Well, I went to see Johnny Marr in Leeds on Wednesday night. He was playing the O2 Academy, which used to be the Town & Country just across from Jacob Kramer where I did my Fine Art Foundation sometime shortly after the dissolution of the monasteries. This (the gig-going) was part of my Andy Annuals – being a now decently well established rhythm of meet-ups with an old schooldays friend. Last year it was Depeche Mode – about which leather-trousered stomp and circumstance I crowed about here – and the year before was, crow-like, Gary Numan, which concert I did start to write about, but it got too soppy-sod even for me; all about my impressed-ness at those who stay the course. which I didn’t, of course, when it came to completing the piece; but I did stay up late, and there was Grolsch in cans, and I was giddy at having met up with Andy again after [reaches for calculator and hammers habitually on the AC button] well, it would’ve been getting on for thirty years – and next year it will be something else magnificent, strident and nostalgic too.
Johnny Marr, as is very well documented, plays guitar. He’s also co-written some of the greatest songs ever to find their way past or through my earwax. And god knows he’s worked like nobody’s business and with so many since The Split, and it’s a wonderful thing, baby, to get to look upon the artist he is now altogether by himself. It’s all so funny also (and – plus – in addition) that he’s still in my mind as defined by the space between him and Youknowwho. Not funny ha-ha, but funny peculiar, funny precious. This is in my lifetime; this something and nothing and maybe something yet to come. Who really knows? In exactly one month I’ll be watching (if he stays the course) Morrissey. ‘And hear the same songs Johnny Marr just did?’ asks B., ‘Yeah,’ I say. Isn’t that strange and amazing?
Johnny plays his new stuff, and from The Messenger, and he sure plays some songs by The Smiths. Seven of the set’s twenty are Smiths. He sings them beautifully well, which is as confusing and unbalancing as it ought to be. The crowd sing with, but not so well in Leeds for some reason, I don’t feel them as much as I want to; though I’m hoarse and low and aching – great gig aching – in the morning from yelling on tiptoes and sweary and pointing like only crowd members point. Johnny plays composed as ever; straight as a dye, limb-locked and upright. What should we wear tonight? Sharp. As. Possible.
Andy’s son (very sharp) is there too. He’s fifteen and a Smiths fan, and like his dad he’s a naturally gifted guitarist. Johnny plays The Headmaster Ritual, and then Andy’s boy learns it and plays it. I love the thread of this; the contagion, the legacies: a question and answer of time. I’m born, it seems, to watch that happen (or if we’re being picky, to spot it). Getting away with it all my life… and I DO NOT MIND.