‘Strong Forever’ is released ahead of a new album by the band comprising Rourke and ex-Happy Mondays guitarist Kav Blaggers.
Rolling Stone reports that the track has seen many changes after starting out as a charity single for an anti-discrimination in football campaign that featured former Kasabian singer Tom Meighan alongside Marr’s guitar contributions.
But following Meighan’s domestic violence conviction in 2020, the Blitz Vega song was reworked minus the charity angle and developed (co-produced with DJ Z-Trip) over the last two years.
Blaggers told Rolling Stone: “Andy [Rourke] calls me and he says Johnny said he’ll record some guitar on the track. I was like, ‘What? Johnny? Johnny Marr?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah,’ in his laidback but very Mancunian way.
“I wanted exactly what Johnny does,” Blaggers explained of why he asked Marr to play on the track. “He has a very distinctive sound, and that’s what he did. We love what he brought to the track.”
Blaggers ended up replacing Meighan’s vocals with his own and the group put the finishing touches on the track this year.
Rourke, who recently made a guest appearance at one of Marr’s New York City shows, reflected on reuniting with his old bandmate. “We’ve remained friends, we’ve known each other since we were 13 years old,” the former Smiths bassit said. “He’s my oldest and dearest friend and I feel our friendship gets stronger as time passes.”
Blitz Vega are releasing an eight-song 12-inch vinyl for Record Store Day next year as well as a run of singles. There is no word yet on an album.
Launched in partnership with The Salford Foundation Trust, the Johnny Marr Award will be presented to a Salford musician aged under 25 to help further their budding career.