REMEMBERING BILLY MACKENZIE (Day 5 of 5)

Words and the PS are from Sid. I went for the songs.

What can anyone say about the 60th birthday of a guy who didn’t make 40? I think if Billy was still around he would still be making music. He’d love the Internet and how quickly he could produce and distribute music without the obstructive, stifling interference of Record Companies which had crushed his career and his soul so. He would do some wee cabaret slots at the Edinburgh Festival mibbe. He’d be happy with his dogs mibbe. He’d probably still be up in the Sidlaws. Maybe somewhere in an alternate universe he still is, but in this one his music stopped over twenty years ago. It is nearly thirty five years since his last hit single.

Billy and his Associates didn’t have many hit singles either – about two and a half at the last count. So Billy Mackenzie’s work isn’t about hits… it is mostly about misses. But those misses make for some spectacular listening. His list of recording associates is astonishing – he recorded with Barry Adamson, BEF, Apollo Four Forty, Yello, Skids, Shirley Bassey, Steven Emmer, Shakespeare’s Sister, Peach, Paul Haig, Alan Rankine, Michael Dempsey, Steve Aungle, Loom, Pascal Gabriel, Thomas Fehlmann, Blair Booth, Philip Erb, Moritz Von Oswald, Ralf Hertwig, Dei Zwei

Billy should be a stylish, slightly tweedy, Scottish eccentric gentleman living out his years in a cottage in the hills to the North-West of Dundee. A sight to behold as he sets a polished brogue on some rugged granite outcroppings on the short heathery flanks of Auchterhouse Hill with a loyal whippet or two at his side. Happy Birthday Billy.

Sid Law

PS. Remember when New Year Shows were like this?

 

mp3 : Associates – Boys Keep Swinging
mp3 : Associates – Tell Me Easter’s On Friday (12″ version)
mp3 : Associates – Breakfast (Peel Sessions)
mp3 : Billy MacKenzie – Pastime Paradise
mp3 : Haig/Mackenzie – Thunderstorm

JC writes…….a huge thanks again to Sid for the fantastic contributions these past few days.  And thanks to all of you have dropped in and been part of these extended birthday celebrations of a unique and sadly-missed talent.

BONUS POST : IT’S GOING TO GET AWFULLY REAL IN THE COMING WEEKS

My good lady Rachel has long referred to the folk I correspond with through the blog as my imaginary friends.

But over the years I have been lucky enough to meet up with a fair number of great people whom I first got to know through interacting via e-mail around TVV – Comrade Colin, FiL, Ctel, Drew, Ed, Matthew, Brian, Tricia, Lis, Lloyd and Aye Tunes Jim all spring to mind. Next month, I get to hook up for the first time with some more friends in the shape of Jonny the Friendly Lawyer and Swiss Adam – the former being in Manchester on Sunday 23 April as bassist with The Ponderosa Aces and the latter living in that great city and intending (all being well) to hook up on the day.

That’s exciting enough, but early May is going to be genuinely special.

Dirk Huppertz was the first overseas reader to latch onto TVV in as much that he posted loads of comments and sent over e-mails of encouragement as I gingerly stumbled into the blogosphere. He had a great ability to make me laugh and we seemed to have a great deal in common in terms of musical tastes – I just found it incredible that someone from Germany was so knowledgable and enthusiastic about new wave and indie music.

For over ten years I’ve been wanting to buy Dirk a drink to say thank you. And at long last I’m going to get the opportunity…….

Dirk has been really keen for a while to try to get various bloggers together but his efforts have been in vain – it’s just been impossible for 15-20 folk to find the same day or weekend when they have no prior commitments through work or family. So he decided that he would set a date that suited him best and make his way to Glasgow with an open invite for folk to join him. I was delighted at long last I was going to meet him and geared myself up for the two of us, with maybe a couple of other local bloggers in tow, to have a few beers on the first weekend of May 2017.

But then a few others said they would also come long, although sadly a few others just could not make it for very good reasons. Others at this stage some five weeks out are still thinking about it. My other great German blogging friend – Walter – is flying in. Brian, whom I met and had a great day in Glasgow a few years back, is seriously contemplating coming in from Seattle**. Swiss Adam is coming up from Manchester. Drew is going to make a night of it in the city. I’m also going to meet Charity Chic for the first time (although when we see each other I’ve a feeling we’ll recognise one another from being at the same gigs). Friends of the blog such as Jacques the Kipper, Aldo and Comrade Colin are going to come along and I’m hopeful too that a couple of others might be able to make a late call to be part of what will be an incredible experience.

I’m excited about it, but nervous too. Not from meeting everyone as I’ve never yet hooked up with a previously imaginary friend and been disappointed – if anything they’ve all proven to be even more handsome, gorgeous, witty, charming and delightful in real life than they come across via the typed word. I just don’t want to let anybody down by choosing the wrong bars, restaurants and places of interest and they end up going home slightly underwhelmed by it all.

But I’m sure that won’t happen. Fingers crossed.

mp3 : Orange Juice – Simply Thrilled Honey
mp3 : Buzzcocks – Friends of Mine
mp3 : The Wedding Present – You Should Always Keep In Touch With Your Friends (Peel Session)

JC

** Update : Brian IS coming all the way over from Seattle.

Wow.

REMEMBERING BILLY MACKENZIE (Day 4 of 5)

Some mid-period Associates and Billy MacKenzie.

Just Can’t Say Goodbye was the Associates last single released in January 1991. However the song had slid out in tiny quantities as a very different version as the B-Side to the aborted “Country Boy” single back in 1988.

“The Best Of You” was a track on the 1985 “Perhaps” album. On the released album it was Eddi Reader who sang the duet with Billy MacKenzie. Here are the two versions recorded with A Lennox and Gina X. Yes… that A Lennox. I prefer the Gina X version myself.

Gina X version
A Lennox version

Cinemas Of The World 7” – Warners were keeping Billy from releasing records between 1985 and 1989. But Billy kept recording with other “associates”. This was Uno who released an album and this track was actually a single. There is a lengthier 12” version but I think the 7” mix is better.

Sid Law

REMEMBERING BILLY MACKENZIE (Day 3 of 5)

The Radio One Sessions CDs were very limited and sell for stupid money now.

So a few Radio One Sessions!

A combination of tracks recorded for the Saturday Live session in January 1985 and a Janice Long Session in September 1985.

A Severe Bout of Career Insecurity – MacKenzie song. No full studio recording exists only this Radio One Session.

Kites – A cover of the Simon Dupree and The Big Sound song. Billy had already recorded a stonking version with Alan Rankine as 39 Lyon Street and a version on the flipside of the 12” of “Breakfast”.

The Crying GameDave Berry’s 1964 hit given the Associates 1984 treatment. Performed first as part of an acoustic, pared-down set at Ronnie Scott’s.

The Girl That Took Me – A slowed down version of their flop single “Take Me To The Girl”. A wonderful camp, tongue in cheek dedication to Janice Long as well.

This Flame – Another MacKenzie song with no full studio recording and only exists on this Radio One Session.

Sid Law

BONUS POST : DID THEY CUT THE MUSTARD IN 2017? : #2 : SONG, BY TOAD SHOWCASE

BBC Radio 6 came to Glasgow last weekend with some incredibly high-powered and diverse line-ups at some of the best known venues in the city, with the biggest attention grabber being Depeche Mode at the Barrowlands, a venue they could have comfortably sold-out at least five times over. There was always going to be a huge scramble for tickets for all of the gigs;  they also went on sale on a day and at a time when work commitments prevented me going on-line and so I resigned myself to missing out. There was also the fact that the festival was ahappening on a weekend when I was more or less fully committed to going to a range of other things including football on the Saturday and marking Mother’s Day on the Sunday.

But then something unexpected happened. It was announced that there would be a Fringe aspect with smaller gigs at more intimate venues planned for the lead-in to the weekend, one of which was at Glad Café just a 20 minute brisk walk from Villain Towers, and whose line-up was to consist of three acts from the Edinburgh-based Song, By Toad label. Readers of old will know that I’ve long been an admirer of everything label owner Matthew Young has achieved over the past decade or so, a period in which he has graduated from mere blogging and podcasting into becoming one of the most important and influential figures within the local music scene, so apart from anything else it was likely going to afford an opportunity to have a long-overdue catch up with him if he came along on the night (which he did and we did!). The real bonus however, was the revelation that the gig would act as the Glasgow launch of the new LP from Meursault and that two of the most beguiling acts on the label would provide support on the night. And all for the bargain price of £7.

The night opened with a 40-minute set from Siobhan Wilson. The word haunting was invented to provide a one-word description of her act. A slightly built singer-songwriter who has been recording and performing for about seven years or so, her voice and gentle guitar playing totally captivated the audience.

My companion for the evening – Mike G (possibly the shyest man on Planet Earth) – whispered to me as applause rang out at the end of another stunningly delivered song that her dilevery and vocal range reminded him a lot of Harriet Wheeler. Me? I was thinking of Hope Sandeval during some of the quieter moments and I’m sure others in the audience who were listening intently to every perfectly delivered note were making comparisons with their own favourites and believing that, in a fair and just world, it can only be a matter of time before Siobhan’s talents come to the attention of a much wider public. It was the perfect start to the evening.

mp3 : Siobhan Wilson – Dear God

Jonnie Common was next to take to the stage. Another who has been around for the best part of a decade, he has released a number of EPs and albums under various guises constantly confounding anyone who likes to put their performers into neatly categorised boxes. He’s been mainstream enough to be invited to perform a Radio 6 session for Tom Robinson but I can’t think of anyone else who has released a critically acclaimed album made solely of sounds from his kitchen utensils as he did just last year. Let’s just say, when Jonnie is on the bill, expect the unexpected.

Tonight he was paying guitar – a shit guitar  that had been designed by Kurt Cobain (his words, not mine!!) that would require a lot of tuning in-between songs. He was joined on stage by Gavin Thomson on keyboards and flugelhorn.

The set turned out to be of songs that are at the development stage, but unlike many other performances of that nature where the audience lose interest from a lack of familiarity with the material, such is Jonnie’s natural stage presence, wit, sense of fun and ability to do something you weren’t the slightest bit prepared for, everyone remained beguiled by what was unfolding in front of them.  It was a first for me that someone could use electronic wizardry to make the tuning of a guitar sound like an orchestra playing and who, in the middle of a song in which he had forgotten the words, pressed a button to blast out a, sadly, unused and hilarious jingle specially recorded for a Radio 6 DJ. Oh and who was able, again thanks to some very sharp sampling, to bring us the delights of Lauren Laverne on backing vocals. It was the perfect continuation of the evening.

mp3 : Jonnie Common – Shark

(The Siobhan and Jonnie songs were taken from this 2014 release)

Finally, it was the turn of Meursault to take to the stage. And in the week when this blog is paying homage to the late and great Billy MacKenzie, it somehow seems apt that to put the spotlight on frontman Neil Pennycook, without any question the finest vocalist to come out of Scotland since the turn of the century.

Readers of old will know that Meursault have long been personal favourites. Beginning life as Neil’s solo project, they soon expanded into a highly talented and accomplished group of musicians, some of whom were part of the ensemble for shorter periods than others, and between 2008 and 2014 they released three very different sounding albums of original material, a handful of excellent singles/EPs and one crowd-funded album of suggested covers encompassing a range of styles such as electronica, pop, folk and krautrock. In August 2014 they seemingly called it a day with Neil announcing that he would now write , record and perform under the name of Supermoon. The other band members sought to pursue solo careers or within new bands, most notably Modern Studies whose chamber-pop debut album last year received many plaudits.

Out of the blue, Neil announced the return of Meursault with a plan of recording the Supermoon material as a band. An EP, Simple Is Good was released in October 2016 and an album I Will Kill Again in February 2017. In my own perverse way, I didn’t rush out and buy the new material for the simple reason that I’ve always found any live exposure to the power and beauty of Neil’s voice as the best way to be introduced to his songs. So, for the most part as this was a set almost exclusively drawn from the new releases, these were songs with which I wasn’t familiar.

The five-piece band took to the stage – there were some familiar faces with Sam Mallalieu on drums and Reuben Taylor on accordion/piano, but there was a new member in the shape of Robyn Dawson on fiddle and backing vocals while the spectacularly bearded Bart Owl of Eagleowl was on bass (it transpired he was filling in for Fraser Hughes who was unavailable on the evening). Over the course of the next hour or so this wonderfully talented group delivered something that I wasn’t the least bit expecting. It was for the most part a far harder edged sound than I had ever experienced at previous Meursault performances with Neil demonstrating what had been previously been, to this fan, largely hidden extraordinary talents as a lead guitarist making full use of his pedals but all the time perfectly complementing that extraordinary voice of his. As I watched this unfold, certain words from a Beastie Boys song were racing round my brain – mesmerising, tantalising, captivating and devastating. It was the real deal.

And then……..Neil asked for all the sound monitors to be switched off. He picked up a bottle of wine, poured a glass and went over to stand beside Reuben who was seated at the piano (the tiny stage at Glad Café meant in had to be located adjacent). He launched into a cover version of Day Drinker, a song written and recorded by Adam Faucett, an Arkansas-based musician, and in doing so provided a spellbinding performance that caused a few tear ducts to open.

It was, as my Canadian friends would say, awesome. A show-stopping moment that had this mere mortal again trying to work out what special part of the DNA enables talented performers, be they singers, actors or dancers, who, having just left nothing out there during a particular part of a show, let the applause die down and get geared up for what is due next.

All too soon the clock had ticked round to curfew time and Meursault took their leave of the stage. I was quickly over to the merchandise stall where I bought the two bits of music that I had previously held off from. They will be on regular rotation in the coming weeks and months.

mp3 : Meursault – Simple Is Good

I’m not sure how the rest of the BBC Radio 6 show went over the course of the weekend – I would imagine that folk who got to see their favourites in smaller than normal venues or perhaps as the support act to a bigger name, will have come away raving about it. But pound for pound, I can’t imagine they got as great a bargain as those of us at Glad Café, nor did they experience such a varied bill of fare that saw three equally superb acts deliver in their own and very distinctive ways.

JC

REMEMBERING BILLY MACKENZIE (Day 2 of 5)

A lovely picture of Billy with everyone’s favourite Muffin – Martha Ladly

Baltimore – Billy’s take on Randy Newman’s song.

FreeBEF dragged Billy back for Music of Quality and Distinction Volume Two. This was his contribution.

It’s Over – A wee orchestral arrangement of one of Billy’s contributions to Music of Quality and Distinction Volume One.

The Mountains That You ClimbBilly MacKenzie and Steve Aungle.

Anacostia Bay (at the edge of the world)Loom featuring Billy MacKenzie. The last record Billy released in his lifetime. Full-length 12min 42sec original mix.

EurocentricBilly MacKenzie and Steve Aungle (unreleased demo)

Give Me Time – Electro version. Billy MacKenzie and Paul Haig (unreleased demo)

Sid Law

HE WOULD HAVE BEEN 60 YEARS OLD TODAY

A couple of months back, many blogs and indeed paid-for publications, paid tribute on the 20th Anniversary of the very sad passing of the great Billy Mackenzie.

I’ve never hidden my affection for Billy in terms of his musical legacy and the incredibly complex individual he proved to be. Myself and Jacques the Kipper happened to be in Dundee for a football match shortly after said anniverary and we took a short detour on our walk up to the ground so that we could pass by 39 Lyon Street and the tenement block from where Billy’s career was launched.

It was a deliberate decision not to mark the anniversary on the blog as it fell so close to today and what would have been his 60th birthday. Regular readers will know, thanks to the many amazing pieces he has contributed over the years to this blog, that Sid Law can be counted as one of the biggest and most knowledgable fans out there. We had a little e-mail exchange back in January and as he said:-

“It was a dark, grim January day twenty years ago – why mark it anymore? I think it is a much more positive and cool thing to celebrate Billy’s birthday.”

And Sid, being such a fine and generous individual has provided some great gifts to be handed out on such a special occasion to which I’ll also add something.

Those First Impressions should have been a big hit back in the summer of 1984 but it stalled just outside the charts. A shimmering poptastic 12″ extended version was released at the time which has never appeared digitally or on any of the re-issues. Unique and a lovely thing. So straight from my vinyl copy:-

mp3 : Associates – Those First Impressions (extended version)

A shorter version with a drum intro (different from the single version) appeared on the Heart of Glass CD EP a few years later and never made available anywhere else. So courtesy of Sid:-

mp3 : Associates – Those First Impressions (drum intro)

But here’s something really unique from Sid. Billy’s original demo for the track. Never released of course.

mp3 : Billy Mackenzie – Those First Impressions (demo version)

Finally for today. Here’s Sid to explain:-

This little beauty attached I’d had on a cassette of a wavering studio monitor mix with fluctuating levels, then about five or six years back Steve Aungle dropped this marvellous cleaned up and properly finished-off version out on his blog – for free. An incredible gesture. Nobody has really heard this song.

mp3 : Billy Mackenzie – The Mountains That You Climb

Happy birthday Billy.  Your legacy is more greatly appreciated more these days than when you were with us. But I guess you always reckoned that would be the case.

Indeed, such is the significance of said legacy that the blog, for the rest of this week, will be devoted to his music (with an occasional bonus posting for other things).

JC and Sid Law