Classic Video: The Smiths

Posted: February 11, 2015 in Alternative, Classic Videos, Post-Punk
Tags: , ,

When it comes to classic songs of the eighties, you can’t get more classic than The Smiths’ “How Soon Is Now?” Some have called it the “Stairway to Heaven” of the eighties. I remember hearing the song on college radio in the mid-eighties but didn’t see the video until years later. Included on the album Meat is Murder, which was released 30 years ago today, the song was originally intended as a B-side. But with the perfect combination of Johnny Marr’s haunting guitar and Morrissey’s somber lyrics, it was destined to be the group’s biggest and most enduring song.

Known for its swirling, dreamy guitar work, the song was the result of much experimentation with reverb, rhythm tracks, and harmonization. Marr told Guitar Magazine that achieving the changing pitch of the guitar (vibrato) took some time and he has since forgotten how to recreate the slide guitar sound. He also lamented that not writing down the process on the slide part has been “one of the banes of my life.”

Upon hearing the single, the record company, Rough Trade, didn’t think much of it and felt it didn’t represent The Smiths’ sound. Plans for the song as an A-side were thrown out and it became a B-side to the 1984 single “William, It Was Really Nothing.” Despite this, the song was picked up by British DJs and later that year was the most requested song on many prominent shows. Although it failed to chart upon its initial release, it wasn’t until its re-release as a single in 1985 that it made the UK charts (reaching #24).

The US release of the song, by Sire Records, was accompanied by an unauthorized video. The band was not a fan of the video and thought it was degrading. Regardless, it gave the band great exposure in the US and helped make it their most famous song. The track has gone on to make numerous lists of best songs of the eighties, topping some lists as the greatest song. Although it might not be the greatest representation of The Smiths’ “sound,” it definitely earned all the accolades and its place in the annals of best and most influential songs of the decade.

 

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