The 10 greatest Andy Rourke basslines with The Smiths

19 May 2024, 10:00

The Smiths - with acclaimed bassist Andy Rourke.
The Smiths - with acclaimed bassist Andy Rourke. Picture: Ross Marino/Getty Images/DPA Picture Alliance/Alamy Stock Photo

The late, great Smiths bassist died on the 19th May last year; Radio X celebrates his finest moments.

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Radio X

By Radio X

Whittling a list of Andy Rourke's best Smiths basslines down to just ten is almost an impossible task, because it means something amazing will inevitably fail to make the final cut. So, for the sake of argument, let's all agree that Barbarism Begins At Home is an incredible piece of funk from Rourke and delve even deeper into the instrumental wonder that is the Smiths back catalogue...

  1. The Smiths - This Charming Man (single, released 31st October 1983)

    Part of the appeal of The Smiths' second single, wasn't just the joyous peal of Johnny Marr's opening guitar riff, or the slyly ambitious lyrics, but the fact that the track was so danceable. A frustrated record company tried to issue a "12-inch remix" of the song but were quickly met with resistance from Morrissey and Marr; nevertheless, the extended version is where you'll hear Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce at their very best.

    The Smiths - This Charming Man (Official Music Video)

  2. The Smiths - Handsome Devil (from the album Hatful Of Hollow, released 12th November 1984)

    Recorded for a John Peel session in May 1983, this is the nearest thing to a definitive studio recording of this early Smiths song. With a typically provocative Morrissey lyric, the tune features an unusually savage riff for the band, which packed a punch live.

    Handsome Devil (John Peel Session 18/05/83)

  3. The Smiths - The Headmaster Ritual (from the album Meat Is Murder, released 11th February 1985)

    While Johnny Marr constructs the wall of guitars that lead off The Smiths' second album, Andy Rourke's bass provides emphasis on the glorious melody that accompanies Morrissey's sour memories of his schooldays. Then all the instruments come together on the whooping "chorus".

    The Smiths - The Headmaster Ritual (Official Audio)

  4. The Smiths - Well I Wonder (from the album Meat Is Murder, released 11th February 1985)

    A subdued interlude on Meat Is Murder, it's Rourke's bass that leads the song, with Marr's acoustic guitar offering a simple accompaniment.

    The Smiths - Well I Wonder (Official Audio)

  5. The Smiths - London (b-side to Shoplifters Of The World Unite, released 26th January 1987)

    One of The Smiths' rockiest tracks, the pummelling Johnny Marr riff allows the powerhouse of Rourke and Joyce to let fly. And it's all over in under two minutes, incredible.

    London (2011 Remaster)

  6. The Smiths - Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others (from the album The Queen Is Dead, released 16th June 1986)

    One of the most beautiful instrumental performances by The Smiths (coupled with one of Morrissey's daftest lyrics), the beauty here is when the, guitar, bass and drums follow the same melody... then shoot off into the stratosphere once the vocals is over. The finest way to end an album.

    Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others (2011 Remaster)

  7. The Smiths - What Difference Does It Make? (single, released 20th January 1984)

    Get the Peel Sessions version from Hatful Of Hollow, which offers a glimpse of how The Smiths sounded at their early gigs. A surprisingly boisterous performance from Marr, Rourke and Joyce, which proves what a great rock band The Smiths were.

    Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others (2011 Remaster)

  8. The Smiths - Girl Afraid (b-side of Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now, released 21st May 1984)

    Like bands like The Beatles and Oasis, the songs The Smiths squirreled away on the flip sides of their single releases included a number of gems. This early b-side is a prime example: one of Johnny Marr's perfectly-formed guitar parts is supported by a busy Andy Rourke bassline. One of the band's most underrated tracks.

    The Smiths - Girl Afraid (Official Audio)

  9. The Smiths - Shoplifters Of The World Unite (single, released 26th January 1987)

    While Johnny Marr does his best heavy metal guitar moves in the foreground, Andy keeps things locked in with a solid-as-a-rock rumble on one of The Smiths' best latter-day singles.

    The Smiths - Shoplifters Of The World Unite (Official Music Video)

  10. The Smiths - Death Of A Disco Dancer (from the album Strangeways Here We Come, released 28th September 1987)

    The band freely admitted that they'd been listening to The Beatles' "White Album" while recording what would become The Smiths' swansong. This album track from Strangeways Here We Come, has the same darker, more ponderous tone, led off by Andy Rourke's dexterous bass.

    Death of a Disco Dancer (2011 Remaster)

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