Johnny Marr Book Review ‘Set The Boy Free’

Johnny Marr Book Review
‘Set The Boy Free’
Marr reveals his side of the story in autobiography.

Born in 1960’s Manchester to Irish emigrant parents, young John Martin Maher suffered hardship at the hands of school bullies, mad teachers and football hooligans against a bleak back drop of working class life. Seeking escape through an obsession with popular culture, records, fashion and most dominantly guitar, his heart was set from an early age on forming a band and avoiding a mundane life in a 9-5 job. Practicing guitar constantly, dying his hair black and getting his sister to pierce his ear, he transformed himself into Johnny Marr. ‘Set The Boy Free’ is his long awaited autobiography, which follows his life from humble beginnings with an in-depth and gripping approach. From meeting a torn-up kid called Andy Rourke in the school playground, to later knocking on the door of singer Steven Patrick Morrissey, Marr pieces together the puzzle of The Smiths in forming the unique song writing partnership of a group recognised as one of most iconic in recent history.

Growing up on the council estates of Wythenshawe, Marr spent his entire existence inventing his own musical style on guitar, building up to the moment in 1983 when The Smiths would release their first single ‘Hand in Glove’. Within a year they would release their eponymous debut album, reaching number 2 in UK chart which paved the way for their mainstream and critical success on their own terms. Their renowned performance on Top of the Pops inspired guitarists across the country, with Noel Gallagher saying ‘He was cool as fuck’ and ‘I wanted to be him from that moment.’ Iggy Pop also said; ‘(he was) light on his feet like quicksilver and smoked his cigarette like a star. I’ve been influenced ever since.’

By 1987, tensions within the band hit boiling point and Marr departed from The Smiths, marking the end of one of the most significant British groups of a generation. Though this was just the beginning for Marr as he went on to play with Taking Heads, Pet Shop Boys, Billy Bragg and more. Later he also joined The Pretenders, Modest Mouse and The Cribs before receiving acclaim and worldwide success in his own right as a solo artist.

Johnny Marr’s long awaited autobiography ‘Set The Boy Free’ follows his journey from a lonely boy roaming the streets of Manchester to an inspirational man pushing musical boundaries as one of the most loved guitarist Britain has ever produced. His book is a must for indie fans.


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