"William It Was Really Nothing"
August 1984


William, It Was Really Nothing
Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want

UK 7" [Rough Trade RT166 (original green sleeve)]
UK 7" [Rhino UK RHN166; 2008 reissue]
Germany 7" [Intercord INT110.169]
Italy 7" [Virgin VIN45123]
Sweden 7" [MNW RT166]


William, It Was Really Nothing
How Soon Is Now?

UK 7" [Rough Trade RT166 (lilac reprint)]


William, It Was Really Nothing
How Soon Is Now?
Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want

UK 12" [Rough Trade RTT166 (green or lilac sleeve)]
UK CD5 [Rough Trade RTT166CD]
Australia CD5 [Festival D1072]
France 12" [Virgin 80130]
Germany 12" [Intercord INT125.219 (black or multicoloured vinyl)]
Greece 12" [Virgin VG2023 Z]
Philippines 12" [Rough Trade EP-RTR-1]


William, It Was Really Nothing
How Soon Is Now? (unique alternate studio outtake)
Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want

Italy 12" [Virgin VINX71]

Additional information:
The 2008 reissue of the 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 first (and most common) cover for the 7"s and 12"s is a green uncredited photograph of a man sitting on the edge of a bed. It comes from a 1980 to 1982 advertisement for A.D.S. speakers (view original). The object on the bed is a speaker.

For legal reasons, later (1987) UK re-pressings of the 7"s and 12"s were produced with new artwork, a lilac tinted Billie Whitelaw from the film "Charlie Bubbles" directed by Albert Finney [1967].

The sleeve for the 1988 cd-single reissue shows Colin Campbell from the 1964 film "The Leather Boys". This artwork had previously been used in Germany for the "Ask" single.

When the single was reissued in 2008, Rhino UK used the original green artwork, for they went for the 12" variation instead of the 7" one.


Etchings on vinyl:
UK 7" and 12" with green cover:
UK 7" with lilac cover:
UK 12" with lilac cover:
The a-side etching is a pun on Oscar Wilde's "The Importance Of Being Earnest", referencing Ernest Hemingway's latter-day impotence. The "Romantic and square..." etching is a line by John Lennon to Beatles biographer Hunter Davies. It was supplied by Johnny Marr.


Additional release date information:
UK original 7" and 12": 24 August 1984
UK lilac 7" and 12" repressings: 16 November 1987
UK and Australian cd-singles: 1988
UK 2008 reissue: 24 November 2008


Chart peak information:
UK: 17


UK: Red 'white-label' copies of the 7" format were sent to radio for promotion of this single.

Canada: This song wasn't released as a single in Canada, but a four-track promo 7" of "William, It Was Really Nothing" with three other artists (WEA EP #2) was used to promote "Hatful Of Hollow".

Denmark: The Swedish 7" was sent to Danish media with a green 'Dansk Sam' press sheet.

France: Stamped copies of the 12" single were used for promotion.

Germany: Stock copies of the 7" format were sent to radio with a white and yellow INFO sheet.

Italy: Copies of the 7" were stamped in ink and sent for promotion. The stock 12" of "William, It Was Really Nothing" is one of the Smiths' most collectible items, and promo stamped copies of it are even scarcer.



"In America it's really a terrible situation. Sire won't even acknowledge songs that have been successful here [the UK] like 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now' and 'William, It Was Really Nothing'. They won't put them on record in any conceivable form. To me that's a tremendous blow, an absolute insult."
- Morrissey, November 1984 (source unknown)

Morrissey, when asked if he thought "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want" was the perfect Smiths song: "I think it was very close indeed, and hiding it away on a B-side was sinful. I feel sad about it now although we did include it on Hatful Of Hollow by way of semi-repentance. When we first played it to Rough Trade, they kept asking, "where's the rest of the song?" But to me, it's like a very brief punch in the face. Lengthening the song would, to my mind, have simply been explaining the blindingly obvious."
- Morrissey, Melody Maker, 26 September 1987

"I recall that The Smiths made a record called 'William, It Was Really Nothing,' which was only two minutes nine. And we were heavily chastised by the record company for doing such a short song because Bronski Beat had released a record that same week which was 13 minutes long. There's so much to fight against. It's a terrible, terrible business. I have the bruises..."
- Morrissey, Select, July 1991

"I did 'How Soon Is Now?' on a portastudio. That, 'William, It Was Really Nothing' and 'Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want', I did in a period of about four to five days when I was living in a flat in Earls Court. That was done when we needed a follow-up to 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now'. 'How Soon Is Now?' was really a good one. Musically it was a perfect cross between a sweaty swamp backing track and an intense, wired shock every few bars. I knew what I was doing with those tracks. The priority was to do 'Please Please Please' and 'William'. Then we needed the extra track and just nailed that one."
- Johnny Marr, Record Collector, November/December 1992

(on "How Soon Is Now?") "We did it at Jam Studios in Finsbury Park. Everybody was a bit hungover from the night before. I don't know what had gone on. They had 'William (It Was Really Nothing)' basically together, so we put it down very quickly. And Johnny played me a little chord sequence which I thought was kind of interesting, but very pretty. And I seem to remember saying to him, 'Play what you think is "That's All Right"' - you know, the old Arthur Crudup tune. 'Play your impression of that.' So he did. So I said, 'Right, now play your chord sequence two octaves down from where you've done it, and let's bolt it on to this other part.' And that sort of happened. They did three takes. It was a Saturday. I don't think Morrissey was there. I posted it, or somebody posted it, through Morrissey's letterbox that night and then he came in the next day with his book and sang possibly one or two takes. And it was done. I thought, 'Right, well, now we're starting to move into second gear. Now we've got something that we can sell in America. Now we've got a band that could be like R.E.M. are now.' We were all really, really excited. In the evening I called Scott and Scott came down. He loved it. He said, 'Yes! Fantastic!' He took the tape. Went back to Rough Trade. And Geoff was kind of... he didn't really like it. Which rather deflated me. And subsequently they just put it out as a fucking B-side. I mean, they murdered it."
- John Porter, Q, January 1994



"The Smiths are impossible to love unless you wish to mother Morrissey. There is a wistful optimism about the music they make that is very easy to like a whole lot but the main man-child's self-adoring ennui sticks in the craw once you realise that this is what he is going to be doing on his death bed. Ennui gets a little boring after a while."
- Tony Parsons, New Musical Express, 25 August 1984