Did Marr Deserve a Songwriting Co-Credit For The Songs of the Smiths?

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Anonymous

Guest
This debate has been running on another thread; thought it deserved one of its own. So - that's it, in a nutshell? Did he deserve a co-credit, or they effectually Morrissey's songs, inspired by Marr's music? Or should others (e.g. Andy Rourke/John Porter) also have received co-credits?

S.F.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
This debate has been running on another thread; thought it deserved one of its own. So - that's it, in a nutshell? Did he deserve a co-credit, or they effectually Morrissey's songs, inspired by Marr's music? Or should others (e.g. Andy Rourke/John Porter) also have received co-credits?

S.F.

Without Marr, the songs would have been poems. So, yes.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
of course he did and does. i just think he and morrissey worked on the music together and that he, morrissey, worked on the vocals lyrics on his own making the partnership not the clean 50/50 music voice break that people describe it as. i think it more 40 60 in my mind. morrissey albums sounded to me like lesser but still great versions of smiths songs while johnnys song still had elements that reminded me a bit of the smiths music but they never come together on any release to make me feel like the music on the smiths albums did and i think its because the musics missing an influence. as for porter, thats a weird scenario there if what he said in that analyzing the smiths doc is true. if true i do think he should have a writing credit but not street or any of the other producers. arrangements of a song should deserve and count as writing and be credited as such.
 

Detritus

Teenage Lightning
Whether Rourke, Porter and co. deserve songwriting credits is legitimate fodder for debate. However, to seriously entertain the idea that the work of The Smiths is entirely Morrissey's doing, with the music being merely "inspired" by Marr is absurd and one might as well argue that the songs were magically conjured from some alternate plane of existence. Morrissey was a writer, a visionary, a keen mind---but he wasn't a musician. They could never be entirely "Morrissey's songs" because he was dependent on a co-writer for the music.
 
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Chickpea

pithy yet degenerate
I don't there's any room at all for debate about whether Johnny Marr deserves his Smith songwriting co-credits. Of course he does. How can that even be questioned?!
 
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Anonymous

Guest
yeah it seems unquestionable and i dont think anyones saying that the smiths are entirely morrissey songs either but perhaps more so than some believe.
 
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Mr Education

Guest
Without Marr, the songs would have been poems. So, yes.

No no. As Moz wrote the vocal melodies, and it's the vocal melodies that are sung, then it can be argued that Moz wrote the songs while Johnny Marr wrote the music. It's likely that some of the vocal melodies were inspired by Marr's chord progressions, and some popped into Mozzer's head independently of any instrumental music.

Stephen Street, among others, made clear that Moz gave direction on how he wanted various instrumental sections to go; how he wanted the music tracks to support his vocals. Perhaps this was also how it happened in The Smiths, perhaps not.

To question Johnny Marr's songwriting credits is laughable.
 
No no. As Moz wrote the vocal melodies, and it's the vocal melodies that are sung, then it can be argued that Moz wrote the songs while Johnny Marr wrote the music. It's likely that some of the vocal melodies were inspired by Marr's chord progressions, and some popped into Mozzer's head independently of any instrumental music.

Stephen Street, among others, made clear that Moz gave direction on how he wanted various instrumental sections to go; how he wanted the music tracks to support his vocals. Perhaps this was also how it happened in The Smiths, perhaps not.

To question Johnny Marr's songwriting credits is laughable.

Hmmmmm.....aren't we led to believe that Marr would drops the music to Morrissey, and he would then turn up at the studio with the lyrics written - seems odd to suggest Morrissey was creating the melodies if he was already given the tapes, if so?
 

VivaGil

i've got no charm
Hmmmmm.....aren't we led to believe that Marr would drops the music to Morrissey, and he would then turn up at the studio with the lyrics written - seems odd to suggest Morrissey was creating the melodies if he was already given the tapes, if so?
this is the way Morrissey has always worked. The band brings demos and he works it out. I think Andy should have at least one credit. Barbarism begins at home was mostly his bass line standing out. Seemed like Johnny's guitar was supporting it.
 
this is the way Morrissey has always worked. The band brings demos and he works it out. I think Andy should have at least one credit. Barbarism begins at home was mostly his bass line standing out. Seemed like Johnny's guitar was supporting it.

Agreed. Whether or not Andy and indeed Mike Joyce deserve credits would seem to depend entirely on whether the general public view basslines or percussive rhythm as important enough.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
johnny would bring riffs and bits of music but not wholly completed music or at least not in the form it landed on album in. johnny was ready to throw the cemetry gates riff out the door until morrissey saved it. after morrissey accepted or declined the music they then arranged it sometimes with producers involvement. with portor thats tough. he did a lot for that first album.
 
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Mr Education

Guest
Hmmmmm.....aren't we led to believe that Marr would drops the music to Morrissey, and he would then turn up at the studio with the lyrics written - seems odd to suggest Morrissey was creating the melodies if he was already given the tapes, if so?


Vocal melodies complement the chord progressions; they rarely follow them. Johnny Marr wrote the guitar chords, and Moz came up with the vocal melodies. Of course, Johnny wrote several guitar lines - rythm and lead- for most tracks, and directed, arranged, and produced the tracks to varying degrees, but I'm certain that the - hugely important - vocal melodies were Mozzer's.

Listen to There Is A Light.. and sing or hum the lyrics. Then see if you can find that melody in the guitars/strings/bass. It's not there.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
"Hmmmmm.....aren't we led to believe that Marr would drops the music to Morrissey, and he would then turn up at the studio with the lyrics written - seems odd to suggest Morrissey was creating the melodies if he was already given the tapes, if so?"

thats how suede worked when bernard was in the band as the demos he dropped off at the studio were pretty much exactly how they appeared on album. this is not true of the smiths. they arranged music together, bernard did dictate and to his credit he pulled it all off. musically at least
 

Charlie Cheswick

Well-Known Member
Lots of musicians have ended up in court over this kind of debate. I think Marc Almond lost his battle and he had a point as with the songs in question, chord progressions were without doubt led by the vocal melody, still the judge ruled in favour of the musician. Like others have said, The Smiths didn't work like this, Marr came up with the music first, then Morrissey's input came later. As Morrissey without doubt was responsible for the vocal melodies and words his half of the songwriting credit is also without question.

I think arrangements are another matter. As Rourke and Joyce came up with their own parts would that no count as involvement in the arrangement? I guess it's a producer's job to direct and suggest directions for the music so that would be filed under production rather than arrangement.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
well i agree with most of that but my point of contention is that marr didnt bring wholly completed pieces of music the way bernard did for dog man star in the example i used. he only brought bits thast got strung together by a group with one member of that group having a veto power. i sometimes wonder if marr would ever dare tell morrissey to change a lyric. how soon is now as an example would suggest they didnt as the rest of the band was famously embarrassed by the lyrics, but hey there still there arent they. yes they are.
 

Amy

from the Ice Age to the dole age
well i agree with most of that but my point of contention is that marr didnt bring wholly completed pieces of music the way bernard did for dog man star in the example i used. he only brought bits thast got strung together by a group with one member of that group having a veto power. i sometimes wonder if marr would ever dare tell morrissey to change a lyric. how soon is now as an example would suggest they didnt as the rest of the band was famously embarrassed by the lyrics, but hey there still there arent they. yes they are.

I think that was just Morrissey being a bit insecure at the time; I've heard him make that claim but I've never known Johnny or Andy to agree with it. I seem to remember a story that Johnny wanted to change the lyrics to Headmaster Ritual slightly ("bruises as big as dinner plates", rather than "Bigger than..."), but his suggestion went ignored until, bizarrely, the 2004 M.E.N gig when Morrissey decided to sing that slight alteration. Generally I think they all respected Morrissey and knew not to mess with his words - and well, not to be too cruel to our boy Johnny but lyrics are not his strong point.
 

Charlie Cheswick

Well-Known Member
I guess in the sense that they were Marr's ideas that started each song off then he's worthy of the music credit. Didn't Moz just record his vocals at the end, usually in one or two takes. There's not going to be much room for change on those! I don't think there should be either, writing lyrics is very different to getting the most out of a structure of chords.

Musically I always thought it's best to bounce ideas in a band but the person with the original base for the music will always take the credit unless agreed otherwise. For example, Bowie gets the songwriting credits in his 70's heyday but the best bits were mostly Mick Ronson's. Prince struggled to hit real highs apart from when he was with the Revolution as they obviously had a very positive impact on what he was doing but he got the songwriting credits. It's just the way it is.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
"I guess in the sense that they were Marr's ideas that started each song off then he's worthy of the music credit."

i for sure agree with this. im not trying to underwritre or write out completely marrs role but really to just debunk the myth of morrissey as a non musician, his voice is an instrument, in that he makes the vocal melodies and was largely influential to those songs coming out the way they did. those odd song structures and rhythms a lot of the time belong to morrissey. like when he insisted on the looping long bit in "well let you know' from the album your arsenal, with the crowd sound effects. that sounds very familiar to me. the story that marr did all the music as full compositions and morrissey just sang and wrote lyrics is very much not the case. i think this is obvious when comparing the twos output since the smiths split. most of the recording stuff im mentioning has come from listening to the producers speak about the experience.

also to be fair about chord progression, didnt marr write horsews like a million times already. in some draft he even writes the chord sequence and writes horses underneath in pencil. i find that funny.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Since starting this thread, I can see that some of the replies seem to feel that it's a debate as to whether Marr deserves any credit at all for the Smiths, and some perhaps can't get their head around exactly what I'm suggesting (though others obviously can).

One point - there's absolutely no ambiguity about the fact that Morrissey created the vocal melodies, which were entirely improvised by himself over the backing tracks - until Morrissey went into the studio and laid down the vocal, the rest of the band (Marr included) had no idea what the vocal melody was going to sound like. We know this because Marr himself described the process, citing in particular the example of 'I Know It's Over' when he was blown away by the strength and beauty of Morrissey's vocal melody.

Another point - the nature of the songwriting credit was not self-evident to Morrissey and Marr: that is to say, on the first album, songs are credited as 'Words by Morrissey, Music by Marr'; on subsequent records this has changed to 'Songs by Morrissey/Marr'. Somebody obviously felt that the original version of the credit wasn't an adequate description of the songwriting process - wonder who that could have been? My point is that I don't feel that the replacement credit - 'Songs by Morrissey/Marr' - is also misrepresentative, suggesting as it does a straight 50/50 contribution to the creation of the songs.

To my mind, a better credit would be 'Songs by Morrissey; Music by Johnny Marr'. Marr created basic backing tracks (a rhythmic chord progression and perhaps a riff or basic harmonies). I know that's an unusual credit, but theirs was an unusual working method. He gave these to Morrissey, who then effectively created the songs, as most people understand a song - i.e. the vocal melody, i.e. the tune that you hum, the words that you sing. Following this, Marr - and the others - were then able to embellish the recording with further layers of harmonies, using the vocal melody as their guide. This is what would normally be referred to on other artists' records as 'musical arrangement' but which in Marr's case seems - along with the original basic backing track - to constitute his claim for a songwriting co-credit, although the musical/arrangement contributions of Rourke and Porter were not considered to be grounds for such a claim.

So that's my argument really: the music was Marr's (and Rourke's, and sometimes even Porter's too, for that matter); but the songs were Morrissey's. This doesn't mean to say that Marr has no input into The Smiths, or that he doesn't deserve any credit. I just don't think he has a valid claim to songwriting credits, at least no more so than Rourke and Porter.

S.F.
 
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