Skip to main content

How Soon is Now by Richard King

I recently read How Soon is Now: The Madmen and Mavericks Who Made Independent Music 1975-2005 by Richard King (Amazon UK, US). It was a good read, much easier and more fun than I expected.

I made a Spotify playlist of 178 of the tracks mentioned, or tracks from the albums mentioned. There’s more detail about that below. Here are a few brief notes from reading the book…


Book cover

The 600-page book is mainly about the labels Rough Trade, Beggars Banquet, Creation, Factory, Mute, Postcard Records, 4AD, Warp and Domino. Much of the content is quotes from interviews with those involved, which makes it much more readable than a recounting of events by a third-party. There are a lot of characters.

One of the few flaws of the book for me is that I’d still struggle to describe exactly what a record label does, compared to an artist’s management or a distributor. There seems to be a lot of overlap and it’s never entirely clear to me exactly what work people did.

Aside from that, it’s a good, fun read. I was only into the music any of these labels put out from the late 1980s, but the stuff before that was still interesting to me.

So many of the people and companies were incredibly disorganised and the businesses constantly seemed on the verge of bankruptcy. So many people, throughout the book, mention how much drugs and alcohol they were doing but also constantly emphasise how hard they worked. That combination makes no sense to me, but I guess I’m not the kind of person who’d run a chaotic independent label. I’d run screaming (quietly). The only label I was ever into was 4AD and it’s interesting that its founder is one of the most introverted and calm people in the book…

One example quote from Creation founder Alan McGee, after a tour with the House of Love (p.344):

“We came off of that tour and I’d totally had it with the House of Love. We were more rock ‘n’ roll than the band: the band were going to be at fucking one in the morning having had their eight pints of lager, we were going out, coming back at seven, and then on to the next gig off our nuts for three or four weeks.”

That stuff gets slightly tiresome after a while but, despite myself, it’s also entertaining to read.

Despite everyone’s disorganisation and states of disrepair, they seemed to mostly get through due to enthusiasm (plus a lot of pig-headedness); they were enthusiastic about the music, something that Johnny Marr realised wasn’t universal in the industry when The Smiths were looking to sign to a label and went to see some of the majors that had been courting them (p.158):

“We went over to meet them just for the experience and I was immediately struck by the lack of records in these buildings. … On the few occasions that I’d been in the Factory flat or whenever I’d been around Rough Trade, it was almost like a record company trying to operate under mounds and mounds of vinyl. All that CBS and Warner Brothers had to show that they were record companies were huge posters of their artists on the wall, and that was a big thing for me.”

I like that as an indicator of the different kinds of people… record companies whose offices had no records. The sort of comparison that could be extended to other industries…

Different bands have very different ambitions and you occasionally see record label people relieved to discover a band they like that also has ambitions to become something much bigger. This example made me giggle, Nick Currie (Momus) on talking to Creation’s founder Alan McGee (p.237):

“I think I told Alan at our first meeting that I wanted to be bigger than David Bowie,” says Currie. “and he said, ‘Well, that’s great, because most people that come to me want to be bigger than the Might Lemon Drops.’”

As a former 4AD fan I also liked this quote from Paul Smith, founder of Blast First, comparing Mute to 4AD (pp.288-9):

“I had to trot over to fucking west London to go and see [Daniel Miller, Mute’s founder],” says Smith, “and I met the Mute Beauties, as we knew them at that point — he had all these girls working for him. They weren’t like the 4AD super elegant girls, they were heavy-duty party girls who were looking at their watches, waiting for Dan to leave so they could rip it up. Their desks were all made out of doors on trestles as opposed to 4AD where everything had obviously been designed by Ben Kelly and money had been spent on furnishing.”

I should also say at this point that almost everyone in the book is a man, which is a bit tiresome, but there’s not that much we can do about that.

Another fun little quote, from New Order’s Stephen Morris on their trip to a recording studio in Ibiza (“because it had a swimming pool”) (p.349):

“It was a brilliant fucking holiday,” says Stephen Morris. “It was a bit like going to New York the first time and seeing lofts.”


Looking back from 2018 it seems strange how much influence “the music press” had. There were up to four weekly papers to fill, so it can’t have been that hard to get coverage for anyone remotely interesting or competent. Just think even how many covers had to be filled every year. But without the support of the music press, and/or John Peel, it seems like independent labels had little chance of making something successful.

Towards the end it starts getting a little less interesting to me, partly because I wasn’t as into the music mentioned, but also because the industry had changed. Here’s Paul Smith again, on what it was all like after Britpop was in full sway (p.505):

“In 1996 I walked into work every week and I’d have a band in the Top Twenty,” says Smith. … “In that rush, an awful lot of mediocrity gets signed up … and by ‘97 people were getting really sick of having rubbish marketed at them very aggressively.” …

“Everybody was really fucked up,” says Smith, “because everyone had had way too much success, way too young, loads of disposable cash. None of us had any real responsibilities. Everyone had just gone out and bought paintings and armchairs. I woke up one morning and just went, ‘Oh God, this is all shit. I may have an Eames lampshade but my life is completely meaningless.’”

There was a time when I was “into music” more than I am now; I read NME or Melody Maker and the bands I like defined my identity more. But I realise now how little I knew about what was happening behind the scenes: where a band was in its career; how much they were or weren’t touring; what an appearance on Top of the Pops meant; who was falling out with who; how much labels and distributors affected a band and their success; the ups and downs of people and labels. I wasn’t even aware of most of labels other than as logos on records, rather than organisations made up of very different people, with different ways of working, and different kinds of chaos.

The playlist

Here’s the playlist on Spotify.

Below is the full track list, including tracks that aren’t on Spotify. Some notes:

  • This is mostly in the order in which tracks/albums are mentioned in the book. I’ve tweaked in a couple of places where it made a little more sense.

  • If the book only mentions an album or EP, but no specific track from it, I’ve chosen the most-listened-to track as shown on In this case the track is marked with an *.

  • If a track or album isn’t on Spotify, it’s indicated in the list below with a †.

  • The KLF/JAMs tracks, and a few others, aren’t on Spotify in the UK but are included in the playlist… hopefully they work for others.

That’s the notes. Here’s the full playlist:

  1. Hawkwind - Silver Machine
  2. Dr Feelgood - Roxette* (from Down by the Jetty)
  3. NEU! - Isi* (from NEU! 75)
  4. Buzzcocks - Boredom* (from Spiral Scratch)
  5. Throbbing Gristle - Industrial Introduction* (from Second Annual Report)
  6. The Normal - T.V.O.D.
  7. The Normal - Warm Leatherette
  8. Cabaret Voltaire - The Set Up* (from Extended Play)
  9. Joy Division - Digital* (from A Factory Sample compilation)
  10. Joy Division - She’s Lost Control* (from Unknown Pleasures)
  11. A Certain Ratio - Flight
  12. Echo & the Bunnymen - Pictures on My Wall
  13. The Teardrop Explodes - Sleeping Gas
  14. Lori and the Chameleons - Touch
  15. Echo & the Bunnymen - The Cutter
  16. Orange Juice - Falling and Laughing
  17. Josef K - Sorry for Laughing
  18. Orange Juice - Blue Boy
  19. Josef K - Radio Drill Time
  20. Aztec Camera - Just Like Gold
  21. Aztec Camera - Mattress of Wire
  22. Bourgie Bourgie - Careless
  23. Lloyd Cole and the Commotions - Perfect Skin* (from Rattlesnakes)
  24. Orange Juice - Rip it Up
  25. Orange Juice - What Presence (from The Orange Juice)
  26. Birthday Party - The Friend Catcher
  27. Modern English - I Melt with You
  28. The The - Red Cinders in the Sand* (from Burning Blue Soul)
  29. Cocteau Twins - Wax and Wane* (from Garlands)
  30. Cocteau Twins - Sugar Hiccup* (from Head Over Heels and Sunburst and Snowblind)
  31. This Mortal Coil - Song to the Siren
  32. Colourbox - Breakdown
  33. Colourbox - Hot Doggie* (from Colourbox)
  34. Laurie Anderson - O Superman
  35. Viv Goldman - Launderette
  36. Scritti Politti - The “Sweetest Girl”
  37. Felt - My Face is on Fire* (from Pillows and Prayers compilation)
  38. Everything but the Girl - Each and Every One* (from Eden)
  39. The Smiths - Hand in Glove
  40. The Smiths - This Charming Man
  41. Adrian Sherwood and Keith Le Blanc - The Enemy Within
  42. New Order - Blue Monday
  43. New Order - Confusion
  44. Quando Quango - Love Tempo
  45. Marcel King - Reach for Love
  46. New Order - The Perfect Kiss
  47. The Pastels - Hurricane Fighter Plane (from Alive at the Living Room compilation)
  48. Jasmine Minks - Green Fuz (from Alive at the Living Room compilation)
  49. Revolving Paint Dreams - Flowers in the Sky
  50. Jasmine Minks - Think!
  51. The Legend! - 73 in ‘83
  52. The Legend! - Destroys the Blues
  53. The Jesus and Mary Chain - Upside Down
  54. Television Personalities - Part Time Punks
  55. Weather Prophets - Almost Prayed* (from Mayflower)
  56. Primal Scream - Gentle Tuesday* (from Sonic Flower Groove)
  57. Bill Drummond - Julian Cope is Dead (from The Man)
  58. Momus - Lucky Like St. Sebastian* (from Circus Maximus)
  59. Bad Dream Fancy Dress - The Supremes (from Choirboy Gas)
  60. The Would Be Goods - The Camera Loves Me
  61. Momus - Closer to You (from The Poison Boyfriend)
  62. Primal Scream - Velocity Girl (from C86 compilation)
  63. Felt - Primitive Painters (from Ignite the Seven Cannons)
  64. Felt - (from Forever Breathes the Lonely Word)
  65. The Pastels - Baby Honey* (from Up For a Bit with the Pastels)
  66. Fad Gadget - Back to Nature
  67. DAF - Essen Dann Schlafen* (from Die Kleinen under Die Bosen)
  68. Silicon Teens - You Really Got Me (from Music for Parties)
  69. Depeche Mode - Just Can’t Get Enough* (from Speak and Spell)
  70. Yazoo - Don’t Go* (from Upstairs at Eric’s)
  71. John Foxx - Underpass* (from Metamatic)
  72. British Electronic Foundation - Anyone Who Had a Heart* (from Music of Quality and Distinction, vol. 1)
  73. Einstürzende Neubauten - Tanz Debil* (from Strategies Against Architecture)
  74. Depeche Mode - Everything Counts* (from Construction Time Again)
  75. Depeche Mode - People are People* (from Some Great Reward)
  76. Depeche Mode - Stripped* (from Black Celebration)
  77. Erasure - Oh L’Amour* (from Wonderland)
  78. Erasure - Sometimes
  79. The Smiths - That Joke isn’t Funny Anymore (from Meat is Murder)
  80. The Smiths - Frankly Mr Shankly (from The Queen is Dead)
  81. The Smiths - Girlfriend in a Coma* (from Strangeways Here We Come)
  82. Lydia Lunch - Still Burning (from In Limbo)
  83. Sonic Youth with Lydia Lunch - Death Valley ‘69 (from Bad Moon Rising)
  84. Sonic Youth - Flower
  85. Sonic Youth - Shadow of a Doubt* (from Evol)
  86. Big Black - My Disco* (from Headache EP)
  87. Big Black - Steelworker* (from Lungs EP)
  88. Big Black - Kerosene* (from Atomizer)
  89. Big Black - The Model* (from Songs about Fucking)
  90. Butthole Surfers - Human Cannonball* (from Locust Abortion Technician)
  91. Butthole Surfers - I Saw an X-Ray of a Girl Passing Gas* (from Hairway to Steven)
  92. Dinosaur Jr - Freak Scene (from Bug)
  93. Sonic Youth - Teen Age Riot* (from Daydream Nation)
  94. AR Kane - When You’re Sad
  95. AR Kane - Lollita* (from Lollita EP)
  96. M/A/R/R/S - Pump Up the Volume
  97. Throwing Muses - Hate My Way* (from Throwing Muses)
  98. Pixies - Caribou* (from Come On Pilgrim)
  99. Pixies - Gigantic (from Surfer Rosa)
  100. Pixies - Monkey Gone to Heaven (from Doolittle)
  101. The House of Love - Christine* (from The House of Love (1988))
  102. Psychic TV - Meet Every Situation Head On* (from Jack the Tab)
  103. The Wonderstuff - Unbearable* (from The Eight Legged Groove Machine)
  104. My Bloody Valentine - You Made Me Realise
  105. My Bloody Valentine - Feed Me With Your Kiss
  106. Mayo Thompson - The Lesson* (from Corky’s Debt to His Father)
  107. The Pastels - Truck, Train, Tractor* (from Truck, Train, Tractor)
  108. Spacemen 3 - O.D. Catastrophe (from Sound of Confusion)
  109. Spacemen 3 - Ecstasy Symphony (from The Perfect Prescription)
  110. Biff Bang Pow! - Love’s Going Out of Fashion* (from The Acid House Album)
  111. Love Corporation - Palatial (Danny Rampling remix)
  112. Hypnotone - Dream Beam (Danny Rampling remix)
  113. Crazy Eddie & QQ Freestyle - Nena De Ibiza (from Keeping the Faith compilation)
  114. Ride - Drive Blind* (from Ride EP)
  115. Ride - Vapour Trail* (from Nowhere)
  116. Primal Scream - Loaded
  117. New Order - Fine Time (from Technique)
  118. Happy Mondays - Freaky Dancin’
  119. Happy Mondays - Twenty Four Hour Party People* (from Squirrel & G-Man)
  120. Happy Mondays - Do it Better (from Bummed)
  121. Happy Mondays - W.F.L. (Paul Oakenfold mix)
  122. Happy Mondays - Step On (from Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches)
  123. New Order - World in Motion
  124. Cath Carroll - Moves Like You* (from England Made Me)
  125. New Order - Regret* (from Republic)
  126. Brilliant - It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World* (from Kiss the Lips of Life)
  127. JAMs - All You Need is Love
  128. JAMs - Don’t Take Five (Take What You Want)* (from 1987 (What the Fuck is Going On?)
  129. JAMs - Candyman* (from Who Killed the JAMs?)
  130. The Timelords - Doctorin’ the Tardis
  131. The KLF - Kylie Said to Jason
  132. The KLF - What Time is Love?
  133. Jimmy Cauty - (from Space)
  134. The KLF - Transcentral Lost in My Mind* (from Chill Out)
  135. JAMs - It’s Grim Up North
  136. The KLF - What Time is Love? (reworked version?, maybe)
  137. The KLF - 3 a.m. Eternal
  138. The KLF - Last Train to Transcentral
  139. The KLF - Justified and Ancient
  140. The KLF - America What Time is Love?
  141. The KLF with Extreme Noise Terror - 3 a.m. Eternal
  142. Arthur Russell - Lucky Cloud* (from World of Echo)
  143. Galaxie 500 - Tugboat* (from Today)
  144. Mazzy Star - Halah* (from She Hangs Brightly)
  145. Spacemen 3 - I Love You* (from Recurring)
  146. Nirvana - Molly’s Lips (from their second Peel session)
  147. Sonic Youth - Kool Thing* (from Goo)
  148. Teenage Fanclub - Everything Flows* (from A Catholic Education)
  149. Pulp - Countdown* (from Separations)
  150. Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit* (from Nevermind)
  151. Dinosaur Jr - The Wagon (from Green Mind)
  152. Sebadoh - Brand New Love* (from Weed Forestin’)
  153. Sebadoh - Soul and Fire
  154. Primal Scream - Movin’ on Up* (from Screamadelica)
  155. My Bloody Valentine - Only Shallow* (from Loveless)
  156. Boo Radleys - Lazarus (from Giant Steps)
  157. Teenage Fanclub - The Concept* (from Bandwagonesque)
  158. Momus - Summer Holiday 1999* (from Voyager)
  159. Oasis - Live Forever* (from Definitely Maybe)
  160. His Name is Alive - How Ghosts Affect Relationships (from Lavonia)
  161. Red House Painters - Medicine Bottle* (from Down Colorful Hill)
  162. Unrest - Make Out Club* (from Perfect Teeth)
  163. Dead Can Dance - The Carnival Is Over* (from Into the Labyrinth)
  164. Wolfgang Press - A Girl Like You
  165. Cocteau Twins - Cherry-Coloured Funk* (from Heaven or Las Vegas)
  166. PJ Harvey - Dress
  167. Beatmasters - Rock Da House
  168. Bomb the Bass - Best Dis
  169. S’Express - Theme From S’Express
  170. Forgemasters - Track With No Name
  171. Sweet Exorcist - Testone
  172. Tricky Disco - Tricky Disco
  173. LFO - LFO (from Frequencies)
  174. Plaid - Object Orient* (from Black Dog Productions’ Bytes)
  175. Fuse - Substance Abuse* (from Dimension Intrusion)
  176. Dr Alex Paterson - Loving You Live* (from Artificial Intelligence compilation)
  177. Pulp - Sheffield: Sex City
  178. Pulp - Common People
  179. Huggy Bear - Her Jazz
  180. Bikini Kill - Rebel Girl* (from Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah)
  181. The Prodigy - Charly
  182. The Prodigy - Poison* (from Music for the Jilted Generation)
  183. The Prodigy - Firestarter (from The Fat of the Land)
  184. Cornershop - Brimful of Asha (Fatboy Slim remix)
  185. Pavement - Stereo* (from Brighten the Corners)
  186. Elliott Smith - Between the Bars* (from Either/Or)
  187. Oasis - Champagne Supernova (from What’s the Story (Morning Glory)?)
  188. Teenage Fanclub - Sparky’s Dream* (from Grand Prix)
  189. Super Furry Animals - The Man Don’t Give a Fuck
  190. The John McGee Orchestra - (from Slinky)
  191. Primal Scream - Star (from Vanishing Point)
  192. Kevin Rowland - Concrete and Clay (from My Beauty)
  193. Primal Scream - Shoot Speed/Kill Light (from XTRMNTR)
  194. Moby - Porcelain* (from Play)
  195. Boards of Canada - Turquoise Hexagon Sun* (from Music Has the Right to Children)
  196. The Strokes - The Modern Age
  197. The Libertines - Can’t Stand Me Now* (from Up the Bracket)
  198. White Stripes - Fell in Love With a Girl* (from White Blood Cells)
  199. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Machine
  200. Franz Ferdinand - Darts of Pleasure
  201. Franz Ferdinand - Take Me Out
  202. Arctic Monkeys - Fake Tales of San Francisco (from Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not)

Mention this post

If you’ve mentioned this post somewhere, enter the URL here to let me know: