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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

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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