Johnny Marr On Playing The Smiths’ Songs In Concert

You played some Smiths songs when you were touring The Messenger; was it as big a deal to you as it was to the crowds?

If nothing else, I understand the significance of it from looking at the audience’s faces when we go into those songs. There’s a couple of ways of looking at it, really. You could be quite precious about what you’re doing, and about legacy and that kind of stuff, but frankly, you’re probably forgetting about what music’s supposed to be for. There comes a point where theorising can become over-analysis, and then you’re just in the realm of being an academic – I’ll do everything I can to avoid that. On stage, it’s the last thing you want to do. I think there was a time in my life where I wouldn’t have been playing those songs, and that’s OK too, but another way of looking at it is that if you’ve got songs that people really, really love, then you’re pretty fucking lucky. You need to be able to avoid thinking about it too much. Art and entertainment don’t necessarily need to be mutually exclusive.

Put it this way: if I go to see a band I really love, say Television or Broken Social Scene, I don’t want them to be stood there with some fucked-up attitude. I want them to be enjoying playing. I want the band to know that the audience are behind them, and I want the band to reciprocate. That’s how it feels when we play the old songs. It’s not a nostalgic, misty-eyed trip down memory lane – far from it. It’s still a celebration of the here and now; just that joy of sharing music, the same joy that leads you to say, “check out this intro”, or “how about this riff”, you know? Especially now, when we’re playing new tracks that people like; it’s all good, man.

Via CoS