Wednesday, 12 August 2009

How Soon?

One thing that makes 'How Soon Is Now?' work so wonderfully is the opening lyric. Now I'm sure I don't need to tell you that Morrissey adapted a line of George Eliot, from Middlemarch: 'To be born the son of a Middlemarch manufacturer, and inevitable heir to nothing in particular.' But as sung, the line works very neatly to wrongfoot us. The jangly, spacious, throbbing music, and M's elongation of the syllables, encourage us to take the opening as 'I am the Sun, and the Air' ... as if the song is setting out to be a hymn to bright openness, to being free as a bird. Of course not. The second line ('...of a shyness') forces us to revise our sense of the first line retrospectively (son, heir), a little trick that focusses the song's excellent apprehension of being slightly out of step, of not quite fitting in.

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