“We Loved Each Other” – Johnny Marr On The Smiths

This week’s NME is a special issue celebrating the 25th anniversary of The Smiths’ seminal 1986 album ‘The Queen Is Dead’. We spoke to guitarist Johnny Marr about the making of the record for the magazine – here are some extra words from the axeman

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Morrisey’s 50 Most Memorable Quotes

On the Morrissey/Marr partnership

“As he [Morrissey] was evolving that would encourage me to evolve and vice versa. That could be down to something as simple as what you’re wearing on tour or on Top Of The Pops, or digging deeper and taking on themes that you haven’t yet taken on. For instance, where I’d musically be trying to do something that I haven’t done before but is still impressive, Morrissey would be doing the same lyrically.”


On how fame changed things

“We’d become more serious because there was so much expected of us. As individuals it was definitely getting much more serious. Much more serious about the work because we knew we had to deliver something really great. But we would’ve put ourselves under that sort of pressure anyway because you’re constantly testing how good are you and how good can this band be.”

On ‘The Queen Is Dead’ studio engineer Stephen Street

“Stephen was one of us. He wanted to be great in his field in the way I wanted to be great in mine. He was exactly the right person for the job and he found exactly the right band to get where he wanted to be. It felt like there was no grown-ups around.”

On’Bigmouth Strikes Again’

“[Morrissey’s high-pitched vocals were] done with a harmoniser, we just put the vocal through it and set it at some strange interval. We tried a few intervals until we found one that was weird in the right way. Later on we invited Kirsty McColl to come down. Morrissey and I had wanted to meet her because we were fans of her single ‘They Don’t Know’. It seemed like a good way to meet her, to invite her to come down and get in on the session, which was unusual because we didn’t have a lot of guest musicians. She came down and she only appeared on the “ooohs” that appear in the guitar break. That was the start of an amazing friendship and partnership that I had with her, so a lot happened on that day, it was a big day for me.”

On ‘Frankly, Mr Shankly’

“Lyrically it was supposed to be about Geoff Travis. I don’t know whether it is or not. All I can tell you is that it was part of three songs that I wrote all in the same night, alongside ‘I Know It’s Over’ and ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’. Morrissey sent Linda McCartney a postcard [asking if she would contribute to the track] and we got a polite reply saying she couldn’t do it. We were ready for her to come and to sing and play keyboards on it. I wish it had happened.”

On the state of the band making ‘The Queen Is Dead’

“We were really really close, we all loved each other, it was really tight. We had a system, a way of working and a chemistry. If some outside thing happens, if one of the members was criticised then the other three members of the band would rally behind [them]. That’s something people just don’t think about with The Smiths. There were a few things that happened to me onstage and offstage and the band would back me up. A lot of things happened to Morrissey onstage and offstage and us three backed him up to the hilt. That was implicit.”

On the album title controversy

“Only when we decided to name the album ‘The Queen Is Dead’ did I think it was kinda dangerous. It was just part of our mindset to be honest. We didn’t have a concept before we did it, it just felt like part of our world. But when I thought about those four words put together as an album title it started to be somewhat conceptual and that concept was obviously incredibly English and incredibly defiant. Until this moment I’ve never thought of punk rock.”