The Smiths’ “How Soon is Now”

The informant is a 23 year old musician who enjoys learning exchanging stories about legendary bands with his fellow musicians. This piece would be exchanged during a band practice  or when speaking with another musician to prove knowledge of game-changing bands.

“So, uh, The Smith’s track How Soon is Now, which actually ended up being their biggest US hit, um, arose from a single session. And now actually I’m forgetting what the single was. But they had a single, a B-side, and they were looking for a third track to record to put on the second side because they had, they did these things called “maxi singles” where there was the single and then you got like two songs on the back side. Uh, and they came on, uh, twelve inch records instead of seven inch. And, so, they brought in – Johnny Marr, the guitar player, brought in a cassette of that guitar part and it was called “Swampy.” That was all it said on the cassette. And he got the idea “why don’t we put this over a hip-hop beat,” because it was the eighties and hip-hop was like starting to blow up. Um, and, uh, it was never officially on an album. Um, and the band never made a music video for it. Now the label had different ideas for this song. They knew that the way hip-hop was blowing up in America that they could, that this song had potential. So, they actually made a video without consulting the band at all. Put it together with like clips from a movie. And uh, they made it without the band’s permission. The band was very furious. And then, also, I believe this time with the band’s permission, um put the song on their album Meat is Murder – their second album – uh, only on the US version of the album because of its overnight success in the US. So it’s not on the UK version, it is on the US version, crazy.”

This story is important to the informant because it is one of his favorite bands, as it is of many of his fellow musicians. The informant learned of this story on an internet forum for fans of the band. This would be performed during band practice or when speaking to fellow musicians to prove knowledge of music trivia.


This story is important because it demonstrates that while it may have been easier for bands during the time of big labels to have a steady income, these bands did not have freedom. Bands today envy the popularity of legendary bands just ten years ago but value their independence and freedom in their ability to write and perform what they please. It also speaks to the fact that a wildly successful song was created by happenstance, alluding to the fact that success can come unexpectedly and at any moment.