The 30 Most Badass Guitarists of All Time
Players whose talents, attitude and style have made the guitar the coolest instrument ever.
Born October 31, 1963
Bands The Smiths, Electronic, the Pretenders, The The, Johnny Marr and the Healers, Modest Mouse, the Cribs, solo
Iconic Guitar Rickenbacker 330
Coolest Riff “What Difference Does It Make?”—The Smiths
Johnny Marr is a chief architect of the post-modern rock-guitar aesthetic. As the guitarist for seminal Eighties poetic pop stars the Smiths, he created a tonal palette and crisp stylistic approach that still forms the roadmap for much modern rock guitar playing. It was Marr who created the orchestral guitar soundscapes that enhanced the moody drama of Smiths singer Morrissey’s introspective lyrics and ironically detached vocals.
From the low-string riff for “What Difference Does It Make?” to the deep tremolo textures and swooning string bends of “How Soon Is Now,” Marr always seemed to have the notes and the tone to suit the moment perfectly. Marr’s work has been profoundly influential to guitarists of the Nineties and beyond. Noel Gallagher of Oasis dubbed Marr “a fucking wizard,” and Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien has cited Marr as the reason he picked up a guitar. In essence, Marr is a classicist, drawing much of his approach from the guitar sounds of the Sixties British Invasion, yet deftly adapting those influences to rock and roll modernity.
He embodies the stylish sideman identity forged by guitar greats like George Harrison and Keith Richards: a neatly trimmed pudding-basin haircut, and a stage presence that never upstages the frontman. Yet, he is intriguing in his own right. Marr’s post-Smiths career has been stellar. He’s worked with everyone from New Order’s Bernard Sumner (in Electronic) to Oasis to John Frusciante, and has been quite active recently with both Modest Mouse and the Cribs. He has an uncanny knack for being around whenever cool music is happening.
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