The Greatest Songs Ever Written-How Soon Is Now?

Posted: May 1, 2014 in Music
Tags: , , , , ,

The Smiths


Nobody will ever fully agree on “the greatest” song or songs ever written. Music, art for that matter, is incredibly subjective, and as such has many inherently different values to different beholders. Just like awarding Grammys for “best” music, or Academy Awards to movies and games, it really is a fool’s exercise to try to delineate between the best of the best when in all actuality, the differences between quality works of any art are so personally subjective that it becomes a popularity measurement. The songs I feature in this series are what I believe to be the greatest songs ever written, for reasons that are mostly personal, but also are of a certain quality level that maintains some legitimacy to the claim. You may disagree…and that’s cool. Feel free to comment on the post with your thoughts about this or you’re own greatest songs ever written.

    I have always maintained The Smiths is one of the greatest bands ever; and How Soon Is Now? is one of the greatest songs ever written. The opening guitar riff is unmistakable. Johnny Marr’s rolling guitar jangle folding back unto itself, abruptly accentuated with what I can only describe as a warped train whistle preluding a lush and vaguely psychedelic melody destined to frame Morrissey’s painfully relatable lyrics:

 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   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

The legendary John Peel had an interesting take on The Smiths lyrics in general:

“I mean on more than one occasion I’ve actually laughed out loud at Smiths lyrics, & I don’t often do that, I don’t often laugh out loud at anything very much. I think that they’re very funny lyrics and I cannot understand why people assume that what they do is essentially miserable. I suppose because there’s a lot of references to death and pain & so forth in the lyrics but again its done in the way you know were it’s sort of ironic. I don’t see them as being miserable at all, I get rather cross when people tell me that they are”

Morrissey’s lyrical brilliance works lies in being both ironic and sincere, and more than a little relatable. He manages to touch very specific, yet universal human emotions, many times from the perspective of being homosexual in the rough-edged, industrial grittiness of 70’s and 80’s England. With How Soon Is Now? there is that commonality of looking for relationship…human touch and companionship…but not being able to overcome a deep shyness to connect with someone else on the same level, the way everyone else seems to be able to. It reminds of a time in college when I agreed to go clubbing and immediately felt so out of my element, so awkward, so pathetic that I spent most of the night sitting in a booth alone, waiting for my friends to close the deal with their new acquaintances so that I could get a ride back to my apartment. Of course it didn’t help that I couldn’t dance, was probably dressed inappropriately, had no gift for small talk and held more than a little disdain for the club-kid stereotypes that populated the club. Looking for love in all the wrong places so to speak. More often than not it’s songs that strike a deeper chord that tend to live on and influence other artists. And the greatest songs are the ones that make you stop whatever you’re doing at that very moment and just listen.  How Soon Is Now is firmly planted at the top of that category. Thirty years after its release, it still stops me in my tracks and causes me to break out in chills.

  1. KD says:

    I’d this one up with the greats as well. Good read Ramage!

  2. […] song, Mad World, off of The Hurting,  was also worthy  of being placed in the same category as How Soon Is Now? as Greatest Songs Ever written, according to Me. The opening drum beat starts with an odd jungle […]

  3. Jonathan G. says:

    The song of a decade (the 80s), the song of a generation. It WAS my youth. It says everything. It has depth, and breadth. . . a universe of feelings. And this was one of their EARLY works. God only knows what they could have done if they were around longer. But Strangeways points in that direction. Thank you Smiths for the memories. There will never be another Smiths. JG

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