Andy Rourke was the other melodic genius in the Smiths: spry, funky and masterful

Andy Rourke was the other melodic genius in the Smiths: spry, funky and masterful

‘Quite astonishing dexterity’ … (L-R) Andy Rourke and Johnny Marr.

Complex, fluid style … (L-R) Andy Rourke and Johnny Marr. Photograph: Paul Slattery

Rourke’s propulsive basslines worked in perfect tandem with Johnny Marr’s guitar parts to create the Smiths’ singular sound


The creation myth of the Smiths is well-known: inspired by a South Bank Show documentary about the songwriting partnership Leiber and Stoller, Johnny Marr turns up unannounced on Morrissey’s doorstep, meets with the singer’s approval after being invited to pick a record to play and choosing the Marvelettes’ 1966 B-side Paper Boy, returns the following day, when the pair immediately write both The Hand That Rocks the Cradle and Suffer Little Children, their extraordinary meditation on the Moors murders: immediate evidence that the partnership, and the band it spawned, would – as Marr later put it – “do things differently”.

It’s a story that Marr’s 2016 autobiography Set the Boy Free confirms. But the book also suggests another genesis point for the Smiths, several years earlier, when he first meets, then is assigned by his school to keep an eye on, a troubled fellow pupil called Andy Rourke. Hailing from a noticeably more monied background than Marr’s own, Rourke had effectively been left to his own devices by his divorced parents and developed a drug habit that would grow to encompass heroin. The pair became friends and musical partners, performing together in teenage bands. The Smiths initially tried to do without Rourke, but could not: after one gig, Marr fired bass player Dale Hibbert and drafted his friend, despite misgivings about his drug use.

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