If it was the mid-’80s and you were into wearing black and dancing slowly and telling everyone how sad it was to be so deep while telling yourself you must be very deep indeed to be so sad, then you were almost certainly listening to The Smiths. And if you were listening to The Smiths, then you were most deeply sad when listening to their anthem to the depths of teen sadness, “How Soon Is Now?”
I wasn’t doing any of those things, but I was introduced to The Smiths music shortly after they split up in ’87, and found that I liked Morrissey’s snarky humor and that I loved Johnny Marr’s guitar. So even if you aren’t all sad about being so deep, Marr might just turn you into a Smiths fan. On his own, Morrissey is a whiner — witness, if you can take it, his solo career. But Marr’s guitar is dark and slick and elevates mere whininess into epic despair.
Although it might have helped that when I first heard this one, I might also have been smoking something not strictly legal.
“How Soon Is Now?” features one of my favorite misheard lyrics. Here’s how it really goes:
I am the son
And the heir
Of a shyness that is criminally vulgar
I am the son and heir
Of nothing in particular
I get it, Morrissey; you’re all alone and deep and sad — but I used to get a huge laugh out of that lyric. Because what I heard when I had this on a cheap-ass cassette was, “I am the summoner of nothing in particular.” So there I was, a decade before Harry Potter was a thing, picturing a kid trying to get admitted into wizard school. In my head it went like this:
Director of Admissions: “What’s your ability, kid?”
Kid: “I can summon… stuff.”
Director: “What kind of stuff?”
Kid’s Parents: “We’re not entirely sure.”
So you can see, especially given what I might have just inhaled, why I might have found the song much more entertaining than it actually is.
Except for that epic guitar. Give it a listen.