Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday randomness: 5 reasons why Johnny Marr is a genius

It's a week for lists and music, so the other night when I put on Neil Finn's "7 Worlds Collide" live album it inspired thoughts about why Johnny Marr is a genius.

On the Finn album Marr plays his own "Down on the Corner," and then Neil does his best Morrissey impersonation on The Smiths' "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out."

One of the fun things about bands breaking up is that you hear the creative folks individually, and you can tease out what each member contributed. Usually your impressions of the group overvalue the contributions of the lead singer. Once I heard Morrissey's first solo album (not a bad album, mind you), it became crystal-clear what Marr had contributed to the Smiths.

In general, Marr is the great counterexample to the "singer as major contributor" mindset. He never sings (until his turn on the Johnny Marr & the Healers album). But he is sideman extraordinaire. He is without a doubt the greatest rhythm guitar player ever, and a great composer. Listen to these five songs he contributed to and let me know if you agree:

1. The Smiths, "Girlfriend in a Coma"

2. Electronic, "Get the Message"

3. Bryan Ferry, "The Right Stuff"

4. Johnny Marr & the Healers, "Down on the Corner"

5. Modest Mouse, "Dashboard"

And for those who haven't had enough Johnny Marr by the end of this post, here is a transcript of a lecture he gave recently at the University of Salford. (It does deal with innovation, so this is not just a lazy Friday post!)

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