Johnny Marr opens up about the reasons behind The Smiths’ split

Guitarist speaks candidly about his decision to quit the iconic indie band in 1987.

Johnny Marr has spoken candidly about the reasons behind The Smiths’ break-up in 1987.

Guitarist Marr left the band in July of that year and was briefly replaced by former Easterhouse guitarist Ivor Perry. However, Perry failed to gel with Morrissey and by the time The Smiths’ fourth and final album, ‘Strangeways, Here We Come’, came out in September, the band were effectively finished.

In a new interview with The Guardian, Marr blames the break-up on pressure placed on him to manage the band after they sacked a series of professional rock managers.


“It’s what split the band up,” Marr said. “To this day I haven’t met anyone who thinks a major rock group should be managed by the 23-year-old guitar player.”

Asked why he agreed to manage the band at all, Marr replied: “Well, because we were deemed unmanageable. When we fired managers, I always had to deal with it. When we got to the end of the band’s life, it was put to me by my partner that he wouldn’t work with the current manager and we had to go back to how it was. I wasn’t prepared to do it, and so it became untenable. There was no way forward.”

“I was waiting for someone to fix it, and make it so it didn’t have to happen,” Marr continued. “A lot of it was to do with control.”

Before The Guardian‘s writer could ask if Marr felt “forced out”, the guitarist added: “Forced out? Yes, that was the tangible public manifestation of all that.”

“Wow! Check me out!” he continued. “It was the feeling of being tested, and my role in the band being untenable. Just like any break-up, bad shit goes on.”


The guitarist is set to publish his memoir Set The Boy Free on November 3. It follows the release of Morrissey’s best-selling autobiography in 2013.

Elsewhere in The Guardian‘s interview, Johnny Marr talks about meeting with Morrissey and discussing reforming the band. There’s also an extract from his book.

Morrissey recently said that reuniting with The Smiths with Marr “doesn’t make sense any more”.

Read more: Are The Smiths Reforming? It’s Indie’s Eternal Question