Johnny Marr – Set The Boy Free

Johnny Marr

As a huge, huge fan of The Smiths throughout my teens I was so excited to see Johnny Marr was going to tell all about his time in the band, so I rushed to order his ‘Set The Boy Free’ book. I was even more excited that I got a copy signed by the man himself.

The book starts off fine and gives an insight into his early life in Manchester and how The Smiths came to be, but even early in the book I started wanting more details about actual events. The book just seems to state that events happened rather than giving us any particular emotions he experienced or reactions to any of the other characters. The part where he meets Morrissey for the first time feels slightly underwhelming.

Later in the chapter where they are fighting Mike Joyce in court he’s still not critical of anyone, even though he ends up losing a massive chunk of his personal wealth and future income. Saying that, I can’t help but feel I should be really appreciative of this in the modern Trump/Brexit-era that here is someone who doesn’t resort to personal attacks.

On the plus side, I became obsessed with The Smiths back catalogue whilst reading this book and all of the old vinyl I purchased many years ago is now back at the front of my collection. I even started watching old TV appearances on YouTube and to remind myself how many times I watched these clips on VHS tapes I even recognised people at the front of the audiences from The Tube.

This book would have been a lot, lot better if it just focused on his time with The Smiths, once the band has split it becomes incredibly repetitive as he works with The Pretenders, Electronic, The The, Paul McCartney and others I can’t even remember. It’s obvious he’s so passionate about making music, but The Smiths were incredibly individual for their time and I can’t help but feel Marr was just really lucky to meet someone as individual as Morrissey as his output since has been a pretty damp affair. Only a couple of Electronic tracks are likely to get a future play from me.

He also makes it quite clear in the book he’d love a reunion with Morrissey, which prior to reading the book I don’t think I would have supported, but having repeatedly played their back catalogue for the last few weeks I’d be first at the queue for tickets. If this book’s aim was to try and make that happen then fingers crossed it happens.

In summary, I loved elements of this book but I’d have preferred it being half the length leaving me wanting to find out more, by the time he’s working with The Cribs I was just so bored I started skipping chunks of the book which left me feeling really disappointed.

Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now!

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