Andy Rourke (The Smiths)

Best known as the bass player for the Smiths, English Musician Andrew Michael “Andy” Rourke was born 17 January 1964. The Smiths were formed in Manchester in 1982. The band consisted of vocalist Morrissey, guitarist Johnny Marr, Rourke and drummer Mike Joyce. Rourke received an acoustic guitar from his parents when he was seven years old. At age 11 he befriended a young John Maher (the future Johnny Marr) with whom he shared an interest in music. The pair spent lunch breaks in school jamming and playing on their guitars. When Marr and Rourke formed a band, he invited Rourke (still then a guitarist) to try on bass, which he fell in love with and he stuck with ever since.

At the age of 15 Rourke left school. Earning money doing menial jobs and playing guitar and bass in various rock bands, as well as in the short lived funk band Freak Party, with his school friend Johnny Marr. Marr later teamed up with Morrissey to form the Smiths. Rourke joined the band after its first gig, and remained through most of its existence. Rourke was briefly sacked from the band, allegedly receiving the news in a note left under the windscreen wiper of his car: “Andy, you have left the Smiths. Good luck and goodbye, Morrissey”. Morrissey has denied this. In May 1986, Rourke rejoined the Smiths, just before they recorded The Queen Is Dead. Marr described Rourke’s contribution to that album as “something no other bass player could match”. The Smiths released Strangeways, Here We Come in 1987 to critical acclaim, but split soon after.

Immediately after the break-up, Rourke and Smiths drummer Mike Joyce played with Sinéad O’Connor – Rourke (but not Joyce) appears on the album I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got (1990). Along with Craig Gannon, they provided the rhythm section for two singles by former Smiths singer Morrissey – “Interesting Drug” and “The Last of the Famous International Playboys” (both 1989). Rourke also played bass on Morrissey’s “November Spawned a Monster” and “Piccadilly Palare” (both 1990) and composed the music for Morrissey’s songs “Yes, I Am Blind” (the B-side of “Ouija Board, Ouija Board”, 1989); “Girl Least Likely To” (a B-side on the 12-inch single of “November Spawned a Monster”; also released as a bonus track on the 1997 reissue of Viva Hate); and “Get Off the Stage” (the B-side of “Piccadilly Palare”).

Rourke has also played and recorded with the Pretenders (appearing on some of the tracks on 1994’s Last of the Independents); Killing Joke, Badly Drawn Boy (with whom Rourke toured for two years), Aziz Ibrahim (formerly of the Stone Roses), and ex-Oasis guitarist Bonehead as Moondog One, which also included Mike Joyce and Craig Gannon. Rourke also played bass for Ian Brown, both on tour and on Brown’s album The World Is Yours. In 1996, Rourke and Mike Joyce started legal proceedings against Morrissey and Marr over royalties. While Joyce continued with the action, Rourke settled out of court for £83,000. However Having spent the settlement Rourke later found himself being declared bankrupt following a petition of the Inland Revenue on 25 January 1999.

Rourke, his then-manager Nova Rehman, his production company, Great Northern Productions, and others organised Manchester v Cancer, a series of concerts to benefit cancer research, later known simply as Versus Cancer. The initiative was prompted when Rehman’s father and sister were diagnosed with the disease. The first Manchester v Cancer concert took place in January 2006. It featured a reunion between Rourke and his former Smiths bandmate Johnny Marr, who performed one song together. The second Manchester v Cancer concert took place in March 2007. Rourke performed with former Oasis guitarist Bonehead’s band Elektrik Milk. Rourke was less involved in organising the third concert in February 2008 or the fourth in December 2009.

Rourke formed Freebass with bass players Mani (ex-the Stone Roses) and Peter Hook (ex-New Order) in 2007 and remained active in the group until August 2010. Early in 2009, he moved to New York City, where he has a programme on East Village Radio. and works as a club DJ with Olé Koretsky under the name Jetlag. A selection of the duo’s remixes can be heard at Soundcloud.


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