Johnny Marr | Unparalleled

prof Johnny-Marr_75It’s Johnny Marr, so your expectations should already be high—but even so, they’ll be blown from the first note.




prof Johnny-Marr_Jon-Shard

The first time I didn’t see Johnny Marr was in 1986. It was the summer before I went to college. At orientation in May, I was drawn instantly to a fellow freshman wearing a Smiths t-shirt. After we began talking, I learned he had an extra ticket to the Smiths concert at Soldier Field that summer (I lived in St. Louis, he in Chicago)—of course I was going. Despite my best-laid plans, he ended up rescinding the offer—a fact especially crushing, as this was the band’s final U.S. tour before breaking up the following spring.

The second time I didn’t see Johnny Marr, he was hanging out at a hipster bar in St. Louis following a Modest Mouse show at The Pageant. Two miles from my house. Two miles. Friends of mine were there, and yet nobody told me.

The third time I didn’t see Johnny Marr would have been November 28 at The Gothic in Englewood, Colo. Two miles from my house. But there’s no way I’m going to let it happen again.

From 1982 to 1987, Marr was the music to Morrissey’s words, the guitar to his voice. Along with bassist Andy Rourke and drummer Mike Joyce, Marr and Moz comprised one of the most legendary bands in history. They were the sound of Manchester, England. Led by Morrissey, the Master of Mope, The Smiths were distinct and ahead of their time; they were instant cult heroes in the U.K. (Although they had a strong U.S. following, the fervor never quite reached U.K. proportions.) Despite a vehemently anti-pop attitude, their four proper studio albums (there were also compilations and a live disc, the latter released posthumously) spawned one radio hit after another, including “Reel around the Fountain,” “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now,” “How Soon Is Now?” “Bigmouth Strikes Again,” “There Is a Light that Never Goes Out,” and “Shoplifters of the World Unite.”

prof Johnny-Marr_250_Jon-ShardSince The Smiths disbanded in 1987, Marr’s been a busy guy, writing and/or playing with a veritable Who’s Who of musicians and bands, including Billy Bragg, The Pretenders, The The, Modest Mouse, The Cribs, and the Pet Shop Boys. And then he finally did what everyone had been waiting for and fronted his very own band, The Healers; the band’s sole release, Boomslang, dropped in 2003. Fans had to wait another 10 years, though, before they finally saw Marr’s name splashed across the cover of an album by way of The Messenger, his first official solo album.

Although it’s his innovative, forward-thinking guitar work that brings the listeners, but his voice does the music justice. The Messenger was a critical success, recalling the British new wave movement of the 1980s while bringing his legendary vision to the forefront. And now there’s the just-dropped Playland, which is even more impressive. The new album explodes with punk tension while retaining the addictive melodies Marr has spent over 30 years perfecting. The record grabs you from the start, with the speeding guitar line that is front and center on introductory track “Back in the Box,” and does not let go over its 11 swelling, captivating tracks. Sure, it’s Johnny Marr, so your expectations should already be high—but even so, they’ll be blown from the first note.

Grab the album, and grab your car keys; I’ll meet you at the show. No way I’m missing this one. | Laura Hamlett

Photos by Jon Shard

Johnny Marr Remaining 2014 North America Tour Dates

11.23 | St. Andrews, Detroit
11.25 | Vic Theatre, Chicago
11.26 | Arvest Bank Theatre, Kansas City
11.28 | Gothic Theatre, Denver
11.29 | Belly Up, Aspen CO
12.01 | Top Hat Lounge, Missoula MT
12.03 | Starlite, Edmonton AB
12.04 | Republik, Calgary AB
12.06 | Sugar Nightclub, Victoria BC
12.07 | Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver BC
12.08 | Neumos, Seattle
12.10 | Wonder Ballroom, Portland OR
12.11 | Wow Hall, Eugene OR
12.12 | Ace of Spades, Sacramento
12.14-15 | Independent, San Francisco
12.16 | Gas House, Pomona CA
12.18 | Belly Up Tavern, Solona Beach CA
12.19-20 | El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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