The Times 23/07/10: Johnny Marr on the rise and fall of The Smiths

thecondy

New Member
The following is from today's Times website (I admit I'm a subscriber but it's only a pound at the mo!).
[I presume it is also in the hard copy?]


http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/arts/music/article2655769.ece

- There's a lovely pic at the top of JM hugging a grinning Moz.



Johnny Marr on the rise and fall of The Smiths

Neil Taylor
Last updated July 23 2010 12:01AM
The guitarist who co-piloted the band to glory talks Morrissey, the rock ’n’ roll life and the ego that ended it all

I was working in a clothes shop in Manchester called X Clothes. I’d pretty much left school the year before, moved out of my parents’ place, too, so it was a very liberating time for me. Clothes shops, as I understood it, were where you worked if you were a musician trying to get a band together. Through working at X Clothes I met Joe Moss (who would become the Smiths’ manager) because he ran the shop next door, which was called Crazy Face. Angie, my girlfriend back then, who is now my wife, and I and Joe were trying to get a new band together.

As a kid I’d formed a few little bands and had been learning my craft — how to write songs and play guitar and all of that business. As is often the case, finding a good frontman would always prove problematic. I knew Morrissey because of my friend Billy Duffy (who would go on to be in Southern Death Cult), who was one of a bunch of older guys I used to hang out with from Wythenshawe. Billy had been involved in a couple of bands formed out of the ashes of Slaughter & the Dogs, who had been the south Manchester punk band. Billy had been in the band that came after Slaughter, and Morrissey had sung in that version of the band for a very, very short period. It stuck in my mind that here was somebody who took themselves as seriously as I took myself and would probably be as serious about music and having a decent, proper band as I was. That thought stuck in my mind, for a couple of years.

I put a band together in 1982 and tried out a bunch of people. It is always the way when you are trying to get a band together with strangers that you go for people who you think have the right vibe, the right look: but I was always coming up against people who just weren’t as into the hard work as I was. They might have had the look. They might have been able to sing. But they didn’t seem to have the passion or intensity that I had.

After a while, I had the idea to go back to Wythenshawe and do some detective work and get Morrissey’s address. I would just find out where he lived and go and knock on his door and make a proposition, as it were.

Around this time I was living in the apartment above Joe’s house and we’d often sit around and listen to records. He told me about this South Bank Show on Leiber and Stoller where one of them wrote music and needed a lyricist and heard about this guy and just went around and knocked on his door. That’s how I thought it would work out with me and Morrissey.

So I caught the bus and went and knocked on his door. I said to him something like: “I’m forming a band and putting some musicians together. I write songs and I play guitar. I know Billy and I know that you are a singer. Are you interested in maybe writing some songs with me?” He let me in, which was a surprise — still is — and we sat in his room and, as has been told before, he invited me to put a record on.

I looked through his singles and found a Marvelettes record — I think it was Paper Boy. I was impressed that he had a bunch of Marvelettes singles, all on their original labels. I was aware it was a test, but I was pretty snotty about music as well and instead of playing the A-side, I played the B. I think we both had the match of each other, really. In fact, we got on famously well, it was like sparks flying.

We made an arrangement that he would call at noon the next day. But I remember leaving and thinking about those situations with frontmen before and I wasn’t exactly skipping down the street because I worried he might not call, he might not be into it as much as I was.

He called right on the dot and we were on and we arranged to meet the next day and from then on we started writing songs. In fact, on that first day when we were officially a partnership we had a conversation about many things and made a mental wish list, and on that list was that we should sign to Rough Trade Records.

We rehearsed in Joe Moss’s warehouse in town, intensely, three or four times a week. Joe and I had a discussion about starting our own label if we had to — certainly the idea of making our own single was in the air. Joe paid for us to go into Strawberry Studios and record Hand in Glove, one of our new songs. It was a Dickensian, foggy Sunday night in Stockport, very appropriate, and I think the record captures that. We had only enough money to do one track so when we came to put the demo cassette together we used Hand in Glove and added the version of Handsome Devil that we’d recorded through the desk at the Haçienda. That was the tape I took down to Rough Trade.

I went in on a Friday. Rough Trade was this very shambolic, super-busy hive. The first thing that struck me was that there were records everywhere and lots and lots of people running around. Someone asked me if they could help me and when I said I wanted to see Geoff Travis [founder of Rough Trade] I was kind of bustled out. Did I have an appointment? Would he know what it was concerning? Was he expecting me? I got the picture.

I hung around for quite a long time, pretending to do stuff with records. I was hiding, really, maybe for as long as an hour or two. I could see Geoff in his office and lots of people would go in and out for meetings. Then he came out and I saw my opportunity.

Geoff was very polite — he took the tape, promised to give it a listen and sent me on my way. Job done. Mission accomplished. I went back to Manchester for the weekend. And to Geoff’s absolute credit he called Joe Moss first thing on Monday.

1984-85

We released How Soon is Now? at the start of 1985 and although Geoff was the man who rightly spotted that This Charming Man was a single, he was less keen on How Soon is Now? It’s all a balance, of course. I did three tracks over a weekend. One was William It Was Really Nothing; then I wrote Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want, both recorded on a new four-track porta-studio I’d acquired. Then, having done those two, quite short, harmonic, melodic songs, I felt like doing a long, modal, groovy song as the third track.

When it came to How Soon is Now? we put some red lightbulbs in at the studio and got the atmosphere right, maan, and we created this monster through the night. I’m glad we did. It’s obviously a great, great track and it was what I thought the band should be doing at that time.

At that point I still felt that how far we could go was limitless; we certainly hadn’t framed ourselves or backed ourselves into a corner. That song has become, incrementally, a very popular track of ours. Time has been kind to it and it has grown in stature as it has gone on.

After How Soon Is Now? we put out the second album. I am very proud of the fact that 20 years on people tell me that they became a vegetarian as a result of Meat is Murder. I think that is quite literally rock music changing someone’s life — it’s certainly changing the life of animals. It is one of the things I am most proud of. I think it was quirky to call the album Meat is Murder and it was ahead of its time, but again, we were on a label that let us do that kind of thing.

My role in the band was particularly difficult by 1986 because we had just got so big. I was writing the music and producing the music and performing the music and being a human being which, at 23 or whatever age I was, was plenty for me to be doing, on top of which I had to run the band internally in the way that I had done since I was 18 or 19.

But whereas when I had been 18 or 19 [and] it was a couple of days’ working for Joe to get some train fare to go to rehearsal, or to be able to give Andy [Rourke, bassist] some money for his bus fare, now everything was on a bigger scale. It was a major job just getting our gear from one place to another, having to book assistants for the tours, while all the time just wanting to make masterpieces.

I was drinking, but it wasn’t some tragedy where I was left sprawling over my amplifiers like I was in some Jim Morrison biopic — it was nothing like that. But it was serious because I was doing the stuff and not taking care of myself. From being a kid I’d had a checklist — form a great rock’n’roll band in Manchester, tick, done that; make a really great 45 with a navy-blue label like the Rolling Stones, tick, done that; wear sunglasses indoors at all times, tick, done that; crash a big car without a licence, tick, done that; make a classic album and drink loads of brandy — tick, tick, done, done.

I think what I was doing was being like a working-class rock star really. But never at the expense of the work because it is bullshit if the work isn’t any good, it’s just decadent crap. But if the work is good, which ours always was, then that is all it is about — the rest is just a story.

I wasn’t in physically good shape because eating wasn’t a big concern of mine and never had been — I was a stick when I joined the band. The thing about young men is that they are not very good at taking care of themselves and they are certainly not very good at taking care of each other, and at that time, in 1986, I was a songwriter in what according to some people is the biggest or best rock band in the country or world and really that was enough of a job for me.
 

thecondy

New Member
From today's Times: Johnny Marr on the rise and fall of The Smiths PART 2

1986-87

I don’t think the band got over the problems with Rough Trade, but I felt that I did, personally. I started having three square meals a day, stopped drinking and taking drugs, and got on with the music. I know that we made a really great last record, and we had a pretty good time doing it too. And it was an unusual record, very much the record I wanted to make. It sounds very much like I was into things sounding at that time — it was fairly unadorned, and experimental in a couple of places, and not what was considered indie at the time.

Anyone who writes an article and says that in Strangeways Here We Come you can hear the disintegration or disenchantment of the band is just fooling themselves, because no one knew it was the end of the band except for me. And it had no effect on the way the music was produced — we made the record with the same intent we made all the others.

The recording sessions were inspiring and there was a much breezier atmosphere compared with that surrounding the recording of The Queen is Dead. That might be why there is a lot of acoustic guitar on there. We had a couple of little blow-ups that maybe wouldn’t have happened earlier because I was starting to draw a line under some things, but it was the usual pioneering spirit, really — tricky, but pioneering.

I told the band that I wanted a break and that was construed as my leaving. I wanted to have a holiday and come back and re-evaluate our sound and how we approached things. I thought we’d boxed ourselves in musically and I didn’t want to just carry on trotting out the old stuff, which was on the agenda. There was a lot of ego involved and a lot of paranoia. We definitely needed a break from each other. But there was nobody wise enough to make that a plausible and pleasing reality for everybody. The relationship Morrissey and I had — ultimately, it was the making of the band and the breaking of the band.

© Neil Taylor 2010. Extracted from Document and Eyewitness: An Intimate History of Rough Trade, published by Orion at £14.99. To buy the book for £13.49 inc p&p call 0845 2712134 or visit thetimes.co.uk/bookshop
 

georgejallen

New Member
Re: From today's Times: Johnny Marr on the rise and fall of The Smiths PART 2

Brilliant - thanks for the tip. I have the Times today but I haven't seen this yet. I'll have a look! :)
 

Brel

Guttersnipe
Re: From today's Times: Johnny Marr on the rise and fall of The Smiths PART 1

I'm using s copy of todays Times as a mousemat at the minute. I grabbed a selection of broadsheets when I checked into the hotel I'm staying in and the i-mac's mouse doesn't work well on the desk. I'll take it out later and have a flick through. Thanks for the nod!
 

Amy

from the Ice Age to the dole age
Re: From today's Times: Johnny Marr on the rise and fall of The Smiths PART 1

It would be a brilliant article - if we hadn't heard the whole thing so many, many times before. Any serious Smiths fan could recount the whole story from memory after the first sentence. Nothing new whatsoever :(
 

murder and desire

Junior Member
The following is from today's Times website (I admit I'm a subscriber but it's only a pound at the mo!).
[I presume it is also in the hard copy?]


http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/arts/music/article2655769.ece

- There's a lovely pic at the top of JM hugging a grinning Moz.



Johnny Marr on the rise and fall of The Smiths

Neil Taylor
Last updated July 23 2010 12:01AM
The guitarist who co-piloted the band to glory talks Morrissey, the rock ’n’ roll life and the ego that ended it all

I was working in a clothes shop in Manchester called X Clothes. I’d pretty much left school the year before, moved out of my parents’ place, too, so it was a very liberating time for me. Clothes shops, as I understood it, were where you worked if you were a musician trying to get a band together. Through working at X Clothes I met Joe Moss (who would become the Smiths’ manager) because he ran the shop next door, which was called Crazy Face. Angie, my girlfriend back then, who is now my wife, and I and Joe were trying to get a new band together.

As a kid I’d formed a few little bands and had been learning my craft — how to write songs and play guitar and all of that business. As is often the case, finding a good frontman would always prove problematic. I knew Morrissey because of my friend Billy Duffy (who would go on to be in Southern Death Cult), who was one of a bunch of older guys I used to hang out with from Wythenshawe. Billy had been involved in a couple of bands formed out of the ashes of Slaughter & the Dogs, who had been the south Manchester punk band. Billy had been in the band that came after Slaughter, and Morrissey had sung in that version of the band for a very, very short period. It stuck in my mind that here was somebody who took themselves as seriously as I took myself and would probably be as serious about music and having a decent, proper band as I was. That thought stuck in my mind, for a couple of years.

I put a band together in 1982 and tried out a bunch of people. It is always the way when you are trying to get a band together with strangers that you go for people who you think have the right vibe, the right look: but I was always coming up against people who just weren’t as into the hard work as I was. They might have had the look. They might have been able to sing. But they didn’t seem to have the passion or intensity that I had.

After a while, I had the idea to go back to Wythenshawe and do some detective work and get Morrissey’s address. I would just find out where he lived and go and knock on his door and make a proposition, as it were.

Around this time I was living in the apartment above Joe’s house and we’d often sit around and listen to records. He told me about this South Bank Show on Leiber and Stoller where one of them wrote music and needed a lyricist and heard about this guy and just went around and knocked on his door. That’s how I thought it would work out with me and Morrissey.

So I caught the bus and went and knocked on his door. I said to him something like: “I’m forming a band and putting some musicians together. I write songs and I play guitar. I know Billy and I know that you are a singer. Are you interested in maybe writing some songs with me?” He let me in, which was a surprise — still is — and we sat in his room and, as has been told before, he invited me to put a record on.

I looked through his singles and found a Marvelettes record — I think it was Paper Boy. I was impressed that he had a bunch of Marvelettes singles, all on their original labels. I was aware it was a test, but I was pretty snotty about music as well and instead of playing the A-side, I played the B. I think we both had the match of each other, really. In fact, we got on famously well, it was like sparks flying.

We made an arrangement that he would call at noon the next day. But I remember leaving and thinking about those situations with frontmen before and I wasn’t exactly skipping down the street because I worried he might not call, he might not be into it as much as I was.

He called right on the dot and we were on and we arranged to meet the next day and from then on we started writing songs. In fact, on that first day when we were officially a partnership we had a conversation about many things and made a mental wish list, and on that list was that we should sign to Rough Trade Records.

We rehearsed in Joe Moss’s warehouse in town, intensely, three or four times a week. Joe and I had a discussion about starting our own label if we had to — certainly the idea of making our own single was in the air. Joe paid for us to go into Strawberry Studios and record Hand in Glove, one of our new songs. It was a Dickensian, foggy Sunday night in Stockport, very appropriate, and I think the record captures that. We had only enough money to do one track so when we came to put the demo cassette together we used Hand in Glove and added the version of Handsome Devil that we’d recorded through the desk at the Haçienda. That was the tape I took down to Rough Trade.

I went in on a Friday. Rough Trade was this very shambolic, super-busy hive. The first thing that struck me was that there were records everywhere and lots and lots of people running around. Someone asked me if they could help me and when I said I wanted to see Geoff Travis [founder of Rough Trade] I was kind of bustled out. Did I have an appointment? Would he know what it was concerning? Was he expecting me? I got the picture.

I hung around for quite a long time, pretending to do stuff with records. I was hiding, really, maybe for as long as an hour or two. I could see Geoff in his office and lots of people would go in and out for meetings. Then he came out and I saw my opportunity.

Geoff was very polite — he took the tape, promised to give it a listen and sent me on my way. Job done. Mission accomplished. I went back to Manchester for the weekend. And to Geoff’s absolute credit he called Joe Moss first thing on Monday.

1984-85

We released How Soon is Now? at the start of 1985 and although Geoff was the man who rightly spotted that This Charming Man was a single, he was less keen on How Soon is Now? It’s all a balance, of course. I did three tracks over a weekend. One was William It Was Really Nothing; then I wrote Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want, both recorded on a new four-track porta-studio I’d acquired. Then, having done those two, quite short, harmonic, melodic songs, I felt like doing a long, modal, groovy song as the third track.

When it came to How Soon is Now? we put some red lightbulbs in at the studio and got the atmosphere right, maan, and we created this monster through the night. I’m glad we did. It’s obviously a great, great track and it was what I thought the band should be doing at that time.

At that point I still felt that how far we could go was limitless; we certainly hadn’t framed ourselves or backed ourselves into a corner. That song has become, incrementally, a very popular track of ours. Time has been kind to it and it has grown in stature as it has gone on.

After How Soon Is Now? we put out the second album. I am very proud of the fact that 20 years on people tell me that they became a vegetarian as a result of Meat is Murder. I think that is quite literally rock music changing someone’s life — it’s certainly changing the life of animals. It is one of the things I am most proud of. I think it was quirky to call the album Meat is Murder and it was ahead of its time, but again, we were on a label that let us do that kind of thing.

My role in the band was particularly difficult by 1986 because we had just got so big. I was writing the music and producing the music and performing the music and being a human being which, at 23 or whatever age I was, was plenty for me to be doing, on top of which I had to run the band internally in the way that I had done since I was 18 or 19.

But whereas when I had been 18 or 19 [and] it was a couple of days’ working for Joe to get some train fare to go to rehearsal, or to be able to give Andy [Rourke, bassist] some money for his bus fare, now everything was on a bigger scale. It was a major job just getting our gear from one place to another, having to book assistants for the tours, while all the time just wanting to make masterpieces.

I was drinking, but it wasn’t some tragedy where I was left sprawling over my amplifiers like I was in some Jim Morrison biopic — it was nothing like that. But it was serious because I was doing the stuff and not taking care of myself. From being a kid I’d had a checklist — form a great rock’n’roll band in Manchester, tick, done that; make a really great 45 with a navy-blue label like the Rolling Stones, tick, done that; wear sunglasses indoors at all times, tick, done that; crash a big car without a licence, tick, done that; make a classic album and drink loads of brandy — tick, tick, done, done.

I think what I was doing was being like a working-class rock star really. But never at the expense of the work because it is bullshit if the work isn’t any good, it’s just decadent crap. But if the work is good, which ours always was, then that is all it is about — the rest is just a story.

I wasn’t in physically good shape because eating wasn’t a big concern of mine and never had been — I was a stick when I joined the band. The thing about young men is that they are not very good at taking care of themselves and they are certainly not very good at taking care of each other, and at that time, in 1986, I was a songwriter in what according to some people is the biggest or best rock band in the country or world and really that was enough of a job for me.

Yes thanks for this it was a nice read. I must admit I have been rather harsh on here in regards to Johnny, he seems rather sweet these days.
 

Scarlet1987

The sanest days are mad
A beauitful green eyed man I live with brought this home for me tonight, he went to school with will self, I saw will on wednesday on exhitbition road, he had his doggy in the bicycle basket at the front and I saw Will, and he looked at me in a weird way
 

murder and desire

Junior Member
A beauitful green eyed man I live with brought this home for me tonight, he went to school with will self, I saw will on wednesday on exhitbition road, he had his doggy in the bicycle basket at the front and I saw Will, and he looked at me in a weird way


Oh Harlot, how you cry out for attention. If your bloke went to school with Will he must come from god upper class stock and be quite old. You only look about 28.

I wonder why he looked at you in a weird way?
Hmm
 

Scarlet1987

The sanest days are mad
Oh Harlot, how you cry out for attention. If your bloke went to school with Will he must come from god upper class stock and be quite old. You only look about 28.

I wonder why he looked at you in a weird way?
Hmm

I am 22 for christs sake. 28!! Hpw very dare you! I am ot crying out for attention, i am drinking gin and no he's not from upper class stock,he went to school with will self at a north london grammar school thats all
 

Amy

from the Ice Age to the dole age
Shame on you, you've just spoiled it for the un-serious Smiths fans.

Somehow, I doubt there are very many of them on this site, don't you?
 
D

Dave

Guest
Re: From today's Times: Johnny Marr on the rise and fall of The Smiths PART 1

It would be a brilliant article - if we hadn't heard the whole thing so many, many times before. Any serious Smiths fan could recount the whole story from memory after the first sentence. Nothing new whatsoever :(

Plus tl;dr. Thanks for the review. :thumb:
 

murder and desire

Junior Member
I am 22 for christs sake. 28!! Hpw very dare you! I am ot crying out for attention, i am drinking gin and no he's not from upper class stock,he went to school with will self at a north london grammar school thats all

Good middle class stock then, 22 don't lie. If you are that young,
You are in even more trouble than I thought your bloke must be about 50!

Honey, the post was about Marr and you wrote a whole bit about your self and Mr Self (the middle class 20 year olds idea of danger- very patchy writer, better than Booker though), it reads my "lovely life" but its says the reverse.

PS re your emails, I am none of the people you suggested and no we don't know each other.
 
Last edited:

Amy

from the Ice Age to the dole age
Re: From today's Times: Johnny Marr on the rise and fall of The Smiths PART 1

Plus tl;dr. Thanks for the review. :thumb:

I had to Google that to see what is stood for. God, I feel old.
 

Scarlet1987

The sanest days are mad
Good middle class stock then, 22 don't lie. If you are that young,
You are in even more trouble than I thought your bloke must be about 50!

Honey, the post was about Marr and you wrote a whole bit about your self and Mr Self (the middle class 20 year olds idea of danger- very patchy writer, better than Booker though), it reads my "lovely life" but its says the reverse.

PS re your emails, I am none of the people you suggested and no we don't know each other.

He is 48 and we are up speaking about the break down of his marriage. He has a good mouth, wwhy dont you reply to me privately?
 

Amy

from the Ice Age to the dole age

murder and desire

Junior Member
He is 48 and we are up speaking about the break down of his marriage. He has a good mouth, wwhy dont you reply to me privately?

Nothing personal dear, I am just not into that emailing racket- unless its with a real life friend.
I enjoy reading and at times posting the odd thing on here but that is as far as I take it. I am not looking to join a Morrissey Solo gang and hang out in the old haunts quoting Morrissey's words- that to me shows lack of spirit.
That is not a slight on anyone here, as there are some on here who seem truly lovely and to those whom post rare songs etc I say "thank you, I am very grateful".

Anyway Harlot, who am I to judge (even though I always do), if you have found happiness for a moment make the most of it.
48 and fresh out of a broken home, every 22 year old girls dream- oh dear.
 
Last edited:

Scarlet1987

The sanest days are mad
Nothing personal dear, I am just not into that emailing racket- unless its with a real life friend.
I enjoy reading and at times posting the odd thing on here but that is as far as I take it. I am not looking to join a Morrissey Solo gang and hang out in the old haunts quoting Morrissey's words- that to me shows lack of spirit.
That is not a slight on anyone here, as there are some on here who seem truly lovely and to those whom post rare songs etc I say "thank you, I am very grateful".

Anyway Harlot, who am I to judge (even though I always do), if you have found happiness for a moment make the most of it.
48 and fresh out of a broken home, every 22 year old girls dream- oh dear.

I am not happy, this man is only to help oneself get over someone else, the story is old but it goes on.
 
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