The Smiths were one of England’s most popular “modern rock” acts in the years immediately following the “new wave” era and indeed were influencers for the forthcoming “alternative music” scene in the early 1990s. Eschewing the keyboards that were then popular, The Smith’s blended guitar riffs from Johnny Marr along with the flamboyant baritone singing from lead singer Morrissey (born Steven Patrick Morrissey). Though they were mostly on independent labels and none of their albums were widely popular, among modern-music fans The Smiths were a supergroup.

Following their debut album in 1984, the band released a series of seminal singles including “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” (a top 10 UK single). They followed that with their most famous track, sometimes called “The Stairway to Heaven of the Eighties”. “How Soon is Now” featured a haunting guitar riff, but also featured dance-friendly drum beats. The lyrics talk about someone with shyness, and referenced words from a George Eliot novel. The song initially appeared as a B-side to another Smiths single, a factor that held up it’s chart ranking once it finally released as a proper A-side single. The song also broke the band in America, where the song was a hit on the dance charts and on modern rock radio stations. The song regularly was featured in the top 5 songs of all time at modern radio stations such as KROQ and KITS.

The Smiths several more albums between 1985-1987, featuring memorable tracks such as “Girlfriend in a Coma”, “Bigmouth Strikes Again”, “Panic”, and “Sheila Take a Bow”. The band split in late 1987, due to business problems, fatigue, and for reasons of ego. The band has refused to reunite despite millions of dollars. The band’s ethics and independent streak was a major influence on many bands of the 1990s.

Morrissey went on to have a successful solo career, and Marr shifted from supergroup to supergroup, founding Electronic but also taking part in groups such as The The and Modest Mouse.

View the “How Soon is Now” music video