Andy Rourke, schoolyard friend to Johnny Marr and bassist for The Smiths (among other bands), passed away yesterday at the young age of 59 from pancreatic cancer. I’ve had it on a short list to create some content surrounding The Smiths, and as they’ve dominated my headphones and turntable since yesterday morning, here we go. I’m going to count down my top 10 favorite Andy Rourke bass lines from songs by The Smiths.
First up, I also made the following video yesterday and it just went up on my YouTube Channel, so if you’d rather watch me discuss them, you can do so below:
Additionally, I put together a Spotify Playlist that includes all of the songs on this list. You can check that out via the embed below:
#10. Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now
“Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” opens with a great intro, which is centered around Rourke’s bass. But then the song kicks into gear and it just keeps getting better. A bit subtle, but it still blends great with the jangly guitar and Morrissey’s romantically mopey crooning.
#9. Girl Afraid
Rourke’s bass line in “Girl Afraid” is the true driving force in the song. Front and center with its infectious groove, it seamlessly blends with the vibrant guitar riffs. It’s tight. It’s precise. And Rourke establishes a solid foundation for the band, allowing the other instruments to flourish while stealing the spotlight.
#8. Cemetry Gates
Yet another that kicks off with a great bass line from the get go is “Cemetry Gates” [sic]. Rourke’s melodic bass adds depth and richness here, creating a strong foundation that blends seamlessly with the rhythm section and enhances the overall energy this haunting track by The Smiths.
#7. The Headmaster Ritual
Rourke’s bass line in “The Headmaster Ritual” serves as the backbone of the music, providing a pulsating foundation that underpins the intricate guitar work and propels the song’s energetic drive. His melodic choices add depth and interest to the overall composition, harmonizing with the other instruments and enhancing the song’s intensity. Instrumentally, everything flows with near perfection here. Yet again, we’re hit with a great bass line, and Rourke shows off his mastery like none other.
#6. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
Ever the hopeless romantic–kinda like Moz himself–“There is a Light That Never Goes Out” is my all-time favorite song by the Smiths. No surprise, that Rourke’s bass line here is a top 10 for him. It provides a steady and pulsating foundation, anchoring the dreamy, melancholic atmosphere created by the guitars, the flute, and even Morrissey.
#5. This Night Has Opened My Eyes
Here, guitars take a back seat, providing light melody while letting Rourke on bass shine. On “This Night Has Opened My Eyes,” Rourke serves as a melodic counterpoint to the angular guitars. He fills in the spaces between the chords with rhythmic intricacies. It accentuates and enhances the dynamic interplay between the instruments. Brilliant!
#4. Pretty Girls Make Graves
Perhaps more than on any other song, Rourke’s bass has a light, playful bounce to it in “Pretty Girls Make Graves.” Thus, it establishes a solid rhythmic foundation and intertwines with melodic jangle of the guitar. Rourke complements and adds depth and texture to the music.
#3. You’ve Got Everything Now
Once again the driving force, but also the melodic anchor, Rourke weaves in and out of the rhythmic guitar chords on “You’ve Got Everything Now.” Creating a rich, layered texture, he deftly creates intricacy that enhances the song’s dynamics, adding depth and complexity to the overall sound while seamlessly integrating his bass with the other instruments.
#2. This Charming Man
Infection and with a hefty bounce to it, “This Charming Man” is truly iconic. Rourke’s bass forms a solid foundation for the song, locking in with the drums and creating a tight rhythmic pocket. It has flair. It’s catchy. It blending seamlessly with the guitar jangle and Morrissey’s charismatic vocals. This is a song that makes you question Morrissey’s sexuality, and, quite possibly, your own.
#1. Barbarism Begins at Home
Others have ranked this one at number one; I’m not the first nor will I be the last. Rourke gives us his best bass lines, his best riffs, his best performance here. Likewise, the rest of the band pretty much follows suit. Rourke’s bass line in “Barbarism Begins at Home” is a tour de force of intricate and complex playing. And it complements the frenetic guitar riffs and propels the song’s pent-up, aggressive energy. The result is precise, dexterous, and really intense.
RIP Andy Rourke
Andy Rourke was a phenomenal bassist, and listening to songs from the list above shows just how skilled he was at creating melody, complementing the musicianship of his fellow band members, and standing on a pedestal all his own within a truly stunning group a musicians.
What would you list as your #1 song by The Smiths when it comes to Rourke’s contribution on bass? Let me know in the comments here or over on my YouTube Channel.