Passed/Failed: An education in the life of Andy Rourke, bass player with The Smiths

'I didn't take my O-levels'

I always had the part of the sheep in the nativity plays at All Saints Primary in Ashton-upon-Mersey; I never made it up to Joseph or an angel. I had two older brothers there and when they left I was counting the days until I could go to one of their schools, because this was something you had to do, like finally getting long trousers. Luckily enough, I passed the 11-plus and went to St Augustine's Grammar in Sharston. This was a total shock to the system. It was heavily Catholic, the head was a Monsignor and all the teachers wore mortar-boards.

Everyone new was as scared as I was: the older kids taunting you, so many different corridors and places you had to be at a certain time. And my parents split up around the time I went to secondary school.

I never actually grew to like the school. The teaching methods were antique and I was hit on a daily basis. There were a few bullies; I'm talking about the teachers. The red mist used to descend and they used to lose it. Backchat was my downfall. I had an English teacher in tears once.

The Monsignor was a nice guy and pretty much on the level, although I was beaten by him. At least he was fair. Before he hit you, he would ask how many strokes you thought you deserved. If you said one, and you deserved four, he'd probably give you five. He liked a bit of a drink. I used to think it was his aftershave you could smell but years later I realised it was gin.

Johnny Marr [of The Smiths] was at the same school as me. The first time that I met him, we were passing each other in the corridor, both carrying guitars. He was wearing a Neil Young lapel badge and I was interested in Neil Young too. Luckily our classroom was also the music room, so we could play there in break. People came in with violins and flutes but it was definitely a plus, being able to play the guitar.

Mr Jessett, the music teacher, wrote the music to The Fingerbobs, a kids' programme in the Seventies. He was a brilliant musician and teacher but he was very strict and for me he took out the enjoyment a little. He was more useful to Johnny, who writes lyrics and music, than to me. I'm starting a guitar course at the Lowry; hopefully I'll go a little easier on the kids! I didn't take my O-levels. My mocks went okay but, with my constant truancy, I was behind in my coursework. The school said I was not needed for the exams and so needn't bother to come in. I was 15. After being on the dole, I went to work in a timber yard because I was saving up for an amplifier and I left when I got it. When I was leaving, the boss was cross that I was going after such a short time. I said, "I'll be on Top of the Pops in six months." He said, "Yeah, right, course you will" - but I was!

Email: jonty@jonathansale.com

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