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Johnny Marr, Writer

Not only is Johnny a virtuoso guitarist and songwriter, but it turns out he has quite a way with words too. Below you'll find information about Johnny's assorted literary endeavours, including book forewords, essays, lectures, and even a bit of poetry...

101 Essential Rock Records
Edited by Jeff Gold, published by Gingko Press Inc. (30 June 2012).

101 Essential Rock Records: The Golden Age of Vinyl, from The Beatles to The Sex Pistols is an overview of rock's most seminal albums. This celebration of the vinyl record, by music industry veteran Jeff Gold, features contributions from musicians Devendra Banhart, David Bowie, Peter Buck (R.E.M.), Nels Cline (Wilco), Robyn Hitchcock, Johnny Marr (The Smiths), Graham Nash, and Suzanne Vega.

The book shines a light on 101 rock albums, well known and obscure, that changed music forever; from The Beatles 1963 UK debut Please Please Me through the Sex Pistols 1977 classic Never Mind The Bollocks. The focus is on vinyl's "Golden Age"; beginning with the explosion of album sales brought on by Beatlemania, and ending in the late 70's, with the advent of Sony's Walkman and the cassette overtaking the LP as the dominant music format.

For the book, Johnny wrote an essay on Iggy and The Stooges' 1973 album Raw Power.

"I'd heard "I Wanna Be Your Dog" by the early Stooges lineup and I thought it was great. I knew Raw Power had something else going on because of James Williamson's guitar playing and maybe Bowie's odd production. Even though it had a famously messed-up mix, the rawness of it didn't phase me because the earlier stuff is actually more basic sounding. What first struck me about Raw Power was a beautiful darkness to it, a sophistication almost. It delivered exactly what was on the cover: other-worldly druggy rock'n'roll, sex, violence, but strangely beautiful somehow. From then on, I just climbed into a world with that record."

        — Excerpt

Read the full text of Johnny's essay.

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or from the official website.

Always from the Outside: Mavericks, Innovators and Building Your Own Ark

After being appointed as a Visiting Professor of Music in October 2007, Prof. Johnny Marr's inaugural lecture, entitled 'Always from the Outside: Mavericks, Innovators and Building Your Own Ark', was delivered at Salford University on 4 November 2008.

In 2012, an edited transcript of the lecture was published on Johnny's official website.

Over the years, I've started to see that there's this idea of the inside, a perception of the music business as being a place, or a group of physical spaces. I thought that and particularly people who want to get into it, or think that they need to get into it, think it's a place. A world that is entirely floored with soft shag-pile carpeting, soft lights, silent, posh, big cars, stylists every day and lots and lots of money, of course, that goes straight in your pocket, where everything's fabulous. But what I'm describing is Simon Cowell's house – and I'm not even sure that exists. That's what people think, that it's a mystical place where you're happy. But it's a world that lasts 12 weeks and stops on Christmas Eve. There's no doorway to the music industry. There's the idea that there's a doorway and there's a classic idea for aspiring musicians of how you get in there.

        — Excerpt, courtesy of

Read the full text of Johnny's lecture.

I Know The Radiant City

A short poem, to be performed as a spoken word piece, was penned by Johnny as part of the Ray-Ban Raw Sounds project in 2011.

'It was important to me that I had things that I was genuinely interested in, otherwise it would just be fake, just be bullshit, and wouldn't have any real feeling in it. So straight off I wrote this poem, a spoken-word piece called I Know The Radiant City. I got most of my ideas out of that one thing.'

        — Johnny Marr, Dazed Digital interview (via

Read the poem below, courtesy of

I Know The Radiant City

Feed the needs of nature.
Feel the needs of nature and invent ourselves.
Waking up to our senses we feel our surroundings.
I see people in Berlin, New York, and they are thinking all the same; my building, my train.
I want poetry, I want real danger, I want goodness.
I want freedom. I want sin.
Le Corbusier helped us to invent ourselves; London, Beijing, vertical diamonds, takes your breath away. Takes money.
Who fears the truth ? It acts against us, but we know our Radiant Cities and what they say to us.
Everyday transformation. Transformation every day.
Thinking all the same.
I know The Radiant City.

Read more about the Raw Sounds project on Johnny's official site.

By Pat Graham, foreword by Johnny Marr, published by Chronicle Books (1 August 2011).

Instruments tell stories through their appearance as much as through their sound.

Pat Graham's photographs capture the intimate relationship between musician and instrument told by the signs of wear of fingers on frets or keys, chips, scratches, and modifications by the artists who have played, beaten on, bled over, and made them their own.

For more than ten years, Graham has been documenting these amazing instruments and collecting stories about them from musicians on the road, in clubs, and at home, including members of The Smiths, Sonic Youth, The Flaming Lips, R.E.M., New Order, Wire, Fugazi, Built to Spill, Band of Horses, Modest Mouse, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and many more. His gritty and beautiful images reveal the physical nature of music.

A friend of Pat's, Johnny contributed the foreword to the book.

There are a lot of myths and ideas about the relationship between a musician and an instrument; all of them true, and all of them are here. As you will see, some musicians carry their instrument through life like a precious object to be protected and treasured; some artists rely on their instrument to do the work in a way that only that particular guitar, or snare, or keyboard can do; while others take it for granted that the instrument they acquired all those years ago will always do what they do together, like a companion or sibling, no question, no option.

        — Excerpt

Read the full text of Johnny's foreword on Google Books.

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Punk Fiction: An Anthology of Short Stories Inspired by Punk
Edited by Janine Bullman, foreword by Johnny Marr, published by Portico (6 April 2009).

"Punk Fiction" is an anthology of short stories, poems and illustrations submitted by an impressive line up of contributors. Each piece of work shares one unifying theme - everything included in this collection will be inspired by a punk rock song. The book will open with a foreword by former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr. Contributors have been hand-picked from the generations that followed the punk revolution; those at the forefront of contemporary popular culture, who have been (and are still being) influenced by the movement, rather than punk's original vanguard. Though they are drawn mainly from music, those involved also embrace all corners of the arts and include some of the most exciting contemporary authors around. The book will act as proof (if any were needed) that the punk rock legacy was not merely musical but that the stones it cast upon the surface of cultural life created ripples that reached into every corner, and exerted a force that continues to this day.

Johnny contributed the foreword to this collection of short stories. £1 from the sale of each book was donated to The Teenage Cancer Trust.

The punk movement began as a covert reaction to the uninspired drabness of the UK's straight culture; it was sharp and funny and switched on. It was about excitement and subversion and being young. But mostly it was about new ideas.

The young and inspired put these new ideas out in an explosion of expression and creativity as they formed new kinds of bands, dressed in their own way (with their own new identities to match). They opened shops and clubs, creating an entirely new kind of lifestyle and aesthetic. Some of them became writers and journalists, some started their own fanzines, and some wrote lyrics.

So much has been said about punk's revolution in music and fashion that the story of its revolution via the printed word has been overlooked.

        — Excerpt

Read the full text of Johnny's foreword at 3:AM Magazine.

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Lowdown: The story of Wire
By Paul Lester, foreword by Johnny Marr, published by Omnibus Press (5 May 2009).

Without London band Wire, punk rock might never have developed beyond primitive three-chord thrash and cliched songs about tower blocks and dole queues. Arguably the first art-punks, the four musicians - Colin Newman on vocals and guitar, Graham Lewis on bass and vocals, Bruce Gilbert on guitar and Robert Gotobed (nee Grey) on drums - evolved fast from their groundbreaking 1977 debut album "Pink Flag", with its 21 short, sharp, minimalist bursts of noise and melody. They were catalysts in the shift from punk to post-punk, paving the way for the likes of Magazine, Gang of Four, Public Image Limited and Joy Division. Paul Lester's book will tell the story of this crucial transitional band, from their early days dodging hostile crowds at punk venues like the Roxy, through their attempts to inject some arthouse experimentation and Situationist subversion into an increasingly conservative punk scene, up to their split in 1981 and beyond their mid-80s return and their various solo projects.It will take you behind the scenes and feature interviews with the original members, following them up to the present, poised as they are to come back with a brand new album and filled with a renewed sense of vigour as one of the most important bands in the last thirty years.

A long-time fan of the band, Johnny penned the foreword, a lengthy essay entitled 'Why I love Wire'.

Wire were doing what became known as post-punk a few years before anyone else. It's almost an anomaly that they happend within punk rock, because they weren't about force; they were about being wire in a much more effective way. They weren't a late-arriving punk band; they were an early-arriving post-punk band. It felt like they cut and chopped and edited everything down to the bare minimum, the bare essentials. You can hear that most obviously on their first two albums, and that was really startling because rock culture was set up to be sacred. They were irreverent in a way that was much more effective than just social rhetoric and gobbing on people or whatever. Colin said that his mission was to destroy rock'n'roll. I love that.

        — Excerpt

Read the full text of Johnny's foreword on Google Books.

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Dazzling Stranger: Bert Jansch and the British Folk and Blues Revival
By Colin Harper, foreword by Johnny Marr, published by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (21 August 2006).

The guitarists' guitarist and the songwriters' songwriter, the legendary Bert Jansch has influenced stars as diverse as Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Paul Simon, Sandy Denny, Nick Drake, Donovan, Pete Townshend, Neil Young, Bernard Butler, Beth Orton and Devendra Banhart. Unassuming, enigmatic and completely focused on his music, he has remained singularly resilient to the vagaries of fashion, being rediscovered and revered by new generations of artists every few years. Born in Edinburgh in 1943, Jansch became an inspirational and pioneering figure during Britain's 'folk revival' of the 1960s. In 1967 he formed folk/jazz fusion band Pentangle with John Renbourn and enjoyed international success until they split in 1973, when he returned to a solo career. Surviving alcoholism and heart surgery, Jansch has recently enjoyed a career renaissance - delivering a series of albums from 1995 onwards which have secured his standing as one of the true originals of British music.

Having often cited Jansch as an influence and inspiration, Johnny wrote the foreword to the book's revised second edition.

From that first hearing Bert gave me new goals as a guitar player, and he has been a massive influence on me - he is rightly regarded as one of the most influential and intriguing musicians to have come out of the British music scene. With the release of his first album in 1965 he completely reinvented guitar playing and set a standard that is still unequalled today. He influenced Nick Drake, Neil Young, Donovan (who then passed his discovery on to The Beatles), Jimmy Page, Bernard Butler and countless other guitar players, some of whom don't even realise they've been influenced by him one step forward. Without Bert Jansch, music as it developed in the sixties and seventies would have been very different.

        — Excerpt

Read the full text of Johnny's foreword on Google Books.

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