Music and Politics: Johnny Marr

This is a really interesting interview with one of the great guitarists of our time. I always loved how Marr made the guitar sound and how he collaborated with such a variety of acts. I got to see the Smiths a couple of times and was really swept up by the music they created both times. The first time was in Trinity when the Ents Officer Paddy Goodwin brought them over with about one week’s notice. There was little fanfare, and as I recall about 300 people there for one of the best gigs of my life. They were still in excellent form when they came back and played two nights in a SFX.

One quote really stood out for me. And I am putting it at the end of this blog entry. Marr finds fault with the original punk movement and it is great to see it questioned and critiqued. There was a fantastic piece of television on recently: a BBC show about Top of the Pops in 1978. I am going to write about that later. One thing that jumped out was how the BBC producers (who came across as a very conservative bunch) dealt with the punk/new wave bands with strong women singers. For Blondie and Debbie Harry with their pop smarts and her conventional good looks the camera lingered on her. For Siouxsie with more challenging and daring music and a more unconventional appearance the BBC authorities slapped on the special effects and made the band appear spooky and weird. Viv Albertine was her usual insightful and composed self in the documentary, and praised Siousxie for being so commanding and composed. A role model for lots of women who took up music.

“We were of that generation that came after punk and post-punk,” he explains. “We’re grateful for the revolution, but there was a bit of homophobia there, and sexism. There wasn’t in indie. People don’t talk about it now, but it was non-macho. If you were an alternative musician, you were political, because of the times [Thatcherism and the Falklands war]. It was taken for granted that the bands you shared a stage with had the same politics. I’m not sure you could say that now.” Johnny Marr 2013

PS for a great insight into Marr, The Smiths and the second-generation Irish in Britian check out Sean Campbell’s incredible book: Irish Blood, English Hear: Second Generation Irish Musicians in England


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