William, It Was Really Nothing

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"William, It Was Really Nothing"
Single by The Smiths
from the album Hatful of Hollow
B-side "How Soon Is Now?"
"Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want"
Released 20 August 1984
Format 7" single, 12" single,
CD (1988)
Recorded Summer 1984
Genre Alternative rock
Length 2:09
Label Rough Trade
Writer(s) Johnny Marr, Morrissey
Producer(s) John Porter
The Smiths singles chronology
"Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now"
"William, It Was Really Nothing"
"How Soon Is Now?"
Alternative cover
Alternative cover featuring Billie Whitelaw
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[1]

"William, It Was Really Nothing" is a song by British band The Smiths. It was released as a single on 20 August 1984, featuring the B-sides "Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want" and "How Soon Is Now?", and reached number 17 in the UK Singles Chart. The song is featured on the compilation albums Hatful of Hollow and Louder Than Bombs as well as other best of and singles collections. In 2004 the song was ranked number 425 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.

The original artwork depicted comes from an early 1980s advertisement for A.D.S. speakers (the object on the bed is a speaker). For legal reasons, later pressings were produced with new artwork, a lilac-tinted still of Billie Whitelaw from the film Charlie Bubbles, directed by Albert Finney. The sleeve for the 1988 CD single reissue shows Colin Campbell from the 1964 film The Leather Boys. This artwork had previously been used in Germany for the single "Ask".

When the band performed the song on Top of the Pops, Morrissey ripped open his shirt to reveal the words "MARRY ME" written on his chest ("Would you like to marry me?" is one line of the song).[2]


How can you stay with a fat girl who'll say "Oh, would you like to marry me, and if you like you can buy the ring?"/ She doesn't care about anything...

— Morrissey in "William, It Was Really Nothing"

The song is popularly believed to have been written by Morrissey about his short-lived friendship with Billy Mackenzie, lead singer of Associates. The compilation Associates: Double Hipness, released in August 2000, included the song "Stephen You're Really Something", recorded by Billy MacKenzie and Alan Rankine during the Associates reunion in 1993 as a tribute to "William, It Was Really Nothing". Morrissey has said of the song:

What 'William It Was Really Nothing' is about is... it occurred to me that within popular music if ever there were any records that discussed marriage they were always from the female's standpoint - female singers singing to women: whenever there were any songs saying 'do not marry, stay single, self-preservation, etc'. I thought it was about time there was a male voice speaking directly to another male saying that marriage was a waste of time... that, in fact, it was 'absolutely nothing'.[citation needed]

Track listing[edit]

7" RT166
No. Title Length
1. "William, It Was Really Nothing"   2:10
2. "Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want"   1:50
  • in original green sleeve
7" RT166
No. Title Length
1. "William, It Was Really Nothing"   2:10
2. "How Soon Is Now?"   6:43
  • in lilac reprint sleeve
12" RTT166/CD RTT166CD
No. Title Length
1. "William, It Was Really Nothing"   2:10
2. "How Soon Is Now?"   6:43
3. "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want"   1:50

Etchings on vinyl[edit]

British 7" and 12" with green tinted cover: THE IMPOTENCE OF ERNEST/ROMANTIC AND SQUARE IS HIP AND AWARE

British 7' with lilac tinted cover: THE IMPOTENCE OF ERNEST/WE HATES BAD GRAMMER

British 12" with lilac tinted cover: THE IMPOTENCE OF ERNEST/ROMANTIC AND [ ] IS HIP N'AWARE

As well as being a reference to The Importance of Being Earnest, "The impotence of Ernest" is an allusion to the impotence that Ernest Hemingway suffered in his final years. The "romantic" line was said by John Lennon to Hunter Davies.


Chart Peak
Ireland (IRMA) 8
UK Singles (The Official Charts Company) 17


  1. ^ "William, It Was Really Nothing rating". Allmusic. Retrieved on 29 October 2012.
  2. ^ Simpson, Mark (31 May 2003). "Return of the lone stranger". The Guardian (London). 

External links[edit]