Brighton Magazine

The Brighton Magazine

Selected Brighton Magazine Article

Wednesday 27 March 2013

The Messenger: Johnny Marr On The Smiths & His Debut Album

He was co-founder of one of the most iconic bands of our time, and is cited by many as one of the most celebrated and influential guitarists in the history of contemporary music. But now Johnny Marr has stepped out from behind the legacy of The Smiths and recorded an album under his own moniker.


His debut solo album, "The Messenger", was recorded in Manchester and Berlin, with Marr contributing vocals, guitar and production.

It was mastered at Abbey Road by Frank Arkwright who recently collaborated with Marr on the remastering work for The Smiths" box set "Complete".

It finds Marr"s vocals leading a sound which mixes elements of angular art-rock, indie and rock "n" roll.

Song titles which appear on the album include "The Right Thing Right", "I Want The Heartbeat", "European Me", "Word Starts Attack" and "Upstarts".

Based in Portland, Oregon since 2005, Marr returned to the UK to commence work on "The Messenger".

"The underlying idea of the record is my experience of growing up in Europe," he explains.

"When you"re away from your home city you"re more compelled to write about it, whether that"s because you"re homesick or you"ve got more objectivity, I don"t know.

"Growing up in the city influences you, and I"ve continued to see, stories and energy in it."



The album represents our first chance to capture Johnny Marr"s musical vision exactly as he envisioned.

It was in the early 1980s as the guitarist in The Smiths, with whom he formed a prolific songwriting partnership with Morrissey, that Marr cemented his reputation as an inexhaustible creature of melody.

Some twenty-five years since the demise of the band and Marr still thinks his co-creations stand up today:

"I"ve almost never played the Smiths records, once they"ve gone out. I was always like that and probably always will be. It was so intense when I made them.

"But when I got the original tapes (for remastering) and put them put them up on the machine, they really didn"t need very much done to them at all, so I knew I wasn"t that crazy."


The Smiths were formed in early 1982 by Marr and fellow Manchester resident Steven Patrick Morrissey (he had not yet abandoned his first and middle name), an unemployed writer.

Marr's jangly Rickenbacker and Fender Telecaster guitar playing became synonymous with the Smiths' sound and proved to be popular among other musicians and has influenced many guitarists that followed particularly in the Britpop era.

Marr had aspirations to be a professional football player, and was approached by Nottingham Forest and had trials with Manchester City.

"I was good enough for City, but they didn't follow up because I was probably the only player out there wearing eyeliner."



Not long into The Smith"s career a legal dispute with Rough Trade delayed their output by almost seven months, and Marr was beginning to feel the stress of the band's exhausting touring and recording schedule.

"'Worse for wear' wasn't the half of it: I was extremely ill. By the time the tour actually finished it was all getting a little bit... dangerous. I was just drinking more than I could handle."

Marr finally called time on his place in the band in August 1987, going on to add his distinctive sound to many bands, including, more recently, Modest Mouse and The Cribs.

Johnny Marr's debut solo album The Messenger is out now.

by: Mike Cobley



Related links

Johnny Marr Concorde 2

Share    

Photo credit: Sante D'Orazio

In 1988 Sussex resident Keith Richards released his first ever solo album, Talk Is Cheap, an eleven track masterclass in everything rock 'n' roll.

The concept for the debut album from Faith Eliott came about via Faith's interest in medieval bestiaries, which are illustrated compendiums of animals. 
Photo credit: Julian Ward

A clip of award-winning poet and comedian Rob Auton performing on Comedy Central has recently gone viral with nearly four million views on Facebook.

Brighton-bound Sam Morrow's Concrete and Mud is a confident album, rooted in Texas twang, southern stomp, and old-school funky-tonk. 
Steve Hackett photo by Tina Korhonen

Brighton-based musician, promoter and studio owner, Stuart Avis, recently sat down with Steve Hackett, who, as one fifth of Genesis during their 1970's prime prog phase, has gone on to build himself a reputation as one of rock's leading and most innovative guitarists. 

The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff is the story of one man's adventure from begging on the streets in the north of England to fighting against fascism in the Spanish Civil War, taking in the Hunger Marches and the Battle of Cable Street.  

In 1978, after having sold millions of records and become one of the biggest international artists of the 1970s, Cat Stevens decided to step out of the rock star spotlight and walk away. That year, he was to release his final album under that name.

Creators of stage show Wild, Laura Mugridge and Katie Villa, want us to think about that thing we have all been through, but very few of us talk about, through a bold, riotous and strikingly visual show.

Maverick Sabre's third album When I Wake Up is an acutely personal and poignant body of work from the songwriter and artist and includes guest appearances from Jorja Smith and Chronixx.

Brooklyn-based band Air Waves' new album, Warrior, is about being a Warrior in a queer body in this political climate, lead-singer Nicole Schneit's mother being a Warrior fighting chemotherapy, and being a Warrior in relationships. 

Written just a year apart, Lone Star in 1979, Laundry & Bourbon in 1980, the plays share the same setting, themes and connected characters and, not surprisingly, are usually presented on the same bill.

Ian McKellen is to celebrate his 80th birthday this year by raising funds for theatres, with a new solo show which will play on 80 stages across the UK, including Theatre Royal Brighton.
Pic by Grant

Winner of the first ever Women of the World Poetry Slam in 2008, Andrea Gibson remains one of the most captivating performers in the spoken word poetry scene today. 

Archive search

Search our archives for what's on and gone for the best of this city's theatre music comedy news and much more...







Organising a conference or event in Brighton?
See our Brighton Conference section.
Brighton web design by ...ntd