How Amazing Is ‘How Soon Is Now?’

It’s always difficult trying to work out what your favourite Smiths track is, but there’s just something about ‘How Soon Is Now’ that puts it above the others. Let’s take a close look at the song, which continues our Classic Song video series. Watch the video below to learn everything you need to know about ‘How Soon Is Now’ – then read on for more after the jump.

It’s been called “the ‘Stairway To Heaven of the 80s” (Seymour Stein, head of their US label) and “an acid song” (Richard Cook, reviewing the single for NME in 1985) but to a legion of Smiths fans it was, and remains, much more. It was the sound of Morrissey and Marr at the peak of their powers, pushing each other forward with stunning results.

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In a career spent eloquently expressing our collective inner angst, Morrissey never sounded more poised and focused than on ‘How Soon Is Now’. Using feminist film critic Marjorie Rosen and George Eliot’s Middlemarch as jump-off points, Morrissey constructed a narrative around the tragedy of loneliness. The setting may have been a teenage party or, some theorized, a gay club, but the emotions he was singing about were universal.

You could meet someone who really loves you…/So you go and you stand on your own/And you leave on your own/And you cry and you want to die

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The song was viewed by some as a black comedy and by others as a hysterical cry for help. In truth, it was probably a bit of both. To accompany these heavy sentiments, Johnny Marr went out of his comfort zone to create a haunting tremolo-and-slide guitar soundbed, something that had been forming ever since he heard ‘Hello’ by New York Groove and ‘Disco Stomp’ by Hamilton Bohannon when he was a child. Ultimately, the song as we now know it arose from a jam session during which the band played Elvis Presley’s ‘That’s All Right’.

It was so far from the sturdy jangle-pop that had filled The Smiths’ debut – recorded just a few months earlier – that it sounded like another band entirely. It seems fitting that The Smiths had problems with playing this live, because it does sound like a perfect musical moment that cannot be replicated or repeated. Now, 27 years after its release it still sounds fresh as a daisy, peering out from its isolated abyss with an astounding level of clarity and humanity.

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The best comments we received on Facebook:

Levi Washington

I am human and I need to be loved” is one of the most raw and honest lyrics in English music, period.

Pam Moore Lawrence

It reminds me of a very special person, during a magical part of my life….youth. Brilliant.

Jamie Blackman

I think I first heard it at the age of 16, and thank God. As a smart but awkward teen in a small and unsophisticated town, the Smiths were a much-needed thumb in the eye to the sort of people who needed it.

Ian Whitby

Amazing song. When it came out and I first heard it, it was like Morrissey had been inside my head and writen a song especially for me.

Jay Broadley

This live version literally blows my mind every time I hear it. Morrisey’s hips, Johnny’s echoing guitar melodies, everything is simply perfection.

Dinah Robinson

Although I’ve heard it possibly 1000 times in clubs over the years, I still get shivers down my spine when I hear Johnny’s swampy opening guitar intro. Truly an anthem for all time.

Christopher Day

When it came out I was 13, and just starting to get into pop music. At that time the charts were full of teenybopper crap like Wham, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet etc. ‘How Soon Is Now’ was the song that taught me that pop music could be emotional, intelligent, thought provoking, heart breaking. I’ve been a massive Smiths and Morrissey fan ever since.

Classic Song – Joy Division, ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’