20/07/2023 / Admissions from 19:00

Event Information:

Headliners JOHNNY MARR

Johnny Marr

Fever Dreams Pts 1-4

Album Biog

“I wanted this album to sound classic, and universal,” says Johnny Marr. “That’s how I felt. I

wanted to look inside, but make really outward-facing music. And now I’ve finished it, I think

it’s the most ambitious solo record I’ve done.”

Fever Dreams Pts 1-4 is Marr’s fourth solo album, following The Messenger (2013), Playland

(2014), and 2018’s Call The Comet. As its title implies, it is divided into four chapters. All 16

songs ultimately make up a fantastically expansive work that will be his first double album.

Some of its songs are introspective, exploratory pieces that take advantage of the project’s

emphasis on space; others are anthemic, rousing creations whose mood is almost the

opposite. But running through everything are two key elements: echoes of the wildly diverse

music that he has made in the past, and lyrics that are direct, emotional and full of

musicality, and thereby true to what Marr calls The Language Of The Song.

“There’s a set of influences and a very broad sound that I’ve been developing – really since

getting out of The Smiths until now,” he says. “And I hear it in this record. There are so many

strands of music in it. We didn’t do that consciously, but I think I’ve got a vocabulary of

sound. And I feel very satisfied that I’ve been able to harness it.”

This emotional potency of the record is partly down to the influence of black American

music, and a kind of straightforward-yet-intense approach to words instantly obvious in the

album’s opener, Spirit, Power And Soul. Marr talks about his aim of fusing the language of

soul music with his roots as a “Mancunian glam rocker”, and following the example set by

the kind of lyrics that could be simultaneously personal and universal, and sometimes subtly

political. But the intimacy and power of his new songs is also linked to the time in which the

music was created and recorded: during the long, uncertain period that followed the arrival

of the UK’s first lockdown.

“My intention on the solo records was always to be urban – to be of the city, and talk about

that experience,” he says. “But all that vanished over the last 18 months.” Because the wider

world effectively shut down, Marr’s focus was pushed into both his interior life, and evoking

the emotional and psychological states of others. “It’s an inspired record, and I couldn’t wait

to get in and record every day,” he says. “But I had to go inwards.”


In the wake of touring Call The Comet, Marr’s last appearance before the decisive start of

the pandemic was on February 18th 2020 at the BRIT Awards ceremony, where he performed

the James Bond theme No Time To Die alongside Billie Eilish and his long-standing

collaborator Hans Zimmer. Just under a month later, the first lockdown began. “I just found

myself, like everybody, with this open vista of time and uncertainty, so I set about doing

what I’d normally do if I wasn’t doing gigs – which was to make a record,” he says. “And the

phrase ‘fever dreams’ just seemed to chime with the way my life immediately felt.

“My dreams were affected in a weird way. Time didn’t seem to really mean anything: some

people I was talking to were saying, ‘The days are going really quickly’. But other people said,


‘Time’s passing really slowly.’ I was feeling both of those things simultaneously. I found

myself with a feeling of… suspension. And the phrase ‘fever dreams’ – with me, once I get an

idea for something, I’m very decisive. The idea gave me an atmosphere. I had the title well

before the album was written, which isn’t always the case.”

Marr is at pains to emphasise that this is not a record pointedly about the details of the

Covid-19 experience. But like all the best records, Fever Dreams Pts 1-4 is rooted in its time,

and what he sees as “the confusion and the torpor and the entropy of the way we’ve been

living”, as well as a sense that such extreme circumstances have heightened parts of the

human condition we were all familiar with anyway. There are allusions to insomnia,

disorientation, and – as Counter Clock World evokes – a cycle of “sleeping, dreaming, wanting

[and] wishing”. In a song titled Night And Day, there are glimpses of the heady, angry

summer of 2020, and the way the pandemic intersected with the murder of George Floyd

and the arrival of Black Lives Matter: “Fuse burns up/ The world stirs up/ The news shakes

up/ The mood blows up.”

As well as evoking the past and present, Fever Dreams Pts 1-4 also looks to the future,

something glimpsed in mentions of new dawns and beginnings, and the idea that even in

the most trying times, hope endures. “I’m trying to be positive, for me and my audience,

really. My personality is such that it occurs to me to think that way anyway, so I’m not just

writing with positivity for the sake of a song. It’s real, and it’s also very necessary.”

These are self-consciously big themes, and Marr’s music has the scale and ambition to carry

them. “I’ve realised that I’m a rock musician,” he says. “Rock music delivers something that

pop music doesn’t: putting yourself in that space of darkness, and being kind of epic. It’s

why I relate to people like Nick Cave and Siouxsie Sioux and Depeche Mode. Over the last

ten years, there’s been this name ‘Darkwave’, and my solo stuff has started to pop up on

those kind of Darkwave playlists. And I’m absolutely OK with that quality. ‘Scope’ is a good

word for it.”

As a catalyst for all this, he works in an almost perfect environment: the disused factory on

the outskirts of Manchester where he recorded both his latest music and Call The Comet. He

delights in spending time there, not least because of the view from the huge window that

forms one of the space’s walls. “Usually it’s overcast, with quite dramatic skies. Even on days

when I don’t actually need to be here, I am here, to get that kind of inspiration.

“At one point in the recording, me and my co-producer Doviak – who I’ve got to give a lot of

credit to – looked out the window, and it occurred to us that there are so many musicians

who would love to bottle our environment. On our drive to this building, we’re soaking up

that attitude that goes into the music. It’s in [The Smiths’] Hand In Glove, and it’s in Day In,

Day Out and A Different Gun [from Call The Comet], and Ariel and Lightning People and All

These Days on this record. I’m keenly aware of marrying my surroundings with what I



Fever Dreams Pts 1-4 was recorded with Marr’s long-standing band: Doviak, bassist Iwan

Gronow, and drummer Jack Mitchell. There are backing vocals throughout the album from


the Massachusetts-based singer-songwriter Meredith Sheldon (“I’ve wanted to work with

her for a very long time,” says Marr), and three songs feature bass from Primal Scream’s

Simone Marie – “one of the family”, he says.

The four chapters of the album work as distinct passages of music with their own shape and

flow. But as a single piece of work, the record also has a deliberate beginning and end. The

opener is Spirit, Power And Soul – a song Marr describes as “electro gospel”, and which

works as a kind of mission statement. That song also introduces the anthemic strand that

also surfaces elsewhere – like on Sensory Street, a startling track whose strident electronics

highlight the new music’s sheer scale.

“That was one of those times when you fancy writing a banger and it actually happens,” says

Marr. “I don’t do it very often, but when I had the riff I thought, ‘Maybe I can turn this into

one of those that gets a tent absolutely rocking. Lyrically, I wanted to paint a picture of a

psychedelic Friday night, and a surreal sort of journey – which I used to experience on many

Friday nights as a teenager in Manchester.”

Lightning People is a brilliantly slow-building song that moves from verses that evoke

impending danger to another note of against-the-odds defiance. “That came about because

I liked the title, and I wanted to pay tribute, in a way, to people who are interested in me,

and listen to me. Even it’s just for the five minutes of people listening to the song, just trying

to galvanise this idea of ‘us’. There, I deliberately used the language of soul music: “Bring it

all my brothers. Bring it all my lovers. Be the Lightning People. Just like we’ll always be.”

Tenement Time arrives at the end of the album’s first half. “That’s the experience of growing

up in the inner city as a little kid, running around being quite wild. This idea of “Forever,

forever is mine” – it’s about running around Ardwick [the part of central Manchester where

he first lived], bunking into warehouses and getting chased. That was the first time I was

self-consciously into culture: around people who wore certain clothes, and it was part of

being a little Manchester boy, really. I have a real romanticism about that period of my life.”

After moving through so many moods, sounds and meanings, Fever Dreams Parts 1-4 ends

with Human, a beautifully redemptive piece which insists that “better’s got to come”, and

brings the album’s sense of intimacy and raw humanity to a closing peak. “When I was

getting towards the end of this record, it felt like a journey, and I wanted the ending to be

deliberate. So the idea of something intimate – which an acoustic guitar suggests to me – and

melodic, and almost classic, for want of a better word, was in my mind.

“I came back to this idea of The Language Of The Song, and something very direct. So I

thought, ‘Who’s the best exponent of that? ’70s John Lennon.’ I’d set myself the task of

writing this song by the end of the day, and I’d opened this book about John Lennon in the

early ’70s. I wanted a sense of that direct language that’s in Working Class Hero and Imagine

and all of those songs.

“And then the doorbell went at 8 o’clock at night, and I got a card from Yoko Ono – who I’ve

only ever met once. It was from her and Sean [Lennon]. They’d sent me a copy of the new

Plastic Ono Band album as a gift. And inside, on a card, Yoko had written something like, ‘At


that time, we were trying to free up the artist to brave, and drop whatever hangs-up they

had and just be really honest.’”

He smiles. “And if that’s not a sign, I don’t know what it is. It helped me go along that line.”


After such a long period of seclusion and strangeness, the release of new music brings the

prospect of live shows, and the songs entering a new phase of life. “I almost feel a duty to

bring the guitar, and a guitar attitude, to the fore of what I think is modern music,” says

Marr. “That’s sort of what I’m doing when I walk out onstage. It’s all about finding

somewhere these songs can live – and thinking that heavy and progressive guitar-pop music

is still being represented. I do kind of feel like I‘m flying the flag for it.”

“As I go onstage, I plug into this machine. It’s a highly-charged situation. But the audience

lead you. I can go on there and do my show and be a performer and be detached, if I need to

But I very rarely do that. I sort of look out into the crowd and clock what the atmosphere

is and play to it.”

As Fever Dreams Pts 1-4 is readied for being released into the world, the re-awakening of

that relationship is one of the most tantalising possibilities that its songs suggest. “It’s a

great prospect,” says Marr, and it’s obvious what he means: epic, emotional, deeply human

music, at last connecting with the audience it demands.

John Harris, July 2021

Venue Roadmender
Date 20/07/2023
Age Range 14 plus event-Under 18s need to be accompanied by an adult
Ticket demand HIGH
Ticket Sale Date 28/04/2023 09:00

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