Every music lover has that one first album that instantly connected at a deep, profound level – and Johnny Marr was no different. It would be fate that made the former Smiths guitarist catch eyes with a record that remains his favourite to this very day, one that changed his outlook on music forever.
Even as an adolescent, Marr had started to exhibit the prodigal instincts on the guitar that would later solidify his legacy in the annals of rock and roll history. It would be his talent that allowed him to associate with like-minded individuals much older than himself, rubbing shoulders with some of the most revered artists within the Manchester music scene. It was a crowd that provided Marr with knowledge and insight into bands that nobody else knew about his age, a moment that would elevate Marr’s musical IQ beyond his years.
Billy Duffy, who would later be a member of The Cult, was one artist that Marr hung around with during his formative years, and one recommendation Duffy made would have a transformative impact on Marr’s record collection. Speaking to Spin in 2012, Marr recounts how he “heard me playing a riff I’d written, and he kept saying that it sounded like James Williamson from The Stooges, who I had never heard”.
Before that moment, The Stooges had never cropped up in his life – but that soon changed. The respect that Marr held for Duffy’s opinion compelled him to submerge himself in Williamson’s work, and as luck would have it, he found the material in one of his local record stores stocked. Immediately, Marr “got an actual physical jolt from the cover and vibe of it”. A week later, it was finally his to own for just £3.50.
Marr later recalled: “What first struck me about Raw Power was a beautiful darkness to it, a sophistication almost. It delivered exactly what was on the cover: other-worldly druggy rock’n’roll, sex, violence, but strangely beautiful somehow. From then on, I just climbed into a world with that record”.
The next few months of Marr’s life was spent imitating Williamson in his bedroom. Despite his grey concrete surroundings in Wythenshawe, The Stooges provided Marr’s life with an injection of vibrancy that he’d later scatter into his work with The Smiths. He remembered, “I spent an entire winter playing guitar along with the album in my bedroom, in the dark, orange streetlights coming through the windows, when I was sixteen. Its influence came out on the Smiths album The Queen Is Dead“.
A few years later, Marr again found time to wax lyrical about Raw Power during a discussion with Fred Perry Subculture, a conversation in which he was asked to name his most treasured song from his favourite album. With that, he elected to name ‘Shake Appeal’.
While tastes constantly change as artists weave in and out of all of our lives, some albums are here to stay, and Raw Power will be alongside Johnny Marr until he draws his final breath.