Johnny Marr

This Tension

Johnny Marr – This Tension

In a couple of days I’ll be seeing Johnny Marr. That’s right, Johnny Fuckin’ Marr. With each passing day I get more excited. I need this. I’ve been listening to his two solo albums while I’m working to prep for it and hoping that we don’t get sidelined by some freak November snow storm.

I’ve seen videos of him playing How Soon is Now and Stop Me If You Think That You’ve Heard This One Before from earlier stops on the tour. I’m just going to admit it. If he plays How Soon is Now, or Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want, or There is a Light That Never Goes Out, or Ask, or probably just about any of the Smiths songs it’s likely he might pull out, I will be a teary mess. To see the man himself playing those songs that have been ringing in my ears for more than 25 years…

I’ve written about Johnny Marr before and I can’t remember now why I didn’t go see him when he toured the US last year but when I learned he’d be touring for his new album Playland, I didn’t want to miss it again. Luckily I live in the northeast and he’s playing several venues within a reasonable distance* of where I live. Just remind me to buy some new tires over the weekend.

I know it won’t be a Smiths concert. I don’t want it to be. But I do want my head to be filled with that undeniable Johnny Marr sound. I want to hear these new songs and have that swirling feeling when the music is all around you, palpable, moving your hair and giving you goosebumps.

* A reasonable distance in my book is anything not requiring a flight.

New Town Velocity

Johnny Marr – New Town Velocity

Every once in a while the “recommended for you” videos that show up on YouTube if I’m logged in are actually very welcome suggestions. This was the one I was presented with yesterday and I’ve listened to it a lot already.

I’m sure I heard it earlier this year when Johnny Marr’s album The Messenger came out but I didn’t have the time then to really listen to it. There’s something about this track, more so than the previous singles, that has a very distinct Johnny Marr sound to it. And I am a sucker for that Johnny Marr signature guitar.

I think sometimes it may be too easy to hang the influence the Smiths had on me, and many other people, on Morrissey’s contribution to the band. It’s true, I can speak or write entirely in Smiths quotes* off the top of my head and I know I’m not the only one of my friends who can do that. Rob Sheffield wrote nearly a whole chapter of his book Talking to Girls About Duran Duran in Smiths quotes and paraphrases. We may all be spending warm summer days indoors writing frightening verse to a buck-toothed girl in Luxembourg but it’s Johnny’s guitar that instantly hooks us with those first four notes on “Ask.” “Oscillate Wildly” had as much yearning to it as the other songs without any lyrics at all. The Smiths were as great as they were because it was both the music and lyrics coming together at the perfect time.

I listened to Morrissey’s first couple of solo albums and went to see him on I guess it was the Kill Uncle tour (since I never got the chance to see the Smiths live), but it wasn’t the same. It was missing Johnny Marr. And let’s be honest, Morrissey is nearly a caricature of himself at this point. While Morrissey spent the past year cancelling show after show, Johnny Marr’s been showing up at festivals and elsewhere and just rocking without any of the drama. Morrissey may be the last of the famous international playboys, but he’d probably be completely unknown to most people if Johnny Marr hadn’t knocked on his door.

* By now you’ve all seen this, and it may seem to belie the point I’m trying to make here but it’s just so great. http://thischarmingcharlie.tumblr.com/   [edited 9/18/13 to say, I knew it wouldn’t be allowed to stand. They’ve been ordered to take it down.]