Johnny Marr Reflects on Smiths Reunion Talk: It Was a 'Very Real Prospect' in 2008

Johnny Marr and Morrissey from The Smiths pose under the branches of a willow tree in London in 1983.
Clare Muller/Redferns

Johnny Marr and Morrissey from The Smiths pose under the branches of a willow tree in London in 1983. 

There is a light that never goes out inside every Smiths fan: the thought of the British indie legends reuniting. And it almost happened. 

Guitarist and co-songwriter Johnny Marr shared an extract from his upcoming memoir Set The Boy Free with The Guardian in which he revealed he and frontman Morrissey discussed the idea back in September 2008. “For four days re-forming the Smiths was a very real prospect,” he wrote.

The pair arranged for a catchup in a pub in South Manchester when Marr was remastering The Smiths' catalogue for a Warner Music reissue campaign.

“The drinks kept coming and we sat talking for hours,” he recalled. “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. 

“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.”

Ultimately, “an air of disaffection and distrust remained between us,” recalled Marr. “It was a shame.”

The Smiths disbanded in 1987, and lawsuits followed. But the group’s legacy is undiminished by time. They remain – along with ABBA – one of the highest-profile bands who still have their classic line-ups intact but refuse to embark on a final tour.

Lucrative "reunion" gigs have been proposed on numerous occasions. In 2006, Morrissey told the audience at SXSW that Coachella had come with the best offer, and had it turned down. "If people must know, it was 5 million [dollars]," Morrissey said at the time.

Neither has looked back. Marr has worked with a range of acts, from Neil Finn to Modest Mouse and the Cribs. He released his first solo album The Messenger, in 2013. A second came the following year, Playland. Morrissey has recorded 10 albums (and been involved in many more confrontations) over his solo career. He’s currently touring Australia.