Former bassist for The Smiths, Andy Rourke passed away Friday at the age of 59, after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
Rourke was born in Manchester in 1964. Rourke was gifted a guitar by his parents when he was seven. At eleven, he met a young Johnny Marr (then named John Maher) at school and began to jam with him at lunch. Marr encouraged Rourke to try the bass when they formed their first band, and Rourke found that he enjoyed it so much that he committed to it for the rest of his career. Rourke was never a replaceable bassist. He crafted creative basslines that sometimes served as their own quiet melody.
Often when people think of The Smiths, they only think about Morrissey with his sad and poetic lyrics and unique voice. But as soon as you stop to examine a Smiths track, it’s not hard to notice how each member brings something to the table. Johnny Marr brings the jangly guitars that give the songs life. Mike Joyce uses his full drum kit to craft exactly what each song needs. Andy Rourke’s bass lines defied convention and worked perfectly with all the other parts.
In 1986, Rourke was arrested and Morrissey fired him from The Smiths. Guy Pratt was brought in as the new bassist. Pratt was an experienced session musician, but he still found it difficult to learn Rourke’s bass parts and was reportedly “relieved” when Rourke was cleared to return to the band two weeks later.
After The Smiths, Andy Rourke worked with Morrissey on his solo work, with Sinead O’Connor (alongside Smiths’ drummer Mike Joyce), with Ian Brown (of The Stone Roses), with The Pretenders, and with many other legendary artists.
Morrissey and Mike Joyce have publicly paid their respects, as well as his long-time friend Johnny Marr, who posted an emotional tribute on Instagram. We here at the station obviously didn’t know Rourke personally, but as lifelong music lovers, some of us would like to share staff picks of our favorite Andy Rourke basslines.
Brian Phillips “There are so many… For me, it’s in my favorite Smiths song ‘The Headmaster Ritual.’ His part shows off how he was able to anchor down a song while at the same time providing a cool melodic counterpoint to Johnny Marr’s distinctive playing. ”
Tom Butler and DJ Nate “[Simultaneously] ‘Barbarism Begins at Home.’”
Just Emma “As a Smiths song: ‘Cemetry Gates,’ but The Pretenders’ Last of The Independents was a big album for me as a teenager and I respected the bassline in ‘Love Colours’ before I knew who was playing it. ”
We here at CD 92.9 FM send our condolences to those who were close to Andy Rourke and thank him for all the great music.