Johnny Marr's Top 10 greatest solo guitar moments

3 November 2023, 13:46 | Updated: 6 November 2023, 16:58

Johnny Marr on 10 years as a solo artist

Johnny Marr is marking ten years as a solo artist this month with a new collection, Spirit Power. Radio X looks back at a fantastic decade of performances.

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By Martin O'Gorman

When The Smiths broke up in the Autumn of 1987, Johnny Marr quickly became one of the most in-demand musicians in rock music. He briefly joined Chrissie Hynde in The Pretenders, played on the final Talking Heads album Naked and co-wrote The Right Stuff with former Roxy Music man Bryan Ferry for his Bête Noire album.

Marr joined Matt Johnson's The The for their 1989 album Mind Bomb and later spent time in Modest Mouse and The Cribs as an official member. And while the guitarist issued one album with his band The Healers in 2003, it would be another ten years before Johnny Marr presented himself to the world as a genuine solo artist.

The Messenger was acclaimed by critics and fans, with many praising the musician on his singing voice - he'd usually tended to stay away from the vocals. The album included the singles Upstarts and New Town Velocity and was soon followed by Playland (2014), Call The Comet (2018) and Fever Dreams Pts 1-4 (2022).

Now, with a new compilation, Spirit Power, showcasing the best moments from Johnny Marr's solo years, Radio X thought it was time to take a look back at some of the greatest moments from the legend's live career across the past decade.

There have been plenty of Smiths songs, surprise appearances and guest collaborations - here are some of the best.

John Kennedy is joined by Johnny Marr on X-Posure on Saturday 4th November at 11pm to discuss his solo career and his new book Marr's Guitars. Listen or catch up at Global Player.

Johnny Marr's guitars have appeared on some classic songs!

  1. Johnny Marr re-joins The Pretenders at Glastonbury 2023

    One of Marr's first jobs following the split of The Smiths in September 1987 was with Chrissie Hynde in The Pretenders. The band at that point were in disarray - Hynde was the only remaining original member, with guitarist James Honeyman-Scott and bassist Pete Farndon having both died in the early 1980s and drummer Martin Chambers leaving the group in 1986. Johnny played with The Pretenders until early in 1988, having been brought in by Hynde to take the group back to its "rock" roots.

    At Glastonbury in 2023, The Pretenders made a "surprise" appearance at the Park Stage on the Saturday evening and were not only joined by Foo Fighters and Nirvana legend Dave Grohl on drums for one song, but former member Johnny Marr stepped in to rejoin the band for one night only playing on six songs, including Back On The Chain Gang and Don't Get Me Wrong. And it was beautiful to hear Johnny's guitar on those classics again.

    The Pretenders - Back in the Chain Gang

  2. Johnny Marr plays Mr Brightside with The Killers at Glastonbury 2019

    We've long known that Brandon Flowers is an Anglophile when it comes to music - he named his band after a New Order video for a start - so it was a joyous moment when, during The Killers' headline set at Glastonbury 2019, Marr joined the band during the encore to play the Smiths classic This Charming Man and their very own Mr Brightside.

    The Killers - Mr Brightside (Glastonbury 2019)

  3. Johnny Marr invites young fan on stage to play This Charming Man, 2019

    A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a young fan during Marr's show at the Lemon Grove in Exeter on 29th June 2019. George was able to join his hero onstage for an all-time Smiths classic - and he did pretty well under the pressure.

    Johnny Marr invites nuisance fan onstage to accompany him with This Charming Man!

  4. Johnny Marr & Matt Johnson of The The perform together for the first time in 25 years, 2018

    Johnny Marr almost became part of Matt Johnson's The The project before The Smiths ever saw the light of day, but it wasn't until 1989 that an album emerged with Marr as a full time member - Mind Bomb, which spawned the hit The Beat(en) Generation.

    At Marr's London Roundhouse show in November 2018, he and Johnson performed together in public for the first time in 25 years, covering The Lovin' Spoonful's Summer In The City.

    Johnny Marr and Matt Johnson (The The) - Summer In The City (Lovin’ Spoonful Cover) - Live

  5. Johnny Marr invites Noel Gallagher to guest on Lust For Life, 2014

    There was much excitement at Marr's Brixton Academy show in October 2014 when none other than Mancunian superstar Noel Gallagher joined the ex-Smith onstage for a version of Iggy Pop's classic Lust For Life. Noel even stuck around to join in on How Soon Is Now?


  6. Johnny Marr is joined by Ronnie Wood on How Soon Is Now?, 2013

    The Rolling Stones legend joined the Smiths star when the latter accepted the mantle of God Like Genius at the NME Awards in February 2013.

    Johnny Marr & Ronnie Wood - 'How Soon Is Now?' - NME Awards 2013

  7. Johnny Marr brings out the This Charming Man riff for fans, 2018

    In June 2018, Radio X held An Evening In Conversation with Johnny Marr, in which the musician spoke to the station's John Kennedy about his life and career. And how better to open proceedings than giving a handful of fans the chance to hear this classic guitar part, sat on the roof at Radio X in Leicester Square?

    Johnny Marr plays This Charming Man live

    Is there anything better than hearing Johnny Marr play This Charming Man?! 😍😍

    Posted by Radio X on Monday, June 18, 2018
  8. Electronic reform to play Getting Away With It, 2013

    Well, sort of. New Order played Jodrell Bank in Cheshire in July 2013, offering a set full of classics in the shadow of the impressive Lovell Telescope. Earlier in the day, Johnny Marr had performed a solo set as part of his Messenger tour... So the opportunity for Bernard Sumner to join Marr onstage for a version of Electronic's 1989 debut single Getting Away With It was too good to pass up...

    Electronic 'Getting Away With It' HD @ Jodrell Bank, 07.07.2013.

  9. Johnny Marr joins Pearl Jam on stage at Hyde Park, 2022

    Johnny joined Eddie Vedder and co for a version of Neil Young's Throw Your Hatred Down at the band's headline set at British Summer Time in London's Hyde Park in June 2022. He came back on later to join the grunge veterans for a cover of Baba O'Riley by The Who.

  10. Johnny Marr performs No Time To Die with Billie Eilish and Hans Zimmer, 2020

    Johnny worked with frequent collaborator Hans Zimmer for the theme to the 2021 James Bond movie, which was co-written and featured vocals by pop sensation Eilish. The BRIT Awards seemed like the perfect chance to give the song its live debut. Incredibly, it's only the second Bond Theme to hit Number 1 in the UK after Sam Smith and Writing's On The Wall.

    Billie Eilish - No Time To Die (LIVE) | The BRIT Awards 2020

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