Johnny Marr is releasing a book that documents the guitars in his life and the stories behind them. Marr’s Guitars will feature photography from Pat Graham and words from Marr himself, and hits bookstores on 17 October.
Marr says the book was “a labour of love” that has taken two years to compile, with Graham photographing each guitar in profile, and a series of detail shots taking you deeper into the specs, offering the indie guitar icon a chance to explain their significance to his career.
The book will focus on the most significant acoustic and electric guitars from Marr’s career, from starting out as a young colt with the Smiths, to the gear behind his work with Hans Zimmer on the Bond soundtracks, and his solo work.
Not all of these guitars started out as Marr’s. His current collection includes a Fender Stratocaster that Nile Rodgers gave him, a Hagstrom that once belonged to Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music, and a Yamaha acoustic guitar of Bert Jansch’s. Others Marr has passed along, such as the Strat that Noel Gallagher played on Wonderwall, and a Gibson Les Paul Goldtop that Ed O’Brien took receipt of and used to record Radiohead’s In Rainbows.
Many of them will be unmistakably Johnny Marr guitars, such as the Rickenbacker 330, the Gibson ES-355, and various Telecasters, the most famous of which was a T-style maple-bodied copy in green sunburst made by Roger Giffin. When tracking with the Smiths, Marr would use an early ‘50s Telecaster to complement the Rickenbacker. That became one of his foundational guitar tones on record.
There will be offsets, of course. Marr’s patronage of the Jaguar has been immortalised in a series of signature guitars developed with Fender, the latest of which, pictured top, was based on his original ’65 model and refinished in Fever Dream Yellow. A regular run has them available in Metallic KO and classic Olympic White – all equipped with Marr’s signature Bare Knuckle single-coil pickups.
Other guitars we’d expect to see are his Gretsch Country Gentleman, used with Modest Mouse, his Les Paul Customs, and a Yamaha SG-1000. Arguably the most important in the whole of Marr’s collection his red mid-‘80s Les Paul. Marr might be most commonly associated with the Jaguar and Rickenbacker, but speaking to MusicRadar last year, Marr said the Les Paul is all over his discography.
“For a lot of my clean sounds, people might be surprised, but my go-to is my 1984/’85 red Les Paul that I got for The Smiths’ second album,” he said. “That has been on more records that I have done than any other guitar. I used that through the Cribs, Modest Mouse, everything.”
Marr might have played and owned hundreds of guitars but he admitted that one of the things that keeps him coming back to the instrument is the search for new sounds. There is always more to discover.
“It is one of the things that attracted me to the guitar,” he said. “There is still a mystery to me about it and still things to find, and you can look at it as being quite a simplistic instrument, which again, the Telecaster – we keep coming back to it – and the only guitar I can think of that would be more simple than it would be a one-pickup Les Paul Junior.
“I am always thinking that there are so many things I don’t know about sound and what guitars do that I am excited to discover. That is before you even get into the realms of pedals. So yeah, I am always seeking!”