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Baker's Dozen

Rubber Rings: Johnny Marr's Favourite Albums
John Freeman , June 16th, 2015 10:33

As he embarks on a world tour, Johnny Marr talks to John Freeman about how his 13 favourite albums have provided career-spanning inspiration for everything from The Smiths to his latest solo record, Playland

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Photograph courtesy of Andrew Cotterill

By 1984, I was convinced that the best band in the world lived at the end of my road. At 13 years of age, I was very nearly right. The Smiths had released their first life-changing, decade-defining singles and a debut album to die for and their magnetic lead singer Morrissey lived 500 yards away from my house, on Kings Road in the Manchester inner-city enclave of Stretford.

And if Morrissey provided the words, Johnny Marr's masterful guitar-playing - giving depth and swagger to the songs' pop beauty - ensured The Smiths would become genuinely iconic and arguably one of Britain's greatest ever bands.

While the last 30 years has seen Morrissey steadily slide into his 'grumpy old vegan' persona, Marr has scattered magic across numerous projects, including Electronic, The Cribs, The The and Modest Mouse, as well as beginning a solo career that's already two albums' strong, following the release of the corking Playland late last year.

Therefore, it's impossible not to be just a little inquisitive about the list of albums that has influenced this most influential of musicians. Sitting in his Cheshire recording studio, Marr skilfully rattles through the reasons behind his choices. He skips between genres - Marr's Baker's Dozen spans soul (Four Tops), proto-punk (The Stooges), post-punk (Buzzcocks and Magazine), art-rock (Wire and Brian Eno), folk (Bert Jansch) and his beloved glam pop (T. Rex). Marr's list contains also three greatest hits/compilation albums - Roxy Music, Dusty Springfield and Four Tops - choices that tip their cap towards his love of the "classic three-and-a-half minute pop song" that The Smiths came closer than most to perfecting.

Indeed, there is a theory that for certain instalments in the Baker's Dozen series that if the 13 choices were smashed together in some auditory hadron collision, the resulting atomic particles would form the structure of the music of the artist in question. I ask Marr whether he thinks his list - on which every choice bar The Velvet Underground's VU was released before 1982 - bears the sonic blueprint of The Smiths. "Yeah, I absolutely do," he says. "All of these albums are in the music I have made and very much in the music I am making now. There is definitely T. Rex in there and there are literally bits of VU in my songs. Wire, Magazine and Eno fuelled the realisation that I wanted to play guitar in a way that was British while trying to break away from American rock clichés. The list is a good indication of all the components of my influences - hopefully I have made some kind of innovation and added my own weird filter."

A little unfairly, I put Marr on the spot and ask which bands might have featured in his Baker's Dozen if he had only been allowed to choose albums from the last, say, 20 years. "It would have been albums with a similar kind of mindset - things like Franz Ferdinand and The Cribs [Marr featured on their 2009 album Ignore The Ignorant]. Franz have a fair bit of Roxy and Eno in them and The Cribs definitely have some Buzzcocks in them. Maybe some Elliott Smith - he has a bit of Bert Jansch in his music. I could definitely find records from the last 20 years. I am still a huge music fan. I still buy records and I am still looking for the same thing - and it feels just as good when I find it."

Playland is out now on New Voodoo Records. Johnny Marr is currently on a world tour, and will be supporting The Who at the British Summertime Festival on June 26; head here for full details. Click on his image below to begin scrolling through Johnny's choices, which run in no particular order

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Asunderground
Jun 16, 2015 10:38am

Phew, that's a relief. I worried we might see Oasis in there...

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Bertie
Jun 16, 2015 11:12am

what's wrong with the Boomtown Rats!

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Jun 16, 2015 12:01pm

In reply to Asunderground:

Why would that be a problem?They have 3 or 4 amazing albums to their name

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Steven M
Jun 16, 2015 12:04pm

No Boomslang?

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Nile Rodgers
Jun 16, 2015 12:05pm

that motherf...

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James
Jun 16, 2015 12:41pm

Love him. So smart and enthusiastic.

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paul
Jun 16, 2015 1:10pm

Might not agree with all of what he says but the enthusiasm for music and the culture that goes with it is admirable. Love you, Johnny.

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Ricardo
Jun 16, 2015 3:19pm

Thank you Johnny for getting it right.
Here is what I posted about it back in 2004 on Amazon:
Best Wire Album By Far!
By Richard Williams on February 7, 2004

Can never figure out the Wire fans who consistently list this last out of the first three albums. Pink Flag has it's moments but most of it's attempts at "punk rock" or whatever are cringe-worthy and embarrassing but understandable on a first release. Chairs Missing ups the ante and finds them branching out and finding their sound more. 154 solidifies their unique vision and around 1979 only PIL and Joy Division share a similar uniqueness of sound that defy pigeon-holing in the post-punk realm and explores whole new possibilities of style and sound. Thus, it makes sense that they broke up after this masterpiece (how could they top it?) and haven't even come close since reforming. I first got this album at age 16 in 80' and it's production values and sound still sound classic today and have stood the test of time- Radiohead, who I do enjoy only wish they could come up with something this original-but in their defense it was already done. I've listened to thousands of albums in a quarter century and 154 remains easily embedded in my all time Top Ten. Indeed, they were the post-punks beating Pink Floyd at their own game.

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Vance Peoples
Jun 16, 2015 3:31pm

In reply to Ricardo:

I agree with you and Johnny Marr on 154. It is a dazzling record... And having the oblique loveliness of "Map Reference" and "40 Versions" either side of "Indirect Enquiries", a song that frequently generates complaints such as "this sounds like someone dying", was such a gloriously violent decision.

I also love that he chose "The Idiot" as his obligatory Bowie album and picked "Dum Dum Boys" out. No music enthusiast should go a lifetime without hearing "Dum Dum Boys"

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teddydogs
Jun 16, 2015 4:23pm

I don't like when the little intro to Bakers Dozen tells you what the person's favourite albums are going to be. I prefer to be surprised after each agonising click up the numbers from 1 to 13. What does this all say about me? That not a lot is going on in my life...

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john p.
Jun 16, 2015 5:36pm

In reply to teddydogs:

That's why I always skip the intro... Baker's Dozen is always brilliant and so is this one (Magazine!)

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john p.
Jun 16, 2015 5:36pm

In reply to teddydogs:

That's why I always skip the intro... Baker's Dozen is always brilliant and so is this one (Magazine!)

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howcanyou
Jun 17, 2015 1:32am

how can anybody pick the mediocrity of raw power over the perfection of funhouse?
makes no sense.

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He-can-because...
Jun 17, 2015 5:10am

In reply to howcanyou:

See what you just did there? You made a completely subjective call on what's your favourite Stooges album. Now, even though I happen to agree with you on the merits of Funhouse, why on earth would you call Raw Power "mediocre". Oh right, because it's your opinion. Just like Johnny Marr has his.

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Christian
Jun 17, 2015 7:36am

No Beatles? I thought Johnny would pick Rubber Soul or the White Album. hum

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Neil T
Jun 17, 2015 3:02pm

It Don't Bother Me was actually recorded in a proper studio, unlike Bert's debut album and, I think, the next two, so any similarity in the sound of the first two albums is coincidental I'm afraid, Johnny.

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paul
Jun 17, 2015 5:33pm

I'd not heard the Bert Jansch, Magazine or the Stones one: Have know and I'm finding hard to live with that! Majestic music.

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and also he
Jun 17, 2015 6:38pm

In reply to howcanyou:

Singles out the guitar playing of a man who was not on Funhouse. The guitar playing that stopped the Stooges being the Stooges basically. But that's my, er, opinion.

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joe
Jun 17, 2015 7:11pm

What no grime? Where's d double?

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joe
Jun 17, 2015 7:16pm

Bidibappbap

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Who's-On-First
Jun 18, 2015 4:49pm

In reply to and also he:

Raw Power ain't no mediocre thang B. Raw Power and Funhouse share a degree of intensity that The Stooges had live. The Stooges is a 8 or 9/10 album, but FUnhouse and Raw Power are 10/10 albums. The Stooges didn't become mediocre until SKull Ring and The Weirdness came out, but Iggy Pop hasn't released any Studio-Recorded non-mediocre music since American Caesar. However Iggy and James can still KILL it live (as of 2013 anyway). OPINIONS

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feldman
Jun 19, 2015 2:48am

I like Johnny's voice as a writer her. Looking forward to his book.
He always had the coolest taste in music.

ROCK! (cue weird solo)

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jbfletcher
Jun 23, 2015 11:00am

Always thought How Soon is Now sounded more Hawkwind inspired than Can.

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Rob J
May 24, 2016 4:33pm

As usual, Johnny's choices are impeccable.
Iggy, Magazine, Wire have been favourites of mine for many decades but it was great to see Eno's "Taking Tiger Mountain". I still recall John Peel
playing "The Great Pretender" in the autumn of 1974, and thinking what
a marvellous track !

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Rob J
Nov 21, 2016 11:04pm

A marvellous selection by Johnny :- Iggy,Wire,Eno and it was lovely to
see Magazine's "The Correct Use Of Soap", one of the finest 80s albums
which still remains overlooked today.
Can't argue with his choices, as I have most of them myself.

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