This Charming Man And Four Other Unforgettable Johnny Marr Guitar Riffs

2 December 2015, 11:31 | Updated: 16 August 2017, 09:23

Johnny Marr at the Parklife Weekender

As the guitar legend plays the Radio X Road Trip in Manchester, we thought we’d take a look back at some of his greatest work. What's your favourite?

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.



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. 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.


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.