Tales from the Backroom

“Every record store has that one backroom… that one corner or nook where one stumbles upon stacks of the forgotten and unknown. Where lost liner notes dance amongst obscure gems with torn jackets. Obscure gems…the ones you now realize weren’t a figment of your imagination, they were just…left of the dial.”

Well hello, puppets! So glad to have you back again this week here in the backroom at the dial. Did ya miss me? No need to answer that loves, I know you did. Well, hurry along now. Grab your seats, get comfy, and settle in for this week’s storytime! We’re talking about one of my all-time favorite guitar players, who occasionally plays the bass as well.

The list of amazingly talented guitarists is a long one. It stretches a vast number of people, far and wide over all genres of music. You’ll hear familiar names like Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Clapton, Hendrix, Townsend, Page, and Van Halen. To other names such as Chuck Berry, Jeff Beck, Chet Atkins, Robert Johnson, Django Reinhardt, Richie Blackmore, Buddy Guy, Scotty Moore, Zappa, Satriani, Tom Morello, Prince, and more. We all have our favorites that we hold near and dear to our hearts as well, regardless of whether their name ever made a list of bests or not. As for me, one of my near and dears is none other than The Smith’s co-founder, Johnny Fuckin Marr.

From the moment I heard The Smith’s, I was in love. Not only for their lyrics that slowly took you by the hand, pulled you close, and ever so gently caressed the side of your face; running their warm, ever so hauntingly familiar fingertips down your neck until reaching your chest and plunging their darkness into your heart while staring straight into your soul…

But that guitar…. damn who was playing that guitar?

Marr quickly became my end all be all guitarist. His style sounds so simplistic but yet is so very difficult to actually sit down and duplicate. While it’s more than obvious that he was influenced by The Beatles, he was also heavily influenced by African Highlife and Soukous guitarists to whom were quite popular during the early 80s in the UK (Which would explain to those who are familiar where he gets his progressions, arpeggios, riffs, and melodies from).

He’s extremely well versed in three-string chord inversions, which makes him very good at occupying and blurring the line between rhythm and lead. This also allows for him to voice lead between chords so it sounds smooth and creates melodies within the harmony. Throw in those little one-of-a-kind riffs, that end up being more like embellishments strung together like stars in the night sky to create rolling lines and you’ll now know why I can identify Johnny playing on any track I hear from any band- and trust me, he’s quite the rock n roll journeyman.
While Johnny may be famous for co-founding The Smith’s, he so has an extensive resume for himself outside of that as well. He has worked with artists such as The The, Kristy MacCool, Talking Heads, Bryan Ferry, Dream Academy, Everything But The Girl, Pet Shop Boys, Mojo Nixon, Crowded House, Death Cab For Cutie, Muse, Modest Mouse, Oasis, The Killers and beyond. He has composed and produced countless songs and albums, he was a member of the supergroup Electronic, devised of members of New Order and Pet Shop Boys. And he even has his own solo career and was touring with The Killers until COVID came round and took away everything that was good in life.
Now, speaking of Johnny working with Oasis. What would you say if I told you that Johnny Fucking Marr played a role in Oasis’ start? I mean, anyone who’s ever heard Marr play several Smith’s tracks then and then listened to Oasis, Supersonic must know the huge influence Marr was on Noel, right? No? Well, ok. Let me lay this music knowledge down on ya then!
The second I heard Oasis’ Supersonic I immediately loved it. To me I could hear that Noel was heavily influenced by Johnny Fuckin Marr and as it turns out I was right.
According to an interview with Channelbee.com in October of 2019, the story of Marr and Gallagher goes something such as this.

Marr was a popular face at very early Oasis shows when they were playing for no more than 20 people. Noel approached Johnny one night and asked what he thought. He told him he loved it however he needed a proper guitar because he spent more time looking at his tuner than playing to the crowd. Noel barks back that it’s easy for Johnny to say, he had money and Noel did not. Johnny went home and pulled his 1960 Gibson Les Paul sunburst that Pete Townsend gave him and brought it to Noel.

Weeks later Oasis blew up and Johnny is reading in the Music Press “Marr gives guitar to band” he goes on to describe that it was made to seem, “As if he and I had met on a grassy knoll at midnight in our shades and I had walked up onto the knoll and passed him the Les Paul like Excalibur and said here, keeper of the flame. Taketh thy Les Paul and lay down some heavy licks.” As it turns out, he did just that as Noel later went on to write Live forever and other tracks off of Definitely Maybe with it. (He’s seen with the guitar in the video for Live Forever as well)
Months roll by and Johnny gets a frantic call. Noel has broken the Les Paul. A fan jumped on stage and begins to fight Noel and Noel cracked him over the head with it. He’s worried Johnny will be mad but also needs a solid guitar for their gig the following night. What’s Johnny do? He sends him his black Les Paul that he wrote Big Mouth Strikes again and most of The Queen is Dead album on and encloses a note saying “This one is good and heavy so if you can get a good swing with this one, next time you’ll take the fucker out.”
Years later in 2004 Johnny was playing a solo on an Oasis track and out of nowhere was handed back that very same black Les Paul he so graciously gave Noel years before. Not long after that, the brothers stopped playing, turmoil rose to an all time high and they officially split. So when I tell you that Johnny Marr is the end all be all, it would seem that he really is.

Well…. to me he still is!

This weeks music recommendation is Phoebe Bridgers. She’s a 26 year old California native who’s been on the scene since 2014. I first heard her singing backup on a song by Lord Huron called “Night We Met” If you’re a fan of Throwing Muses, Belly and Tanya Donelly, (ya know, because they’re all Tanya. Lol) then you’re really gonna dig Phoebe. She comes with that same vibe and shes quite raw and revealing. Her newest album released back in June is called Punisher. Which is pretty deep in nature as well as quite personal, she covers things such as fragmenting relationships, dissociation and manifestation. Give it a go and let me know what you think.
Coming up next week…. What the hell is a Duranie and why is there a guy outside of Seattle who has put together one of the worlds largest archives for other fellow “Duranies”? Hmmmm guess you’ll need to stop back and find out huh?
Jenna Lynn
Jenna LynnColumnist. Writer. Siren
I am a lover of all things cool. Music is one of those said cool things. My mother always said I came out of her with a damn radio in my hand which is both telling and frightening at the same time. HA! I’m an undercover nerd. I like comic books. Comic book movies, vinyl, horror, and catching as many local shows as well as big artist shows as possible. I love to read and learn new things. I love culture. I know a little about a lot. I’m a jack of all trades, master of nothing. 

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