One of my favorite guitar players is Alain Whyte. He was Morrissey’s guitar player from Your Arsenal through Ringleader of the Tormentors. He still wrote songs with Morrissey after leaving the touring band, although I do not know yet if he wrote any songs on the new album. Morrissey pokes some fun at him in his Autobiography, but with Morrissey it is hard to tell if he there is any real animosity or just a sort of backhanded compliments that are the result of his Northern humor.
Alain Whyte never got the credit that he deserved, largely for the unpardonable sin of not being Johnny, even though he wrote at least 81 songs with Morrissey and contributed to some of his best works.
I loved the guitar team of Boz Boorer and Alain Whyte, but I prefer Alain’s melodic expressive playing to Boz’s more rhythmic approach out of the two. They were perfect foils for each other. Although the guitar playing of the two was rooted in pop and rock classicism I actually felt that especially during the 90’s they were one of the few two guitar teams that were pushing the instrument in new directions.
They took glam, rock, pop, and rockabilly riffs, and blended them into a unique recognizable style. Under Steve Lillywhite the pair created what to me are the two high-water marks of Morrissey’s career when it comes to guitar playing. The albums Vauxhall and I and Southpaw Grammar both feature exceptional guitar playing though they are both very different. Vauxhall and I is very beautiful and gentle while Southpaw Grammar explodes with volume and energy.
One of the things that is interesting about their playing is that even when they were playing loud they were often including beautiful melodies under the noise. Vice versa, even when they were playing beautiful gentle parts there was an emotional quality that created tension.
Much how Paul Westerberg often updated the guitar playing of the Rolling Stones by making it more melodic, I feel that Whyte, and Boorer with him took preexisting rock n roll templates and added a new melodicism to them. They might have only been painting new landscapes in the margins, but they were still creating their own language.
Now that Whyte is no longer in Morrissey’s band he often co-writes pop songs with American pop stars. However, if you like his work his work with Morrissey I would recommend checking out the album Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams. This album features Whyte’s guitar playing, writing, and singing. Some of the songs you will recognize as songs that became Morrissey songs.
If you are unfamiliar with his playing I would recommend checking out both of the above mentioned Morrissey records. Although I think Vauxhall and I is the pinnacle of Morrissey’s solo career, Southpaw Grammar may interest you more if you are buying a record for purely the guitar playing aspect if you happen to be a rock n roll fan. Both records feature glorious guitar playing that in and of itself has unfortunately been overlooked for too long.