Anytime a big-name band breaks up, it incites speculation as to what problems led to dissent among its members. As founder of The Smiths, widely considered one of the most influential British alternative rock bands ever, Johnny Marr knows this all too well.
Now, Marr is hoping to set the record straight with the release of his autobiography Set The Boy Free. He joined Nik Carter and Lori Majewski on VOLUME (CH. 106)‘s morning show Feedback to discuss the book and much more.
“When I wrote the book, I was very conscious that I wanted to put the love back in the band, but in a really natural way,” Marr said.
The Smiths formed in 1982 and had a very successful run up until their breakup in 1987. With lead singer Morrissey as the frontman, The Smiths developed a significant following. Marr detailed the story of how he came to recruit Morrissey to join The Smiths.
“The day it all started with The Smiths was because I went back to my old neighborhood where a couple guys I knew had known of Steven Morrissey. He was four or five years older than me and I just really wanted to form this group. I had been asking around town for a while and I got his address,” Marr recalled. “There’s a moment when I was writing [the book], it was great to write because it like reliving it when this older guy gave me Morrissey’s address and I stood in the sunshine at about 11 a.m. in this blazing, scorching white sun looking at this white piece of paper and I was like, ‘This is a moment. Looking at this address, something great is gonna come out of this.'”
Incredibly, Morrissey wasn’t taken aback when a random guy showed up on his doorstep asking him to join a band.
“I got on the bus and took off to this address, found the house, knocked on Morrissey’s door and he came down,” Marr said. “Amazingly enough, considering that it was a hyperactive little guy standing at his doorway saying, ‘I’m gonna form a band, do you want to be in it? Sorry about just turning up unannounced.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, sure, come in.'”
It was important to Marr that he explain the truth of the love he experienced with The Smiths. There have been many attempts to get to the bottom of what broke them up, but the only people who know the facts are the ones who lived it.
“Over the years there’s been many, many accounts from different people with different agendas, there’s a couple books that come to mind that tell that story,” Marr said. “Well, those guys weren’t there. I was there, I did it. So I was really happy to fill in all the blanks and put in the details of what happened.”
Marr also talked about the great advice he received from Paul McCartney in the wake of The Smiths’ breakup.
“It was Linda (McCartney) who was asking me about how I was getting on with the split up of the band and I kind of, I won’t say I poured my heart out, but I was honest and just said it was kind of a tough thing, going through the breakup of a band,” he said. “Telling Paul McCartney this, and he just said to me, ‘Well, that’s bands for you,’ which I thought was genius.”
Listen below to hear Marr discuss playing guitar, being a mentor to Noel Gallagher, his thoughts on The Smiths’ legacy and more.
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