Johnny Marr's best ever guitar riffs: from The Smiths to Electronic
18 January 2020, 19:00 | Updated: 25 October 2021, 17:32
It's guitar legend Johnny Marr's birthday on 31st October... so let's celebrate his musical genius.
The Smiths- How Soon Is Now? (1984)
Johnny took inspiration from 50s rocker Bo Diddley for the hypnotic tremelo guitar riff that powers this classic Smiths track, combined with the funk beat of Hamilton Bohannon's 70s classic Disco Stomp. The shimmering wash of sound was given extra sparkle by a slide guitar part and some chiming harmonics after each verse. Despite all this, record label Rough Trade would only initially release this awesome song as a b-side.
Hear how Johnny Marr came up with the How Soon Is Now riff:
The Smiths - This Charming Man (1983)
The Smiths’ second single opens with one of Marr’s most distinctive riffs, heralding one of the band’s greatest tracks. The cycling guitar part - played on a 1954 Telecaster - is both strident and delicate at the same time.
Electronic - Getting Away With It (1989)
Putting the former guitarist with The Smiths together with the former guitarist in Joy Division would mean only one thing, right? Not necessarily. Electronic bore the fruits of both Marr and Bernard Sumner’s interest in synths, but there was still plenty of axe-play to be found. Their first single together opens with an excellently funky Johnny Marr riff.
Johnny Marr - New Town Velocity (2013)
Marr didn’t record a solo album proper until 2013’s The Messenger, where he performed frontman duties admirably. This love letter to his Manchester upbringing boasts a wistful acoustic riff and a trademark Johnny Marr solo.
The Smiths - The Boy With The Thorn In His Side (1985)
Other Smiths songs may have had more impact, but take another listen to what’s going on in this 1985 single, which later wound up on the classic album The Queen Is Dead. On a solid base of acoustic guitar, Marr delivers peals of plaintive notes, given extra emotional weight by some (fake) strings. The outro is just gorgeous.
Johnny Marr - Hi Hello
This beautifully wistful ballad from Marr's third solo album Call The Comet is a homage to the musician's Smiths days. Just gorgeous.