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This article is about Johnny Marr, guitarist of The Smiths, The Cribs, and Modest Mouse, whose birth name was John Maher. For the former Buzzcocks drummer, see John Maher .

Johnny Marr (born John Martin Maher on 31 October 1963 in Ardwickmarker, Manchestermarker) is an English songwriter, guitarist, keyboardist, harmonica player, and singer. Marr rose to fame in the 1980s as the guitarist in The Smiths, where he formed a prolific songwriting partnership with Morrissey. Marr has been a member of Modest Mouse since 2006, and in 2008, joined The Cribs after touring with them on 2008's NME Awards Tour.

Childhood and personal life

Marr is the son of Irish immigrants to England. His parents came from Athymarker in County Kildaremarker. He attended St Augustine's RC Grammar School, which then merged with other schools to form a Comprehensive School, St John Plessingtons. Marr had aspirations to be a professional football player, and was approached by Nottingham Forest F.C. and had trials with Manchester City F.C. (which he supports). In an interview with FourFourTwo magazine, Marr said:
I was good enough for City, but they didn't follow up because I was probably the only player out there wearing eyeliner.
He currently resides in Portland, Oregonmarker in the United Statesmarker with wife Angie, and their children, daughter Sonny and son Nile. Marr has been a vegan since 1985.

The Smiths

The Smiths were formed in early 1982 by Marr and fellow Manchestermarker resident Steven Patrick Morrissey (he had not yet abandoned his first names), an unemployed writer. Marr's jangly Rickenbacker and Fender Telecaster guitar playing became synonymous with The Smiths' sound. Marr's friend Andy Rourke joined as bass player and Mike Joyce was recruited as drummer. Signing to indie label Rough Trade Records, they released their first single, "Hand in Glove", on 13 May 1983.

By February 1984, The Smiths fanbase was sufficiently large to launch the band's long-awaited eponymous debut album to number two in the UK chart. Early in 1985 the band released their second album, Meat Is Murder. This was more strident and political than its predecessor, and it was the band's only album (barring compilations) to reach number one in the UK charts. During 1985 the band completed lengthy tours of the UK and the US while recording the next studio record, The Queen Is Dead. In 1989 Spin magazine rated The Queen Is Dead as number one of "The Greatest Albums Ever Made". Spin was not alone in this designation--numerous periodicals rank The Smiths and their albums, especially The Queen Is Dead, high on their best ever lists. NME, for example, has dubbed the Smiths the most important rock band of all time.

However, all was not well within the group. A legal dispute with Rough Trade had delayed the album by almost seven months (it had been completed in November 1985), and Marr was beginning to feel the stress of the band's exhausting touring and recording schedule. He later told NME, "'Worse for wear' wasn't the half of it: I was extremely ill. By the time the tour actually finished it was all getting a little bit... dangerous. I was just drinking more than I could handle." Meanwhile, Rourke was fired from the band in early 1986 due to his use of heroin. In early 1987 the single "Shoplifters of the World Unite" was released to chart success, as well as mild controversy and concern from parents.

Despite their continued success, 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, and auditions to find a replacement for him proved fruitless. By the time Strangeways, Here We Come (named after Strangeways Prison, Manchester) 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. Marr particularly hated Morrissey's obsession with covering 1960s pop artists such as Twinkle and Cilla Black.

Referring to the songs recorded in the band's last session together (B-sides for the "Girlfriend in a Coma" single, which preceded the album's release), Marr said "I wrote 'I Keep Mine Hidden', but 'Work Is a Four-Letter Word' I hated. That was the last straw, really. I didn't form a group to perform Cilla Black songs." In 1989, in an interview with young fan Tim Samuels (who later became a BBC journalist) Morrissey said that the lack of a managerial figure and business problems were to blame for the band's eventual split.

In 1996, Smiths' drummer Mike Joyce took Morrissey and Marr to court, claiming that he had not received his fair share of recording and performance royalties. Morrissey and Marr had claimed the lion's share of The Smiths' recording and performance royalties and allowed ten percent each to Joyce and Rourke. Composition royalties were not an issue, as Rourke and Joyce had never been credited as composers for the band. Morrissey and Marr claimed that the other two members of the band had always agreed to that split of the royalties, but the court found in favour of Joyce and ordered that he be paid over £1 million in back pay and receive 25% thenceforth. As Smiths' royalties had been frozen for two years, Rourke settled for a smaller lump sum to pay off his debts and continued to receive 10%. Morrissey was described by the judge as "devious, truculent and unreliable".

Both Marr and Morrissey have repeatedly said in interviews that they will not reunite the band. In 2005, VH1 attempted to get the band back together on its Bands Reunited show but abandoned its attempt after the show's host, Aamer Haleem, failed to corner Morrissey before a show. In December 2005 it was announced that Johnny Marr and The Healers would play at Manchester v Cancer, a benefit show for cancer research being organised by Andy Rourke and his production company, Great Northern Productions. Rumours suggested that a Smiths reunion would occur at this concert but were dispelled by Johnny Marr on his website. What did eventuate was Rourke joining Marr onstage for the first time since The Smiths broke up, performing "How Soon Is Now?".

In an October 2007 interview on BBC Radio Five Live, Marr hinted at a potential reformation in the future, saying that "stranger things have happened so, you know, who knows?" Marr went on to say that "It's no biggy. Maybe we will in 10 or 15 years' time when we all need to for whatever reasons, but right now Morrissey is doing his thing and I'm doing mine, so that's the answer really." This is the first potential indication of a Smiths reunion from Marr, who previously has stated that reforming the band would be a bad idea.

Marr's guitar playing "was a huge building block for more Manchester legends that followed The Smiths - The Stone Roses; their guitarist John Squire has stated that Marr was a major influence. Oasis frontman Noel Gallagher has called The Smiths an influence, especially Marr whom he described as a "fucking wizard", also stating that " (...) he´s unique, you can´t play what he plays".. He also stated that "when The Jam split, The Smiths started, and I totally went for them." Radiohead guitarist Ed O'Brien has acknowledged that he idolized The Smiths in the 1980s; the band pays homage to The Smiths in their song "Knives Out". After O'Brien played with Johnny Marr in New Zealand in 2001, he acknowledged that Marr was the reason he had picked up a guitar as a teenager.


After the dissolution of The Smiths, Marr returned to the music scene in 1989 with New Order's Bernard Sumner in the supergroup Electronic. Electronic released three albums over the next decade. Marr was also a member of The The, recording two albums with the group between 1989 and 1993. He has also worked as a session musician and writing collaborator for artists including The Pretenders, Pet Shop Boys, Billy Bragg, Black Grape, Jane Birkin, Talking Heads, and Beck. In 2000 he started another band, Johnny Marr and the Healers, with a moderate degree of success, and later worked as a guest musician on the Oasis album Heathen Chemistry.

Marr became a session player, writing, touring and recording with, among others, Bryan Ferry, Kirsty MacColl, Simple Minds , Neil Finn, Karl Bartos of Kraftwerk, Talking Heads, Black Grape, Billy Bragg, Pet Shop Boys, Beck and Oasis. He also acted as co-producer for some of the aforementioned artists and co-produced Manchester band Haven at his own Clear Studios. He also continued to work as an official member of various groups, including The Pretenders, The The, Electronic, Johnny Marr & The Healers, Modest Mouse, and The Cribs.

Marr played guitar on several Pet Shop Boys songs; he continues to have guest appearances on their albums, with his most significant contribution on Release (2002). It should also be noted that the only remix that Johnny Marr has ever done was for the Pet Shop Boys--it was a mix of his favorite track from their 1987 album, Actually, called "I Want to Wake Up," and was released as the b-side to 1993's "Can You Forgive Her?"

He performed two Smiths songs and music by others with a supergroup called 7 Worlds Collide consisting of members from Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Split Enz and others, assembled by Neil Finn of Split Enz and Crowded House in 2001. A second set of concerts took place in December 2008/January 2009, and an album of new material titled The Sun Came Out was released in August 2009 to raise money for Oxfam.

In addition to his work as a recording artist, Marr has worked as a record producer. In 2006, he began work with Modest Mouse's Isaac Brock on songs that eventually were featured on the band's 2007 release, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. The band subsequently announced that Marr was a fully fledged member, and the reformed line-up toured extensively throughout 2006-07. Marr has also been recording with Liam Gallagher of Oasis.

The Pretenders, The The, Electronic (1987-1999)

After Marr left The Smiths in August 1987, he was very briefly an official member of The Pretenders. In late 1987, he toured with the band and appeared on the single "Windows of the World" b/w "1969". He then left The Pretenders, and recorded and toured with The The from 1988 through 1994, and simultaneously formed Electronic with New Order's Bernard Sumner. Electronic were intermittently active throughout the 1990s, releasing their final album in 1999.

Johnny Marr and The Healers (2000-2003)

In 2000 Johnny recruited drummer Zak Starkey (son of Ringo Starr), Cavewaves guitarist Lee Spencer and ex-Kula Shaker bassist Alonza Bevan for his new project Johnny Marr and the Healers. The band had taken two years to come together as Marr had wanted members to be chosen "by chemistry". Their debut album Boomslang was released in 2003, with all lyrics and lead vocals by Marr. A second album was originally scheduled for release in April 2005, and a short tour was expected soon after, but Marr has since stated that the band is on the "side burner" for the time being (Manchester Evening News, May 2007). Drummer Starkey is currently involved with The Who, and Bevan has regrouped with Kula Shaker.

Modest Mouse (2006-present)

In 2006, Marr became a member of the American band Modest Mouse. He wrote some of the songs with lead singer Isaac Brock on their fifth album We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, in addition to being featured on guitar, and toured with the band throughout 2006 and 2007. During 2008, when Modest Mouse opened for R.E.M. during their summer tour of the United States, Marr would come on stage during the encore of R.E.M.'s set, for "Fall on Me" and, toward the end of the tour, "Man on the Moon".

The new album reached number one on the American Billboard charts in late March 2007. For Marr this is the first time he has had a number one record in the US. The highest chart position before that was with Electronic, who made the Top 40 in the singles chart with "Getting Away With It".
Marr in 2007
During this period, Marr was asked to deliver a series of workshops and masterclasses to students at the University of Salfordmarker in the BA (Hons) Popular Music and Recording programme. In the late 2000s, Marr's daughter Sonny performed backing vocals on the track "Even A Child" on Crowded House's 2007 album Time On Earth, for which her father Johnny played guitars. Marr also has a son named Nile Marr.

The Cribs (2008-present)

In January 2008, Marr was reported to have been contributing his skill and experience to a secret songwriting session with Wakefield indie group The Cribs. Sources reveal that they worked together for a week at Moolah Rouge recording studio in Stockportmarker - a favourite haunt of Boltonmarker's Badly Drawn Boy, Damon Gough and fellow northern indie heroes I Am Kloot - and have penned a number of new songs. He also played at the Glasgow Barrowlands, Manchester Academy, Oxford Academy, Bristol Carling Academy, Leeds University, Cardiff University and Brixton Carling Academy with The Cribs on the NME Awards Tour. On 23 February 2008, XFM reported that Marr was to become a full member of The Cribs. On 28 February 2008, he also played onstage with The Cribs at NME Big Gig at the O2. Marr also played along with the Cribs at the Reading & Leeds Festival 2008, singer Ryan Jarman introduced Johnny as the newest member of the band, "Johnny Jarman". In 2009 Marr recorded an album with the band titled Ignore The Ignorant, which was released on 7 September. As has been the case on most Pet Shop Boys Albums since 1989, after working with Neil Tennant in Electronic, Marr plays guitar and harmonica on their 2009 album Yes.On Soccer AM in September 09 he explained he met up with The Cribs' bass player in Portland and it has gone from strength to strength. He believes the new Cribs' album "Ignore the Ignorant" is the best thing he has done in 25 years.


Albums (as band member)

The Smiths

The The


Johnny Marr and The Healers

Modest Mouse

The Cribs

Albums (as a guest musician)

For a complete discography, see the article Johnny Marr guest musician recordings.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Marr played on three Billy Bragg recordings. In the late 1980s, he performed on albums by Bryan Ferry and the Talking Heads. In the 1990s and 2000s, he performed on three Pet Shop Boys albums, and also plays guitar on their Xenomania-produced album, Yes, released in 2009. In the 1990s, he also performed on albums by Electrafixion, M People, Beck, and Tom Jones. In the 2000s, he played on albums by bands such as Oasis, Pearl Jam, Jane Birkin, goth songstress Lisa Germano and Crowded House. He also plays on John Frusciante's tenth solo album, The Empyrean, and guitar on Girls Aloud's sixth album, Out of Control, on a track entitled "Rolling Back The Rivers in Time", as well as harmonica on the track "Love Is The Key".

He also appeared on two tracks (Enough of Me, Central) on John Frusciante's album The Empyrean which was released January 2009.

Albums (as producer)




In addition to an extensive singles discography with the artists listed above, Johnny has appeared on singles by Sandie Shaw, Everything But the Girl, The Pretenders, Andrew Berry, A Certain Ratio, The Cult, Denise Johnson, Stex, The Impossible Dreamers (as producer) and Black Grape.


  1. [1]
  4. [2]
  5. Isaac Brock Collaborating With Johnny Marr
  6. Rolling Stone: Rock Daily Exclusive: Modest Marr!
  7. Johnny Marr website
  8. Former Smiths' guitarplayer reaches number 1 in this weeks American Billboard Chart
  9. [3]
  10. Sleeve notes - Yes, Fundamental, Release

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