> Skip to content
  • Published: 29 May 2017
  • ISBN: 9781784751791
  • Imprint: Arrow
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 480
  • RRP: $28.00

Set the Boy Free

The autobiography of one the most influential guitarists and artists of all time.

The Sunday Times Bestseller and Winner of the NME Best Book Award 2017

Few groups have had a bigger impact than The Smiths and few musicians are as celebrated as Johnny Marr. He is an icon who defined an era and influenced a generation of guitarists.

His signature sound was crucial to the Smiths success, but tensions within the band led to his departure in 1987 and the end of the group after just four albums. He was twenty-three years old.

Since then, Marr hasn't stopped pushing the boundaries of music. He joined The Pretenders, The The, Modest Mouse and The Cribs and has collaborated with Hans Zimmer. Here, for the first time, he tells his own side of the story.

Honest, witty, and moving, Set the Boy Free is the true history of music - told by one of its very own legends.

'I saw Johnny Marr live in person, with The Smiths. He was light on his feet; like quicksilver. He caused the band to swing like crazy. And he smoked his cigarette like a star. I've been influenced ever since.' Iggy Pop

  • Published: 29 May 2017
  • ISBN: 9781784751791
  • Imprint: Arrow
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 480
  • RRP: $28.00

About the author

Johnny Marr

Johnny Marr is a musician and songwriter. Between 1982 and 1987 he was the guitarist and co-founder of The Smiths. He is now an established solo artist who has released two albums, The Messenger and Playland, to date. He currently lives in Manchester.

Praise for Set the Boy Free

. . . wise, breezy, supersmart memoir . . . Marr's defiantly unghostwritten book is pleasant and direct . . .


Set the Boy Free - a telling title again - is much more than an obituary for a brilliant band. It's also a love letter to the women in Marr's life . and a guide on how to keep changing and moving on with your creative life.

The Observer

It is a pleasure .. to read a memoir by a five-star guitar hero that . present[s] a particular life in rock as one of pure, disarming joy and open possibility

New Statesman


The Sun

Set the Boy Free is a trip down memory lane featuring the all-star cast that Marr has rubbed shoulders with . and it will likely serve as a guidebook to anyone who's ever dreamed about picking up the guitar and trying their hand at making music for a living because, at its heart, Set the Boy Free is written by a music fan for music fans.


An unpretentious, clearly written memoir recounting his journey from a working-class upbringing on the outskirts of Manchester to his status as a musical polymath

The Times

His sweetly and deceptively simple account of his lively youth and The Smith's early, joyous years . will touch many

Mail on Sunday

Grounded and positive


His writing is compassionate, courageous and concerned


Set The Boy Free tells the ordinary yet fascinating story of arguably one of the most influential guitar players of all time

The Pool

An excellent memoir. . . Stars don't come much brighter than Johnny Marr . And it's a pleasure to hear the story from the man himself

Manchester Evening News

Smiths fans will love it for the insight into the songs . He is relentlessly upbeat and positive

RTÉ Radio Arena Show

Set The Boy Free aims to set the record straight on the story of one of rock's most contentious break-ups

Hot Press

Marr's directness is refreshing

AV Club

A must read for indie fans

Vive le Rock

The perfect book for aspiring musicians

Evening Standard

Discover more

Book List
Rock’n’roll lives

Jump on the tour bus with the music idols you love.

Related titles