Strangeways, here they come: Rocks Off has learned that former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr has requested passes for his ex-bandmate Morrissey's sold-out April 11 show at Jones Hall, leading to speculation that the two will perform onstage together for the first time since the influential Manchester band's acrimonious 1987 split.
"Johnny's manager emailed us Monday asking for tickets and backstage passes," a source close to the show's promoter told Rocks Off Wednesday. She asked not to be identified "because I would be so fired."
Marr is scheduled to be in Houston next weekend promoting his new "Bigmouth Strikes Again" guitar-effects pedal at several area music stores. The chiming but steely guitar sound he trademarked on Smiths classics like "Hand In Glove," "This Charming Man" and especially "How Soon Is Now" - which Morrissey continues to regularly perform in concert - became a cornerstone for bands from '90s UK Britpop stars the Stone Roses, James and Blur to present-day U.S. indie-rockers the Shins, Death Cab for Cutie and Dr. Dog.
Since leaving the Smiths, Marr has collaborated with members of the Pet Shop Boys and New Order in Electronic, and joined Pacific Northwest rockers Modest Mouse full-time in 2007 after writing several songs with frontman Isaac Brock for MM's album We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. He has also recently been joining youthful UK indie-rockers the Cribs onstage at several shows.
Morrissey has had a successful solo career with albums including 1988 solo debut Viva Hate, 1994's Vauxhall and I, 2004's You Are the Quarry and this year's glam-influenced Years of Refusal.
Rumors of a possible Morrissey/Marr reunion have long circulated within the music business, even though Morrissey once told Gigwise.com he'd "rather eat my own testicles than re-form the Smiths - and that's saying something for a vegetarian." He famously turned down a $5 million dollar to reunite at the Coachella Music & Arts Festival outside Palm Springs, Calif., in 2006, and is scheduled to play this year's festival later this month.
More recent events suggest the duo may be more amenable to reviving the Smiths, however - last year, they both helped remaster Rhino's double-disc The Sound of the Smiths anthology. But why would Morrissey and Marr choose Houston, of all places, for such a momentus event?
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"I honestly don't know," Rocks Off's source said. "I guess they figure if they did it in the UK or New York - or even Austin - the media attention would be too overwhelming. But Houston is pretty far off the music business' beaten path, and always has been. Plus, the show is already sold out, and Coachella is coming up in a couple of weeks, so you never know."
If the reunion goes well, the source added, the Smiths could also be a last-minute add to either Lollapalooza in Chicago this summer or October's Austin City Limits Music Festival in Zilker Park. "I'm sure they would make room for them," she said.
Marr is currently playing a leg of UK dates with the Cribs and was unavailable for comment. A spokesman for Morrissey's label, Lost Highway Records, released the following statement Tuesday afternoon:
"Check your calendar," he said. "And please quit bothering us with stuff like this."