Johnny Marr was interviewed by Shaun Keaveny on the new season of The Line-Up podcast and is available to listen to on podcast platforms now.
The guitar legend talks about sneaking into gigs from the girls toilets with the likes of Mark Reilly and meeting Morrisey for the first time at 14 years old, as well as his respect for Alicia Keys, writing new music Blondie and his mother leaving him in guitar stores when he was 5 years old!
Johnny Marr talks about meeting Morrisey for the first time after sneaking through the toilets window for a Patti Smith gig with Mark Reilly:
Johnny Marr: Funny enough, it was actually for the real first time Morrissey and I met, but we met really in passing, when I went to see Patti Smith on my own in 1978. I was 14, and none of my mates wanted to pony up for the ticket. We used to always sneak in. I talked about this in my book quite a lot. We used to sneak into the Apollo.
Shaun Keaveny: through the toilets, was it?
Johnny Marr: Yeah, through the window. Just get me in the window and then I would open the door at the back girls toilet. I opened the door and we would all pile in. And because of that, and there's quite a number of usually boys, I think Mark Reilly was in the fall. He works on the radio. I think Mark Radcliffe is another. He sort of might have done that. But it was a bit of a thing of culture, you know, I wasn't the only one. but we used to go, the thing with me and my mates we were completely indiscriminate. Whoever was on, we would go just for something to do. So I saw more bands that I didn't like, that I did like. I saw Barclay James Harvest, I saw Uriah Heat and all these bands I didn't know about. But because I was so into Patti Smith, I got a ticket.
So I went on my own and I bumped into a couple of old older lads in the bar, and Morrissey was with them. But then I went off just to get right at the front, and I stood at the front of this Patti Smith Show.
Johnny Marr talks about being left in guitar shops whilst his mum shopped when he was five years old:
Shaun Keaveny: And it's been mentioned before. But you used to get babysat by guitars, didn't you? Didn't you used to get left in front of a guitar shop windows sometimes?
Johnny Marr: That was in shops. Yeah, that was er… you know, I had to check this because it was coming up in interviews and I thought, you know what I better ask her, just in case she's not cool with this, I said, “Did you know this this family fable about me going into - also a department store, no less in the sixties, right? A few department stores this thing that I've heard from the family that you would leave me in where all the guitars were?” and she was like, “That's right” and she'd go off with my sister and know I would be just stood there. I said, “Was that alright?” and she said “Yeah, that's right, different times then Johnny” But she pointed out, she said, “It wasn't just a guitar.” She said, “You were obsessed with amps as well”
Shaun Keaveny: Of course Amps…
Johnny Marr: I said “how old was that?” She's like “five”.
Johnny Marr talks about writing songs for Blondie and how ‘Spectral Eyes’ was originally written for Debbie Harry:
Shaun Keaveny: but going back just momentarily before I forget to Debbie Harry, you've played with them a lot. Well, not just this year, I'm sure. But you've written a song for them - My Monster.
Johnny Marr: Yeah and I've written another new one for the new current record that they’re recording. I don't know whether it will end up on the album, you never know. But they seemed to really like it….
Shaun Keaveny: what’s it like to hear those guys perform a song of yours? It's a little bit. It feels like it might be a little bit different experience than when you were in a band like Modest Mouse. it's almost like you're a gun for hire. You've written a song like My Monster and they've performed it. What's it like?
Johnny Marr: It's a new level of wow for me because they are my lyrics, Debbie’s singing my lyrics and then she what wanted another one, because My Monster I wrote specifically for Blondie and then you know, it went well. So then they asked me if I got any more. So I wrote another one for Blondie. But they took so long recording it, I did it myself. It was on the B side of a seven inch single. I wasn't about to put it on an album, just in case, but that's called Spectral Eyes. And it's again, it was one that I specifically wrote for Blondie. So on a lyrical level, you know that people covering songs that I write the words to you is you know, that's something I never imagined, really frankly.
Johnny Marr talks about why he’s been in alot bands:
Johnny Marr: Well, first off, I'm very good at being in bands. So that's the thing about even though I've, you know, appear to hop around and have hopped around all over the place, which I have, you know what I mean? That’s just me having my cake and eating it frankly, because the bands that I've been invited to either work with on a temporary basis or certainly join, I mean, who would turn down being the guitar player in The The in 1990 or 88, whenever it was I did it, with Matt who is one of the closest people in my life and also given what was going on in my personal life, behind the scenes with The Smiths split. Who wouldn't want to go out and be the guitar player in The Pretenders and Chrissy that again was what people don't quite realise is that has a massive impact on my personal life as well and forming these relationships. But I'm also very as I say, I believe I'm very good at being in bands. So when I was in The Cribs, I brought stuff into the being in the band not only an enthusiasm, but that really goes back to one of those fifteen/sixteen, you know, because it's my life. And it might be to do with decisions about you know, where we're going to play or what producers were going to use or what we're going to do that day or how we're going do mixes or management. I mean, just all of that stuff, you know, I'm good at it.
Johnny Marr talks about his respect for Alicia Keys:
Johnny Marr: Yeah, all the great people I've seen first hand, you know, they really work. Most recently, I'll tell you, who has blowing my mind in that respect is Alicia Keys.
Shaun Keaveny: You played with her, didn't you? Recently?
Johnny Marr: Yeah I did play with her recently. Yeah, she is one of those things about, you know, like leading by example. You know, she's so impressive. There's no question that everyone around her is absolutely bringing their A game because she does. She's just like, always really, really on it, you know? But I think it's the quality of really great people, really.
Johnny Marr’s new double album, Fever Dreams Pts 1-4, is out now.