(Originally posted on the old blog on 11 April 2009)
All that talk the other day of Paul Haig got me thinking of other great songs to come out of Edinburgh. And right away, this piece of magic from 1986 sprung to mind:-
mp3 : Goodbye Mr Mackenzie – The Rattler
Goodbye Mr Mackenzie actually formed in Bathgate, which is a small town some 15 miles or so west of the capital, and their first single in 1984 was recorded (as The Mackenzies) on the record label of a local further education college.
This follow-up single was put out on the Glasgow-based Precious Organisation, which was the home to the soon chart-conquering Wet Wet Wet, but despite a lot of support from local radio stations across central Scotland (with one of the lines changed to avoid references to eating beavers), it flopped. There continued to be a real buzz about Goodbye Mr Mackenzie – this was a time when Scottish acts like Deacon Blue, Hue & Cry and the afore mentioned Wets were hugely popular and GMM were lumped in with all of them – so it was hardly a surprise that they ended up signing to a major label, in this case Capitol Records, in early 1988.
The first couple of singles flopped, and so band and label decided to release a re-recorded version of The Rattler which hit #37 in the UK charts in 1989. Debut LP, Good Deeds And Dirty Rags, did make the Top 30 a few months later, but a fourth single from the album sold poorly.
While some of the songs were as radio-friendly and catchy as many of their Scottish contemporaries, GMM never quite took off as expected – this was probably down to the fact that live they were quite a different proposition.
For instance, the lead guitarist was a huge bear of a man who was once part of a local punk outfit (and still looked as if that’s where he’d rather be) and there was a strange gothic-looking girl on keyboards and backing vocals, and you could never accuse them of being cuddly and photogenic…
With no real sustainable success, the record label lost interest, and while the band soldiered on for a few more years, they ended up as a mere footnote, albeit one that left us four LPs, about a dozen 45s/EPs and a couple of live recordings.
After they broke up, the gothic backing singer went onto find real fame and fortune :-
mp3 : Garbage – Queer
Yup, it was Shirley Manson who used to stand at the back of the stage with GMM, and before long she was a huge star the world over as lead singer in the band put together by Butch Vig, previously best-known as producer of Nevermind, the breakthrough album by Nirvana…..with whom Big John Duncan, the guitarist with GMM, occasionally played live.
It’s a small world y’know….
mp3 : Nirvana – Radio Friendly Unit Shifter
My copy of the 1986 single is well worn out, and the mp3 of The Rattler is taken from a CD compilation that gathers up all sorts of indie songs from that year, but I have managed to salvage one of the b-sides:-
mp3 : Goodbye Mr Mackenzie – Candlestick Park