“How Soon Is Now”, The Smiths’ signature song, was a b-side and not on any proper album. That is, until it became a surprise hit across the world and was added – at least in the U.S. – to “Meat Is Murder”, their second album. Loving the song (hearing it in constant rotation on LA’s premiere pusher of the best ’80s music, KROQ), I rushed out and bought that album, which I loved, but also got “Hatful of Hollow”, a U.K. collection that acted like an early greatest hits, compiling John Peel radio sessions, non-album singles, b-sides, and “How Soons Is Now”. Wow, what an amazing album!
Although the album was in one sense cobbled together, there was a cohesiveness, much looser, deeper, sounding more authentically like The Smiths than their debut album which to me was poorly produced. Instead, this album captured Johnny Marr’s fully realized jangle, sounding like the streets of ’60s Manchester while also starkly ’80s, fused perfectly with Morrissey’s fully realized voice, not only in the sonic sense but as a lyricist, alternating between miserablism and arch hilarity. People who tried to dismiss The Smiths as “mopey” weren’t actually listening or paying attention. Ejits! Morrissey is imo one of the greatest lyricists ever.
Don’t make me choose favorites on this album! But if I must: “William, It Was Really Nothing”, “These Things Take Time”, “Handsome Devil” with its pleading “Let me get my hands, On your mammary glands”, “You’ve Got Everything Now”, “Accept Yourself” (very meaningful to me in my college years), the hypnotic “Reel Around The Fountain”, “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” (of course), and this one, “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now”: