Morrissey and Marr should reunite
Last week there was some Twitter action hyping the idea that Johnny Marr and Morrissey were in the same city at the same time. This is what happens now. The Morrissey/Marr story has been the subject of several books, including The Severed Alliance, and it is at the heart of any story about The Smiths now. It was - really - always the story of The Smiths.
It is also the question asked of both Morrissey and Marr whenever they're interviewed - will there be a Smiths reunion; will they make new music together or at the least celebrate the old? It's an old chestnut and you can almost feel that the journalists are bored-but-desperate to ask it. What if - one day - they got the scoop? It's just a question that has to be asked. Marr has a new album out, so he's getting asked about it again. Morrissey has been touring - so he's getting asked about it again.
Morrissey has always said The Smiths will not re-form, there will be no reunion. Marr has been open to collaboration with a range of musicians across his career post-Smiths because he is, to be frank, a sideman, not a leader. Any album with his name on it shows that. Most recently Marr said he hasn't talked to Morrissey in a long time.
The Smiths made some great music but the musicians in the band are not on good terms now - and haven't been for a while. There have been legal battles. It has all been a bit ugly; the way it often is when a band breaks up.
But if listening to Johnny Marr's new solo album showed me anything - and seeing a strong live show from Morrissey last year indicated this too - it's that Morrissey and Marr should reunite. Just the two of them. Don't make it The Smiths. Don't call it that. But have Moz and Johnny on the road together performing shows; have them in the studio working together.
Johnny Marr's latest album is one that fans will want to love and will therefore suggest it to be a lot greater than it is - but the best bits of it feel as though they would sound a lot better with Morrissey singing.
Morrissey has made some decent albums across the past decade - the "comeback" of You Are the Quarry had him redefined as a modern-day crooner and though he got some of his grunt back across the albums that followed Quarry, he's missing the Midas Touch that Marr can deliver.
You listen to Johnny Marr's record and that guitar playing is there. Hints of what made him great; traces of why he's still remembered as a thinking-man's guitar-hero, a tasteful tastemaker of a player; his lines are as crucial to so many of The Smiths' songs as Morrissey's lines. The crisscross of the wit and wisdom of the lyrics against and with the guitar parts that always seemed to be moving, that kept the songs fluid but focused, that is what gave The Smiths angles. That is where their particular angular sound comes from. This is not to say that Andy Rourke (bass) and Mike Joyce (drums) did nothing for the sound. They did. Of course they did. They were the rhythm section and their contribution to The Smiths is crucial.
But this is about Morrissey and Marr rather than about The Smiths as such- and in that sense it's a bit like Buckingham and Nicks. They had the vehicle of Fleetwood Mac to return to (and they did), because that vehicle never stopped travelling. But their story is a big part of what sells the sound of that version of Fleetwood Mac. And I like to imagine that if they did not have Fleetwood Mac to return to they would have found a way back to their earlier duo framework, to return to the music they wrote together before Fleetwood Mac.
It was the same with Page and Plant re-forming in a more concrete way than Led Zeppelin ever has. People want the story as much as they want the music. That is what reunions are about. That is what sells the reformation.
And in this case it is definitely more about Morrissey and Marr than it is about The Smiths.
They could put together a great show. Moz still sings some Smiths songs. He sounds good too. Marr can still play. And wouldn't it be great to hear him playing some songs that are actually terrific rather than when he was chewing scenery/killing time with The Cribs or taking lacklustre solo material on the road?
I'm calling for a Morrissey and Marr reunion. Rather than a Smiths reunion.
Who else would like to see that? Would you like to hear new music from these two? Or at the least recreations of the songs they wrote together in another life from another era?
Or do you think this is a terrible idea? Could it ever happen? Is it something you are hoping for? Or has all hope gone out the door long ago?
You can also check out Off the Tracks for The Vinyl Countdown, reviews and other posts.