Johnny Marr

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Johnny Marr

Johnny Marr (born John Martin Maher;31 October 1963) is an English guitarist, keyboardist, harmonica player, singer and songwriter. In the 1980s he was the guitarist in The Smiths, where he formed a highly influential songwriting partnership with Morrissey. He has since founded and worked with different bands, such as Electronic, Johnny Marr and the Healers, Modest Mouse and The Cribs.


  • I sometimes wonder whether we're the last dying breath of that '60's grim working class thing! I often feel like we're that one solitary clog left in the middle of the Arndale Centre!
    The idea of taking that spirit of optimism and of possible change and trying to use it in '84 I don't see anything wrong with at all. But more important than that are the images we grew up with: smokey chimneys, backstreets, the impressions I get from Morrissey's lyrics. It isn't just nostalgia, it's a Northern spirit, a working man's spirit - and here I'm trying to not sound like Gary Kemp doing the working class bit. But we're more about the working class values in the '60's than Rickenbackers and Brian Jones haircuts...
    Certainly we don't feel restrained musically in any way by the period. What I'm saying is we do not confuse roots with formula. The formula we're prepared to slash away at, musically try things we've never done before. But the roots are the reason why we're here. That's something I'll never get away from. I'm always aware of why we started and I think that's a good thing. Those reasons are still valid.
    • from "A suitable case for treatment", New Musical Express (December 22/29th, 1984).
  • I've always believed that any instrumentalist is basically just an accompanist to the singer and the words. That's born out of being a fan of records before I was a fan of guitar players -- I'm interested in melody, lyrics, and the overall song. I don't like to waste notes, not even one. Who was it that said, "The reason why all those guitar players play so many notes is because they can't find the right one"? I like to put the right note in the right place, and my influences have always been those kinds of players. Keith Richards comes to mind, and I really like Nils Lofgren's soloing, because he's so melodic. I love John Lennon's rhythm playing, and George Harrison was an incredible guitarist.
    There's a lot of guitar culture that I don't like at all. I find the traditional idea of the guitar hero to be really irrelevant to the 1990s. I don't think that young people are that impressed with some guy brandishing Spandex trousers and a hideously shaped guitar, playing that kind of masturbatory, egotistical noise. Being a soloist who wants to just display virtuosity is a dated philosophy, and I don't think there's any room for it in pop music. It's the last stand of late-'60s/early-'70s rockism, and it should have gone a long time ago.
    • from an interview by Joe Gore, Guitar Player(January 1990).
  • I think when something's over, events have a way of conspiring to make you realise that it's over. As cryptic as that sounds, it's true. Things would happen and I'd be like, Am I going to have to deal with this for the rest of my life? And it was a very, very emotional band. It's in the music. The relationship between me and Morrissey was very emotional. It wasn't volatile in that we would row or anything like that, but it was so intense that if rocked slightly it would be a big deal. Was the lack of a manager important? Massively, I think. I was nursemaiding people when I needed nursemaiding myself. And I couldn't see where we were going to go in the near future musically without repeating ourselves and not being as good.
    • from "Trouble at Mill" by John Harris, Mojo (April 2001).
  • About the cover of "The world wont’ listen"
    It represents the band to me. On the front you've got four guys who look like, if not the band, then Smiths fans. On the back you've got the female side of it - individually they really look like the Smiths: Morrissey on the far right, me on the second right, Andy [Rourke, bass] on the second left and Mike [Joyce, drums] on the far left. To find a picture like that is really clever. We didn't discuss it, but I understood.
    • from "The 100 best record covers of all time", Q (June 2001).
  • Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
    JM: Never get into a situation you can’t get out of. I really have stuck to it, because it’s good advice for all walks of live.
    • from "Famous last words", Q (February 2003).
  • When I crashed my BMW and managed to walk away pretty much unscathed, it was a turning point. I'd been living the life, and when people see photos of the car wreck, they can't believe I got away with it. It was like a fog had lifted. I stopped drinking a bottle of Tequila before grabbing my car keys. It was time to wise-up and get a haircut.
  • Birkenstock desert boots have been a part of pop culture since the beatniks. I made such a fuzz about them being discontinued that the company send me an "lifetime supply", which initially turned out to be seven pairs at two years apiece. They weren’t giving me very long. I think that’s why I gave up smoking.
    • from "Pieces of me", The Guardian (June 2007).
  • There have been plenty of times when I've been a total dick like everybody else, you know, I mean I wanted to be a little rock'n'roller, and I was, and it was great. I had a to-do list of like "Thou shalt wear sunglasses indoors at all times." Done. "Thou shalt take drugs and have a great time." Done. "Thou shalt crash a big car into a wall." Done.

Quotations about Johnny Marr

  • Noel Gallagher: "There's nothing he can't do on a guitar. I've been in the studio with him. He's played on Oasis tracks and stuff. The man's a fucking wizard. I've seen Johnny Marr on the telly and he had thick black shades on, a white polo neck, a Brian Jones bowl head, a red semi-acoustic, a pair of jeans and I don't know what he had on his feet, but I thought "That's it. That's what I want to look like."
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