How Soon Is Now?: The B-Side That Defined The Smiths

The Smiths were one of the most important bands of the 80s. Fronted by a celibate crooner in love with Oscar Wilde and the New York Dolls, with their music composed by a teenaged Byrds-obsessive, they were at odds with the music of the time. To see Morrissey flouting around with some gladioli on Top of the Pops, with Johnny Marr’s jangling Rickenbacker backing him up, was a Eureka moment.

They weren’t like other bands, and that was the point. Focusing on teenage themes of love, loneliness and identity, their catalogue is filled with anthems for the left of centre. Jon Savage stated in 2017: “ The Smiths were outsiders and made music for people like themselves”.

Over the course of only 5 years, The Smiths released four untouchable studio albums and inspired a generation of teenagers. But their prolific output’s quality was not constrained to their LPs: Even their b-sides were on par with their best work. B-sides were important in the UK. Now with streaming not so much.

But buying singles used to be the only way to measure chart ranking. Those extra tracks on a single need to be high quality to persuade the consumer to buy something that is extremely poor value for money compared to an album. Because of this any classic British band has their fair share of stellar b-sides. Look at The Beatles, The Clash, The Cure, Radiohead, even The Arctic Monkeys. And The Smiths were no different. Especially on “How Soon Is Now?”