Johnny Marr revealed that he and Morrissey discussed the “very real prospect” of a Smiths reunion in 2008. In his upcoming memoir Set the Boy Free, the guitarist says he and the singer broached “that subject” – reunion talk – during a rare face-to-face to talk about the Smiths’ reissues. However, those conversations dissipated without a reunion.
In an excerpt from Set the Boy Free, published Saturday in The Guardian, Marr said that his desire to properly remaster the Smiths’ albums opened up a channel of communication between him and Morrissey. At the time, Marr was also working with the British rock group the Cribs.
In September 2008, the former band mates happened to be in Manchester and decided to meet for a drink. The encounter was the first time they had seen each other in a decade.
“We chatted, as we always did, about the records we loved, and eventually we moved on to ‘that subject.’ There had been rumors for years that the Smiths were about to re-form, and they were always untrue. I had never pursued any offer,” Marr wrote.
“Suddenly we were talking about the possibility of the band re-forming, and in that moment it seemed that with the right intention it could actually be done and might even be great. I would still work with the Cribs on our album, and Morrissey also had an album due out.”
The conversations got to the point where actual logistics were discussed; the reformed Smiths would need to find another drummer, since their relationship with Mike Joyce soured after he sued Marr and Morrissey in 1996 over royalties.
“I was genuinely pleased to be back in touch with Morrissey,” Marr wrote. “For four days it was a very real prospect. We would have to get someone new on drums, but if the Smiths wanted to re-form it would make a hell of a lot of people very happy, and with all our experience we might even be better than before.”
Marr and Morrissey’s reunion chat came a year after the singer turned down a reported $75 million offer to reunite with Marr. Reforming the Smiths would be very lucrative for both parties, but the money wasn’t enough to catalyze the reunion.
“Morrissey and I continued our dialogue and planned to meet up again,” Marr wrote. “I went to Mexico with the Cribs, and then suddenly there was radio silence. Our communication ended, and things went back to how they were and how I expect they always will be.”
In an interview with The Guardian about his memoir, Marr elaborated about his 2008 meeting with Morrissey. “The conversation about re-forming came out of the blue,” the guitarist said. “I didn’t go there with that in mind. But there had been quite a few rumors about it, so naturally we discussed it. ‘It could happen…’ ‘How d’you feel about it?’ ‘What if?’ And off we went.”
Eight years later, Marr remains pessimistic about a Smiths reunion. “I think it’s run its course,” Marr said. “I don’t feel unfriendly in any way towards Morrissey – there’s just no need for it. One of the things we had in common was that we lived for work, and we’re too busy doing what we’re doing now.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Marr revealed that of all the projects he’s worked with – the Smiths, The The, the Cribs, Electronic – his favorite has been his stint with Modest Mouse.
“People don’t believe it when I say that. I love Modest Mouse so much because the chemistry of those guys was a real brotherhood,” Marr said. “They were a great American band, and I really wanted to be in a great American band.”