EML’s Favorite Songs – THE SMITHS: “How Soon is Now?”

The other day I heard “How Soon Is Now?” by the Smiths on the radio, and was reminded of what a brilliant song it is and how much I love it. The highlight of the song is Johnny Marr’s mesmerizing and wailing tremolo-heavy guitar riff. The song was difficult to record and was even more difficult for the band to perform live. In 1990, Marr explained the recording process to Guitar Player Magazine: “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 (the band’s producer) 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.”

Co-written by band vocalist Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr, the song was initially released in August 1984 as a B-side of the single “William, It Was Really Nothing”. The band and their producer John Porter felt that with “How Soon Is Now?”, they had a potential hit on their hands, and wanted it released as a single. However, their record label Rough Trade felt it was too different from the Smiths’ signature sound and released it as a B-side instead. Porter later angrily recalled “They totally threw it away, wasted it.” Fortunately, several British radio stations began playing the song, and it soon became the most-requested track. The song was subsequently included on the band’s compilation album Hatful of Hollow, which was released in November 1984.

The song was released in the U.S. via Sire Records that same month, with “Girl Afraid” as the B-side. It was expected to sell well and, for the first time, a video was made to promote one of the Smiths’ songs. It was also re-released as a lead single in the UK in January 1985, with “Well I Wonder” as the B-side. Unfortunately, the single failed to chart in the U.S., and peaked at only #24 in the UK.

In a 1987 interview with Creem magazine, Morrissey expressed his disappointment: “It’s hard to believe that ‘How Soon Is Now?’ was not a hit. I thought that was the one.” He also stated that he hated the video Sire Records produced for the song: “It had absolutely nothing to do with the Smiths. Quite naturally we were swamped with letters from very distressed American friends saying, ‘Why on earth did you make this foul video?’ [After] we saw the video 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.

Well, as with a lot of great songs that were not big hits at the time of their release, the Smiths have been vindicated with “How Soon Is Now?”, as it has endured as their most popular and beloved song. In 2014, NME ranked the song #4 on its list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Pitchfork named it the 10th best song of the 1980s, and in 2010, Rolling Stone ranked it #477 on its 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list.

The song lyrics were inspired by Morrissey’s own crippling shyness and how it made finding a romantic partner difficult. His vulnerable, haunting vocals beautifully convey his loneliness and despair.

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

And here’s the offending video:

Top 30 Songs for September 9-15, 2018

1. GOLD RUSH – Death Cab for Cutie (2)
2. CLOSER – IAMWARFACE (3)
3. JUMPSUIT – twenty one pilots (1)
4. NATURAL – Imagine Dragons (6)
5. DIZZY – The Million Reasons (7)
6. 44 – Oli Barton & the Movement (5)
7. LIVING IN THE FUTURE – Dawes (9)
8. NEVERMIND – Dennis Lloyd (11)
9. RED MOON SKY – Face of Stone (4)
10. FEVER PITCH – Rainbow Kitten Surprise (8)
11. WHEN THE CURTAIN FALLS – Greta Van Fleet (13)
12. GHOST – Badflower (14)
13. UNWIND – John Defeo (10) 21st week on chart
14. SIT NEXT TO ME – Foster the People (12) 48th week on chart
15. RIDE OR DIE – The Knocks featuring Foster the People (17)
16. BETTER NOW – Post Malone (20)
17. SOMETHING HUMAN – Muse (18)
18. BURN THE HOUSE DOWN – AJR (19)
19. ALL MY FRIENDS – The Revivalists (21)
20. CRAZY – From Ashes to New (24)
21. CITY LOOKS PRETTY – Courtney Barnett (25)
22. HUNGER – Florence + the Machine (15)
23. I FEEL LIKE I’M DROWNING – Two Feet (16) 22nd week on chart
24. DEAD TO ME – Reality Suite (27)
25. PANIC – Agency Panic (28)
26. HUMILITY – Gorillaz featuring George Benson (22)
27. TIDAL WAVE – Portugal.The Man (30)
28. HI HELLO – Johnny Marr (23)
29. BODY TALKS – The Struts (N)
30. IN MY MIND – Draft Evader (N)

Top 30 Songs for September 2-8, 2018

1. JUMPSUIT – twenty one pilots (1) 4th week at #1
2. GOLD RUSH – Death Cab for Cutie (2)
3. CLOSER – IAMWARFACE (3)
4. RED MOON SKY – Face of Stone (4)
5. 44 – Oli Barton & the Movement (5)
6. NATURAL – Imagine Dragons (7)
7. DIZZY – The Million Reasons (10)
8. FEVER PITCH – Rainbow Kitten Surprise (8)
9. LIVING IN THE FUTURE – Dawes (9)
10. UNWIND – John Defeo (6) 20th week on chart
11. NEVERMIND – Dennis Lloyd (13)
12. SIT NEXT TO ME – Foster the People (11) 47th week on chart
13. WHEN THE CURTAIN FALLS – Greta Van Fleet (14)
14. GHOST – Badflower (18)
15. HUNGER – Florence + the Machine (12)
16. I FEEL LIKE I’M DROWNING – Two Feet (16) 21st week on chart
17. RIDE OR DIE – The Knocks featuring Foster the People (19)
18. SOMETHING HUMAN – Muse (22)
19. BURN THE HOUSE DOWN – AJR (23)
20. BETTER NOW – Post Malone (25)
21. ALL MY FRIENDS – The Revivalists (26)
22. HUMILITY – Gorillaz featuring George Benson (17)
23. HI HELLO – Johnny Marr (15)
24. CRAZY – From Ashes to New (27)
25. CITY LOOKS PRETTY – Courtney Barnett (28)
26. SUCH A SIMPLE THING – Ray LaMontagne (20)
27. DEAD TO ME – Reality Suite (29)
28. PANIC – Agency Panic (30)
29. QUARTER PAST MIDNIGHT – Bastille (21)
30. TIDAL WAVE – Portugal.The Man (N)

Top 30 Songs for August 26-September 1, 2018

1. JUMPSUIT – twenty one pilots (1)
2. GOLD RUSH – Death Cab for Cutie (2)
3. CLOSER – IAMWARFACE (3)
4. RED MOON SKY – Face of Stone (5)
5. 44 – Oli Barton & the Movement (6)
6. UNWIND – John Defeo (4)
7. NATURAL – Imagine Dragons (8)
8. FEVER PITCH – Rainbow Kitten Surprise (12)
9. LIVING IN THE FUTURE – Dawes (13)
10. DIZZY – The Million Reasons (14)
11. SIT NEXT TO ME – Foster the People (9) 46th week on chart
12. HUNGER – Florence + the Machine (7)
13. NEVERMIND – Dennis Lloyd (15)
14. WHEN THE CURTAIN FALLS – Greta Van Fleet (20)
15. HI HELLO – Johnny Marr (10)
16. I FEEL LIKE I’M DROWNING – Two Feet (11) 20th week on chart
17. HUMILITY – Gorillaz featuring George Benson (16)
18. GHOST – Badflower (22)
19. RIDE OR DIE – The Knocks featuring Foster the People (21)
20. SUCH A SIMPLE THING – Ray LaMontagne (17)
21. QUARTER PAST MIDNIGHT – Bastille (18)
22. SOMETHING HUMAN – Muse (26)
23. BURN THE HOUSE DOWN – AJR (27)
24. FLAWLESS – Dorothy (19)
25. BETTER NOW – Post Malone (N)
26. ALL MY FRIENDS – The Revivalists (N)
27. CRAZY – From Ashes to New (N)
28. CITY LOOKS PRETTY – Courtney Barnett (N)
29. DEAD TO ME – Reality Suite (N)
30. PANIC – Agency Panic (N)

Top 30 Songs for August 19-25, 2018

1. JUMPSUIT – twenty one pilots (1)
2. GOLD RUSH – Death Cab for Cutie (3)
3. CLOSER – IAMWARFACE (5)
4. UNWIND – John Defeo (2)
5. RED MOON SKY – Face of Stone (8)
6. 44 – Oli Barton & the Movement (9)
7. HUNGER – Florence + the Machine (4)
8. NATURAL – Imagine Dragons (19)
9. SIT NEXT TO ME – Foster the People (7) 45th week on chart
10. HI HELLO – Johnny Marr (11)
11. I FEEL LIKE I’M DROWNING – Two Feet (6)
12. FEVER PITCH – Rainbow Kitten Surprise (13)
13. LIVING IN THE FUTURE – Dawes (14)
14. DIZZY – The Million Reasons (17)
15. NEVERMIND – Dennis Lloyd (18)
16. HUMILITY – Gorillaz featuring George Benson (15)
17. SUCH A SIMPLE THING – Ray LaMontagne (10)
18. QUARTER PAST MIDNIGHT – Bastille (12)
19. FLAWLESS – Dorothy (16)
20. WHEN THE CURTAIN FALLS – Greta Van Fleet (25)
21. RIDE OR DIE – The Knocks featuring Foster the People (24)
22. GHOST – Badflower (29)
23. GIVE YOURSELF A TRY – The 1975 (20)
24. COLORS – Beck (21)
25. FOUR OUT OF FIVE – Arctic Monkeys (22)
26. SOMETHING HUMAN – Muse (N)
27. BURN THE HOUSE DOWN – AJR (N)
28. BLOOM – Troye Sivan (26)
29. KAMIKAZE – WALK THE MOON (27)
30. LIFE TO FIX – The Record Company (23)

Top 30 Songs for August 12-18, 2018

 

1. JUMPSUIT – twenty one pilots (2)
2. UNWIND – John Defeo (1)
3. GOLD RUSH – Death Cab for Cutie (5)
4. HUNGER – Florence + the Machine (3)
5. CLOSER – IAMWARFACE (10)
6. I FEEL LIKE I’M DROWNING – Two Feet (4)
7. SIT NEXT TO ME – Foster the People (6) 44th week on chart
8. RED MOON SKY – Face of Stone (8)
9. 44 – Oli Barton & the Movement (9)
10. SUCH A SIMPLE THING – Ray LaMontagne (7)
11. HI HELLO – Johnny Marr (11)
12. QUARTER PAST MIDNIGHT – Bastille (12)
13. FEVER PITCH – Rainbow Kitten Surprise (15)
14. LIVING IN THE FUTURE – Dawes (20)
15. HUMILITY – Gorillaz featuring George Benson (18)
16. FLAWLESS – Dorothy (19)
17. DIZZY – The Million Reasons (24)
18. NEVERMIND – Dennis Lloyd (25)
19. NATURAL – Imagine Dragons (29)
20. GIVE YOURSELF A TRY – The 1975 (17)
21. COLORS – Beck (13)
22. FOUR OUT OF FIVE – Arctic Monkeys (14)
23. LIFE TO FIX – The Record Company (16)
24. RIDE OR DIE – The Knocks featuring Foster the People (28)
25. WHEN THE CURTAIN FALLS – Greta Van Fleet (30)
26. BLOOM – Troye Sivan (21)
27. KAMIKAZE – WALK THE MOON (23)
28. BAD BAD NEWS – Leon Bridges (22)
29. GHOST – Badflower (N)
30. BROKEN – lovelytheband (27) 26th week on chart

Top 30 Songs for August 5-11, 2018

1. UNWIND – John Defeo (1)
2. JUMPSUIT – twenty one pilots (5)
3. HUNGER – Florence + the Machine (2)
4. I FEEL LIKE I’M DROWNING – Two Feet (3)
5. GOLD RUSH – Death Cab for Cutie (7)
6. SIT NEXT TO ME – Foster the People (6) 43rd week on chart
7. SUCH A SIMPLE THING – Ray LaMontagne (4)
8. RED MOON SKY – Face of Stone (10)
9. 44 – Oli Barton & the Movement (11)
10. CLOSER – IAMWARFACE (15)
11. HI HELLO – Johnny Marr (13)
12. QUARTER PAST MIDNIGHT – Bastille (14)
13. COLORS – Beck (8)
14. FOUR OUT OF FIVE – Arctic Monkeys (9)
15. FEVER PITCH – Rainbow Kitten Surprise (25)
16. LIFE TO FIX – The Record Company (12)
17. GIVE YOURSELF A TRY – The 1975 (19)
18. HUMILITY – Gorillaz featuring George Benson (20)
19. FLAWLESS – Dorothy (22)
20. LIVING IN THE FUTURE – Dawes (27)
21. BLOOM – Troye Sivan (18)
22. BAD BAD NEWS – Leon Bridges (17)
23. KAMIKAZE – WALK THE MOON (21)
24. DIZZY – The Million Reasons (30)
25. NEVERMIND – Dennis Lloyd (N)
26. SAY AMEN (SATURDAY NIGHT) – Panic! At the Disco (16)
27. BROKEN – lovelytheband (23) 25th week on chart
28. RIDE OR DIE – The Knocks featuring Foster the People (N)
29. NATURAL – Imagine Dragons (N)
30. WHEN THE CURTAIN FALLS – Greta Van Fleet (N)

Top 30 Songs for July 29-August 4, 2018

 

1. UNWIND – John Defeo (2)
2. HUNGER – Florence + the Machine (1)
3. I FEEL LIKE I’M DROWNING – Two Feet (3)
4. SUCH A SIMPLE THING – Ray LaMontagne (5)
5. JUMPSUIT – twenty one pilots (19)
6. SIT NEXT TO ME – Foster the People (4) 42nd week on chart
7. GOLD RUSH – Death Cab for Cutie (10)
8. COLORS – Beck (8)
9. FOUR OUT OF FIVE – Arctic Monkeys (7)
10. RED MOON SKY – Face of Stone (12)
11. 44 – Oli Barton & the Movement (13)
12. LIFE TO FIX – The Record Company (9)
13. HI HELLO – Johnny Marr (14)
14. QUARTER PAST MIDNIGHT – Bastille (15)
15. CLOSER – IAMWARFACE (25)
16. SAY AMEN (SATURDAY NIGHT) – Panic! At the Disco (6)
17. BAD BAD NEWS – Leon Bridges (11)
18. BLOOM – Troye Sivan (20)
19. GIVE YOURSELF A TRY – The 1975 (21)
20. HUMILITY – Gorillaz featuring George Benson (22)
21. KAMIKAZE – WALK THE MOON (18)
22. FLAWLESS – Dorothy (23)
23. BROKEN – lovelytheband (17) 24th week on chart
24. ZOMBIE – Bad Wolves (16)
25. FEVER PITCH – Rainbow Kitten Surprise (28)
26. TRANSITION – The Winachi Tribe (27)
27. LIVING IN THE FUTURE – Dawes (29)
28. PINK LEMONADE – James Bay (24)
29. LASH OUT – Alice Merton (30)
30. DIZZY – The Million Reasons (N)

Top 30 Songs for July 22-28, 2018

1. HUNGER – Florence + the Machine (2)
2. UNWIND – John Defeo (3)
3. I FEEL LIKE I’M DROWNING – Two Feet (1)
4. SIT NEXT TO ME – Foster the People (4) 41st week on chart
5. SUCH A SIMPLE THING – Ray LaMontagne (6)
6. SAY AMEN (SATURDAY NIGHT) – Panic! At the Disco (5)
7. FOUR OUT OF FIVE – Arctic Monkeys (9)
8. COLORS – Beck (11)
9. LIFE TO FIX – The Record Company (12)
10. GOLD RUSH – Death Cab for Cutie (20)
11. BAD BAD NEWS – Leon Bridges (7)
12. RED MOON SKY – Face of Stone (13)
13. 44 – Oli Barton & the Movement (14)
14. HI HELLO – Johnny Marr (16)
15. QUARTER PAST MIDNIGHT – Bastille (17)
16. ZOMBIE – Bad Wolves (8)
17. BROKEN – lovelytheband (10) 23rd week on chart
18. KAMIKAZE – WALK THE MOON (19)
19. JUMPSUIT – twenty one pilots (N)
20. BLOOM – Troye Sivan (23)
21. GIVE YOURSELF A TRY – The 1975 (24)
22. HUMILITY – Gorillaz featuring George Benson (28)
23. FLAWLESS – Dorothy (29)
24. PINK LEMONADE – James Bay (15)
25. CLOSER – IAMWARFACE (N)
26. I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY – Blue October (18)
27. TRANSITION – The Winachi Tribe (30)
28. FEVER PITCH – Rainbow Kitten Surprise (N)
29. LIVING IN THE FUTURE – Dawes (N)
30. LASH OUT – Alice Merton (N)

Top 30 Songs for July 15-21, 2018

1. I FEEL LIKE I’M DROWNING – Two Feet (1)
2. HUNGER – Florence + the Machine (3)
3. UNWIND – John Defeo (7)
4. SIT NEXT TO ME – Foster the People (6) 40th week on chart
5. SAY AMEN (SATURDAY NIGHT) – Panic! At the Disco (5)
6. SUCH A SIMPLE THING – Ray LaMontagne (9)
7. BAD BAD NEWS – Leon Bridges (2)
8. ZOMBIE – Bad Wolves (4)
9. FOUR OUT OF FIVE – Arctic Monkeys (10)
10. BROKEN – lovelytheband (13) 22nd week on chart
11. COLORS – Beck (14)
12. LIFE TO FIX – The Record Company (15)
13. RED MOON SKY – Face of Stone (17)
14. 44 – Oli Barton & the Movement (18)
15. PINK LEMONADE – James Bay (8)
16. HI HELLO – Johnny Marr (21)
17. QUARTER PAST MIDNIGHT – Bastille (22)
18. I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY – Blue October (16)
19. KAMIKAZE – WALK THE MOON (24)
20. GOLD RUSH – Death Cab For Cutie (30)
21. THOUGHT CONTAGION – Muse (11)
22. CELEBRATE – Dirty Heads, The Unlikely Candidates (12)
23. BLOOM – Troye Sivan (26)
24. GIVE YOURSELF A TRY – The 1975 (27)
25. HANDYMAN – AWOLNATION (19)
26. &RUN – Sir Sly (20) 22nd week on chart
27. WHATEVER IT TAKES – Imagine Dragons (25)
28. HUMILITY – Gorillaz featuring George Benson (N)
29. FLAWLESS – Dorothy (N)
30. TRANSITION – The Winachi Tribe (N)