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Johnny Marr

The Smiths were one of the great UK singles bands – now Johnny Marr rounds up his first 10 solo 45 releases in a 7” box. The synchronicity of which isn’t lost on John Earls

SINGLE LIFE WARNER

One of the three art prints included in Johnny Marr’s solo singles boxset is a close-up of a tattoo on his forearm, proclaiming ‘45 R.P.M.’ in Parlophone’s font. Marr had it done 10 years ago, when he was 45, to confirm singles have as much religious significance to him as the Shiva tattooed on his other arm. If anyone has lived their life in singles, it’s Johnny Marr.

The Smiths may have been at the vanguard of the 80s golden age of the flipside but, if anything, it’s more significant Marr has been able to compile such a gorgeous-looking box of 7” singles from the past decade, too: precious few other artists are keeping the art of the proper 7” alive. In an era when major labels routinely charge an eye-watering £10 or more for one-sided 7” singles of pre-existing album tracks, Johnny Marr is stoically reminding people of the importance of B-sides. IDLES, Pet Shop Boys, Arctic Monkeys, Saint Etienne and Manic Street Preachers are among the last bands to still bother. The 90s multi-format era, which meant Suede and Oasis were able to release B-side compilations as good as their parent albums, is as baffling to many new music fans as the existence of the cassingle.

Single Life starts out prosaically enough. Marr’s 2012 debut The Messenger is released as a physical single for the first time here, meaning its flipside is merely a demo of future single New Town Velocity. Since then? Single Life has a wealthof ideas and power which co-exists withMarr’s progression across his three albums from the “Decent for a solo effort” chiming rock & roll of The Messenger to 2018’s sprawling, shamanic and psychedelic Call The Comet.

The breakneck ride of Easy Money was the best single of 2014. Just when the up-for-it The It-Switch starts wrapping up as a perfectly excellent pop song, Marr bolts on a magnificent solo, because he’s Johnny ‘Fucking’ Marr and he’s entitled to show off, thanks. Jeopardy lies in wait on Hi Hello’s B-side, ready to rip the unwary to shreds. Spectral Eyes was written for Blondie, before Marr decided it was too good to give to anyone else. He was right to keep it. There’s a sumptuous live version of Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want for nostalgists, while the divergence into technicolour synthpop on brand new single Armatopia suggests album four will be another bright new dawn for someone always out for adventure.

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About Long Live Vinyl

ISSUE 36 OF LONG LIVE VINYL IS NOW ON SALE! We’re turning it up to 11 this month, as Long Live Vinyl pays tribute to 50 years of Black Sabbath and the birth of heavy metal. Our cover story digs deep into the early years of Birmingham's kings of heavy rock, while we also pick out 40 essential metal albums from a genre that has twisted and evolved in multiple directions over the past half century. You’ll also want to strap yourself in as we join Iggy Pop on a debauched journey through the 1980s, and our packed features section bulges with interviews with the likes of Johnny Marr, Supergrass, Wire, Editors and Isobel Campbell. Our Classic Album feature takes a fond look at the record that emerged from the feuding egos of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young back in 1970, Deja Vu, and we sit down for a cuppa with one-of-a-kind cover artist Robert Crumb. If all that’s not enough, you’ll find the most comprehensive range of new album, reissue and hi-fi gear reviews anywhere on the newsstand. Long Live Vinyl is THE magazine for vinyl lovers…