Artist: The Smiths

How Soon is Now? ~ The Smiths

the smithsThe Smiths were an English rock band active from 1982 to 1987, based on the songwriting partnership of singer Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr. Critics have called them one of the most important alternative rock bands to emerge from the British independent music scene of the 1980s and the group has had major influence on subsequent artists. Morrissey’s lovelorn tales of alienation found an audience amongst youth culture bored by the ubiquitous synthesizer-pop bands of the early 1980s, while Marr’s complex melodies helped return guitar-based music to popularity.

The Smiths were formed in early 1982 by two Manchester residents: an unemployed writer named Steven Patrick Morrissey (he had not yet abandoned his first names) who was a big fan of the New York Dolls and briefly fronted punk rock band The Nosebleeds, and Johnny Marr, a guitarist and songwriter. Originally named John Maher, Marr changed his name to avoid confusion with the Buzzcocks drummer. Marr’s jangly Rickenbacker guitar playing became synonymous with The Smiths’ sound. After recording several demo tapes with the drummer from The Fall, Simon Wolstencroft. they recruited drummer Mike Joyce in fall of 1982. Joyce had formerly been a member of punk bands The Hoax and Victim. As well, they added bass player Dale Hibbert, who also provided the group with demo recording facilities at the studio where he worked as a factotum. However, after two gigs, Marr’s friend Andy Rourke replaced Hibbert on bass, because neither Hibbert’s bass playing or personality fit in with the group. Marr and Rourke had previously worked together in The Paris Valentinos along with actor Kevin Kennedy.

Encyclopedia Britannica comments that the band’s “non-rhythm-and-blues, whiter-than-white fusion of 1960s rock and postpunk was a repudiation of contemporary dance pop” which was popular in the early 1980s. The band also picked their name in part as a reaction against names used by popular Synthpop bands of the early 1980s, such as Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Spandau Ballet, because they considered these names fancy and pompous.In a 1984 interview Morrissey stated that he chose the name The Smiths “…because it was the most ordinary name” and because he thought that it was “…time that the ordinary folk of the world showed their faces.”

How Soon is Now?

Written by Smiths singer Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr, it was originally a B-side of the 1984 single “William, It Was Really Nothing”. “How Soon Is Now?” was subsequently featured on the compilation album Hatful of Hollow and on American, Australian and Warner UK editions of the group’s second album Meat Is Murder.

Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr wrote “How Soon Is Now?” along with the songs “William, It Was Really Nothing” and “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want” during a four-day period in June 1984. Marr recorded all three songs with bandmates Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce that July at London’s Jam Studios. After a night out celebrating the session for “William, It Was Really Nothing” and “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want”, the trio reconvened the following afternoon to record “How Soon Is Now?”. Producer John Porter was impressed by the basic riff Marr showed him, but felt the song needed something else. The pair’s discussion turned to the early recordings of Elvis Presley, which led to an impromptu jam session of the song “That’s All Right”. During the jam, Marr worked on his chord progression for “How Soon Is Now?”, which inspired the arrangement.

During recording, Marr created an oscillating guitar effect that plays throughout the song. After a break, Marr and Porter added a few overdubs to the track, including a slide guitar part that “gave [the song] real tension”, according to the guitarist.

That night Porter sent singer Morrissey a rough mix of the song in the mail. The following morning Morrissey arrived and laid down his vocals, culling lyrics from various works in progress in his notebook in the process. According to Porter, the singer completed his vocals in two takes.

The song contains only one verse which is repeated twice, plus a chorus and a bridge. The subject is an individual who cannot find a way to break out of his shyness. Two couplets from the song are well known in pop culture, the opening to the verse: “I am the son, and the heir, of a shyness that is criminally vulgar / I am the son and heir, of nothing in particular”, and the chorus: “I am human and I need to be loved / Just like everybody else does”. The opening was adapted from a line in George Eliot’s novel Middlemarch: “To be born the son of a Middlemarch manufacturer, and inevitable heir to nothing in particular”. Music journalist Jon Savage commented that the song’s lyrics were evocative of contemporary Manchester gay club culture.

The tune is built around a guitar chord that rapidly oscillates in volume. As to how the distinctive resonant sound was achieved, Marr gave the following account to Guitar Player magazine in 1990:

The vibrato sound is fucking incredible, and it took a long time. I put down the rhythm track on an Epiphone Casino through a Fender Twin Reverb without vibrato. Then we played the track back through four old Twins, one on each side. We had to keep all the amps vibrating in time to the track and each other, so we had to keep stopping and starting the track, recording it in 10-second bursts… I wish I could remember exactly how we did the slide part — not writing it down is one of the banes of my life! We did it in three passes through a harmonizer, set to some weird interval, like a sixth. There was a different harmonization for each pass. For the line in harmonics, I retuned the guitar so that I could play it all at the 12th fret with natural harmonics. It’s doubled several times.

Rare 1986 live video – The Smiths perform How Soon Is Now at The National Ballroom, Kilburn 1986.. This song was omitted from the 1988 album Rank:

How Soon Is Now? - Morrissey, Johnny Marr

I am the son
and the heir
of a shyness that is criminally vulgar
I am the son and heir
of nothing in particular

You shut your mouth
how can you say
I go about things the wrong way
I am human and I need to be loved
just like everybody else does

I am the son
and the heir
of a shyness that is criminally vulgar
I am the son and the heir
of nothing in particular

You shut your mouth
how can you say
I go about things the wrong way
I am human and I need to be loved
just like everybody else does

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

When you say it’s gonna happen “now”
well, when exactly do you mean?
see I’ve already waited too long
and all my hope is gone

You shut your mouth
how can you say
I go about things the wrong way
I am human and I need to be loved
just like everybody else does

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  • Audio from the 2009 album, The Sound of The Smiths (Deluxe):

sound-of-the-smiths
Purchase-Music How Soon Is Now? – $1.29

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The Queen is Dead ~ The Smiths

the smithsThe Smiths were an English rock band active from 1982 to 1987, based on the songwriting partnership of singer Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr. Critics have called them one of the most important alternative rock bands to emerge from the British independent music scene of the 1980s and the group has had major influence on subsequent artists. Morrissey’s lovelorn tales of alienation found an audience amongst youth culture bored by the ubiquitous synthesizer-pop bands of the early 1980s, while Marr’s complex melodies helped return guitar-based music to popularity.

The Smiths were formed in early 1982 by two Manchester residents: an unemployed writer named Steven Patrick Morrissey (he had not yet abandoned his first names) who was a big fan of the New York Dolls and briefly fronted punk rock band The Nosebleeds, and Johnny Marr, a guitarist and songwriter. Originally named John Maher, Marr changed his name to avoid confusion with the Buzzcocks drummer. Marr’s jangly Rickenbacker guitar playing became synonymous with The Smiths’ sound. After recording several demo tapes with the drummer from The Fall, Simon Wolstencroft. they recruited drummer Mike Joyce in fall of 1982. Joyce had formerly been a member of punk bands The Hoax and Victim. As well, they added bass player Dale Hibbert, who also provided the group with demo recording facilities at the studio where he worked as a factotum. However, after two gigs, Marr’s friend Andy Rourke replaced Hibbert on bass, because neither Hibbert’s bass playing or personality fit in with the group. Marr and Rourke had previously worked together in The Paris Valentinos along with actor Kevin Kennedy.

Encyclopedia Britannica comments that the band’s “non-rhythm-and-blues, whiter-than-white fusion of 1960s rock and postpunk was a repudiation of contemporary dance pop” which was popular in the early 1980s. The band also picked their name in part as a reaction against names used by popular Synthpop bands of the early 1980s, such as Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Spandau Ballet, because they considered these names fancy and pompous.In a 1984 interview Morrissey stated that he chose the name The Smiths “…because it was the most ordinary name” and because he thought that it was “…time that the ordinary folk of the world showed their faces.”

The Queen is Dead

“The Queen is Dead” is a song that The Smiths’ guitarist, Johnny Marr began writing as a teenager.  The song was released on The Queen is Dead album in June 1986, but was sound checked during a tour of Scotland in September and October of 1985.

Oh ! Take me back to dear old Blighty,
Put me on the train for London Town,
Take me anywhere,
Drop me anywhere,
Liverpool, Leeds or Birmingham
But I don’t care,
I should like to see my …

I don’t bless them
Farewell to this land’s cheerless marshes
Hemmed in like a boar between archers
Her very Lowness with a head in a sling
I’m truly sorry – but it sounds like a wonderful thing

I said Charles, don’t you ever crave
To appear on the front of the Daily Mail
Dressed in your Mother’s bridal veil ?
Oh …
And so, I checked all the registered historical facts
And I was shocked into shame to discover
How I’m the 18th pale descendant
Of some old queen or other

Oh, has the world changed, or have I changed ?
Oh has the world changed, or have I changed ?

Some 9-year old tough who peddles drugs
I swear to God
I swear : I never even knew what drugs were
Oh …
So, I broke into the palace
With a sponge and a rusty spanner
She said : “Eh, I know you, and you cannot sing”
I said : “That’s nothing – you should hear me play piano”

We can go for a walk where it’s quiet and dry
And talk about precious things
But when you’re tied to your Mother’s apron
No-one talks about castration
Oh …

We can go for a walk where it’s quiet and dry
And talk about precious things
Like love and law and poverty
Oh, these are the things that kill me

We can go for a walk where it’s quiet and dry
And talk about precious things
But the rain that flattens my hair …
Oh, these are the things that kill me

All their lies about make-up and long hair, are still there

Past the Pub who saps your body
And the church who’ll snatch your money
The Queen is dead, boys
And it’s so lonely on a limb
Past the Pub that wrecks your body
And the church – all they want is your money
The Queen is dead, boys
And it’s so lonely on a limb

Life is very long, when you’re lonely
Life is very long, when you’re lonely
Life is very long, when you’re lonely
Life is very long, when you’re lonely

  • Audio from the 1986 album, The Queen Is Dead (2011 Remastered Version):
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