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Johnny Marr


How Johnny Marr gave Noel Gallagher a deadly guitar


We’re dipping into the Far Out vault to look back at The Smiths’ Johnny Marr sharing the story of how he once lent Noel Gallagher a guitar and how, after a naughty fracas, he almost split someone’s head open with it.

Johnny Marr’s contribution to music is substantial and wonderfully potent. Not only was he the musical match to Morrissey’s poetic lyrics as a driving force of The Smiths and, in the meantime, arguably one of the finest guitarists Britain has ever produced, but it appears that he was also a large part of Noel Gallagher—and therefore Oasis’—rise to stardom.

In an interview with Manchester-based TV station Channel Bee, the Manchester legend shared the rock and roll story of how he had a hand in the making of one of Britain’s best bands. Marr explains that he had been to watch Oasis after the band had earned a buzz around Manchester and went to see them play to a tiny crowd which he described as “eight men and a dog”.

Afterwards, Gallagher and Marr were in conversation talking about the gig when Marr says in no uncertain terms to the fledgeling rock star: “You’ve got to get a new guitar”. Noel, during the gig, had spent most of his time on stage tuning his guitar, Marr recalls: “You could go get a pint and come back, and he’d still be tuning”.

With the suggestion of just simply picking up a new guitar, Gallager’s snorts of derision at the ‘rich music man’ were quickly followed up with: “Alright for you, isn’t it? I’ve got like 12 quid.” Despite being in an exciting band, Gallagher at the time was unemployed and on the dole, while Marr had some gold records under his expensive belt. He was quite right. Marr knew it. So Marr did what any gentleman would do and found him one of his guitars to borrow… for a short time.

The guitar was a sunburst 1960s Gibson Les Paul and formerly owned by The Who guitarist Pete Townshend. Shortly after the aforementioned event—which Marr adds some very funny colour to in the video below—Oasis really blew up and started to make it big. It would go on to be his “main guitar” and the instrument Noel wrote ‘Live Forever’ on, it even featured in the video…but that wasn’t the end of the story.

No, while Oasis were on tour, something happened to the guitar, and, in fairness, it is something you’d expect to happen on an Oasis tour. While they were performing, someone had jumped up on stage and started a fight with the gobbier side of the Gallaghers — Liam. Noel saw his brother under attack and acted like any big brother would and levelled a blow at the guy’s head with his guitar.

The considerable damage to the guitar meant Noel was back to Marr with a metaphorical cap in hand and an apology in his mouth. Gallagher was supposedly anxious about Marr’s reaction but, more importantly, that he didn’t have another quality guitar to use.

So he, cheekily (this is Oasis after all), asked Marr to send him another. This one was a black Les Paul and had been the guitar Marr had written all of the iconic Smiths’ album The Queen Is Dead on.

He sent the guitar to Noel with a note that simply read: “This one’s well heavy. And if you take a big swing with this one you’ll take the fucker out!”