5 Things You Might Not Know About Johnny Marr
Once he was the guitarist for The Smiths, but he’s done so much and played with so many other artists since those days that it feels more than a little bit limiting to try and shove him solely into the box marked “Smiths guitarist.” Today is Marr’s birthday, and to celebrate the occasion, we’ve put together a list of 5 things you may not have known about him, but don’t worry: even if you already know these things, at least you’ll still get to hear some great music.
1. He’s been friends with Billy Duffy, guitarist for The Cult, since the 1970s.
When the two axe men first met, Johnny was either 12 or 13 and Billy was 15, and they were hanging out at the house of Rob Alman, Billy’s best friend. “[Billy and Rob] were very clued up for such a young age, and very knowledgeable about rock music right across the board,” Marr recalled in an interview for Duffy’s website. “I was very young at that point…and it’s amazing how accommodating they were towards me. I think they were amused that I was so keen. Anyway, Billy was very cool and we’ve been friends ever since.”
2. His favorite Smiths song is “Last Night I Dreamt Someone Loved Me.”
To be fair, it could have changed, given how fluid these sorts of declarations tend to be, but as of his October 2016 interview with The Guardian, that’s what he was claiming it to be.
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3. He wrote and recorded an album’s worth of songs with Ian McCulloch which are likely lost forever.
In 1992 and 1993, Johnny and Ian decided to sit down and pull together a record, one which Johnny described in Uncut as a “very creative” first 10 days, “and then it lost track in sort of a Mancunian / Scouse haze.” Unfortunately, the master tapes were in a van that was transporting them from Johnny’s house in Manchester to Ian’s house in Liverpool, and when the van was hijacked, the tapes disappeared with it and have never resurfaced. A few of the songs were ultimately rescued from oblivion when Ian and Will Sergeant re-teamed for their short-lived Electrafixion project, but the rest are lost forever…unless you’ve got a line on them!
4. He turned down an offer to join Oasis.
Johnny Marr and Oasis have interacted together on several occasions, but one on occasion – sometime in 1999, if reports can believed – Noel Gallagher asked Johnny if he’d be up for joining the band. In a radio interview around the same time, New Order frontman Bernard Sumner confirmed the report, but as he explained, “Johnny’s working on stuff of his own, solo projects, and I think he wants to pursue that and finish that, really. I think the timing was just bad.”
5. In 2015, he released a cover of Depeche Mode’s “I Feel You.”
The single was an exclusive release for Record Store Day, and if it surprises you that Johnny is a Depeche Mode fan, well, it shouldn’t. “I like quite a bit of Depeche Mode,” he told Q Magazine at the time. “Especially the late ‘80s and early ‘90s period when there were guitars in the mix. My version is maybe more stripped down and direct. The original has more loops and synth textures, whereas ours is more of a live band sound, I guess. I used guitar feedback to create atmosphere where Depeche Mode might have used synths.”
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