Monday, August 20, 1984

The Smiths “How Soon Is Now?” released for the first time

How Soon Is Now?

The Smiths

Writer(s): Johnny Marr, Morrissey (see lyrics here)

Released: August 20, 1984

First Charted: February 9, 1985

Peak: 16 UK, 11 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 0.4 UK

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 21.0 video, 185.57 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

The Smiths were an alternative-rock band that formed in Manchester, England in 1982. They only lasted five years, but had a significant impact on the British independent music scene and the American college-rock movement. “How Soon Is Now?” is “a hallmark of the brief yet significant songwriting partnership of [singer] Morrissey and [guitarist Johnny] Marr.” TB It became one of the group’s most celebrated songs “without being particularly representative of the band.” XFM This is “very much a Johnny Marr song, its teaming, bubbling guitars and shimmering riff seethe with a masculinity and stridence that were rarely Smiths trademarks.” XFM

The record company originally released it as the B-side of “William, It Was Really Nothing” in August 1984. However, the song got picked up by night-time British radio and became the most-requested track on request shows by DJs John Peel and others. WK It was then featured on the compilation Hatful of Hollow compilation in November. That month it was also released as a single in the United States and was accompanied by a video which the band had no involvement in making. Morrissey said he detested the video. The song failed to chart in the U.S. In January 1985, it was released as a single in the UK and a month later resurfaced again on the Meat Is Murder album. On its second go-round, the single reached #24 on the UK charts. The song had become a club favorite and it was expected to do better on the charts. However, it had probably been hurt by being released in multiple forms before finally being released as a single in its own right. WK As the band’s producer, John Porter, said, “the Smiths’ fans already had it.” WK In 1992, it was re-released and got to #16.

The song has connections to early ‘50s rock and roll. Marr recorded “How Soon Is Now?” with bandmates Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce during a jam session. Porter thought the basic riff needed something more, which led to an impromptu jam session of Elvis Presley’s “That’s All Right.” Marr worked in his chord progression for “How Soon Is Now?” (then known as “Swamp”), inspiring the song’s arrangement. WK Marr was also “inspired by Bo Diddley’s distinctive syncopated shuffle guitar style” WK and, in fact, the rhythm of “How Soon Is Now?” has been compared to Diddley’s “Mona.” WK

Morrissey’s “ever-ambiguous lyrics continued to fuel speculation about the singer’s sexuality.” TB Written about his crippling shyness, “How Soon Is Now?” became “an anthem for the alienated and socially isolated.” SF The title came from a question posed in one of Morrissey’s favorite books, Popcorn Venus, a feminist film study by Marjorie Rosen. SF


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First posted 10/14/2021; last updated 4/1/2023.

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