In Music, Names, Words


This week’s word is dedicated to Andy Rourke, craftsman of the bass guitar, who died today at the terribly premature age of 59. Rourke was a member of The Smiths, probably the most Marmite of all bands ever. I don’t like Marmite but I loved The Smiths.

For me they lit up the mid-eighties, when all the good 70s bands had disbanded and we were left with a music scene that had become a frothy mélange of synth pop and navel gazers singing about writing classics in attics. Heaven knows it was miserable then. It took the Smiths to admit it.

OK, granted, Morrissey did a good line in self-pity and his voice could depress the birds down from the trees. One of my most vivid memories of my teenage years is of playing the Hatful of Hollow album on cassette while helping my Dad fix the car. He made it to track 11, You’ve Got Everything Now, before he cracked and beseeched me to “turn this miserable b*****ks off”. In those days it just wasn’t normal to hear someone singing “what a terrible mess I’ve made of my life”… or to hear my dad say “b*****ks”.

Behind the tortured lyrics and the monastic drone, though, the band put together tunes that lifted the spirits up where you could see things a little more clearly. This Charming Man has to be one of the most upbeat guitar riffs ever written – for a moment there I thought I could see my dad warming to them – and the rhythm section of Rourke and drummer Mike Joyce was like a Ferrari engine: solid, powerful, exciting, but never the first thing you noticed about the whole ensemble.

The last time I wrote one of these in response to the death of a musician was in March 2017 when Chuck Berry died. While that event had me riffling through the many meanings of chuck trying to find a reason why it should ever be used as a name, there is no such mystery with Smith. There may be many types of smith but the word really only has one meaning – a craftsman. There you go. That was Andy Rourke.

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