Flipping Over the Best B-Sides: “How Soon Is Now” by The Smiths

It's hard to believe but this is another classic song originally assigned as a b-side which nonetheless vibrated into our hearts despite the lack of record company faith.
The Smiths How Soon Is Now

Although some of you Smiths fans may remember owning this either on “Hatful of Hollow” or the U.S. version of “Meat is Murder”, this song which is likely their best was originally consigned to the b-side of “William It Was Really Nothing” in the UK. The band knew they had one of their best singles and were perplexed by the record execs who weren’t quite convinced. It was a hit, however, on radio in the UK and all over the U.S. on alternative stations like KROQ; still, the record company continually botched any chart action by including it on the aforementioned albums, then finally releasing it as an A-side to little effect because most fans owned it already.

The song, with its bone-vibrating grumble and wail, along with its sad-sack lyrics from Morrissey, is mesmerizing and unforgettable. And we haven’t forgotten it. I still hear it when I’m at Trader Joe’s or the mall as if it were a mainstream ’80s chart hit like “Take Me On” or “Hungry Like the Wolf”.

The story of recording the track is quite fascinating as well, with Johnny Marr experimenting, wanting to base a song around a single chord. They built it layer by layer until it was ready for Morrissey to add words and warbling. Because of this layering, it proved to be difficult to play live. However, here is a very good version by Morrissey played live at the Hollywood Bowl.

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