The driving force behind the Smiths recalls his path to stardom and what he wore along the way.
The thing that makes Marr’s autobiography of interest also stands in the way of making it interesting: he was all of 23 when his iconic band called it quits in 1987, and being a wunderkind doesn’t mean he has much interior insight to deliver, either about himself or others. (His perspective on the Smith’s charismatic frontman, Morrissey, extends little beyond admiration for his interview skills and befuddlement at their falling out.) Born into working-class Irish stock in Manchester, Marr developed twin obsessions with music and fashion in the late 1970s and early ’80s; he notes exactly what he wore for the Smiths’ first press photo and details some early hairstyle experiments. Unfortunately, many of the author’s descriptions are flat-footed. So many of his experiences were “perfect”: The Smiths’ debut single, “Hand in Glove,” his acquisition of a Rickenbacker guitar, the church where he married his wife, the lyrics to “There Is a Light that Never Goes Out.” To Marr’s credit, however, there’s little fat on the pages: he details the band’s legal and drug issues, as well as an eye-opening car crash, with sleek efficiency. The final third of the book, which catalogs his post-Smiths family and musical life, is surprisingly lively. Marr has a few good anecdotes to share about stints with the Talking Heads, Paul McCartney, the Pretenders, The The, and Modest Mouse, as well as his getting clean and healthy. (Once, in the early 2000s, he ran five marathons in a week.) Recalling a meeting with the Dalai Lama, Marr smirks that “he didn’t ask me if the Smiths were going to re-form,” a telling joke from an artist eager to put his past behind him but charged with writing a book about it.
An upbeat study in musical growth and stardom, though it’s lacking in writerly style or Smiths gossip.