OK….I’ve featured today’s song a couple of times previously over the years, but this will be the first occasion in which the re-released/re-recorded 12″ has ever been made available for your aural pleasures.
The original version of the song has a link to, of all bands, Wet Wet Wet. The pop/soul combo was managed by Elliot Davis who has founded an independent label, based in Glasgow called The Precious Organisation, for which he had grand plans, unless the major labels came calling – which they soon did in the shape of Phonogram. In the end, only two other acts other than ‘The Wets’ ever released anything on Precious, one of them being Goodbye Mr Mackenzie with The Rattler being issued on 7″ and 12″ vinyl in September 1986. It was a relative success in that it reached #13 on the Indie Singles Chart, helped by a video appearance on The Tube, the highly popular weekly music programme broadcast on Channel 4 on the early-mid 80s.
Fast-forward two years and a different major label, Capitol Records, had dangled a lucrative contract in front of Goodbye Mr Mackenzie which was duly signed. After a couple of singles hadn’t provided the hoped-for breakthrough, the decision was taken to release the re-recorded version of The Rattler was released in March 1989, going on to enjoy a six-week stint in the Top 75, peaking at #37. It proved, however, to be the only time the band ever cracked the Top 40 of the singles charts, which is something of a mystery as much of their music was tailor-made for radio consumption
There’s three other tracks on the 12″, two of which pay homage to the band’s roots in Edinburgh:-
The former, while nothing to do with his actual real-life story, name checks an 18th Century individual, William Brodie a seemingly respectable tradesman in the city who also served on the Council, holding the position of Deacon of the Incorporation of Wrights, which locally controlled the craft of cabinetmaking. The thing was Brodie maintained a secret life as a housebreaker, abusing his position as the foremost locksmith of the city to get access to the homes of the wealthy, as well as the vaults of banks. It all went wrong in 1788 when a raid on an excise office was botched and although Brodie fled to Amsterdam, he was caught and brought back to Edinburgh where, after a high-profile trial found him guilty, he was sentenced to death by hanging, at the age of 47. My first knowledge of Deacon Brodie came via drinking in the pub which now bears his name as it was the closest to the office of my first place of employment back in 1985.
The latter is an instrumental which sounds as if it would make for a great piece of music over which film or television credits would roll. Calton Hill is a stunning city centre location upon which a number of historical monuments and buildings are situated, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s worth mentioning in passing that, for decades, Calton Hill has also had a reputation as a dangerous place at night, a location where male prostitution, drug use and underage drinking has not been uncommon. It may well have been all the latter rather than the lovely buildings which inspired the title of this particular b-side.
The other track? Possibly one of the best-known shanties of them all:-
No apologies for the pops and crackles on the four tracks today. It’s the price of using vinyl that’s over 30 years of age and has been picked up second-hand. At least they are available in a hi-res fashion.