To everyone getting hysterical over this slightly negative thing Johnny said about the Smiths - do yourself a favor and listen to the whole interview. It is lovely and Johnny says a lot of nice things about Morrissey and the Smiths. Don’t let the press who cherry picked this one quote push your buttons - sound familiar? It’s an interesting hour of mostly Smiths talk and some great guitar playing.
But that's what Johnny always does - says lots of nice things, but gets in his little dig. I'm not saying he shouldn't criticise Morrissey - fine, if he wants to. But I get tired of the media swallowing or pandering to Marr's 'Mr. Nice Guy' when in fact he's a pretty ruthless, egotistical guy. And it was his ego, as much as it was Morrissey's, that ended The Smiths.
I was watching footage of their 1986 concerts and Marr is pretty embarrassing. Aside from the flashy suits he was sporting on that tour, it's the attention-seeking way he jerks around - he so obviously resents Morrissey being the focus of attention, and so obviously didn't appreciate what an asset the group had in their lead singer's charisma onstage. And in the studio he just couldn't come to terms with the fact that he was 'just' the guitar player, and in the background. I mean, Christ, he was Johnny Marr! The best pop guitar player/composer in the country, for my money. But you can see from the way his career has panned out that that wasn't enough for him.
If you look at footage of one of the early Smiths gigs (I think maybe the second gig) he's got a microphone and he's doing backing vocals. Then by probably the third gig, that's gone. But Marr, however inappropriately or for whatever reason, wanted to be a singer and a front man. He was frequently dropping little asides in interviews in the late 80s/90s about how he'd done backing vocals on this record and that record. Then he was 'persuaded' by Chrissie Hynde to sing 'Meat is Murder' live. The 'The Healers' then his 'solo' records.
My point being that his career as a singer/songwriter has been a non-event, but he has pursued it doggedly because he is surrounded by yes-men telling his he's great, who pander to his ego. And that's what he always wanted. He portrayed himself as a 'journeyman guitarist for hire' in the late 80s/early 90s, and that is what he would have excelled at, but he wanted to be a pop star, and so we got the underwhelming 'Electronic' project and his duff solo records.
I don't think Marr was wrong to quit The Smiths - if that's what he wanted, fine. But I do think he under-appreciated, and perhaps still under-appreciates Morrissey's talent. And I certainly think he underestimated Morrissey's capacity to make it as a solo artist, and probably 'quitting' The Smiths was just a political manoeuvre on his part, figuring that after a couple of years in the pop wilderness, a chastened and humbled Morrissey would be coming to him cap in hand, and Marr would have re-established his primacy in a re-formed Smiths. But he miscalculated big time.
The quote from Marr in this interview about Morrissey being too outspoken, and the way he slips it in amidst all the niceties, just typifies his attitude. He just doesn't get, and will never accept, that as big as his role was in The Smiths, and as big as his contribution was to their success, it was Morrissey who was the front man and the soul of 'The Smiths' - vocal melodies, lyrics, artwork, look, press interviews.... it was Morrissey who made them 'The Smiths'. And I think Marr still doesn't get that, or still resents it. Because if that wasn't the case, he wouldn't be saying daft things like this in interviews - basically expressing the desire that Morrissey (and by implication therefore 'The Smiths') had been a bit less