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The Smiths nearly reunited in 2008, reveals Johnny Marr

on October 29, 2016, 12:18pm

In an era of where reunions aren’t just common, they’re expected, The Smiths are one of the few remaining holdouts. As it turns out, Morrissey and Johnny Marr nearly reunited in 2008.

In his new memoir Set the Boy Free, Marr reveals that he and Morrissey met in September 2008 for a rare face-to-face to discuss the remastering of The Smiths’ back catalog. Eventually, the topic of a reunion came up, “and in that moment it seemed that with the right intention it could actually be done and might even be great,” Marr writes in an excerpt posted by The Guardian:

“The drinks kept coming and we sat talking for hours. We chatted, as we always did, about the records we loved, and eventually we moved on to “that subject”. There had been rumours for years that the Smiths were about to re-form, and they were always untrue. I had never pursued any offer.

“Suddenly we were talking about the possibility of the band re-forming, and in that moment it seemed that with the right intention it could actually be done and might even be great. I would still work with The Cribs on our album, and Morrissey also had an album due out. We hung out for a while longer, and after even more orange juice (for me) and even more beer (for him) we hugged and said our goodbyes.

“For four days it was a very real prospect,” Marr recounts. He began discussing the scenario with his current band, The Cribs, about how he could balance both bands. He would also need to find a new drummer, as both he and Morrissey refused to work with Mike Joyce due to his 1996 lawsuit against the pair.

“Morrissey and I continued our dialogue and planned to meet up again,” Marr continues. “I went to Mexico with The Cribs, and then suddenly there was radio silence. Our communication ended, and things went back to how they were and how I expect they always will be.”

Marr says he last communicated with Morrissey in 2010 after emailing him a photo of from the UK Student Protests. “The next day I was sent a photograph of a protester called Ellen Wood who was confronting the police in a Smiths T-shirt. I stared at the photograph, her stance, the Houses of Parliament. The significance of her wearing the Smiths shirt made quite an impact on me. It occurred to me that, aside from the music we made, that picture could be the most powerful testament to the Smiths’ legacy.

“The only other person I knew who might comprehend it the same way was Morrissey, and so I emailed him the picture,” Marr writes. “There’d been no contact between us for a long time, but I got a reply within minutes. He hadn’t seen the picture, and he was equally surprised and impressed. Our communication continued for a day or so, but although I felt I’d created a moment of friendship, an air of disaffection and distrust remained between us. It was a shame.”

In a follow-up interview with the Guardian, Marr said his 2008 conversation with Morrissey “came out of the blue. I didn’t go there with [a reunion] in mind. But there had been quite a few rumours about it, so naturally we discussed it. ‘It could happen…’ ‘How d’you feel about it?’ ‘What if?’ And off we went.” Who was more keen? “I think we were both as keen as each other.”

Despite persistent rumors of a Smiths reunion, including a standing offer from Coachella, Marr told the Guardian that he now believes such a scenario has “run its course. I don’t feel unfriendly in any way towards Morrissey – there’s just no need for it. One of the things we had in common was that we lived for work, and we’re too busy doing what we’re doing now.”

Set the Boy Free is scheduled for release on November 3rd. The Guardian has posted an extensive excerpt from the book as well as a career-spanning interview with Marr, which you can read in full here.

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