Irish Examiner / Tom Dunne: "In many ways, The Smiths were our generation's Beatles" (May 25, 2023)




Tom Dunne (Something Happens lead singer) article in Irish Examiner...Nice tribute to Andy with great assessment of The Smiths and no sniping comments on Morrissey...which is great to see

Tom Dunne: In many ways, The Smiths were our generation's Beatles

Andy Rourke's death reminded many of us a band whose brilliance went beyond the songwriting abilities of Morrissey and Marr.

Sad news last weekend about Andy Rourke. To some he was the bass player in The Smiths, one of the ones that wasn’t Morrissey or Jonny hMarr. But to others he was part of a band we thought of as “Our Beatles”. They soundtracked the 1980s. One of the big four was gone.

You know it’s a significant music passing when it gets mentioned in a football commentary. Brian Kerr, ex Ireland manager and a man who knows music, made reference to it while on duty at a Premier League game. “Leaves a wonderful musical legacy,” said Kerr, yes, and then some.

Rourke’s musical legacy was sealed when he was at school. Someone asked the slightly older Johnny Marr to look after the somewhat “troubled” Rourke. They became inseparable, with Marr even moving into Rourke’s house when he was 15. Band memberships followed Marr’s calling around to Morrissey’s house to sound him out about writing together is one of the seminal meetings in music. It’s the Paul meeting John moment. He had watched a Southbank documentary about songwriters Lieber and Stoller and thought perhaps he and Morrissey might try something similar.

Within 24 hours they had written ‘The Hand that Rocks the Cradle’ and ‘Suffer Little Children’. Their first releases, ‘Hand in Glove’ and ‘This Charming Man’ are arguably the best, most strikingly original, utterly unique first two singles that any band ever released.

Morrissey had a way of putting phrases into your head. Whether it was “The leather runs smooth on the passenger seat”, or “if a ten ton truck, Kills the both of us, To die by your side, Well, the pleasure, the privilege is mine”. We had heard nothing like it before.

It might have ended there; one of those bands with great lyrics but no hits, where it not for Marr. We see him as a gifted guitarist, and the lord knows he is, but he is also a one man Wrecking Crew. For the intros, the arrangements, the hooks to be all the work of one man is simply astonishing.

And behind these two geniuses, Andy Rourke and drummer Mike Joyce, being, well, utterly perfect.

Inspired by The Smiths’ fiery creativity, a whole host of bands either formed immediately, changed tac dramatically or were re-energised. Punk had already caused a wave of creativity unheard of since the 1960s. The Smiths seemed to catch that wave’s natural frequency, and amplify it.

They were always a bit too indie for the mainstream, but 15 of the 21 single would top the Indie charts. And, like The Beatles, many singles, 10 of the 21, were not included on the albums. If there is a slight fall off around ‘Barbarism Begins at Home’, then from ‘That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore’ onwards, it just doesn’t let up.

And as for ‘How Soon is Now’: can you remember where you were when you first heard it? I can. The three young lads with whom I’d just formed a band called over to my house with it. “You have to hear this,” they said. Nothing could have prepared me.

It was a short career. Like a comet they burned brightly and were gone. We had loved them, but we had loved many other ‘80s bands too. It was quite the era. Morrissey moved instantly to his very successful solo career. Soon even America fell to his charms.

And then, in 1995, an odd thing happened. Warner’s, now owners of The Smiths’ catalogue, issued a ‘Best of…’ called The Singles collection. They had the idea to position The Smiths as a singles band, with all of the UK singles on one album for the first time.

It took this simple device to really bring home the achievement of the band: a run of singles from 1983 to 1987 that has few rivals for sheer quality and genius in modern music. When you reach for comparisons, it is to the likes of The Beatles, Abba, Bowie or The Kinks.

It was as if that up to this we hadn’t quite noticed how amazing it all was. The Smiths had achieved this level almost by stealth.

Andy is on every one of those tracks, sometimes doing things even Paul McCartney would admire. The ‘First of the Gang to Die’, as Morrissey would later sing.

Last edited by a moderator:
Top Bottom