#1002: 1985, The Smiths, How Soon Is Now?

by Jackie_South on March 23, 2015

In selecting our top ten songs yet to feature here at Songs To Learn And Sing, running from song #1000 onwards, the four of us each submitted a list of five songs. Three were on both George’s and my list: (White Man) in Hammersmith Palais, Paperback Writer and How Soon Is Now?

How Soon Is Now? is not a typically Smiths’ track in the way that Handsome Devil or There Is A Light That Never Goes Out is: in fact, it was first released as the B-side to William, It Was Really Nothing. There is a stripped down brilliance to How Soon Is Now? – for once, it is Johnny Marr’s guitar that dominates and drives, with Morrissey’s lyrics wonderfully winding in to those haunting chords. This is surely Marr at his greatest: I mean, just how great is that intro?

But those lyrics carry a hefty emotional punch: whilst there is certainly some of Morrissey’s mordant wit on display (“I am the son, and the heir … Of a shyness that is criminally vulgar”) this isn’t being played for laughs. This is the song of every teenager’s despairing dashed dreams of love:

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

And then of course there is that most emotionally devastating verse of all:

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

It is all the worse because we have all been there.

The song has been much covered, but never equaled (although Russian faux lesbians Tatu’s version is a guilty pleasure). In fact, I’m not sure anything else in the last thirty years has matched its brilliance either.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

George_East March 23, 2015 at 2:32 pm

Absolutely spot on about nothing matching the brilliance of this in the last 30 years. For me this is one of those moments in music when two complete geniuses transcend the sum of their parts. The Smiths at their very peak. Marr’s shimmering guitar intro may be the best ever not just in the last 30 years – it still sends shivers down my spine, and Morrissey’s tale of teen loneliness still brings back memories of the desolation caused by rejection in those years. Monumental.

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