This song - which guitarist, Johnny Marr, described as The Smiths' "most enduring record" - is about their frontman Morrissey's crippling shyness. It has since become an anthem for the alienated and socially isolated.
Marr revealed to Rolling Stone magazine that he set about composing a memorable introduction: "I wanted an introduction that was almost as potent as 'Layla.' When it plays in a club or a pub, everyone knows what it is."
This was a very complex song to record. Marr broke the process down to The Guitar Magazine: "I wanted it to be really, really tense and swampy, all at the same time. Layering the slide part was what gave it the real tension. The tremolo effect came from laying down a regular rhythm part with a capo at the 2nd fret on a Les Paul, then sending that out in to the live room to four Fender Twins. John was controlling the tremolo on two of them and I was controlling the other two, and whenever they went out of sync we just had to stop the track and start all over again. It took an eternity."
The Smiths installed red lightbulbs in their London studio to create the perfect atmosphere to record this song in.
This song was named after a question posed in Marjorie Rosen's feminist film study, Popcorn Venus - one of Morrissey's favorite books.
Morrissey lifted the line, "The heir to nothing in particular," from the 19th century novel, Middlemarch, by George Eliot.
Marr told The Guardian newspaper that the producer, John Porter, misjudged this song's opening lyric: "I remember when Morrissey first sang, 'I am the son and the heir...' John Porter went, 'Ah great, the elements!' Morrissey continued, '...of a shyness that is criminally vulgar.' I knew he'd hit the bullseye there and then."
The Smiths had difficulty playing this song live. Marr, in particular, struggled to recreate the guitar effect in concert. Bassist, Andy Rourke, called it "the bane of The Smiths' live career."
Unlike many British acts, The Smiths hadn't made any music videos. By 1985, MTV was very popular in America and a key to promoting songs to a young audience, so Jeff Ayeroff, who was in charge of video promotion at Warner Music, parent to The Smith's US label Sire, commissioned a video. Video directors weren't easy to come by at the time unless you had a substantial budget, and Ayeroff only wanted to shell out $5,000. He hired Paula Greif, who had been designing album covers, to make the video, giving her the instruction, "Find some performance footage and put a girl in it."
Greif did just that, using footage from a show in Leicester shot in 1984 by the band's live sound engineer, Grant Showbiz. She combined this with Super 8 video she shot of a female model dancing as if she was at the show. The band had no involvement.
Morrissey told Creem magazine that he detested the video. "It had absolutely nothing to do with The Smiths," he said. "Quite naturally we were swamped with letters from very distressed American friends saying, 'Why on earth did you make this foul video?' And of course it must be understood that Sire made that video, and we saw the video and we said to Sire, 'You can't possibly release this... this degrading video.' And they said, 'Well, maybe you shouldn't really be on our label.' It was quite disastrous."
Morrissey and Marr receive 25% of the royalties for the Soho hit, "Hippychick," which interpolates this song's guitar riff.
The band Love Spit Love, which included Psychedelic Furs members Richard and Tim Butler, recorded a new version of this song for the 1996 movie The Craft, which is about a coven of strikingly attractive teenage witches. In 1998, this same cover version was used as the theme song to the TV series Charmed, which is about a coven of strikingly attractive teenage witches.
The song also appears in the movies The Wedding Singer (1998) and Closer (2004).
The Russian duo t.A.T.u. of "All The Things She Said" fame covered this song in 2002. Marr slammed the "silly" cover, though Morrissey called it "magnificent." Their version was used in the 2008 episode of Gossip Girl, "Pret-a-Poor-J."
The late Jeff Buckley was utterly mesmerized by this song: "The first time I heard 'How Soon Is Now,' I can remember things changing in myself. It was 1984, in my friend's apartment in this really horrible building in Hollywood. We were there eating some sort of horrible food, with ketchup 'cause we didn't have any money, and it came on the television. The video was great, but the song completely blew everything away. It was the first time I ever heard writing like that over music like that. It influenced me because the writing was so great, because Morrissey's lyrics were so great in such a way, I don't know, like just completely freaky, unique."
This was the B-side to the "William, It Was Really Nothing" single, which was released in 1984. After British radio picked up on the song, it was released as a standalone single in 1985, when it charted at an underwhelming #24, much to the disappointment of Morrissey, who bemoaned to Creem magazine: "It's hard to believe that 'How Soon Is Now' was not a hit. I thought that was the one." It was reissued for a third time in 1992, when it charted at #16.
The single artwork was a still of the actor, Sean Barrett, from the 1958 film, Dunkirk. Barrett was praying in the image, but because he also looked like he was holding his crotch, the sleeve was deemed to be offensive and was consequently banned in the US.
Daniel from Los AngelesSarah from Sydney, I recently watched "Star Trek III The Search for Spock" and McCoy is negotiating with an alien that talks like Yoda for a space ship and the alien says "How Soon is Now?", among other Yodaisms. The movie came out in June 1984 and Johnny Marr wrote the song in June 1984, so likely that's where the title came from.
Auntypizza from Geelong, AustraliaAnyone who prefers the cover version played on Charmed has no taste.
Rusputtin from Atlanta, Ga1 of the BEST 80s cut for sure! I remember when I used to mumble this song in my friends' circle, a few ppl would say "aah u like that song from Charmed" and my response was..."it only shows how much (or little) you know about the 80s music and this great song! It is also 1 of the very few cuts out there where the title is no where to be found in the entire lyrics...anyone noticed that ever? :)
Riot from Palm Desert, CaAfter doing a bit more research, it seems like the aforementioned cover song is not on the "Cruel Intentions" soundtrack but was used in the film's trailer.
Riot from Palm Desert, CaThe very under-appreciated band "Quicksand" covered this song on their debut album "Slip". This version of the song would be featured nearly a decade later in the film "Cruel Intentions".
Ozmoz from Istanbul, TurkeyI was watching the movie 'Closer'. At the scene Natalie Portman was at the strip club where this song was playing. A perfect song with the perfect beauty.
However my favorite song is Jack the Ripper the concert version
Jeff from Austin, TxNot the Smiths best song, but definitely their best known. Alot of people know this song, and dont even know who the Smiths are.
Joellen from Pittsburgh, Paevokes a feeling that can be related then, now and forever - timeless, spooky,haunting. Touches your soul.
Marwan from London,This is one of the best songs of all time
Nonya from Long Beach, CaLittle known fact, the very recognizable and notable shimmering guitar riff for "How Soon Is Know" was done by Marr placing a guitar on the floor and dropping a butter knife on the open strings. He then looped it and added LOTS of reverb and chorus.
Max from Laconia, NhWho freakin cares if this song was on Charmed?! It's a retarded show anyway! Just another ruined masterpeice...
Scott from Palm Desert, CaFunny that the Smiths never liked this song because although I do not really like the band much this song to me is incredible.
It is weird how a lot of artists do not like their most popular songs.
Jocaline from Brigham, UtIt sounds cool on charmed.... but I just researched this site trying to find out more about it... and I'm not so sure i like it anymore
Humberto from Mazatlan, Mexico"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." BEST. LYRICS. EVER.
Tony from Cleveland, OhTwo interesting things about this song are (1) The Smiths never liked this song (2) Its one of the few tracks they never produced themselves. In fact, they fired the producer over this song because they felt he was trying to change their style. Goes to show what a fresh pair of eyes can do to a situation because thsi song proved to be one of the most influential of the band's career.
T. Michels from Venlo, NetherlandsI just found a song that totally fits me! I know what's it's like to be shy and I can relate a lot to the lyrics. Although I have to say that I like the T.A.T.U-version more than the original. Howcome? Well, as where the original song sounds 'normal', the T.A.T.U-version sounds more like a prayer, a desperate scream for help, a calling, you know? Still, great song! :D
Stacey from St.petersburg, FlI wanna be loved to but its hard this song helps me stay in tune and see things.
Alice from York, EnglandI went through a stage (still kinda there) where I'd go out with my fiends and hope to meet somone, and try really hard to speak to new people and never really manage it. Guess it's nice to know that other people feel the same way.
Janice from Folsom, CaMore than any other song, "How Soon is Now" evokes tremendous feelings and memories of my youth in the 80's. To me, this song is the anthem of the 80's and teenage angst. *sigh* What memories... (the 80's , not the angst!!)
Dennis from Chicagoland Burrows, IlFu*king rad Jam
Angelik from Adelaide, AustraliaThis song was also covered by t.a.t.u on their album 200km/h in the Wrong Lane. I don't mind their version, but nothing beats the original version.
~Angelik M, Australia~
Smarty from Los Angeles, CaWasn't this riff played backwards, in order to get a unique sound?
Randall from Dallas, TxWell, I can tell you, for a fact, and from personal experience, that whenever this song is played in a Goth club, it is NEVER mistaken for Hippy Chick. Never!
Susan from Airdrie, CanadaJustine, you hit the nail on the head. I used to listen to this song super loud in my old Dodge Colt coming home from the bars and not getting lucky. Morrissey knows exactly how you feel when you're shy - screaming inside, but deathly silent outside.
James from Westchester, EnglandThe quote "When it plays in a club or a pub, everyone knows what it is" isn't exactly true, because when you hear the riff, it could just as easily be "Hippy Chick" by Soho. I believe Soho sampled the guitar without permission, prompting all sorts of legal action.
In addition, I remember hearing an interview with Morrisey about the extent to which he detested this song.
Sarah from Sydney, Australiaa friend told me morrissey stole the title "how soon is now" from star trek III: The Search For Spock.
someone tell me this isn't so?!?
Pat from Wollongong - Australia, AustraliaSong is about Teenage angst - most awesome song of the 80s - heard that originally this song was on the B side of a single - oops - anyways the album its on - Meat is Murder - is great - especially Headmasters ritual - but album of the 80s has got to be "the Queen is Dead" - a masterpiece
Jerry from Palm Harbor, FlOther bands that covered this include Everclear and Snake River Conspiracy
Ishan from Lake Mary, FlLove Spit Love covered this song, and an edited version of that song is the theme song to Charmed. Personally like Love Spit Love's version better. ::shrug::
Ash from Charleston, WvBefore I ever read the lyrics, I used to think he was singing "I am the sun, and the air." So of course I thought it was about nature. Yes, I am a dolt.
Craig from Madison, WiA song that sets the Smiths in the Pantheon of rock gods. What started with the Yardbirds and Zepellin ended in the most unlikely place: a six minute loner's epic that pits Marr's guitar against Morrisey's voice. The last great rock song? Apologies for sounding like too much the rock critic, but this song can only be described in grand metaphors and superlative rhetoric.
Nessie from Sapporo, JapanWhat an awesome altrock groove. This song really holds up.
Andrew Archer from Tokyo, JapanThe Band that covered the song for the theme tune of "Charmed" is called "Love Spit Love". It is featured on the "Charmed OST".
Stephanie from Frankfurt, GermanyAnother band covered this song. Im not sure which band, but the cover version is the theme song to the show Charmed.
Nick from Arlington Heights, IlThis song was playing in the background throughout a very important scene in a strip club backroom with Clive Owen and Natalie Portman in the 2004 film "Closer".
Justine from Eddy, United StatesI can see where the shy comes in on the song, but I also beleive its about frustration in wanting only one thing (love) and never finding it no matter how hard you try. Also giving in and being mistreated yet not leaving because of your fear of once again being alone.