The song was written in late May / early June 1986, although musical elements can be traced back to an instrumental rehearsed in the spring of 1986.

It was recorded in June 1986 at Jam Studios in London with producer John Porter and fifth Smith Craig Gannon, alongside "Golden Lights" and an early, rejected version of "Is It Really So Strange?". Before the producer had a chance to finish his mix, what had been recorded was given to producer Steve Lillywhite (husband of Kirsty MacColl who sings on the record) to mix.


single version {2:59}
• original "Ask" single, all formats (except on Australia 12")
"The Complete Picture" (video)
"The Very Best Of The Smiths" [remastered 2001, version slightly longer]
album version {3:15}
"The World Won't Listen" album
• Australia 12" of "Ask"
"Louder Than Bombs" album
"The 12" mixes", an Australia EP
"Best...II" album
• re-release of the "Ask" single, all formats
"Singles" album
"The Sound Of The Smiths" [remastered 2008]


San Remo Festival 7 February 1987 [tv]
This 5-song performance (including "Shoplifter Of The World Unite", "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out", "The Boy With The Thorn In His Side" and "Panic") is circulated on video bootlegs. Two additional stand-alone takes of "Ask" are also circulated. The audio from these broadcasts is not circulated on bootlegs because the performances were lipsynched.


The song has been performed live 18 times by the Smiths. It was a fixture on the two British legs of the 1986 Queen Is Dead tour, but done only twice on that tour's North American leg.

live Kilburn 23 October 1986 {3:21}
"Rank" (live album)

It has been performed live 90 times by Morrissey after the Smiths. It was introduced at the very end of the 2008 Greatest Hits tour, played on its 6 final nights. It was done regularly the following year on the Years Of Refusal tour (64 times out of 68 dates) and the Swords tour (20 times out of 26 dates).


demo {3:26}
Taken from a record company cd-r of a scrapped reissue project, this was leaked at the end of 2010 on the rarities LP bootleg simply titled "The Smiths".


"On 'Ask,' Craig Gannon and I are playing Martin acoustics. I play the G-Am-C-D progression on a Rickenbacker 330. The highlify part is played on a '63 Strat. I'm also vamping on a G harmonica through a Urei Boom Box, an early '70s piece of outboard gear that we also used a lot on guitars, as well. It's like one of those vulgar 'loudness' buttons on a hi-fi. It pushes things slightly out of phase, but gives them a bottomy, dense sound., It's a big chrome box with one knob: 'intensity.' Hey, maybe one of the readers can write in and tell us about it."
- Johnny Marr, Guitar Player, January 1990