JOHNNY MARR: musician

Photography by: Ben Heath, Nathan Ianos and Victoria Schofield    

Words by Harry Potts


Born in Ardwick, Manchester in 1963, Johnny Marr formed his first band at the age of 13. He was part of several bands before forming The Smiths with Morrissey in 1982. The Smiths attained commercial success and were critically acclaimed, with Marr’s jangle-pop guitar style becoming distinctive of the band’s sound, but separated in 1987 due to personal differences between Marr and Morrissey. Since then, Marr has been a member of The Pretenders, The The, Electronic, Modest Mouse and The Cribs and has become a prolific session musician working with names such as Talking Heads and Hans Zimmer.

Johnny against he Apollo’s giant pulley cables

We asked Johnny to choose a location in the city particularly poignant or significant to him, he chose the Manchester Apollo. Johnny grew up only a couple of streets away from the theatre and it became the centre of his teenage life, shaping his desire to break into the music industry. His best selling autobiography ‘Set the Boy Free’ makes multiple references to the Apollo, not least his first meeting with Morrissey at a Patti Smith gig in 1978.

Johnny front of stage at the Apollo

Johnny was very obliging and supportive, making suggestions for locations within the theatre. A technically difficult shoot to do – particularly inside the dark spaces of the Apollo’s stage area – we brought studio flash from college to create interesting directional lighting.

Morrissey and Marr, 1983 (photo: Paul Slattery)


Johnny Marr-1
The Manchester Apollo – Johnny’s favourite music venue

The final images were captured at the side of the theatre against the Apollo’s 1930s brickwork, these shots place Johnny in a setting from any era of his musical career.

Timeless – classic Johnny Marr
On the shoot

Before Johnny left, he discussed the importance of the Greater Mancunians project and emphasised how important it is within the creative industries today, for young Mancunian talent to break through to secure jobs within their own city. Students Ben, Nathan and Vicky did a superb job! They all have their own distinct photographic styles, combined; it has produced an impressive body of work.

Student Ben, waiting for Johnny + his signed guitar


Student reflection: Ben Heath

“Meeting Johnny Marr was a dream come true as he has always been an idol to me. The worry of meeting someone with such a prestigious title disappeared within the first minute of meeting him as he was unbelievably kind and welcoming, he even signed my guitar! Fame clearly hasn’t ruined the person he is, it was a pleasure to meet and photograph such a legend!”


Johnny with students: Ben, Nathan and Vicky
© All images – The Manchester College (unless otherwise stated)


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