Awakening from an inebriated slumber, The Smiths' front man, Morrissey, is back to doing what he does best - being miserable! He blames a happy couple, smiling at people he'd much rather "kick in the eye" and the contradiction of being unemployed and depressed, then depressed with a job, for his ongoing woes. An entry from a young Morrissey's diary appeared to act as the precursor to this song: "When I had no job I could pinpoint my depression. But when I did get a job I was still depressed."
This song references Caligula, a Roman Emperor who was infamous for his depraved sex life and incestuous relationships with his sisters. In the context of the song, it would appear a woman has made a sexual advance towards Morrissey that would make even Caligula "blush."
The song title is a nod to the British Pop singer Sandie Shaw's little-known track, "Heaven Knows I'm Missing Him Now." The Smiths were big fans of Shaw and had previously collaborated with her on "Hand in Glove
The single artwork features Viv Nicholson, who garnered notoriety in the UK in the early '60s after she squandered her entire £152,319 (the modern-day equivalent of approximately $5 million) pools win on expensive clothes, cars and alcohol.
This was the first of many Smiths songs engineered by Stephen Street. Street told Under the Radar magazine that he was incredibly excited to work with Morrissey and co: "I was such a fan and I couldn't believe they were coming in. Fortunately for me, I was the only in-house engineer at the time and I got the lucky break everybody needs in this industry. They came in to do a track called 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now.' The rest is history, you could say."
This was a single only release and did not appear on a traditional studio album, though it was placed on the 1984 compilation album, Hatful of Hollow, which featured a mixture of singles, B-sides and live recordings.
Johnny Marr wrote the music for this song in about an hour after receiving a red Gibson ES-355 guitar from record exec Seymour Stein on the promise that The Smiths would sign with Sire Records. The first strum on the instrument turned into the riff from this song. With that very guitar in hand, Marr played it again for the first time in 25 years for an NME "Song Stories" interview.
Inspiration continued to pour from the red Gibson. The same night he wrote this song, Marr wrote the music for B-side, "Girl Afraid." He said: "Those two songs are always in my mind like a pair because they were both written in the same day on this guitar."
It is thanks in part to this song that Morrissey has garnered the reputation of being permanently depressed. Speaking to the London Sunday Times in 2017 he said: "Years ago I sang a song called 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now,' and it's like an old school uniform. People insist I wear it, but I'm really not that miserable. I'm not an unhappy person. Not in the least. I'm certainly very surprised and very pleased to still be here."