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Monday, March 4, 2024

The illustrated book “Marr’s Guitars”

IIn October, Rolling Stone released an update to its list of the greatest guitarists of all time. Johnny Marr is in 56th place. Ahead of him are Jack White and Tom Morello, among others. Django Reinhardt came in 70th, Bombino in 199th place. So you shouldn’t take this ranking too seriously. What’s interesting about it, however, is that it seems to confirm a widespread attitude: Johnny Marr, born in 1963, guitarist of the band The Smiths, which was founded in Manchester between 1982 and 1987, is considered by people who deal with pop professionally as a very good, even if not an outstanding musician.

On the other hand, the instrument manufacturer Fender introduced a signature model co-developed by Marr more than ten years ago, which is still available today. It is a Jaguar modified according to the artist’s ideas. According to Marr, the guitar allows you to play everything he does best: wiry, sparkling arpeggios, licks shaken from the wrist, carpets of sound woven and layered in the studio, riffs with African and Caribbean flourishes and surprising chord progressions. Solos? Overrated.

Inextricably linked to people like Joni Mitchell and Neil Young

In the guitar community, Marr is considered untouchable, which you can see on YouTube. He is a guest of Daniel Steinhardt and Mick Taylor in “That Pedal Show”can be found at Shopping for records look over his shoulder and talk in a clip from the string producer Ernie Ball, what makes successful sound textures and why, alongside glam rock, producer Phil Spector is important for his understanding of music. In short, Marr sometimes doesn’t get the applause he deserves from the trade press, but he is highly respected by people who are called nerds and provide content for nerds.

Johnny Marr:


Johnny Marr: “Marr’s Guitars”.
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Image: Thames & Hudson


This target group will also be happy about the illustrated book “Marr’s Guitars”. The musician presents pieces of jewelry from his collection, which Pat Graham impressively photographed. Anyone who continues to leaf through a worn-out Martin D-28 from 1971 with fret markings in the form of so-called “snowflakes” will not adequately appreciate the book, but can at least read that Marr bought the instrument in 1984 and has it on it “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” wrote: “For me, this guitar is inextricably linked to people like Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Bert Jansch.”

The thing about touching and wanting to touch

The grain of the Korina wood of a forty-year-old Fender Telecaster, its string saddles and pickups in extreme close-up, the finely cracked lacquer of a Gibson ES-295 made in 1952, the controls of the Les Paul Gold Top from 1957 that shine like amber, the Marr on Radiohead for the recording of the album “In Rainbows”, the tremolo arm of an orange Gretsch 6120 from 1960, the patina on the screws of an almost sixty-year-old Fender Jazzmaster – it’s true, guitars are made to be played, but what these are for jewels!

This guitar was already appreciated by the Beatles: Johnny Marr, here in 1984, plays his Gibson J-160E (1963).


This guitar was already appreciated by the Beatles: Johnny Marr, here in 1984, plays his Gibson J-160E (1963).
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Image: Angie Marr


It is true that one no longer wants to hear the talk about the aura of those things that one can touch, which has been raised in the wake of the criticism of digitalization that can be heard everywhere. But in view of a ’53 Les Paul in a sunburst look that Marr got from The Who and passed on to the still unknown Noel Gallagher in 1993, who in turn used it in the video for the Oasis song “Live Forever” used, the thing about touching and wanting to touch seems obvious. The same goes for the three-pickup Rickenbacker 370/12, built in 1989, which Marr used frequently during his time with Modest Mouse and the Healers. Photos that show the musician as a young man, in concert or recording the “James Bond Theme” for “No Time to Die” lighten the look of the band.

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