“I haven’t talked about the Smiths today yet,” says Johnny Marr upon answering our phone call to do just that, “which is unusual.” Such is life when you played guitar and wrote songs for one of the most iconic bands of the last 30 years. Since parting ways with frontman Morrissey, drummer Mike Joyce, and bassist Andy Rourke in 1987, Marr has resisted riding on his reputation, lending his distinctive silvery guitar sound to a murderer’s row of musicians that includes The The, Modest Mouse, the Cribs, and others as well as his work with his band the Healers.
On the day we called Marr, though, talking about the Smiths was no burden. Rhino Records has recently released remastered versions of the Manchester quartet’s entire catalog and Marr himself oversaw the remastering. To commemorate the occasion, we asked the eternally boyish-looking guitarist to reflect on the band’s four studio albums.
“In terms of the music, I think the first record is kinda like a time capsule. I don’t want to describe the music too much, because then I just sound like a journalist, but I like [The Smiths] because of what it meant and how people heard it as something new when it came out. But it really doesn’t represent how the group sounded at the time. I think a first record should be a document of what the band sounds like live, and we had some aborted recording sessions that sounded more like that than the finished album did. But I don’t not like it. We wanted to be a modern band and impress our friends who had good taste and I think we did that.”