Johnny Marr Plays 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now' for First Time in 25 Years

Ex-Smiths star explains how he wrote the classic cut

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Kyle McGovern WRITTEN BY
Kyle McGovern

Johnny Marr, former Smiths guitarist and recent solo artist, will be officially declared a "Godlike Genius" by the NME later this month at the British magazine's annual awards show. To repay that hyperbolic honor, the man behind The Messenger recorded a pair of videos for the publication's "Song Stories" series, which asks artists to discuss the writing process behind some of their best-known tunes.

In the above clip, Marr opens up about the happenstance inspiration that fueled the Smiths' sublime self-parody single "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now." As the 49-year-old strummer tells it, in 1984, he talked Sire Records co-founder Seymour Stein into buying him a brand-new guitar (under the condition that the Smiths would sign to the label), and then headed back to his New York hotel room, where out poured the swooning melody that opens "Heaven."

"I was like, 'Where the hell did this come from? I better turn this into a song,'" Marr says, claiming he hasn't played the tune in almost 25 years. "I wasn't sure whether it was a Smiths song, but it was definitely a song."

The Dinosaur Jr. associate also explains the origin of his new single "Upstarts" in the video below. "I thought it'd be a good thing to try and write a... sort of tongue-in-cheek but youthful protest song about defiance," Marr says. "Protest songs are traditionally quite angry or doomy or folky or whatever, so I tried to write a kind of pop song for a kid. A protest song for schoolkids, really."

Marr's upcoming solo debut, The Messenger, arrives in the U.S. on February 26 via Sire/ADA, complete with its post-punky title track and the U2-informed "The Right Thing Right." The indie all-star will embark on a North American tour later this spring, stopping by Coachella and even playing a couple of gigs with New Order. Scroll down to watch the behind-the-song "Upstarts" video and find Marr's 2013 tour dates.

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Johnny Marr 2013 North American tour dates:

April 11 - Las Vegas, NV @ The Cosmopolitan - The Pool (with New Order)
April 12 - Indio, CA @ Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival
April 13 - San Francisco, CA @ The Fillmore
April 15 - Seattle, WA @ Neumos
April 16- Portland, OR @ Aladdin Theater
April 18 - Santa Barbara, CA @ County Bowl (with New Order)
April 19 - Indio, CA @ Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival
April 21 - Denver, CO @ Bluebird Theater
April 22 - Omaha, NE @ The Waiting Room
April 23 - Minneapolis, MN @ Varsity Theater
April 25 - Chicago, IL @ Metro
April 26 - Detroit, MI @ Magic Stick
April 27 - Toronto, ON Phoenix
April 29 - Washington, D.C. @ 9:30 Club
April 30 - Philadelphia, PA @ Trocadero
May 2 - New York, NY @ Irving Plaza
May 3 - Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
May 4 - Boston, MA @ Paradise Rock Club

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