Johnny Marr and the Healers – Smiths Guitarist Creates His Own Psychedelic Sound

About Johnny Marr and the Healers

Johnny Marr and the Healers

Johnny Marr and the Healers is an English alternative and indie rock band. As the name suggests, it was formed by Johnny Marr, ex-Smiths’ guitarist, in 2000. After the Smiths, Marr further showcased his talent in many projects including Electronic and The The. Consequently, people became interested to see what solo projects he would embark on. The British press was excited and interested at the formation of the band in 2000.

The band consists of none other than drummer Zak Starkey, son of Ringo Starr, Cavewaves guitarist Lee Spencer, ex-Kula Shaker bassist Alonza Bevan, and of course, Johnny Marr as guitarist and lead vocalist.

The Healers’ Psychedelic Sound

From the first few guitar strums of the song “Bangin’ On”, you will be drawn into the mystery and atmosphere of the song. The bewitching voice of Johnny Marr on top of the electric guitar and interesting instrumentals gives the song a feeling that is alluring and moody. It was released as a single in 2003 and reached #78 in the UK. If you’re wondering who this song belongs to, the answer is Johnny Marr and the Healers.

It was a little while before Marr assembled all the members of this band, since he wanted to choose the members “by chemistry”. He wanted to make sure that all of the members would go well together (and they do). Marr spent many months writing songs before a European tour with Oasis. After the tour, the band released their first EP, The Last Ride.


Their debut album Boomslang was released in 2003 with all vocals and lyrics done by Marr. “Boomslang” is the name of a type of venomous snake that lives in the trees of tropical and southern Africa. In South Africa, the name of this snake has become an idiom: “I got boomslang” means to get caught up in something, much like a Boomslang snake in a tree.

Boomslang album

The album received mixed reviews, including some positive feedback, as well as some that was only lukewarm. The Rolling Stones said the album “shimmers with elements of T-Rex and traces of the Stone Roses – it’s got all the atmosphere of a great rock record, but not the guts of one.” But does an album always need to have “guts”? I think this album gets along find without them.

The album contains the 2001 single “The Last Ride”, which you can listen to here.

The album also included the song “Down on the Corner” which was promoted by a live performance on The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn in 2003. Like other songs on the album, “Down on the Corner” features melodic lyrics by Johnny Marr sung to harmonious guitar.   

The song “Something to Shout About” is a gentle ballad peppered with notes of guitar, synthesizer and an instrument called the melodica. The result is a warm, sweet song. The lyrics are a juxtaposition of sweet and unassuming phrases filled with familiar sentiments and questions.

The Future of Johnny Marr and the Healers

A second album was originally scheduled to debut in 2005. In 2007, however, Marr stated that at the moment, the band is on the side burner. He is currently working on other projects, as are Starkey and Bevan.

I think the most pleasant surprise about Johnny Marr and the Healers is the chance to witness Marr as a singer and songwriter after having known him as the guitarist of the Smiths. After all those years with the Smiths, who would have thought that he was also a talented and admirable singer? His voice handles all their songs well, from the slower, gentler tunes to the faster-paced ones.  He’s been known to cover Smiths’ tunes from time to time, in case didn’t know.  

 It will be exciting to see if Johnny Marr has anything new in store for Johnny Marr and the Healers, or if there are other projects on the way.  Stay tuned!

Johnny Marr

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