Jeff and Jay Meet Johnny Marr

On July 5, 2002 Jeff Stodel, [rhythm guitarist for the Sweet and Tender Hooligans], and me [Jay Tando, a Totally Random Moz Fan], met with one Johnny Marr, formerly of some 80's Manchester "alternative" band called the SMITHS.

Neil Finn, former frontman of the Split Enz and Crowded House, was in town for a show at the Hollywood House of Blues and he had as a special guest the Mysterious Mancunian Madman himself as his lead guitarist for the second half of the set.

A few hours before the show we tried our luck getting into the sound check. No problem. When we walked in, there was nobody but a few sound guys and the band onstage. Johnny was testing out his mic and after a moment he stepped to the side and the road manager was cool enough to let him know that we'd like to meet him. While there was a break in the sound check, Johnny came over and noticed that Jeff had a guitar with him. [Jeff had purchased the guitar a few months ago from a guy in England who said it was Johnny's when he was in the Smiths, and Jeff wanted to validate it's authenicity straight from the horses mouth.] Johnny instantly recognized it as the one he had written "Stop Me If You Think That Youve Heard This One Before" and used during the "Strangeways, Here We Come" sessions and then he took it and showed Jeff the chords for "Stop Me..." and then Jeff, unable to resist, took the guitar back and serenaded Johnny with the opening chords to "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out", with myself on reluctant nervous impromptu vocals. Jeff said "Jay I KNOW you know this!" and implored me to butcher the first few verses. Johnny laughed, "Thats SPOT ON- youve got it right!"

He was very personable and seemed very down to earth and genuinely interested in chatting with us for the fifteen minutes we were with him. We had a few questions for him in the blur:
Jeff asked Johnny what did he consider his highlight of his career in the Smiths?
Johnny said every single thing they did was a highlight. He especially liked "That Joke Isnt Funny Anymore"- and "How Soon Is Now ?" Regarding the former, he told us how excited he was in the studio when he finally laid down the whining guitar bit at the end of the track. For the latter, Jeff said it seems as though "How Soon Is Now ?" has become the "Stairway To Heaven" of our generation. Johnny just smiled and said that he was just starting to become aware of the impact that the song has had. He also added an interesting factoid: he wrote "How Soon Is Now ?" and "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want" in the SAME DAY!

We brought up the Ex-Smiths Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce and I commented that it appeared Johnny had buried any hatchets and he replied that "he never had any hatchets to bury. If I saw them around, I would walk up to them and say hello."  Apparently all of the animosity was created by the press. He jokingly shadow-boxed as he described the medias portrayal of the relations between his former band members. No direct mention was made of Morrissey- though he did say that "I love all those guys. How can you play that many shows and spend that much time together in the studio and not love someone?"

I did NOT want to be the 1,000,000, 000-th dude to ask him about a possible Smiths reunion.

And then suddenly who should appear but NEIL FINN!! I got the privelege of a quick hello and handshake before they were whisked away to dinner before the gig later that evening. 

Later at the Neil Finn show, Johnny first came out unannounced early in the set during the middle of the Finn song "Anytime" and played a beautiful riff on harmonica then just as quickly disappeared from the stage. He returned a few songs later- this time introduced by Neil- to play lead guitar on none other than "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" with Neil doing Morrissey's part on lead vocals. Both Neil and Johnny did a FANTASTIC job. He later played on several more Finn songs and even sang a Healers song, "Down On the Corner" and then for the encore they played (OH MY GAWD!!) "HOW SOON IS NOW?" with Neil doing a smashing job on lead vocals.

He introduced it by saying "We are about to do one of my favorite songs of all time!" and then Johnny rips into the opening riff and the place went FUCKING NUTS!!!

An excellent night indeed.

set list:

FRIDAY, JULY 5, 2002

LOVE THIS LIFE (Neil solo)
HONEY DONT THINK (Neil solo w/ Grant Lee Phillips)
FOUR SEASONS (Neil solo w/ Grant Lee Phillips)
THERE IS A LIGHT* (Smiths song with Neil on vocals)
DOWN ON THE CORNER* (Healers song- Johnny Marr on vocals)
DISTANT SUN (Neil solo)
HOW SOON IS NOW* (Smiths song- Neil on vocals. Marr played harmonica as well as the famous guitar riffs)

* featuring Johnny Marr

Pix from meeting Johhny Marr (the 2nd time) on 2/4/2003 at his CD signing below


Johnny Marr Fans,
Today 5/16/09 I was driving on La Cienega in L.A. and on the corner at 3rd street across from the Beverly Center waiting to cross the street I saw a guy that looked just like Johnny Marr. I got closer and reallized "Holy sh*t! That really IS Johnny Marr!" So I pulled over to the neighboring  parking lot and he was still waiting for the crossing light and I said "Johnny Marr!" And he looked over like he knew me and said hello. I shook his hand and he said I looked familiar. I told him how we first met backstage at a Neil Finn show he played at in 2002 and he said "Oh yeah- you guys had my old guitar!" He then totally remembered me from both of the times I met him! So eventually the light changed again and I said "I'll let you go" as I didn't want to keep him- but that I lived a mile from here and was shocked that I happened to randomly see him and just wanted to say hello again. And we shook hands again and smiled and off he went! Great guy. All class. The irony is that I was on my way to the cell phone store to replace my phone that I had just dropped and broken a few hours before- otherwise I would have more Johnny Marr pix to share with you all!

Back To My Home Page HERE

Morrissey and Marr while they were together in the Smiths in the 80's

Jay Tando, Johnny Marr, and Jeff Stodel

Jeff with his idol, who later signed the guitar and several Smiths records

It was an honor to meet the man who wrote the music to the songs that changed my life!!

Johnny shows Jeff the chords for an old Smiths song

Jeff plays "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" to Johnny

Johnny signed my Neil Finn and Friends DVD "7 Worlds Collide"

Johnny first appears only to play a harmonica solo and qickly exits

He returned a few songs later to a rousing ovation for "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out"

Neil's voice complemented Johnny's guitar like no other's since Morrissey in the 80's...

Johnny sings his Healers' song "Down On The Corner"

Johnny plays the famous opening riff to the Smith's song "How Soon Is Now?"

Neil did a great job with Morrissey's lyrics-... someday I hope to see Morrissey/Marr play it live!

... but until then: THIS was the next best thing! INCREDIBLE to see Johnny live onstage playing it!

He even added a never-been-heard-before twist: a harmonica solo near the end that was AWESOME!

The next day, Neil did a short in-store show and CD signing @ Fingerprints in Long Beach, CA.

Johnny Marr web site HERE

Neil Finn web site HERE

2 More Nights of Marr Mayhem!!
Monday night, Feb. 3rd, 2003: The Troubadour for his live-for-DVD show- ROCKED!!
Tuesday afternnon, Feb. 4th, 2003: Craig Kilborn show taping- Johnny played "Down On The Corner" - AWESOME!
Tuesday night: straight from the studio taping tp Virgin Megastore for CD "Booomslang" signing- and HE REMEMBERD MEETING ME BEFORE ;^)