At other times, explanation of the songwriting is absent of any details at all. It can be quite common among musicians to describe songs simply arriving, a crutch Marr also leans on, thought he at least writes of the circumstances under which spontaneous song arrival can occur: In New York to sign with Sire Records, Seymour Stein bought Marr a guitar, just as he’d done with Brian Jones. In his hotel room, Marr picked up his new 1959 Gibson and played what would become “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now,” the band’s next single. “That’s what happens with some instruments,” Marr writes. “They already have music inside them.”

The Smiths broke up when Marr was just 23, and though an impasse over management may have been the first trigger, Marr’s reflections describe the split as inevitable, as fame and money added to the pressures the young band faced. “As stressful as The Smiths’ split was, it also brought with it a huge sense of relief,” Marr writes. “I was in charge of my own life again.”

Taken together, the Marr’s autobiography and Morrissey’s 2013 Autobiography parallel the style and role that each man brought to the band. Though far more poetic than Marr’s book, Morrissey’s can be self-indulgent and overwrought, unsurprisingly. And though Marr’s directness is refreshing, his account too often centers on simply telling what happened, lacking true revelations or a deeper insight into why The Smiths connected so deeply and have endured so strongly in the three decades since the band broke up.


Still, Marr’s prose is sharpest and most engaging when writing about music, everything that he’s fallen in love with, but especially his own: “When music is effortless, no matter how complex or emotional, there’s something so right when you’re making it. When a group of individuals are working instinctively and intricately, thinking within milliseconds of each other, it’s as close to real magic as you can get.”

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