Johnny Marr: ‘The conversation about re-forming came out of the blue' | Music | The Guardian
Johnny Marr and Morrissey. "I don't really think you can change people's relationship with songs". Johnny Marr has revealed whether he's. Now that Morrissey and Johnny Marr have both published their memoirs, how do their Smiths stories compare?. Johnny Marr has spoken about his relationship with Morrissey, reiterating that the former bandmates are “not mates”. Marr, who released his.
I love Modest Mouse so much because the chemistry of those guys was a real brotherhood. They were a great American band, and I really wanted to be in a great American band. Rourke settled out of court, but Joyce continued and in his case was heard. If the Smiths wanted to re-form it would make a hell of a lot of people very happy. We might even be better than before Was Joyce justified in bringing the court case? Looking back, I would have done things differently.
Thirty-odd years later I think anyone can see that. But it emerges that he and Morrissey were asking themselves the same question decades after the split, and that it almost did come to pass. Inthey met for the first time since the court case in a pub in south Manchester. But there had been quite a few rumours about it, so naturally we discussed it. Marr bursts out laughing. And he was knocking back the pints. Why 45rpm rather than 33rpm? Faster, shorter, better energy. I had my T-shirt on, so I think Morrissey noticed them, and he likes tattoos.
So I was different, and I was fitter. It was great — a really nice meeting. Does he thinks their friendship could be rekindled? But he has never been more content. He has made two solo albums in the past three years, and is enjoying learning the skills of being a frontman.
Johnny Marr on Relationship with Morrissey: "We’re Not Mates"
His son Nile, 24, is a singer-songwriter who has performed with him; his year-old daughter Sonny, who works in publishing, has sung backing vocals with him. Just talking to him, though, he already seems liberated. Stephen Street remembers a recording session during February when Friedman presented the singer with an answerphone. At that point, Ken was trying to make Morrissey more responsible and reply to his phone calls. Yet, it would be unfair to suggest that Friedman was unsympathetic towards The Smiths or crudely insensitive to their maverick ways.
For Marr, Friedman represented a logical way forward at a time when The Smiths sorely needed cogent direction and a new game plan. Such thinking was ultimately anathema to Morrissey who effectively rebelled by retreating. Old dogmas soon reasserted themselves with a vengeance.Johnny Marr distances himself from Morrissey's Brexit views
The character, as opposed to the music, of The Smiths owed much of its philosophy to the precepts of the English punk era, when DIY enthusiasm and anti-superstardom were regarded as the true antidotes to stagnation. In signing to Rough Trade, eschewing videos and championing the industry plagued rpm single, The Smiths had valiantly challenged the prevailing system, while retaining enough arrogance and self-belief to convince themselves that they were, in pop terms, major historical figures.
The Smiths were never really shy of success, they just liked smashing through hurdles, and when they grew weary of self-imposed restraints, EMI beckoned. Morrissey, however, was remarkably ambivalent about success, not to mention life. He demanded, craved and expected recognition, and was constantly alert to the presence of imaginary financial predators. In certain cases, he even created them. Yet, the quality of fame was more important than the actual record sales or concert receipts, just as the paranoia about money and small-time exploitation was subservient to a greater fear of losing control.
Compared to the parsimony of Ray Davies or Chuck Berry, Morrissey was largesse incarnate, but, in certain respects, he shared their self-destructive ways. The cancelled tours, abandoned appointments and sudden retreats testified to a character whose caprice ruled his nature, art and purse strings. He was, and probably still is, unmanageable in any long term sense.
The reins of power and trust could never be reft from his suspicious hands. There was no way that I was going back to taking care of the group. By that time, there was an unhealthy situation with Rough Trade, and there was no way that I was going to take that on board again while making an LP.
In this respect, he was at least more fortunate than his predecessors. For the first time, Marr was unwilling to sacrifice an employee in order to keep Morrissey sweet.
While Morrissey and Marr were busily disagreeing over the question of management, Mike Joyce briefly took time out to help some old friends and rivals. A new group, provisionally titled The Thin Men, were rehearsing in Denham, and Joyce was invited along to contribute to their demos. It was a pleasant break for Joyce, who retained the capacity to chug along and avoid the higher politics that threatened the longevity of The Smiths. One problem that they could not make disappear was the ongoing dispute with Craig Gannon.
That was the final straw. Six years later, he told me: Arranging its collection was made more difficult now that Marr had changed his phone number for seemingly the umpteenth time. Explaining his decision to Hot Press, he said: Their manager, John Barratt, took the guitarist to London solicitors Russells where, with the assistance of Legal Aid, he pursued his case against The Smiths. At one point there was a glimmer of a settlement when Friedman was despatched to negotiate but, according to Barratt, the monies on offer were deemed derisory and the conflict continued.
Barratt, who had no love for Johnny Marr, was never likely to be fobbed off easily. When Friedman countered that Gannon had merely been a session player with The Smiths, the garrulous Barratt terminated the conversation. By now, Morrissey and Marr knew they had a fight on their hands. Because he asked for more, everything became a court case.
Nothing more and nothing less. He wants what he was promised and what he should have earned. Not for a minute will he hear anything said [about The Smiths].
He would never say anything bad about them. The political differences over money, management and career direction were temporarily swept aside as the duo united to complete their outstanding commitment to Rough Trade by recording one last album.
EMI had unsuccessfully attempted to buy the rights to the forthcoming work, but Geoff Travis would not be swayed. Friedman privately felt sympathetic towards the independent king, who suddenly found himself left out in the cold. Geoff was really enamoured of, and almost obsessed with, Morrissey. Increasingly, his role resembled that of a quasi-manager. Mysteriously trusting to fate, or Morrissey caprice, the Rough Trade founder had not quite capitulated to the EMI signing.
Unfortunately for Travis, Morrissey gave no clues of any second thoughts about signing to a major label. On the contrary, The Smiths were eager to begin work on a new record and wave away their remaining commitments to Rough Trade at the earliest opportunity. The new era with EMI was now a kiss away, and the lucrative prospects awaiting them effectively thrust minor disagreements into the background. Instead, they took the project seriously. I hated the musical climate.
I thought there had to be a way forward. After five years, their next challenge would be to avoid stagnation and stylization. With Morrissey due to arrive the next day, the three Smiths and producer Stephen Street had a late night musical dress rehearsal.
For the most part, the atmosphere was convivial but Marr seemed in a playfully confrontational mood. Johnny was really out of it. You want us to sound jingle-jangly, like the good old Smiths days.
It was like a dirge. You really felt Johnny was pent-up. At this point, he fell on his back and the keyboard went crashing to the ground. I was sitting there trying to keep cool and telling myself: We had a really happy time and it was party night most nights He seemed to be a little more sprightly. They were happy and having a great laugh. We were all getting out of it with the ales.
Things were getting quite crazy at times, but that was the beauty of The Smiths — the craziness. As he later admitted: You can see us talking and having a laugh.
Marr was clearly restless and, although there was enough interesting music on the new album to satisfy his current needs, he resembled a man in search of fresh challenges.
Stephen Street remembers one moment during the recordings when the immemorial camaraderie between Morrissey and Marr almost turned nasty. Johnny and I had been working on a guitar line all afternoon and got something that we felt had a strong glam rock feel like T. This is the first time!
Was Morrissey in love with Johny Marr?
Johnny trusted Ken and was fed up with taking on lots of responsibilities, administration and general management of the band. I think he wanted somebody to look after that and organize a proper tour. Ken was actually staying in the studio as well, sleeping on the couch. I wished to preserve our intimacy The fact that I rejected his friends implied that I was boring and hated the human race.
Often, Street would work the long evening shift with Marr, at the tail end of which Morrissey would re-emerge to offer an opinion. There were a couple of half-baked ideas. The rest of the album, when Morrissey was putting his vocals down, that was the first time Johnny had heard that line.
After completing this productive session, Street was bold enough to confront Marr with a provocative request: So, he had to disappear and we had to wait about four days. There was poignancy there. While The Smiths were completing their new studio LP, Rough Trade released two compilation albums within the space of a couple of months.
Although originally intended for American distribution only, Rough Trade elected to issue the set when highly priced import copies threatened to invade the home market. The song had been written very quickly and, during the initial session with John Porter, Morrissey had recorded his declamatory vocal in one take. He seemed so impressed with the results that he refused the chance of a repeat performance. Thereafter, he had a change of heart and a second version would be cut with Stephen Street.
What emerged from the confusion was a splendid glam rock pastiche with a thumping arrangement that sounded like a cross between Gary Glitter and a Salvation Army Band, complete with bombastic oompah drumming. With its mild plea for adolescent rebellion, the lyrics offered a temporary sanctuary from the headmaster ritual. There is even a wilfully playful reference to, of all things, animal slaughter, with the killing of a horse. Accompanying the frantic travelogue is an almost absurdist landscape in which aggression and fun intermingle incongruously.
It is akin to entering the mindset of a psychotic narrator whose moral compass is not so much askew as non-existent. According to Stephen Street, the group were supposed to re-assemble at the Wool Hall, Bath, approximately three weeks after finishing the album. The purpose of these sessions was to complete some B-side tracks for the singles that they would pluck from the LP later in the year.
At the appointed time, Rourke, Joyce and Street appeared, but there was no sign of Morrissey or Marr. That was the last time I spoke to Johnny for quite a while. During the visit, the party received an uncharacteristically effusive telephone call from Morrissey, which puzzled Marr. On the way home, Porter, whose communication with the singer was by now virtually non-existent, felt convinced that something was amiss.
It was all part of his work as a producer. The producer still recalls his abject disbelief upon hearing what sounded like an alternate take of the single on the radio. Morrissey had gone in with Stephen Street, done the track again, but sampled guitars off the original and put them on this new one without mentioning it to me, asking me, giving me a credit, paying me, or doing anything.
That was the last I ever had to do with The Smiths. So that was the end of it. Of course, the song was completely re-recorded by all four Smiths and it was not Morrissey who was responsible for sampling a guitar part from the original.
As Stephen Street later told me: I think it was a slide bit It was a guitar line and sounded good, so why bother doing it again? As a matter of courtesy, that was the least he deserved. Despite his hurt, Porter never voiced any criticisms of Marr in this scenario, but directed his anger firmly against Morrissey.
When I first worked with The Smiths, Morrissey was very appreciative, but subsequent to that he got jealous of my relationship with Johnny.
Johnny Marr on Relationship with Morrissey: “We’re Not Mates”
We were good mates and used to hang out and party together. Morrissey, having always had Johnny as his close musical partner, began to resent my old fart influence and just my friendship with Johnny. Nevertheless, the departure of various associates was sometimes regretted. Marr was a strong personality in his own right and certainly no wallflower.