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Publisher's Summary

The long-awaited memoir from the legendary guitarist and cofounder of the seminal British band The Smiths.

An artist who helped define a period in popular culture, Johnny Marr tells his story in a memoir as vivid and arresting as his music. The Smiths, the band with the signature sound he cofounded, remains one of the most beloved bands ever and have had a profound influence on a number of acts that followed - from the Stone Roses, Suede, Blur, and Radiohead to Oasis, The Libertines, and Arctic Monkeys.

Marr recalls his childhood growing up in the northern working-class city of Manchester, in a house filled with music. He takes us back to the summer of 1982, when, at 18, he sought out one Stephen Morrissey to form a new band they called The Smiths. Marr invites fans onstage, on the road, and in the studio for the five years The Smiths were together and shares how, after a rapid ascent, the working-class teenage rock star enjoyed and battled with the perks of success until ideological differences, combined with his much publicized strained relationships with his bandmates, caused him to leave in 1987. Marr's "escape", as he calls it, ensured the beginning of the end for one of the most influential groups of a generation.

But The Smiths' end was only the beginning for Marr. The bona fide guitar hero continues to experiment and evolve in his solo career to this day, playing with Paul McCartney, Pretenders, Modest Mouse, and Oasis and collaborating with today's most creative and renowned artists.

Rising above and beyond the personal struggles and bitter feuds, Marr delivers the story of his music and his band, sharing the real insights of a man who has made music his life and finally giving fans what they've truly been waiting for.

©2016 Johnny Marr (P)2016 HarperCollins Publishers

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The best autobiography I've ever read!

Growing up, the Smiths were one of my favorite bands. Since Morrissey was such an enigmatic frontman and lyricist, regrettably most of my attention went towards him. I always knew Johnny Marr was a true talent, but I had no idea to what extent.

Listening to this audiobook, which I truly appreciated was read by Johnny himself, made me feel like I really got to know this man. And what a warm, humble, down to earth gem he is! It was interesting to hear about his family and childhood, founding and rising to fame with the Smiths, his love for Angie and his children, all the various artists he's worked with, but most of all his love for the guitar and creating music. This book was a love letter to music. I am going to revisit Electronic, Modest Mouse, and off course the Smiths because of this book.

Johnny Marr rarely had a sour word to say about anybody, although there were plenty of characters from his past he could have been bitter about. He spoke of giving up meat, eventually becoming a vegan, quitting drugs and booze, and becoming healthier through these lifestyle choices, along with running. But he never came across as preachy, just more so that those choices worked for him.

If you're on the fence about listening to this audiobook, don't be! It really was a great read.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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This is my new favorite rock autobiography

Honestly, this book is about a truly solid and honest human being who ended up taking the entire world's ears in his hands. it's a Great book with sharp insights made all the better by its narration by Johnny Marr. After hearing this, u you'll want to delve into his catalog much deeper. you won't regret this book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great book by one of the greats.

I absolutely loved this book. If you are interested in Johnny Marr or the Smiths it is a must read.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great story from a first person POV

I love the smiths but really didn't hear much about Marr much after Electronic. It was great to hear about the history of the smiths as wells as Johnny's accolades and adventures in the many years since the Smiths. Great first person account with little to no "he said/she said" drama.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Mannered and honest.

I probably went into this book like any other fan of The Smiths: I wanted storied. Lots of them. They're there, but not as many as I would've liked. I learned more about Marr's life and music post-Smiths than I ever knew and that'll lead me to learning and listening and that's what Marr has always been about.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Exactly what I was hoping for

Johnny Marr is my favorite guitarist of all time. To hear him read his story and tell it the way he has was an immense pleasure. The stories behind so many of his great songs and collaborations are told here. I'm so glad he narrated it himself as no one else could've done it justice. This book has made me an even bigger fan. Thanks, Johnny!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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LOVED IT!!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes. Compelling storytelling. Honest. Authentic.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Set the Boy Free?

His resilience over the years. He keeps moving forward. I was touched by his ability to go back and share.

Have you listened to any of Johnny Marr’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Only his music, interviews, and live shows. Totally new experience.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Set The Boy Free

Any additional comments?

I just now finished listening to the amazing audiobook "Set The Boy Free" - Johnny Marr's Autobiography narrated by the man himself. It took me about a week of listening in my car during my commute and lying in my bed awaiting sleep. It was nine and a half hours of bliss. So refreshing to finally hear his story from him. I have read a few other books chronicling The Smiths and they were all good - but this one was the most real. Authentic. And I was equally fascinated by what he was doing before they formed in 1982 and after the band's break-up in 1987 - up until now. In the Smiths he wrote the songs that saved my life. And yet here is today 30 years later still making incredible music - spanning several bands and even movie soundtracks.
He is a fantastic storyteller - and his story is wonderful. Thank you, Johnny.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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If you're a fan, a good read

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

If you're a fan of Johnny Marr, guitar playing in general, or how an artist integrates influences, this is a worthy read that gives a good solid glimpse of Johnny Marr's world view. Lots of celebrity stories, but you can hear how the man tries hard to overcome hero and celebrity worship. Also, just how much his relentless pursuit of avoiding complacency, personally, artistically, and as a person. I've always suspected JM is a difficult man to work with. He may be. But his passion for music, for the guitar, pushing his own boundaries and taking risks, and his wide open ears across a huge range of pop sub-genres...well, he's had a very cool life so far. Oh, and see his solo band live if you can, too.

What did you like best about this story?

While it doesn't really convey, one feels, all the nuances of events like his separation from The Smiths, it definitely does give you a feel for how these events impacted him, personally and artistically. An enjoyable read with a dark and compelling wit that belies the seriousness of his pursuits and lightens up that impression you might have that his music is mired in misery.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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One of the Great Rock and Roll Memoirs

Like Patti Smith's "Just Kids", Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run", Bob Dylan's "Chronicles", and Keith Richards' "Life," Johnny Marr's "Set The Boy Free" is the story of a young kid discovering himself as an artist by falling in love with music, sitting up late at night listening to the records he loves over and over, struggling to re-create what he hears on a guitar and, in failing to replicate what he heard, creating a new musical voice and vision. (I am pretty sure they also all loved the great American girl groups of the early 1960s and I think we still need to wait for that great book.)

Listening to Johnny Marr's thoughtful, Manchester-inflected voice, I could envision all that he experienced. The first time I listened to the book, I was on a long car ride and wasn't able to pause and listen to the music he references in the book. This time around, I took all the time I wanted. I listened to the obscure, the forgotten, the never-heard, and the much-loved: the early Everly Brothers his mother fell in love with and listened to over and over, Mott the Hoople, The Smiths' first single "This Handsome Man," and Johnny's latest album as a solo artist.

I had bought the book as a one-time Smiths fan and was astonished to find that I had become a Modest Mouse fan at the same time that Johnny Marr joined the group. In these days where I listen to music on iTunes and Spotify, I no longer have the close read of the album cover that helped me learn the names of every member of a band. But now I know why I loved those Modest Mouse songs: that twangy, driving force of Johnny Marr's guitar that is both percussive and melodic. Imagine being professionally defined by the band you were with for a few years in your 20s! Such seemed to be Johnny Marr's fate after The Smiths broke up. Yet this is a story of constant self-discovery and discovery of new forms and music, without denigrating or shortchanging The Smith years, which were great ones. Johnny brings to life the thrilling connections he and Morrissey made once they'd found each other and worked with the kind of inspired complementary partnership of Richards-Jagger and the other great songwriting teams that makes you feel that there might be a God or that music might be God itself with inspiration being that light yet powerful touch that makes all the pieces fall in place after years of struggle. Anyone who has been an artist or writer will recognize and connect with Johnny in his description of those early moments of stumbling into and onto the sound you had always wanted to make without realizing it. Like great poems, a great song is familiar and new at the same time. As Morrissey writes in a much later, post-Smiths song, "Let The Right One In," "You have every right to say, what kept you so long?" (Sorry, Johnny!)

I have read some criticism of Johnny's emphasis on clothes and what he wore. In every city around the world, young working class people express their creativity, their refusal to be stifled and suppressed, their insistence on asserting their individuality, their originality and ability to transform everyday materials through their clothes. This was true in the 1970s punk world I lived in, the 1980s hiphop world, in Lagos, in Japan -- clothes are the art form of young people without money, without a government-sanctioned, society-encouraged voice, the way to be seen, to be heard, and yes, to be admired as beautiful young people should be celebrated and admired. And for Johnny Marr and the girl who would become his wife, Angie, clothes and the way they transformed and wore them became means for being seen and heard that led to their lives as artists.

This book is also about Johnny's ability to grow and evolve as a person -- all the while remaining the person of integrity, kindness and love of music he has always been. That he remains married to the girl he fell in love with at first sight and helped forge a life with as a teenager -- well, in these sometimes dark days, I will always love a great love story. More love, less hate, more music, more openness, more growth, more pride without arrogance, appreciation for the creativity and art of others, hard work as the condition in which inspiration makes itself known: this is what "Set The Boy Free" is really about. I am so glad Johnny Marr not only wrote it, but read it.

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Must read

Perfect for any Smiths or Marr fans. Loved that the Smiths weren't the entire story and that his other projects were covered. Great detailing of recording and guitar techniques, definitely recommend.