While Morrissey and Johnny Marr were The Smiths’ creative core, the best Andy Rourke basslines were just as crucial to the group’s impact.
Close friends since their school days, Rourke and Marr played in embryonic Manchester outfits White Dice and Freak Party during their teenage years, and the guitarist felt Rourke was the ideal candidate for the bass slot when he formed The Smiths. “I would elevate him and he would ground me,” Marr said of Rourke in Tony Fletcher’s The Smiths: A Light That Never Goes Out. “Aside from the fact he’s one of the most unique bass players of all time, his personality was really important to the band.”
A loyal team player, Rourke may not have written The Smiths’ songs, but he had almost complete autonomy over what he played on them, and he’s since made decisive contributions to landmark records by artists ranging from Sinead O’Connor to Pretenders. Once telling Bass Guitar magazine, “All the bass parts are my babies and you’re not supposed to have favourites,” Rourke seems reluctant to rank his own work. In celebration of this singular musician’s talent, however, we’ve cherry-picked what we believe are the best Andy Rourke basslines to date.
Listen to the best of The Smiths, and check out our ten best Andy Rourke basslines, below.
10: The Smiths: Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now (1984)
Johnny Marr wrote the music for The Smiths’ first UK Top 10 hit, Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now, and its terrific B-side, Girl Afraid, during a night of remarkable creativity during the band’s first visit to New York, in January 1984. Given space to breathe by producer John Porter, the studio take of Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now captured the whole band at their best, but while Smiths biographer Tony Fletcher later homed in on Marr’s “cascading guitar lines”, Rourke’s bass playing was equally fluid and sophisticated. The way he wove his motifs around Marr’s guitar figures during the entire song was truly something to behold.