Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"Bigmouth Strikes Again" by The Smiths/Johnny Marr

ARTIST: Johnny Marr of The Smiths
SONG: "Bigmouth Strikes Again"
WRITERS: Johnny Marr, Morrissey
ALBUM: The Queen Is Dead on Rough Trade Records
YEAR: 1986
SITES: Johhny Marr, The Smiths, Rough Trade Records
BUY: The Queen Is Dead (Remastered By Johnny Marr) - The Smiths

When I was sixteen years old, I invited my mother into my bedroom to listen to a band that I was nothing short of obsessed with at the time. She'd certainly seen their name plenty of times - it was broadcast across my wall on a poster that was roughly the same size as my bed, and was the focal point of a t-shirt that I wore far too often. It seemed that I had finally found something that would not only impress her with all of its technical and musical merits, but that also held the secret to my becoming as individual as I felt back then. I had carefully selected a song that I thought she might appreciate above the rest. 

She stood in my doorway, and leaned against the frame as I nervously pressed "play" on my tape deck. About twenty seconds into the song, she simply remarked, "Wow . . . listen to that guitar player."

The song was "Bigmouth Strikes Again," and the guitar player was Johnny Marr.

BA: Hi Johnny, I can’t thank you enough for doing this interview. I know you’re in the studio right now, and that your time is precious. How did "Bigmouth Strikes Again" begin and evolve as a song? Did it all start with that driving rhythm guitar, or with something else?

JM: I had an idea, then the guitar part. Then I brought it to the band and we recorded it at a soundcheck as I recall. We then went into RAK studios in London and made the record.  Kirsty MacColl came down in the evening and sang the "oohs."

BA: Your lead guitar part after the first verse and pre-chorus is almost like a second lead vocal. The tone and placement in the mix command the listener’s attention as soon as Morrissey’s voice ends. Was that your intention, to sing with your guitar?

JM: My intention was to make a burst of intense guitar notes.

BA: Whose idea were the lyrics about Joan of Arc? They provide such a comical visual against the murderous words of the verse.

JM: The lyrics were Morrissey's.

BA: I know that you and Morrissey shared the responsibilities of producing this track. My question is: did you produce one another, or were you each left to your own devices with your respective contributions?

JM: I produced it.

BA: What, if anything, would you change about the existing recording?

JM: I wouldn't change anything. I'm glad I restored the mastering of it and all the the other songs too a couple of years ago, but I wouldn't change the recording. I like it.

BA: (I like it too.) Where were you in the writing of the record when this song was born?

JM: I think I had the ideas for about half the record when we did "Bigmouth."

BA: This was the first single released off of The Smiths’ third album, The Queen Is Dead. Did you know that the song was special right away, or was the decision to make it a single made after the whole album had come together?

JM: Everyone wanted to put out "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" as the first single but I insisted that "Bigmouth" should be the first new thing people heard from The Queen Is Dead. I'm glad I did.

BA: When was the last time you played it, in any capacity?

JM: I can't remember. Not that long ago.

BA: What were you personally listening to and drawing inspiration from at the time?

JM: I always listened to the Girl Groups; Ronettes, Crystals, Shangri-Las etc. I liked the Velvet Underground, Stooges and 60's Rolling Stones too. 

BA: What’s your favorite song right this minute?

JM: Roxy Music, "The Thrill Of It All."

BA:  I’ll let you get back to making the music we all love so well. Thanks again.

JM: You are welcome. 

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