"How Soon Is Now?" [original edition]
Autumn 1984 - Spring 1985


How Soon Is Now? (fade-out version)
Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want

EEC 7" [Rough Trade RT166]
Holland 7" [Megadisc RT166]


How Soon Is Now?
Girl Afraid
How Soon Is Now? (Phil Brown edit)

USA 12" [Sire 0-20284]


How Soon Is Now? (fade-out version)
Well I Wonder

UK 7" [Rough Trade RT176]
UK 7" [Rhino UK RHN176; 2008 reissue]
Australia 7" [CBS RTANZ008]
Germany 7" [RT Deutschland RTD020]
New Zealand 7" [CBS RTANZ008]
Portugal 7" [Transmedia TMRT176]


How Soon Is Now?
Well I Wonder
Oscillate Wildly

UK 12" [Rough Trade RTT176]
Australia 12" [CBS RTANZ12006]
Germany 12" [RT Deutschland RTD020T]
New Zealand 12" [CBS RTANZ12006]


How Soon Is Now? (Phil Brown edit)
Shakespeare's Sister
The Headmaster Ritual (Phil Brown edit)

Canada 7" [Sire 92 90077]
USA 7" [Sire 29007-7 (double a-side)]


Barbarism Begins At Home
Well I Wonder
How Soon Is Now?
Oscillate Wildly

Greece 12" [Virgin VG2041Z]


Additional information:
Because the "William, It Was Really Nothing" single b-side "How Soon Is Now?" outshined the a-side, Megadisc in Holland decided to release the song as a single of its own in the Autumn of 1984. An EEC edition based on the Holland one was also produced. The b-side in all cases was the other "William, It Was Really Nothing" b-side, "Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want". The Spanish 7" released by Nuevos Medios (40121S) which has the same track listing is actually a promo for the album "Hatful Of Hollow".

Meanwhile in the USA, the song, at that point only available as an import, started getting attention in alternative clubs so Sire decided to put it out domestically on 12" format, backed with "Girl Afraid" which had appeared earlier in the year on the "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" single.

Then in early 1985, instead of releasing a single from the upcoming "Meat Is Murder" album, Rough Trade in the UK and some licensees in Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Portugal decided to release "How Soon Is Now?" as an a-side, despite the song being already available on the "William, It Was Really Nothing" single and the "Hatful Of Hollow" album. This new single was given new artwork and b-sides.

Back in the USA and Canada, the song kept on gaining attention so it was added as a bonus track to the "Meat Is Murder" album, which in turn gave it even more momentum. A video was shot, MTV were interested, and Sire in the USA and Canada thought it had a chance to cross over to radio and decided to release it again, but this time on 7" format. This second North American edition was backed with the European non-album single "Shakespeare's Sister" and an edit of "The Headmaster Ritual" from recent album "Meat Is Murder".

Finally, "How Soon Is Now?" was released in Greece with a unique track listing combining the "How Soon Is Now" UK 12" tracks and artwork, with "Barbarism Begins At Home" as bonus title track.

The 2008 reissue of the UK 7" single by Rhino UK was also included in the "Smiths Singles box" which compiled the band's first 10 UK singles (plus two bonuses). On each of the five weeks leading to the release of the latter box, two singles from it were put up for sale individually. Collectors could therefore buy two single reissues every week, or wait at the end of the programme to get all of them in the box, alongside the two bonus 7"s.


Artwork information:
The artwork for the Holland and EEC singles is the same as for the recently released "William, It Was Really Nothing" single, but instead of being green, the photo was tinted lilac. The Spanish 7" used the same artwork as the "William, It Was Really Nothing" single, with the same green colour, but instead of the expected 7" version of it, the slightly different 12" layout was used. Releases in Spain were usually on 12" format, rarely on 7", this must be the explanation why the very few 7" released there (this one and Sandie Shaw's "Hand In Glove") used the 12" artwork

When the song was released again in early 1985 in the UK, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Greece and Portugal, new artwork was created by Morrissey. This new edition featured cover star Sean Barrett, a still taken from the 1958 movie "Dunkirk".

The photo on the USA 12" was taken in Glastonbury in 1984 and had originally appeared inside the gatefold "Hatful Of Hollow" LP. The rightmost third of the photo showing Mike Joyce is found on the back of the cover. The USA/Canada 7" was shoddily packed in a yellow sleeve with just the band name and titles on it.


Etchings on vinyl:
UK 7" and 12": THE TATTY TRUTH / none


Additional release date information:
UK: 1 February 1985
USA 12": late 1984 or early 1985
USA 7": Spring of 1985
Greek EP: Spring or early Summer of 1985
UK 2008 reissue: 24 November 2008


Chart peak information:
UK: 24
USA: didn't chart


UK (1984 Holland edition): Copies of the Holland 7" were distributed with a Scott Piering plugger sticker on the back, which hints that it might have been distributed and promoted in the UK despite the availability of the "William, It Was Really Nothing" single over there.

UK (1985 edition): Four different promos have been reported. All are 7"s and at least the first three listed below were distributed with a 2-sided press sheet: black 'white label' 7" in die-cut sleeve, jukebox 7" (same as stock but with large hole) with Scott Piering contact info sticker on die-cut sleeve, stock 7" with same Scott Piering sticker on picture sleeve, and 'faulty' test pressings with "Oscillate Wildly" on the b-side. It might be interesting to note that this was the last single by the Smiths to be promoted with a 'white-label' version of the 7" format. From the next single on, 12" white labels were going to be used for promotion.

Australia: This single was promoted in Australia with the usual Australian promo 7" and 12" with black and white 'man silhouette' labels featuring a promo warning. The 7" was occasionally dispatched inside a generic pink-striped CBS sleeve instead of the picture one. The promo 12" sleeve was a stock one gold stamped on the back with the usual promo warning.

Canada: The Canadian promo 7" was distributed inside a generic WEA sleeve. The record's middle has a solid centre with promo text printed onto it instead of the stock version's large hole centre.

EEC: see Holland below.

Germany: Stock copies of the 7" and 12" were distributed with a press release. In the case of the 12" format (and perhaps also the 7"?), this press sheet was a pink 'Ariola Import Service' one.

Greece: Copies with "Promo not for sale" stamped on the 12" label have been spotted.

Holland: Stock copies made into promos with the addition of a Scott Piering 'Appearing' contact info sticker on the back have been reported. However these may be EEC copies mistaken for Dutch ones because of the fact that the sleeves are identical in both cases. Confirmation one way or another would be appreciated. Whether from Holland or the EEC, the presence of a Scott Piering sticker may hint that this item was used as a promo in the UK and not in Holland or elsewhere in Continental Europe.

New Zealand: Stock copies of the 7" format were dispatched for promotion with a "Demonstration record" sticker on side B's label.

Portugal: Copies of this 7" single were stamped in Portuguese for promotion.

USA: Stock copies of the 12" were made into promos by having a promo warning gold-stamped on the front of the sleeve. The promo 7" is similar to the stock version, it bears the same catalogue number, but it features the title track on both sides and additional promo text on the record's label. It is usually slipped inside a generic record company sleeve. An edit of the title track was included on a various artists promo cassette titled "What's Up" (PRO-C-2228) which was sent to radio around the time of release of this single. Because of the continued and gradual success of the song, it was included again on a different promo cassette sent to radio, this one from March 1985, titled "Album Network Tuneup" (PRO-C-2284). Another promo/sampler cassette from the Spring of 1985, this one called "Action" also featured the song. A video of the song was also included on the January 1985 issue of the Rockamerica promo video series.



"And they've made several marketing disasters which have really been quite crippling to us in personal ways. For instance, the release of the last single. 'How Soon Is Now' was released in an abhorrent sleeve - and the time and the dedication that we put into the sleeves and artwork, it was tearful when we finally saw the record... And also we can discuss a video they made. It had absolutely nothing to do with the Smiths - but quite naturally we were swamped with letters from very distressed American friends saying, 'Why on earth did you make this foul video?' And of course it must be understood that Sire made that video, and we saw the video and we said to Sire, 'You can't possibly release this... this degrading video.' And they said, 'Well, maybe you shouldn't really be on our label.' It was quite disastrous - and it need hardly be mentioned that they also listed the video under the title 'How Soon Is Soon,' which... where does one begin, really?"
- Morrissey on Sire Records, Creem, 1985

"It's hard to believe that 'How Soon Is Now' was not a hit. I thought that was the one..."
- Morrissey, Creem, 1987

"Initially the very notion of instrumentals was motivated by me. I suggested that 'Oscillate Wildly' should be an instrumental; up until that point Johnny had very little interest in non-vocal tracks. There was never any political heave-hoing about should we-shouldn't we have an instrumental and it was never a battle of powers between Johnny and myself. The very assumption that a Smiths instrumental track left Morrissey upstairs in his bedroom stamping his feet and kicking the furniture was untrue! I totally approved but, obviously, I didn't physically contribute."
- Morrissey, NME, 13 February 1988

"Singles-wise, my favorite is 'How Soon Is Now?'... 'How Soon Is Now' was in F# tuning. I wanted a very swampy sound, a modern bayou song. It's a straight E riff, followed by open G and F#m7. The chorus uses open B, A, and D shapes with the top two strings ringing out. The vibrato sound is fucking incredible, and it took a long time. I put down the rhythm track on an Epiphone Casino through a Fender Twin Reverb without vibrato. Then we played the track back through four old Twins, one on each side. We had to keep all the amps vibratoing in time to the track and each other, so we had to keep stopping and starting the track, recording it in 10-second bursts. This sounds incredibly egotistical, but I wanted an intro that was almost as potent as 'Layla' -- when that song plays in a club or a pub, everyone knows what it is instantly. 'How Soon Is Now' is certainly one of the most identifiable songs I've done, and it's the track most people talk to me about. I wish I could remember exactly how we did the slide part -- not writing it down is one of the banes of my life! We did it in three passes through a harmonizer, set to some weird interval, like a sixth. There was a different harmonization for each pass. For the line in harmonics, I retuned the guitar so that I could play it all at the 12th fret with natural harmonics. It's doubled several times."
- Johnny Marr, Guitar Player, January 1990

"John Porter and Johnny pretty much did 'How Soon Is Now?' in an all-night session in a studio. I remember really liking it. I think it took us a few weeks to realise how good it was. Obviously it came out as a single in its own right later. Maybe you could say we made a mistake not releasing that as the A-side (of William)."
- Geoff Travis, Q, January 1994

"'How Soon Is Now?' was the international hit that should have happened. It would have changed everything. It was without question the most universal-sounding Smiths record that anybody could identify with."
- Scott Piering, Q, January 1994

"How Soon Is Now? was the one, though. I wanted to write a track with an intro that you couldn't forget, something that you knew straight away was The Smiths. In that regard it was very 'worked on'. I arrived at the studio with a demo of the whole thing, apart from the tremolo effect - though that was bound to surface on a Smiths track sooner or later, 'cos at that time I was playing Bo Diddley stuff everywhere I went. I wanted it to be really, really tense and swampy, all at the same time. Layering the slide part was what gave it the real tension. As soon as I played that bit on the second and third strings, John Porter put an AMS harmoniser on it. Then we recorded each individual string with the harmoniser, then we tuned the B string down a half step and harmonised the whole thing. The tremolo effect came from laying down a regular rhythm part (with a capo at the 2nd fret) on a Les Paul, then sending that out in to the live room to four Fender Twins. John was controlling the tremolo on two of them and I was controlling the other two, and whenever they went out of sync we just had to stop the track and start all over again. It took an eternity. God bless the sampler, 'cos it would have been so much easier! But it was just one of those great moments. When Morrissey sang the vocal it was the first time we'd all heard it. John Porter said, 'Oh, great - he's singing about the elements! I am the sun and the air...' But of course it was really, 'I am the son and the heir/of a shyness that is criminally vulgar'... A great track."
- Johnny Marr, The Guitar Magazine, January 1997



"For the most part, Morrissey is the Hilda Ogden of pop, harassed and hard done-by. I guess what seems like meat to one man sounds like murder to another."
- Gavin Martin, New Musical Express, 9 February 1985