This song was likely written at the beginning of the summer of 1984.
It was first recorded during the July 1984 sessions at Jam Studios in London with producer John Porter, alongside material that would soon after be released on the "William, It Was Really Nothing" single. This first version of "Nowhere Fast" was tentatively planned as the follow-up single to "William, It Was Really Nothing", with an early version of "Rusholme Ruffians" and a studio version of "This Night Has Opened My Eyes" also recorded during this session as potential b-sides, but these plans were shelved.
Another version was recorded on 1 August 1984 for the band's third appearance on John Peel's BBC programme (broadcast 9 August 1984), with producer John Porter.
The definitive version was mainly recorded in October 1984 at Amazon Studios in Liverpool, with the Smiths (mostly Johnny) acting as producer and Stephen Street as recording engineer. Overdubs were added the following month at Ridge Farm Studios in Surrey. The song's final mixing was done in December 1984 at Island Record's Fallout Shelter.
This song has been done in concert a total of 72 times by the Smiths, perhaps even 74 times if we take into account the fact that information is missing for a few setlists from that era. It appears to have been played at every concert given from its live inception in early June 1984, all through the 1985 Meat Is Murder tour (except for one show interrupted early) and the handful of loose dates in early 1986. It was never played on the Queen Is Dead tour.
The song was also done by Morrissey after the Smiths, on the 2009 Swords tour. Morrissey must not have been happy with the way it came out, as it was permanently dropped from the setlist following only 4 performances.
No demos or studio outtakes of this song have leaked to the general public at this point in time.
"The album 'Meat Is Murder' I still rate very highly but again stuff like 'Nowhere Fast' could have been done better."
"I was trying to draw on American music in a way that had been forgotten. I'm into writing with rhythms that are very infectious but don't have any traces of James Brown in because I wanted my band to be different. A very deliberate and keen interest in finding rhythms that other bands around me were not using, that I liked hearing my parents play: Eddie Cochran; Elvis Presley; and because I was such a Stones nut, Bo Diddley. I always was obsessed by that beat. 'Nowhere Fast' has that rockabilly rhythm and 'Shakespeare's Sister' was written entirely from that rhythm; some idea of a fucked-up Johnny Cash on drugs. It sounds half like that."