We all have songs in our life that we can pinpoint as affirming moments, and Johnny Marr is no different. The Smiths guitarist was only a child when he stumbled upon the glitzy sounds of Mark Bolan and opened his eyes to the euphoria it’s possible to feel through music.
Marr has always been inherently cool. Even as a kid, he was never into embarrassing music. There were always records flying around in his family’s house when he was growing up, and once he turned ten, Marr began building his own treasure trove of records, which continues to grow today.
The guitarist immediately fell in love with T-Rex, and although he didn’t know anything about the group apart from Jeepster, The Smiths founder felt like they deeply spoke to him. His identity became centred around the band, and for the first time, Johnny Marr had found a group which profoundly spoke to him.
Speaking to The Quietus, Marr cast his mind back to his youth and remembered: “I always say that T. Rex were my band when I was a kid. What I mean by that is so much of my identity was about being a T. Rex fan. A bit like choosing your colours as to which football team you would support, when I was nine or ten I found T. Rex.
“I was obsessed with Bolan. At that point, coincidentally, they were about to hit their stride as a commercial and artistic force. They had released Electric Warrior and they were on the precipice of being the most important band around.”
After stumbling upon Jeepster, Marr began diving deeper into the band’s repertoire, and one particular song from The Slider had a transformative impact on him.
He continued: “The Slider came out and it had ‘Metal Guru’ on it. It was a song that changed my life as I had never heard anything so beautiful and so strange, but yet so catchy.”
Looking back upon himself at that age, Marr reflected: “I was a teenybopper at the time. I was ten, eleven, buying lots of records and loving the pop music I heard on the radio.
“I consider myself very lucky that what was on the radio at the time and the music being made for very young children happened to have some substance to it. T. Rex was pure pop, but it was coming from someone who had had a go at being a hippy and being a mod.”
As early forays into music go, there aren’t many better gateway drugs than the work of Marc Bolan and T. Rex, which put Marr on the right track that eventually led to the birth of The Smiths.