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In a Nutshell

“How Soon is Now?” is The Smiths most recognizable song. Some of their hardcore fans may argue that musically it’s neither the band’s best nor most representative piece, but even they have to agree that lyrically the song is pretty typical of Morrissey, the band’s lead singer. Whether mocked as the Pope of Mope or celebrated as the voice of the alienated, Morrissey is at his best when exploring his and others’ loneliness.

In exploring this common human experience, Morrissey was honoring The Smiths’ founding purpose to be a voice for “ordinary” people. But many would argue that the band has never been all that ordinary and that Morrissey in particular neither thinks nor acts like an “ordinary” person.

So does this mean that the band failed to achieve its “ordinary” ambitions? Were The Smiths instead a band for the extraordinary and uncommon? Or somehow, did the band manage to be both ordinary and unordinary at the same time?

About the Song

ArtistThe Smiths Musician(s)Morrissey (vocals), Johnny Marr (guitar), Andy Rourke (bass), Mike Joyce (drums)
AlbumHatful of Hollow and Meat is Murder (originally released as a B-side to the single “William, It Was Really Nothing”)
Year1984
LabelRough Trade
Writer(s)Johnny Marr, Morrissey
Producer(s)John Porter
Learn to play: http://www.guitaretab.com/s/smiths/17673.html
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Shmoop Connections

Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
The Smiths set out in 1982 to build a musical alternative to new wave and punk rock. Their innovative revival of guitar-based rock fills an interesting place in the history of rock and roll. Lyricist Morrissey drew from a wide range of cultural figures in writing his music and crafting his stage persona, including Oscar Wilde and James Dean, and there are some who claim that he has had a greater influence on music than even the Beatles.

Morrissey has brought his fair share of controversy along, though, too. He is notorious for feuding with political figures and other celebrities. He has been known to criticize artists like Elton John and Madonna for being more interested in fame than music, and he’s even been known to take shots at the British Royal Family, although that isn’t as shocking to Americans.

On the Charts

“How Soon Is Now?” reached #24 on the British Singles Chart when it was finally released as its own single in 1985. Despite the song’s lack of major popular appeal at the time, though, Rolling Stone named it #486 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
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