Like many people, I have a difficult relationship with The Smiths. They were my favourite band for the most formative years of my life, but they also have the most problematic frontman, one in whom I – like many teenagers – invested so much of myself that his increasingly unpleasant behaviour seemed much like a personal betrayal.
But the death of Andy Rourke has me reaching once more for the comfort of familiar friends. When I think of Andy Rourke, I immediately think of two things: Meat Is Murder and this picture, which I always loved for some reason, partly because it reverses the way we usually see the band – but also because Rourke looks so fucking cool.
Rourke’s brilliant bass playing is all over Meat Is Murder. One of my best friends, a bass player, says he used to argue with me that on songs like “This Charming Man” Rourke was as essential to the Smiths’ sound as Johnny Marr – but as a non-musician who worshipped Morrissey, I often struggled to hear what was actually going on with the music: it just existed. It simply was. But even I couldn’t miss the bass on Meat Is Murder. It’s a prominent feature, holding together and driving forward just about every track from “The Headmaster Ritual” onwards but most memorable of all on the fantastic strut of “Barbarism Begins At Home”.
This may even have been the first time I became conscious of what a bass guitar actually sounded like.
I fancy that I am not alone.
RIP Andy and thanks.