As the enigma that is Morrissey prepares to come down under for his first Australian shows in over a decade, it’s been announced that his frenemy and former Smith, guitarist Johnny Marr, will be releasing his debut solo LP in February 2013.
Marr famously left The Smiths in 1987 after five years, struggling to deal with the relentless recording and touring schedule. Since then he’s been moonlighting as a guitar gun for hire, playing with members from Pearl Jam, Wilco, and Radiohead for Neil Finn’s Seven Worlds Collide concert series, and in 2006 he began working with Modest Mouse, joining them on tour in 2006-07 and appearing on their fifth studio album We Were Dead Before The Ship Sank.
More recently, in 2008, Marr joined The Cribs on the touring and festival circuit throughout the UK and featured on their 2009 release Ignore The Ignorant, later leaving the band to focus on his upcoming solo work.
“It’s late in the day to be making my debut” he told NME. “I didn’t want to be in someone else’s band at this point. In the past I might have been reluctant to stand up front, and I’ve been lucky enough to be in bands with great singers, so it wasn’t necessary. But this is my band now, and the frontman in my band has to play guitar. I do both.”
Although the official release date, cover and track listing is not yet known, the guitarist turned frontman has given some insight into the song “Lockdown”, inspired by seaside towns in England such as Rhyl on the north east coast of Wales.
After reading a book about the worst places in Britain in which the seaside resort town was included, Marr was moved to re-imagine the location’s appeal, telling The Sun, “I thought the author misunderstood those places so I tried to imagine what it would be like being somewhere like that on a cold Wednesday night in November.”[do action=”pullquote”]”I’ve been lucky enough to be in bands with great singers…but this is my band now, and the frontman in my band has to play guitar. I do both.”[/do]
While this may be his solo debut, his work as a prolific guitarist in the music industry was recognized last week with Marr receiving the Q Hero award as part of the UK magazine’s annual Q Awards. “I’m certainly not cynical about it. I don’t want to be too over-the-top either. I’m a musician and I don’t do it to get awards but everyone likes a pat on the back,” he explained to The Sun. “It’s nice to be liked – I’ve been in a couple of rooms where people who I really respect have got awards like this and I’ve been happy to stand up and applaud it.”
Of course the news of Marr’s solo album, and the knowledge that Morrissey will be in our neck of the woods in just over a month, has predictably fuelled rumours of a Smiths reunion, a proposal which he flat out denies.
“Everybody seems to know more about a Smiths reunion than I do. Those rumours are like a sport for everyone involved bar the people who were in the group 30 years ago. But it’s not happening.”
It seems fans will have to make do with the two legends’ individual projects, at least for now.
In the meantime, Marr will be joining alt-rock forefathers Dinosaur Jr in New York this December, for a special performance celebrating the 15th anniversary of the band’s 1987 album You’re Living All Over Me.
His solo collection is due to be released in February 2013 with more details to come.