Rig Report

Johnny Marr

If you’ve never listened to the Smiths’ “How Soon Is Now?” cranked through a pair of headphones – do yourself a favor and make it happen. Now.

  • By Sarah FitzGerald @tonereport
  • December 20, 2013

Johnny Marr has made it to guitar hero status not just because he has been working non-stop since the Smiths broke up in 1987, but because of his inventive, textured playing. Along with the Edge and Peter Buck, Marr was a breath of fresh air in the eighties guitar scene, eschewing overplaying (metal!) and underplaying (punk!) to find innovative ways to use the guitar to create amazing songs (see: “How Soon Is Now?”).

Marr may be one of the more low-key guitar heroes of the last 30 years, but the man has a collection that is to be reckoned with—it takes a guitar village to create the tones that Marr has cooked up in the last 30 years. This week, we’re taking a look at some of the tools he’s used to do it.

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  1. Brian

    Love that jangly sound of JM’s guitar work!

  2. Gemma Seymour

    What I have always loved most about Johnny Marr’s playing is that his influences were all these early country players that I never heard of, and probably still haven’t, not the typical guitar heroes of the 1960s that feature so commonly with others. Listening to him talk about his influences is a lot like listening to John Lennon talk about his influences in the very early days of The Beatles.

    How does he inspire my playing? I don’t know that he really does, which might sound odd, but I’m not sure I can play at anywhere near a level enough for him to properly be an influence on me. The Smiths, for me, and one of those bands that it is virtually impossible to play “like” without sounding as if you are completely derivative. Other bands that fall into this category are The Cure, Cocteau Twins, The Sugarcubes, and My Bloody Valentine. Those of us who came up during the 1980s probably love all these bands, and were influenced by them, but they each were so particular in their sound. We take parts of what we love about them, I suppose. Perhaps in my old age, I will learn to become a better guitar player, and work out how to play The Smiths’ catalogue.

    Which of his guitars would I covet? Well, my primary guitar is a 1990 Rickenbacker 330 JetGlo that is more or less identical to the guitar pictured in this article, and it has been my primary guitar since 1990. So, I think I would have to say that although I have never in the past been tempted by a Jaguar or Jazzmaster, last week I happened upon a Johnny Marr Signature Jaguar in one of my favourite independent shops, and I found it delightful. I had no idea the Jaguar was a 24” scale length instrument, but I had heard from the video on You tube describing the guitar that it has a 7 1/4” fretboard radius, and I have always wanted to try that, because my bony finger make it quite difficult for me to fret barre chords very well on flatter radiuses. I would dearly like his signature model, now.

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