The split in the ranks of The Smiths - exclusively reported
in last week's NME while the other titles were blithely announcing
tour dates - has now been confirmed by the group's record company, Rough
A statement issued on behalf of the band (but written,
it later transpired, without the knowledge of guitarist/composer Johnny
Marr) ran: "The Smiths announce that Johnny Marr has left the group.
However they would like to confirm that other guitarists are being considered
to replace him. The Smiths would like to state that although Johnny's departure
is sad, they wish him every happiness and success with his future projects."
The obvious questions thrown up by this statement - What
exactly constitutes "the concept" of The Smiths? Can that concept possibly
survive the departure of half of the band's creative force? Who are those
"other guitarists"? - remain unanswered. Some of the mysteries surrounding
the break-up of Britain's biggest (still) independent band
however, cleared up when Marr himself rang NME to put his side of
"First of all," he said, "it's very important
to me to clear up some of the inaccuracies that were in your story last
week. There is nothing even approaching 'acrimony' between myself and the
other members of the band. I've known them all a long time and I love 'em.
Nor was there any truth in the idea that Morrissey has any problem with
the company I keep, personally or work-wise; we're very different people
and lead different kinds of lives but that stuff is just patently untrue.
And lastly, the stuff about me using record company funds to pay for a
trip to America is totally wrong."
Why, then, the split?
"I'm not denying that there weren't certain problems
involving the band, and it's also very true that a group like The Smiths
can begin to take over your whole life and all your energy. That's certainly
happened to me, but the major reason for me going was simply that there
are things I want to do, musically, that there is just not scope for in
The infamous "musical differences"?
"I've got absolutely no problem with what The Smiths
are doing. The stuff we've just done for the new album is great, the best
we've ever done. I'm really proud of it. But there are things that I want
to do that can only happen outside of The Smiths."
One potential source of acrimony yet to emerge from the
split is the use of the name "The Smiths". Marr was genuinely surprised
when informed that Morrissey intended to continue using it, but contented
himself, when pressed for a response, with "I think that's probably
tied up in a whole load of legal things..."
Although understandably uncertain about his immediate
plans, Marr intends getting back into public view as soon as possible.
"I've already recorded some stuff and it's gone really
well. If the rest of it goes as well, there's every chance that I'll be
forming a permanent group, though obviously it's a little early to be too
certain about that. But I definitely want to have some live dates set up
by the new year at the latest, regardless of the situation with other musicians.
"Part of the reason I've spent so much time in America
recently is to get exposed to some different music. The stuff in this country
at the moment has got me baffled; I can't find much in any of it. but it's
a pleasure listening to new ideas and trying to use them. I've not been
unhappy with the things I've done up to now - far from it - so don't expect
me to explode off into some crazy new direction, but there will be some
Any further thoughts on the parting of the ways?
"I don't want to get too over-emotional about this
but I really am massively proud of all the things that The Smiths have
done and achieved and so from that point of view, of course, it's all really
sad, especially for the group's fans who've always been brilliant. But
on the other hand, I'm looking forward to doing new things, and to hearing
what Morrissey will come up with. I think the change will actually do him
a lot of good. I certainly hope so. But, in the final analysis, the thing
that used to make me happy was making me miserable and so I just had to
"But I never, ever, wanted to turn The Smiths into
The Rolling Stones. That was just more lazy journalistic bullshit..."
So what becomes of the "million dollar" long term deal
The Smiths have with EMI? No doubt it will have to be renegotiated, as
it is unlikely the label will want to commit themselves to a lengthy contract
with what is, without Marr, an unknown commodity.
Nick Gatfield, head of A&R at EMI, couldn't shed
much light on the situation: "It's all up in the air at the moment,
we're not sure what's going to happen."
But Gatfield did confirm that EMI have the rights to
any recorded product from either Marr or Morrissey's revamped Smiths.
"Both artists have signed on the dotted line, every
contract has a clause which gives the label the rights to any work they
do whether the band splits up or not. Essentially we now have two acts
for the price of one."
That may be so, but with The Smiths split right down
the middle, who can guarantee there will be positive creative results from
either camp? And what of the name? Morrissey intends to continue under
the banner of "The Smiths" but he could face a new legal obstacle along