Happy Birthday, Johnny Marr
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Happy Birthday, Johnny Marr

Johnny Marr is a legendary guitarist who rose to fame with The Smiths, the greatest British guitar band since the Beatles. Marr formed a prolific songwriting partnership with Morrissey. In 2010 he was voted the fourth best guitarist of the last 30 years in a poll conducted by the BBC.

Johnny Marr is a legendary guitarist who rose to fame with The Smiths, the greatest British guitar band since the Beatles.  Marr formed a formidable songwriting partnership with Morrissey, and together they created some of the most sophisticated pop songs of the Eighties.  In 2010, Marr was voted the fourth best guitarist of the last 30 years in a poll conducted by the BBC.

John Martin Maher was born on 31 October 1963 in Ardwick, Manchester.  Like Morrissey, he was the son of Irish migrants. The Smiths were formed in Manchester in 1982. Marr's jangly Rickenbacker and Fender Telecaster guitar playing became synonymous with the Smiths' sound.

The band picked their name as a reaction against the elaborate names used by synthpop bands of the early 1980s, such as Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Spandau Ballet. In a 1984 interview Morrissey stated that he chose the name The Smiths 'because it was the most ordinary name' and because he thought that it was 'time that the ordinary folk of the world showed their faces.'

Signing to Rough Trade Records, they released their first single, Hand in Glove, in May 1983. The record was championed by DJ John Peel, but failed to chart. The follow-up singles This Charming Man and What Difference Does It Make? fared better when they reached numbers 25 and 12 respectively. In February 1984, the group released their debut album The Smiths, which reached number two on the UK Albums Chart. In 1985 the band released their second album, Meat Is Murder. This was more strident and political than its predecessor, including the pro-vegetarian title track and the anti-corporal punishment stance of The Headmaster Ritual and Barbarism Begins at Home. The band had also grown more adventurous musically, with Marr adding rockabilly riffs to Rusholme Ruffians and Rourke playing a funk bass solo on Barbarism Begins at Home.

Bigmouth Strikes Again appears on their third album The Queen Is Dead. The lyrics describe the protagonist's frustration of being hounded by others for his comments, to which he replies 'I was only joking'. During the song, the protagonist compares himself to Joan of Arc 'as the flames rose to her Roman nose'. The high-pitched voice in the background is actually Morrissey's voice altered to a higher pitch. The backing vocal is credited to Ann Coates, a reference to the Manchester district of Ancoats.

Personal differences within the band – including the increasingly strained relationship between Morrissey and Marr - saw them on the verge of splitting. In August 1987, Marr left the group. By the time Strangeways, Here We Come was released in September, the band had split up. The breakdown in the relationship has been primarily attributed to Morrissey's becoming annoyed by Marr's work with other artists and Marr's growing frustration with Morrissey's musical inflexibility, particularly his obsession with covering 1960s pop artists such as Twinkle and Cilla Black.

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Comments (1)

Wow, what a great music lover you are and make reading all about this musician interesting even though I did not know the name.