The Smith’s Johnny Marr recently reflected on the advice that led to the turning point in his approach to electric guitar and noted how he still exercises daily.
The Smiths guitarist might have enjoyed his share of larger-than-life moments of rock stardom. For example, when the beloved British band performed “This Charming Man” on Top of the Pops — but he was never the kind of player to hog the spotlight indiscriminately.
Marr’s jazzy licks always served the song and took up more sonic space when needed to bolster the experience.
Johnny Marr revealed during a recent interview on the “Broken Record” podcast that it wasn’t always so, given that he grew up amid the guitar hero craze. Going back to a quote by John Lennon or Keith Richards — Marr is not sure who exactly said it — the guitarist explained how it changed his outlook on the six-string (transcription via Killer Guitar Rigs):
“When you start off, if you are really obsessive as I was, some bits of information really stick to you. And there was either Keith Richards or John Lennon, I think, saying that the most important part of being a guitar player is being able to play rhythm.
“And to a 12-year-old boy whose pals are all going, [guitar solo], and I tried to play all this shreddy stuff, or whatever, when I read that information, I was kind of like, ‘Huh.’ It sounded really noble to me.”
“And then obviously, as time went on, and I got into people like Keith Richards, or obviously Nile Rodgers, people like that, and Jimmy Nolan, who played with James Brown, and any number of really great rhythm players.
“That’s just one of the chapters you need to go through. It’s just part of being a guitar player. I just think it’s really cool to just be appropriate to the song.”
Marr also noted how he still sticks to a daily practice routine, saying:
“I practice every day. I go for periods where I just practice, practice, and then I play absentmindedly when I’m around the house and watching TV.
“But I’m going through another phase now where I’ll come in this little studio here and put the headphones on, and I just play and play, and try and get my chops up. Maybe that’s because I’m going out live, or… I don’t know why.”