Best known for his time as bassist for The Smiths, Andy Rourke has died aged 59, following a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer. After The Smiths’ demise, Rourke played as a member ‘Freebass’ alongside alumni of The Stone Roses and New Order.
Rourke was a founding member of The Smiths, having met Johnny Marr aged 11. The duo honed their musical chemistry from a young age, jamming and playing together in school music rooms before graduating and forming The Smiths in 1982. Although much coverage of the legendary Manchester band is focussed on Morrissey and Marr’s relationship, with the rhythm section often taking an undeserved back seat, Rourke added an incredible and undeniable element to the unique stylings of The Smiths: Marr’s early, jangly, indie riffs needed the structure of Rourke’s unrelenting basslines.
Much of The Smiths’ mystique centres around the fateful day when Marr knocked on Morrissey’s door. Still, the pre-existing relationship between Rourke and Marr is as critical as any songwriting partnership. Whilst Marr and Morrissey wrote the songs, Rourke’s basslines add so much: listen closely and you’ll notice Rourke’s complex basslines intertwine with Marr’s guitar playing. Rourke always had his work cut out for him because The Smiths relied on one guitarist instead of two – take a listen to ‘Barbarism Begins At Home’ from Meat is Murder and Rourke’s musicality and talent is irrefutable. ‘This Charming Man’ is a cut of undeniable significance, and without Rourke’s driving basslines the song would be lost – he works around one of Manchester’s most iconic riffs with some style.
The Queen is Dead is arguably the band’s greatest work, with each member firing on all cylinders. The title track of that record is another example of Rourke at his absolute best – his thunderous yet aptly placed bassline truly taps into the anti-monarchist rage of the cut, allowing Marr and Morrissey to flourish with his skilful additions. Just as The Smiths would be nothing without Marr and Morrissey, the same can definitely be said for Andy Rourke.
Thanks for the music, Andy.