Johnny Marr - Set The Boy Free book review

Autobiography recalls much more than Morrissey

Johnny Marr Set The Boy Free book cover

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Johnny Marr was 23 when The Smiths finished. Nothing he writes here really convinces that his best music wasn’t over then, when his life had barely begun. That early bond with Morrissey was based on cool recognition that “we’d both chosen a life of total immersion in our passions”.

The paranoid, premature destruction of their group and friendship is wryly summed up by new pal Paul McCartney: “That’s bands for ya”. And to start with it was Marr’s band – that’s made very clear.

He strongly evokes his childhood in an Irish Mancunian family mad for dancing and music. Thirty years of collaborations from The The to Modest Mouse finish the story.

There’s a dulled, Zen-equable edge to the writing, not fully conveying Marr’s passion. But as a memoir of the hot, youthful moments in which rock’n’roll can transform you, it’s still powerfully moving.

Nick Hasted

Nick Hasted writes about film, music, books and comics for Classic Rock, The Independent, Uncut, Jazzwise and The Arts Desk. He has published three books: The Dark Story of Eminem (2002), You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks (2011), and Jack White: How He Built An Empire From The Blues (2016).