The history of one song /// The Smiths ‘How Soon Is Now’

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‘How Soon Is Now’ is one of the most renowned songs ever recorded by The Smiths. Though the song never achieved big commercial success, it’s considered a very fine example of the different – haunting – side of The Smiths.

‘How Soon Is Now’ was written in 1984 and released the same year as a b-side to ‘William, It Was Really Nothing’. The Smiths’ record label refused to put out ‘How Soon Is Now’ as an a-side because it was too different from their usual sound. However, in 1985 ‘How Soon Is Now’ was released as a single, but didn’t achieve notable commercial success though, because the song had previously been heard on numerous occasions and in several versions. Nevertheless, it’s still considered one of the special fan favourites.

The complex song structure made the process of recording of ‘How Soon Is Now’ complex too. The band had to use a lot of technical tricks available at that time to make the song sound as sophisticated and eerie as it does now. Volume oscillation in guitars causes slight distortion and the feeling of constant tension by going up and then back down repeatedly throughout the whole track. The vocal session was very short for this song: it’s said that Morrissey needed only two takes to record ‘How Soon Is Now’ using various lyrics sketches in his notebook.

The lyrical patter in ‘How Soon Is Now’ is quite simple, but it touches upon a really important subject: social anxiety and being shy. The opening words were inspired by the lines from ‘Middlemarch’ written by George Eliot. The simple lyrical structure highlights the unusual, dark melody and lets listeners concentrate on the message Morrissey delivers in simple yet powerful words.

‘How Soon Is Now’ has the halo of mystery and hypnotic attraction. Running smoothly, elegantly and unhurriedly, it does make a considerable contrast to The Smiths’ signature sound with its gripping intensity and can’t but get under your skin to work its magic there.

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2 Responses to “The history of one song /// The Smiths ‘How Soon Is Now’”
  1. I’ve heard that johnny Marr was inspired by Derek and the dominos for “how soon is now” because he wanted to write an instantly recognizable riff along the lines of “Layla”. I think it shows in the final recording

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