiths tracks. I can see how it would have been so hard to replicate in concert. I don’t know which I prefer more this or ‘William, it was really nothing”. I like a lot of Morrisey’ s sólo stuff as well. Like the Go-betweens I don’t know how I didn’t grow up with the Smiths.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great song…tho, I prefer Love Spit Love’s version of it. I heard it first via Charmed.

    Morrisey is a damn trip. He is right up there with Adam Ant. Brits in the 80s were very experimental. American 80s pop is so…*yawn*

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes a big yawn although I like the alternate rock stuff…you know how I feel about most of the 80s…the commercial part.

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  5. I think , there is a certain feel to this song ..which of course is general BUT also very specific to a certain life style in the early closet case 80s .
    Looking for love .. Seeing everyone else find love but sadly, in spite of good looks, not connecting with it yourself .
    The chilly night/early morning walk home. Passing houses with other people who have formed a life together
    Then home, door slam , the heavy legged walk up the stairs … Needle to vinyl and throw yourself on the bed.

    Liked by 1 person

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