Posts Tagged ‘Johnny Marr’

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The circumstances surrounding its creation have always undermined the impact of The Smiths’ final album, “Strangeways, Here We Come”. Less enlightened critics dismissed it as a damp squib following the big bang of the monolithic The Queen Is Dead, and the album’s supposedly fraught recording sessions are often given as the cause of guitarist Johnny Marr’s departure – and the band’s subsequent split – prior to the album’s release on 28th September 1987.

Divorced from the times, though, Strangeways, Here We Come (its name referring to Manchester’s notorious prison) cries out for reappraisal. Far from the runt of a spectacular litter, it’s arguably the band’s most sonically adventurous album and, in reality, the sessions that produced it were lively and harmonious.

Holed up at Tears For Fears’ studio, The Wool Hall, in Bath, The Smiths worked closely with co-producer Stephen Street and, aside from the puritanical Morrissey, who reputedly preferred an early night and his Sylvia Plath anthology, they often partied during down-time. In his 2016 autobiography, Set The Boy Free, Johnny Marr recalled the Wool Hall sojourn with fondness. “I was in my element,” he wrote. “I didn’t need to know what was going on in the outside world or see anyone other than the band and [my girlfriend] Angie… and I loved the new songs.”

The Mancunian quartet’s recent singles – the dense, anthemic Shoplifters Of The World Unite and the glam rock-inspired Sheila Take A Bow – served notice that The Smiths were keen to break new ground. Morrissey and Marr were of a mind that Strangeways, Here We Come would help The Smiths slough off their reputation as purveyors of jangly indie-pop.

Prior to the sessions, Marr had absorbed envelope-pushing albums such as The Walker Brothers’ early singles and The Beatles’ “The White Album”, and his desire for his own band to broaden their horizons was all too apparent on Strangeways, Here We Come’s opening cut, A Rush And A Push And The Land Is Ours. Though Morrissey’s lyric revisited familiar themes of unrequited love (“Oh, don’t mention love/I’d hate the strain of the pain again”), the song’s sparse, otherworldly backing track provided a notable departure, with Marr’s eerie piano motifs replacing his trademark layered guitars.

When Marr did pick up his guitar, he often played with the level of aggression he’d first displayed on The Queen Is Dead’s storming title track. I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish was driven by his serrated, glam-rock riffs, while he dropped a metal-handed knife onto his Telecaster to enhance his arsenal on the rousing Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before. Bassist Andy Rourke and drummer Mike Joyce, meanwhile, demonstrated their own dexterity during the slow, menacing build of Death Of A Disco Dancer, while even Morrissey threw some atonal, yet strangely effective piano licks in for good measure as his comrades went for the burn during the song’s hypnotic, Can-esque final coda. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SckD99B51IA

However, while Strangeways, Here We Come captured The Smiths embracing new sounds and textures, they hadn’t entirely fallen out with classic guitar pop. Indeed, the album included several of the band’s defining moments, courtesy of Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me, Paint A Vulgar Picture and I Won’t Share You. Buoyed by swirling strings and one of Marr’s most dashing arrangements, the majestic Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me took The Smiths’ traditional bedsit angst and repurposed it with a cinematic splendour worthy of Ennio Morricone. It was topped and tailed by one of Morrissey’s finest vocals – reputedly nailed in one take – yet the abject loneliness in his lyric (“No hope, no harm/Just another false alarm”) and the absence of the singer’s usual bon mots only added to its potency.

Morrissey’s singular performance also significantly elevated the anti-music biz rant Paint A Vulgar Picture. It’s not unusual for aggrieved artists to launch verbal daggers at their labels, but lines such as “Best of, most of, satiate the need/Slip them into different sleeves, buy both and feel deceived” found The Smiths’ frontman laying into arcane industry practices and the idea that death sells with a cleaver-sharp accuracy that still stings.

By contrast, Strangeways, Here We Come’s peak was surely its gentlest track, the closing I Won’t Share You. With Morrissey’s vocal accompanied by a discreet Rourke bassline and Marr picking out the melody on an ancient lyre found in a forgotten corner of the studio, this tender, wistful postscript (“I’ll see you somewhere/I’ll see you sometime/Darling…”) immediately took on an extra poignancy after Marr quit the band during the summer of 1987, citing a combination of exhaustion and disaffection with a variety of business and management-related issues.

Inevitably, the story of the 80s’ most influential British guitar band losing their primary sonic architect dominated the UK press, and while denials were briefly issued, The Smiths publicly announced their split before Strangeways, Here We Come hit the streets. Sadly, the fallout from the band’s demise overshadowed the fact that they’d bowed out with a fantastic record that should have opened their next chapter instead of providing their premature epitaph.

Regardless, Strangeways, Here We Come did reap sizeable commercial rewards. It peaked at No.2 in the UK Top 40 and went gold on both sides of the Atlantic. It’s never had the same critical cachet as the seemingly unassailable The Queen Is Dead but, in recent years, discerning voices have trumpeted its quality, with Consequence Of Sound proclaiming, “Strangeways, Here We Come may not receive as much acclaim as its predecessors, but it should,” Once the dust settled, both Johnny Marr and Morrissey agreed their beloved band had split on the back of their best album.

“We’re in absolute accordance on that,” Morrissey said in 2007. “We say it quite often. At the same time. In our sleep. But in different beds.”

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Johnny Marr has shared the video for his catchy new song “Hi Hello,” the latest single off the former Smiths guitarist’s upcoming album Call the Comet. The fomer Smiths guitarist pens loose concept record that takes place in a futuristic “alternative society”

The video finds Marr performing the song alone in a gazebo and a park bench in the dead of winter. The desolateness of the “Hi Hello” video – no one besides Marr appears in the clip despite the public settings – ties into themes from the new album, his third as a solo artist.

Call the Comet, due out June 15th, is inspired by both Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, with Marr’s lyrics drawing from an “alternative society” set in the “not-too-distant future.”

“I wouldn’t call it a concept record,”said Marr  of the album. “But it’s got a unifying theme going through it about the Earth welcoming a different intelligence from the cosmos to save us from our own plight. The title Call the Comet is sort of a conscious plea for a new way.”

Released 31 years to the day before this release. “The Queen Is Dead” appears here for the first time on a single, and is a rare edit which omits the sing-along intro (a sample of “Take Me Back To Dear Old Blighty” from 1962 film The L-Shaped Room). We don’t have much info on the extent to which Morrissey and Marr were involved in this, but it contains all the trappings of a typical Smiths release.

Gorgeous portrait nicked from a film still on the front (in this case, Margherita Caruso portraying the Virgin Mary in 1964’s Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo), poly inner sleeve, cut nice and loud at 45rpm in classic Smiths styled vinyl 12” style. Even the font on the center label looks an awful lot like the original Rough Trade styled label . The b-side contains The Smiths only three instrumental tracks ever recorded , all of which have appeared as b-sides on original Smiths singles but never before on the same record, until now. Also available as a 7″ picture disc with “I Keep Mine Hidden” on the b-side. Both are extremely limited and essential for any Smiths completist.

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Johnny Marr is set to mark this year’s Record Store Day with a numbered limited edition 7” release of his interpretation of Depeche Mode’s 1993 classic ‘I Feel You’. Marr played the track live during the closing shows of last December’s North American tour. The single’s b-side is a live version of The Smiths’ ‘Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want’. Listen to the B-side of Johnny Marr‘s Record Store Day UK release Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want (live)… Didn’t he used to do that with another bloke singing?

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Paul Weller has unveiled the title track and new single from his forthcoming album, Saturn’s Pattern. The catchy, piano-led first track shares the title of the album and will appear on the Jam turned solo icon’s twelfth solo studio album. Weller said of the title’s meaning and artwork: “Apparently it’s some kind of wind on the north side of Saturn which created a hexagonal shape”.

The track will be released on 10th May as a 2-track download, followed on May 11th by a 7” vinyl.  There will also be an exclusive 7” vinyl ‘bundle’ available from Paul Weller’s official website which includes downloads of the track, an art print and a bonus print of Paul’s hand written lyrics to ‘Saturns Pattern’. One fan will also receive the original hand-written (and signed) lyric sheet.

Paul Weller teamed up with Johnny Marr last night for a cover of Junior Walker & The Allstars’ 1966 hit  ‘(I’m A) Roadrunner’. Paul Weller was at the Royal Albert Hall last night as part of the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts.

Weller announced the former Smiths member to the stage after a series of songs and said: “Would you please welcome back to the stage Johnny Marr. This will be either be fucking great or a disaster.”

Paul Weller also delivered a host of new songs from his forthcoming album including the album title track ‘Saturn’s Pattern’, ‘Long Time’, I’m Where I Should Be’ and ‘These City Streets’.  

He went on to play a two hour set with his five-piece band, performing a variety of songs from his back catalogue.

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Early in 1985 the band released their second album,Meat Is Murder. This album was more strident and political than its predecessor, including the pro-vegetarian title track (Morrissey forbade the rest of the group from being photographed eating meat), the light-hearted republicanism of “Nowhere Fast”, and the anti-corporal punishment “The Headmaster Ritual” and “Barbarism Begins at Home”. The band had also grown more diverse musically, with Johnny Marr adding rockabilly riffs to Rusholme Ruffians” and Rourke playing a funk bass solo on “Barbarism Begins at Home”. The album was preceded by the re-release of the B-sideHow Soon Is Now? as a single, and although that song was not on the original LP, it has been added to subsequent releases. “Meat Is Murder” was the band’s only album to reach number one in the UK charts. To set the scene, let’s talk about music in 1985. In February of that year, two songs held the No. 1 spot: “I Want to Know What Love Is” by Foreigner and “Careless Whisper” by Wham! Schmaltz and sax riffs were reigning supreme. The only other album of importance to the latter-day post-punk movement to be released that month was “Night Time” by Killing Joke. Tears for Fears’ “Songs from the Big Chair” dropped too, just in case you were wondering what kind of rad pop music was available to consumers during that month. Then in walk The Smiths ready for their round two.

Allow yourself to feel small in the presence of the group’s overwhelming talent. Johnny Marr was 21 when this record was released. This means he’d written “How Soon is Now?” at that point in his life, and all I’m doing is writing about how amazing that is. Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce’s rhythm section never gripes for unnecessary authority over the songs but when they’re in the spotlight, they always shine. Morrissey’s eloquence and command over the English language can be deceptive. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how recently these Manchester masterminds graduated from the institutions they decry. Their music is so fully formed it’s hard to believe it was being written by people in their early to mid twenties. Since they were so beyond their years, the music doesn’t sound very dated. Sure, it’s easy to identify “Meat is Murder” as an ’80s record, but more because of mood and jangle than anything else. In the age of synthesizers, this is a guitar rock album through and through. Johnny Marr could shred as well as any metal band popping up back then, but he keeps everything so tasteful and necessary. Each layered riff and strumming pattern adds to a unified whole which never comes off as an ego stroke.

Morrissey brought a political stance to many of his interviews, courting further controversy. Among his targets were the Thatcher government, the British monarchy, and the famine relief project Band Aid. Morrissey famously quipped of the last, “One can have great concern for the people of Ethiopia, but it’s another thing to inflict daily torture on the people of England” (“torture” being a reference to the music that resulted from the project). The subsequent single-only release “Shakespeare’s Sister” reached number 26 on the UK Singles Chart, although the only single taken from the album, “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore“, was less successful, barely making the top 50.

Recorded in Winter of  1984 at Amazon Studios, Liverpool and Ridge Farm, Surrey, England and released on Rough Trade Records.

 

 

JOHNNY MARR – ” Dynamo “

Posted: December 2, 2014 in MUSIC
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new video for the Johnny Marr track “Dynamo”, a soaring rock ballad from his new sophomore solo album, Playland“. Director Max Bancroft captures the former Smiths guitarist in his natural setting: on stage with his band, rocking out amid a sea of flashing light bulbs. It may not have loads of cash like the clip for “Easy Money, but Marr’s boundless energy and charisma practically leap out at you from the TV or computer screen. Throw on some UV sensitive shades and watch it below.