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The Smiths - How Soon Is Now? - Lyrics Meaning

"How Soon Is Now?", a 1984 song by The Smiths, has been referred to as "the `Stairway to Heaven' of the Eighties. The song, which was somewhat of a departure from The Smiths usual style, quickly became a favorite at clubs and surprisingly became the band's signature song. Both lyricist and singer Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr were surprised that the song wasn't a bigger commercial hit for the band. Originally, their label owner felt that the song was too different from the band's usual sound. He vetoed those that wanted the song to be released as a single and instead made it a B-side. Radio disc jockey's immediately found "How Soon is Now?" started giving the record spins, and it quickly became the most requested track on influential radio shows like John Peel's.

By the time the label released "How Soon Is Now?" in January of 1985, most fans of The Smiths were already familiar with the song and the single only reached number 24 on the U.K. charts. A 1992 reissue of the song climbed slightly higher on the U.K singles chart - reaching number 16 the second time around.

The song is essentially the theme of any individual that has struggled with a shyness that has ultimately paralyzed them. The song's opening line, "I am the son, and the heir, of a shyness that is criminally vulgar" is Morrissey's play on a line from a George Eliot novel called Middlemarch.

It has been said that the lyrics touch upon Manchester's gay club scene at the time. Certainly the lyrics resonated with Manchester's gay culture at the time; however, the lyrics transcend sex and resonate with anyone looking for love in all the wrong places. Whether in pursuit of man or woman, it's an intimidating world out there that is full of rejection, detachment, and self-loathing. This is definitely evident in the song's most famous stanza:

"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."

Just as important as Morrissey's lyrics is Marr's vibrato guitar. Q Magazine rated "How Soon is Now?" at number 28 in their list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks. Rolling Stone magazine ranked the song number 486 in their countdown of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The song was a runner-up to U2's "One" in a VH1 poll for "Top Lyrics" by a slim margin.

The Love Spit Love version of the song has been featured in movies like "The Craft" and television series such as "Charmed." The song has also been covered by acts like Snake River Conspiracy, Everclear, and t.A.T.u.

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