The concept for the song didn’t seem to fit the band in some ways. In other ways it seemed so experimental that it was almost a throw away song. The song was released on compilations multiple times and by the time it was released as a single most had already heard it, so sales were not stellar. Yet the song remains the band’s signature achievement. Mention the song or the band and you automatically think of the other. The songwriter was known for multiple chord songs and so everyone was a bit surprised when he suggested the band write a song around a single chord, in this case F sharp. In typical fashion the musicians spent the entire night working on this song, experimenting and playing with that one single chord. At one point the song was well over eighteen minutes long but they eventually cut it way down although still very long for a single. In the morning, the band’s singer and lyricist walked in, listened to what the band had done and began going through his book of lines, poems and lyrics finally coming to a few lines he had written recently. He thought they could work and so began laying the tracks for the vocals. It is one of the more interesting facets to the song, a song so long, but with very few actual lyrics. This is how songs get written.
In one of the more unusual parts of my musical journey, this band rose to prominence and fame and were gone before I had ever heard a single song. I came upon them because I had stopped listening to R&B because of the Seattle bands. In some ways its sort of surprising that I had not heard the band before. I was not cut off from other types of music and should have maybe even did hear the band while I was in college but they didn’t click with me. When I bought a greatest hits album in the early 90’s I believed them to be a lot like New Order or Depeche Mode, two bands that I loved dearly but had missed their early days. I had no idea that they were no longer together as a band.
The song I described at the beginning is of course How Soon is Now. The song didn’t really resonate with me until the mid 90s. The song I had always loved by the Smiths was Bigmouth Strikes Again. Seriously how great are lyrics that say “sweetness, I was only joking when I said by rights you should be bludgeoned in your bed” all to a snappy up tempo beat. That’s what I love about them, the beauty of Johnny Marr’s jangling guitar to Morrissey’s biting lyrics. And those lyrics do bite. Morrissey had a lot to say and still does which is likely why so many people don’t like him, but I love him. I get him. I love his solo work as much as the work he did with the Smiths. Morrissey doesn’t care if he rubs you wrong. He doesn’t care if he looks petulant walking off a talk show because one of the other guests glorifies in hunting or eating meat. He is true to himself.
How Soon is Now though is the song you think about when someone mentions the Smiths. I know I had heard the song before, probably even countless times but one day that song hit me like a ton of bricks. That iconic intro I just fell in love with, but I wondered why there were so few words to the song. When I finally heard the lyrics and really processed them it was equally stunning. Remember I am not a lyrics guy because most songs are written just like this one, with music written first and then the lyricist looking through bits of line until he or she finds something that works. There is little profound process to it. They are not writing a song just for you. The fact that some songs maybe even most songs do that very thing to me is the astounding thing about music, the miracle the driving force that makes it all become so important to us. How Soon is Now is about shyness and not just any shyness but a shyness criminally vulgar; a self-defeating shyness that encapsulates most of my life with the opposite sex. I am the worst wingman ever. If you expect me to keep some girl company while you woo her best friend, then be prepared to deal with failure. I have fumbled and fought with it all my life no matter how social you think I am. It is just hard for me so I am either silent or talk nonsense about some subject that no one else is interested in. So yea I love the song and I love the band and yea I love Morrissey and I love Johnny Marr.
So oh well get over it.