I was good enough for City, but they didn't follow up because I was probably the only player out there wearing eyeliner.
However, all was not well within the group. A legal dispute with Rough Trade had delayed the album by almost seven months (it had been completed in November 1985), and Marr was beginning to feel the stress of the band's exhausting touring and recording schedule. He later told NME, "'Worse for wear' wasn't the half of it: I was extremely ill. By the time the tour actually finished it was all getting a little bit... dangerous. I was just drinking more than I could handle. Meanwhile, Rourke was fired from the band in early 1986 due to his use of heroin. In early 1987 the single "Shoplifters of the World Unite" was released to chart success, as well as mild controversy and concern from parents.
Despite their continued success, personal differences within the band — including the increasingly strained relationship between Morrissey and Marr — saw them on the verge of splitting. In August 1987, Marr left the group, and auditions to find a replacement for him proved fruitless. By the time Strangeways, Here We Come (named after Strangeways Prison, Manchester) was released in September, the band had split up. The breakdown in the relationship has been primarily attributed to Morrissey becoming annoyed by Marr's work with other artists and Marr growing frustrated by Morrissey's musical inflexibility. Marr particularly hated Morrissey's obsession with covering 1960s pop artists such as Twinkle and Cilla Black. Referring to the songs recorded in the band's last session together (B-sides for the "Girlfriend in a Coma" single, which preceded the album's release), Marr said "I wrote 'I Keep Mine Hidden', but 'Work Is a Four-Letter Word' I hated. That was the last straw, really. I didn't form a group to perform Cilla Black songs. In 1989, in an interview with young fan Tim Samuels (who later became a BBC journalist) Morrissey said that the lack of a managerial figure and business problems were to blame for the band's eventual split.
In 1996, Joyce took Morrissey and Marr to court, claiming that he had not received his fair share of recording and performance royalties. Morrissey and Marr had claimed the lion's share of The Smiths' recording and performance royalties and allowed ten percent each to Joyce and Rourke. Composition royalties were not an issue, as Rourke and Joyce had never been credited as composers for the band. Morrissey and Marr claimed that the other two members of the band had always agreed to that split of the royalties, but the court found in favour of Joyce and ordered that he be paid over £1 million in back pay and receive twenty-five percent henceforth. As Smiths' royalties had been frozen for two years, Rourke settled for a smaller lump sum to pay off his debts and continued to receive ten percent. Morrissey was described by the judge as "devious, truculent and unreliable.
Both Marr and Morrissey have repeatedly said in interviews that they will not reunite the band. In 2005, VH1 attempted to get the band back together for a reunion on its Bands Reunited show. The show abandoned its attempt after its host Aamer Haleem was unsuccessful in his attempt to corner Morrissey before a show. In December 2005 it was announced that Johnny Marr and The Healers would play at Manchester v Cancer, a benefit show for cancer research being organised by Andy Rourke and his production company, Great Northern Productions. Rumours suggested that a Smiths reunion would occur at this concert but were dispelled by Johnny Marr on his website. What did eventuate was Rourke joining Marr onstage for the first time since The Smiths broke up, performing "How Soon Is Now?".
In an October 2007 interview on BBC Radio Five Live, Marr hinted at a potential reformation in the future, saying that "stranger things have happened so, you know, who knows?" Marr went on to say that "It's no biggy. Maybe we will in 10 or 15 years' time when we all need to for whatever reasons, but right now Morrissey is doing his thing and I'm doing mine, so that's the answer really." This is the first potential indication of a Smiths reunion from Marr, who previously has stated that reforming the band would be a bad idea.
Marr's guitar playing "was a huge building block for more Manchester legends that followed The Smiths - The Stone Roses"; their guitarist John Squire has stated that Marr was a major influence. Oasis frontman Noel Gallagher has called The Smiths an influence, especially Marr ; he once stated that "when The Jam split, The Smiths started, and I totally went for them." Radiohead guitarist Ed O'Brien has acknowledged that he idolized The Smiths in the 1980s; the band pays homage to The Smiths in their song "Knives Out". After O'Brien played with Johnny Marr in New Zealand in 2001, he acknowledged that Marr was the reason he had picked up a guitar as a teenager.
Marr became a session player, writing, touring and recording with, among others, Bryan Ferry, Kirsty MacColl, Neil Finn, Karl Bartos of Kraftwerk, Talking Heads, Black Grape, Billy Bragg, Pet Shop Boys, Beck and Oasis. He also acted as co-producer for some of the aforementioned artists and co-produced Manchester band Haven at his own Clear Studios. Marr also continued to work as an official member of various groups, including The Pretenders, The The, Electronic, Johnny Marr & The Healers, Modest Mouse, and The Cribs.
He performed two Smiths songs and music by others with a supergroup consisting of members from Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Split Enz and others, assembled by Neil Finn of Split Enz and Crowded House in 2001. In addition to his work as a recording artist, Marr has worked as a record producer. In 2006 he began work with Modest Mouse's Isaac Brock on songs that eventually featured on the band's 2007 release, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. The band subsequently announced that Marr was a fully fledged member, and the reformed line-up toured extensively throughout 2006-07. Marr has also been recording with Liam Gallagher of Oasis.
The new album reached number one on the American Billboard charts in late March 2007. For Marr this is the first time he has had a number one record in the US. The highest chart position before that was with Electronic, who made the Top 40 in the singles chart with "Getting Away With It". During this period, Marr was asked to deliver a series of workshops and masterclasses to students at the University of Salford in the BA (Hons) Popular Music and Recording programme. In the late 2000s, Marr's daughter Sonny performed backing vocals on the track "Even A Child" on Crowded House's 2007 album Time On Earth, for which her father Johnny played guitars. Marr also has a son named Nile Marr.
For a complete discography, see the article Johnny Marr guest musician recordings.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Marr played on three Billy Bragg recordings. In the late 1980s, he performed on albums by Bryan Ferry and the Talking Heads. In the 1990s and 2000s, he performed on three Pet Shop Boys albums. In the 1990s, he also performed on albums by Electrafixion, M People, Beck, and Tom Jones. In the 2000s, he played on albums by bands such as Oasis, Pearl Jam, goth songstress Lisa Germano and Crowded House.