Johnny Marr plays ‘Bigmouth’ on Jools Holland [BBC2, 10pm, 4/6/13].
I bet Morrissey watched Jools Holland last night with a cup of his favourite Ceylon on his knee and thought: fair play to Johnny, that was grand.
I thought the same. I really enjoyed how he played Bigmouth, and some other fans on Twitter agreed with me. It was Marr power, for a short while, until the predictable emergence of the terminally dissatisfied: ‘He sounds good but he’s no Morrissey, his singing voice is not ‘lovely’ enough, etc, etc’. The ‘chat’ rolled on, grew ugly legs and spread over into criticism surrounding Morrissey’s guitarist playing Smiths songs composed by Johnny… and so on and so on.
When will Morrissey or Marr ever be able to perform a Smiths song without being compared to each other or without the absence of the other being noted? They both wrote the songs of the Smiths, and, as artists in their own right, are both entitled to perform them when and how they want to.
There’s not going to be a Smiths reunion. They’re not going to write together again. Why would they? The new Johnny Marr album (The Messenger - http://www.johnny-marr.com) is a triumph. His guitar playing is fast fingered and fantastic. He has his own distinctive look and sound, his gigs sold out because they were a riot, he sounded great on Jools and he doesn't need to prove himself - he’s Johnny Fuckin Marr.
When he sings the songs that he wrote with Morrissey 25-30 years ago, he doesn't sound like Morrissey. His voice is different to Morrissey’s. That’s because he’s not Morrissey. On his recent tour, Marr chose Smiths songs that really suit his voice, Stop Me and There Is a Light in particular. The gig that I attended at Shepherds Bush only enhanced his new album tracks, nit picking fingers as precise, crisp, detailed, sharp and fast as he’s known for. His new album sounds unbelievable in the car, loud and loved.
Similarly, Morrissey has been performing Smiths songs beautifully for years. He’s settled with his band, his voice remains as unique and perfect as ever and his long serving co-writer and guitarist, Boz Boorer does a fine job of How Soon Is Now live. He’s not Johnny Marr. He’s not trying to be Johnny Marr. He’s Boz Boorer. Just trying to do justice to the sound of The Smiths by accompanying the singing voice of an icon, and for that he should be respected. After all, he is the Morrissey co-writer that gave us The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I get, an example of post Smiths work as formidable any track on those first four albums.
The Smiths were perfect, but they have been split up for over twenty-five years. We don’t have to let go, they left a legacy of four studio albums, three compilations and a live album from just a five year period. Rejoice and press play at any time. Listen to the band that gave us a singer, guitarist, bassist and drummer that are legendary; whom together will be remembered as the sound that changed a generation.
But it’s time the tale were told of how Morrissey and Marr were respected individually for performing (in addition to their own body of work) Smiths songs, without the tiresome references and comparisons to the shadow of the other. They wrote and composed them, this is their right, together or apart. Let them get what they want.