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This article is about Johnny Marr, guitarist of The Smiths, The Cribs, and Modest Mouse, whose birth name was John Maher. For the former Buzzcocks drummer, see John Maher (Buzzcocks drummer).
Johnny Marr

Johnny Marr in 2010.
Background information
Birth name John Martin Maher
Born 31 October 1963 (1963-10-31) (age 46)
Ardwick, Manchester, England
Genres Alternative rock, indie rock,
Occupations Musician, songwriter, guitarist
Instruments Guitar, vocals, keyboards, piano, harmonica, mandolin, harmonium
Years active 1982 - Present
Labels Various
Associated acts The Smiths, Electronic, Johnny Marr and The Healers, Modest Mouse, The The, The Cribs, Pet Shop Boys, John Frusciante
Notable instruments
Rickenbacker 330
Fender Jazzmaster
Gibson SG
Fender Jaguar
Fender Telecaster
Gibson ES-335

Johnny Marr (born John Martin Maher on 31 October 1963 in Ardwick, Manchester) is an English songwriter, guitarist, keyboardist, harmonica player, and singer. Marr rose to fame in the 1980s as the guitarist in The Smiths, where he formed a prolific songwriting partnership with Morrissey. Marr has been a member of Electronic, The The, Modest Mouse, and in 2008, joined The Cribs after touring with them on 2008's NME Awards Tour.

Childhood and personal life

Marr is the son of Irish immigrants to England.[1] His parents came from Athy in County Kildare. He attended St Augustine's RC Grammar School, which then merged with other schools to form a Comprehensive School, St John Plessingtons. Marr had aspirations to be a professional football player, and was approached by Nottingham Forest F.C. and had trials with Manchester City F.C. (which he supports). In an interview with FourFourTwo magazine, Marr said:

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

He currently resides in Portland, Oregon in the United States with wife Angie, and their children, daughter Sonny and son Nile. Marr has been a vegan since 1985.

The Smiths

The Smiths were formed in early 1982 by Marr and fellow Manchester resident Steven Patrick Morrissey (he had not yet abandoned his first names), an unemployed writer. Marr's jangly Rickenbacker and Fender Telecaster guitar playing became synonymous with The Smiths' sound. Marr's friend Andy Rourke joined as bass player and Mike Joyce was recruited as drummer. Signing to indie label Rough Trade Records, they released their first single, "Hand in Glove", on 13 May 1983.

By February 1984, The Smiths fanbase was sufficiently large to launch the band's long-awaited eponymous debut album to number two in the UK chart. Early in 1985 the band released their second album, Meat Is Murder. This was more strident and political than its predecessor, and it was the band's only album (barring compilations) to reach number one in the UK charts. During 1985 the band completed lengthy tours of the UK and the US while recording the next studio record, The Queen Is Dead. In 1989 Spin magazine rated The Queen Is Dead as number one of "The Greatest Albums Ever Made". Spin was not alone in this designation--numerous periodicals rank The Smiths and their albums, especially The Queen Is Dead, high on their best ever lists. NME, for example, has dubbed the Smiths the most important rock band of all time.

However, all was not well within the group. A legal dispute with Rough Trade had delayed the album by almost seven months (it had been completed in November 1985), and Marr was beginning to feel the stress of the band's exhausting touring and recording schedule. He later told NME, "'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."[2] Meanwhile, Rourke was fired from the band in early 1986 due to his use of heroin (though he was reinstated in short order). In early 1987 the single "Shoplifters of the World Unite" was released to chart success, as well as mild controversy and concern from parents.

Despite their continued success, personal differences within the band - including the increasingly strained relationship between Morrissey and Marr — saw them on the verge of splitting. In August 1987, Marr left the group, and auditions to find a replacement for him proved fruitless. By the time Strangeways, Here We Come (named after Strangeways Prison, Manchester) was released in September, the band had split up. The breakdown in the relationship has been primarily attributed to Morrissey's becoming annoyed by Marr's work with other artists and Marr's growing frustration with Morrissey's musical inflexibility. Marr particularly hated Morrissey's obsession with covering 1960s pop artists such as Twinkle and Cilla Black.

Referring to the songs recorded in the band's last session together (B-sides for the "Girlfriend in a Coma" single, which preceded the album's release), Marr said "I wrote 'I Keep Mine Hidden', but 'Work Is a Four-Letter Word' I hated. That was the last straw, really. I didn't form a group to perform Cilla Black songs."[3] In 1989, in an interview with young fan Tim Samuels (who later became a BBC journalist) Morrissey said that the lack of a managerial figure and business problems were to blame for the band's eventual split.[4]

In 1996, Smiths' drummer Mike Joyce took Morrissey and Marr to court, claiming that he had not received his fair share of recording and performance royalties. Morrissey and Marr had claimed the lion's share of The Smiths' recording and performance royalties and allowed ten percent each to Joyce and Rourke. Composition royalties were not an issue, as Rourke and Joyce had never been credited as composers for the band. Morrissey and Marr claimed that the other two members of the band had always agreed to that split of the royalties, but the court found in favour of Joyce and ordered that he be paid over £1 million in back pay and receive 25% thenceforth. As Smiths' royalties had been frozen for two years, Rourke settled for a smaller lump sum to pay off his debts and continued to receive 10%. Morrissey was described by the judge as "devious, truculent and unreliable".[5]

Both Marr and Morrissey have repeatedly said in interviews that they will not reunite the band. In 2005, VH1 attempted to get the band back together on its Bands Reunited show but abandoned its attempt after the show's host, Aamer Haleem, failed to corner Morrissey before a show. In December 2005 it was announced that Johnny Marr and The Healers would play at Manchester v Cancer, a benefit show for cancer research being organised by Andy Rourke and his production company, Great Northern Productions.[6] Rumours suggested that a Smiths reunion would occur at this concert but were dispelled by Johnny Marr on his website.[7] What did eventuate was Rourke joining Marr onstage for the first time since The Smiths broke up, performing "How Soon Is Now?".

In an October 2007 interview on BBC Radio Five Live, Marr hinted at a potential reformation in the future, saying that "stranger things have happened so, you know, who knows?" Marr went on to say that "It's no biggy. Maybe we will in 10 or 15 years' time when we all need to for whatever reasons, but right now Morrissey is doing his thing and I'm doing mine, so that's the answer really." This is the first potential indication of a Smiths reunion from Marr, who previously has stated that reforming the band would be a bad idea.[8]

Marr's guitar playing "was a huge building block for more Manchester legends that followed The Smiths - The Stone Roses; their guitarist John Squire has stated that Marr was a major influence.[9] Oasis frontman Noel Gallagher has called The Smiths an influence, especially Marr whom he described as a "fucking wizard", also stating that " (...) he´s unique, you can´t play what he plays".[10]. He also stated that "when The Jam split, The Smiths started, and I totally went for them."[9] Radiohead guitarist Ed O'Brien has acknowledged that he idolized The Smiths in the 1980s; the band pays homage to The Smiths in their song "Knives Out". After O'Brien played with Johnny Marr in New Zealand in 2001, he acknowledged that Marr was the reason he had picked up a guitar as a teenager.[citation needed]


After the dissolution of The Smiths, Marr returned to the music scene in 1989 with New Order's Bernard Sumner in the supergroup Electronic. Electronic released three albums over the next decade. Marr was also a member of The The, recording two albums with the group between 1989 and 1993. Fellow Manchester band, The Happy Mondays also once tried to court him to be a member of their band, which did not work out. [11] He has also worked as a session musician and writing collaborator for artists including The Pretenders, Pet Shop Boys, Billy Bragg, Black Grape, Jane Birkin, Talking Heads, and Beck. In 2000 he started another band, Johnny Marr and the Healers, with a moderate degree of success, and later worked as a guest musician on the Oasis album Heathen Chemistry. He also joined Oasis on stage at a gig in 2001, playing Champagne Supernova and I Am The Walrus

Marr became a session player, writing, touring and recording with, among others, Bryan Ferry, Kirsty MacColl, Simple Minds , Neil Finn, Karl Bartos of Kraftwerk, Talking Heads, Black Grape, Billy Bragg, Pet Shop Boys, Beck and Oasis. He also acted as co-producer for some of the aforementioned artists and co-produced Manchester band Haven at his own Clear Studios. He also continued to work as an official member of various groups, including The Pretenders, The The, Electronic, Johnny Marr & The Healers, Modest Mouse, and The Cribs.

Marr played guitar on several Pet Shop Boys songs; he continues to have guest appearances on their albums, with his most significant contribution on Release (2002). It should also be noted that the only remix that Johnny Marr has ever done was for the Pet Shop Boys--it was a mix of his favorite track from their 1987 album, Actually, called "I Want to Wake Up," and was released as the b-side to 1993's "Can You Forgive Her?"

He performed two Smiths songs and music by others with a supergroup called 7 Worlds Collide consisting of members from Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Split Enz and others, assembled by Neil Finn of Split Enz and Crowded House in 2001. A second set of concerts took place in December 2008/January 2009, and an album of new material titled The Sun Came Out was released in August 2009 to raise money for Oxfam.

In addition to his work as a recording artist, Marr has worked as a record producer. In 2006, he began work with Modest Mouse's Isaac Brock on songs that eventually were featured on the band's 2007 release, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. The band subsequently announced that Marr was a fully fledged member, and the reformed line-up toured extensively throughout 2006-07. Marr has also been recording with Liam Gallagher of Oasis.


The Pretenders, The The, Electronic (1987-1999)

After Marr left The Smiths in August 1987, he was very briefly an official member of The Pretenders. In late 1987, he toured with the band and appeared on the single "Windows of the World" b/w "1969". He then left The Pretenders, and recorded and toured with The The from 1988 through 1994, and simultaneously formed Electronic with New Order's Bernard Sumner. Electronic were intermittently active throughout the 1990s, releasing their final album in 1999.

Johnny Marr and The Healers (2000-2003)

In 2000 Johnny recruited drummer Zak Starkey (son of Ringo Starr), Cavewaves guitarist Lee Spencer and ex-Kula Shaker bassist Alonza Bevan for his new project Johnny Marr and the Healers. The band had taken two years to come together as Marr had wanted members to be chosen "by chemistry". Their debut album Boomslang was released in 2003, with all lyrics and lead vocals by Marr. A second album was originally scheduled for release in April 2005, and a short tour was expected soon after, but Marr has since stated that the band is on the "side burner" for the time being (Manchester Evening News, May 2007). Drummer Starkey is currently involved with The Who, and Bevan has regrouped with Kula Shaker.

Modest Mouse (2006-2009)

In 2006, Marr became a member of the American band Modest Mouse. He wrote some of the songs with lead singer Isaac Brock on their fifth album We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, in addition to being featured on guitar,[12] and toured with the band throughout 2006 and 2007.[13][14] During 2008, when Modest Mouse opened for R.E.M. during their summer tour of the United States, Marr would come on stage during the encore of R.E.M.'s set, for "Fall on Me" and, toward the end of the tour, "Man on the Moon".

The new album reached number one on the American Billboard charts in late March 2007. For Marr this is the first time he has had a number one record in the US. The highest chart position before that was with Electronic, who made the Top 40 in the singles chart with "Getting Away With It".[15] During this period, Marr was asked to deliver a series of workshops and masterclasses to students at the University of Salford in the BA (Hons) Popular Music and Recording programme.[16] In the late 2000s, Marr's daughter Sonny performed backing vocals on the track "Even A Child" on Crowded House's 2007 album Time On Earth, for which her father Johnny played guitars. Marr also has a son named Nile Marr.

The Cribs (2008-present)

Marr performs as part of The Cribs at Washington, D.C.'s 9:30 Club in 2010.

In January 2008, Marr was reported to have been contributing his skill and experience to a secret songwriting session with Wakefield indie group The Cribs. Sources reveal that they worked together for a week at Moolah Rouge recording studio in Stockport - a favourite haunt of Bolton's Badly Drawn Boy, Damon Gough and fellow northern indie heroes I Am Kloot - and have penned a number of new songs.[17] He also played at the Glasgow Barrowlands, Manchester Academy, Oxford Academy, Bristol Carling Academy, Leeds University, Cardiff University and Brixton Carling Academy with The Cribs on the NME Awards Tour. On 23 February 2008, XFM reported that Marr was to become a full member of The Cribs. On 28 February 2008, he also played onstage with The Cribs at NME Big Gig at the O2. Marr also played along with the Cribs at the Reading & Leeds Festival 2008, singer Ryan Jarman introduced Johnny as the newest member of the band, "Johnny Jarman". In 2009 Marr recorded an album with the band titled Ignore The Ignorant, which was released on 7 September. [18] As has been the case on most Pet Shop Boys Albums since 1989, after working with Neil Tennant in Electronic, Marr plays guitar and harmonica on their 2009 album Yes[19].On Soccer AM in September 09 he explained he met up with The Cribs' bass player in Portland and it has gone from strength to strength. He says the Cribs latest album, Ignore the Ignorant, which came out last year, is "as good as anything I've done". [20]


Albums (as band member)

The Smiths

The The


Johnny Marr and The Healers

Modest Mouse

The Cribs

Albums (as a guest musician)

For a complete discography, see the article Johnny Marr guest musician recordings.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Marr played on three Billy Bragg recordings. In the late 1980s, he performed on albums by Bryan Ferry and the Talking Heads. In the 1990s and 2000s, he performed on three Pet Shop Boys albums, and also plays guitar on their Xenomania-produced album, Yes, released in 2009. In the 1990s, he also performed on albums by Electrafixion, M People, Beck, and Tom Jones. In the 2000s, he played on albums by bands such as Oasis, Pearl Jam, Jane Birkin, goth songstress Lisa Germano and Crowded House. He also plays guitar on Girls Aloud's fifth album, Out of Control, on a track entitled "Rolling Back The Rivers in Time", as well as harmonica on the track "Love Is The Key".

He also appeared on two tracks ("Enough of Me", "Central") on John Frusciante's album The Empyrean which was released January 2009.

Albums (as producer)



  • Between the Senses (2002)


In addition to an extensive singles discography with the artists listed above, Johnny has appeared on singles by Sandie Shaw, Everything But the Girl, The Pretenders, Andrew Berry, A Certain Ratio, The Cult, Denise Johnson, Stex, The Impossible Dreamers (as producer) and Black Grape.


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Kelly, Danny (14 February 1987). "Exile on Mainstream" (http). NME, cited at Retrieved 22 April 2007. 
  3. ^ Rogan, Johnny (November/December 1992). "The Smiths: Johnny Marr's View" (http). Record Collector, cited at Retrieved 22 April 2007. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ BBC News (11 December 1996). "Rock band drummer awarded £1m payout" (http). BBC, cited at Retrieved 22 April 2007. 
  6. ^ Cohen, Jonathan (2005). "Smiths Members Regrouping For Cancer Benefit" (http). Retrieved 15 August 2006. 
  7. ^ "Johnny and the Healers play Manchester Versus Cancer charity concert" (http). 16 December 2005. Retrieved 22 April 2007. 
  8. ^ "Johnny Marr Doesn’t Rule Out Smiths Reunion With Morrissey",,, retrieved 8 January 2008 
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^ [2]
  11. ^
  12. ^ Isaac Brock Collaborating With Johnny Marr
  13. ^ Rolling Stone: Rock Daily Exclusive: Modest Marr!
  14. ^ Johnny Marr website
  15. ^ Former Smiths' guitarplayer reaches number 1 in this weeks American Billboard Chart
  16. ^ "Johnny Marr appointed visiting professor". University of Salford. 18 October 2007. Retrieved 3 December 2007. 
  17. ^ "Johnny Marr in collaboration with The Cribs". Manchester Evening News. 18 October 2007. Retrieved 3 December 2007. 
  18. ^ [3]
  19. ^ Sleeve notes - Yes, Fundamental, Release
  20. ^ Scott Kara (20 February 2010). "Marr's Modest Might". nzherald. 

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Johnny Marr (1963-10-31) 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.



About himself and his work

  • 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)
  • 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.

About The Smiths

  • 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 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)
  • When Morrissey and I started The Smiths, we thought pop music was the most important thing in the world. It was almost a spiritual thing for us, and because of that, we knew what it meant to be a fan.

About Morrissey

  • Q: What do you miss most about working with Morrissey?
    JM: His sense of humour. We had a fairly unique sense of absurdity and northern-ness that was pretty exclusive, and I miss that. He would often laugh at something that wasn’t funny and would still be laughing about it three hours later. It was sometimes disconcerting, but lovely.
    • from "Famous last words", Q (February 2003)

Odds & Ends

  • 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)
  • 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)

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

Simple English

Johnny Marr
Birth name John Martin Maher
Born 31 October 1963 (1963-10-31) (age 47)
Manchester, England
Genres Alternative rock
Occupations Musician, Songwriter, Guitarist
Instruments Guitar, Vocals, Keyboards, Piano, Harmonica, Mandolin, Harmonium
Years active 1982 - Present
Labels Various
Associated acts The Smiths, Electronic, Johnny Marr and The Healers, Modest Mouse, The The, The Cribs

Johnny Marr (born John Martin Maher on 31 October 1963 in Ardwick, Manchester) is an English guitarist, keyboardist, harmonica player, and singer. Marr rose to fame in the 1980s as the guitarist in The Smiths, where he formed an influential songwriting partnership with Morrissey.


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