There’s not many things that would have had me change the plan to have the blog take an extended holiday over the festive period.  The unexpected death of Alan Rankine, at the age of 64, is something that I just cannot let go unpassed without comment.

I’m typing these words 24 hours after hearing the news, and I still can’t quite come to terms with it.  I’ve tried a couple of times to put a piece together, which would go beyond the work he did with the Associates including with Paul Haig and the Cocteau Twins, as well as his time as a lecturer at Stow College in Glasgow where he did so much to launch the careers of a number of bands, not least Belle and Sebastian. 

The right words, however, just wouldn’t come, but just as I was about to give up, an e-mail arrived from flimflamfan.  I think he’s captured it perfectly.

“In recent weeks there have been significant deaths for me (for many) in the world of music.  Each of them a shock but nothing to what was announced yesterday: Alan Rankine, The Associates, dead.   

“Prepubescent me has experienced his fair share of musician deaths: Elvis – I was caught up in everyone’s else’s grief but I was sad, Marc Bolan – he and Bowie ignited a flame in this young pup – still his death was not felt as keenly as I had thought.  I won’t go through a list of postpubescent significant others (it’s a long list), suffice to say an ache hung over yesterday, as if a close friend or family member had died.  Normally, I would attempt to work through my feelings by going through the body of work that was left behind.  It didn’t work.  That only raised remembrances of Billy which made my entire situation considerably worse.  I think this ache is going to take a while to dull. 

“Despite both Alan and Billy going onto involve themselves in many other projects it will always be The Associates, phase one and the two glorious studio albums and accompanying compilation album that cemented the band’s musical genius in my mind.  Genius is a term that is often banded about but I challenge anyone to find another band or artist who sounded like The Associates then and who sound like The Associates now. 

“The song that brought the band to my attention was the cover of Bowie’s Boys Keep Swinging. I was a Bowie fan.  This was heresy. I listened only to confirm my absolute hatred for it.  That did not occur.  I loved it.  Just loved it.  The audacity to release the single, unapproved, just weeks after Bowie is… here’s that word, again… genius.  Maximum exposure for a band with one release so far – which included the wonderful Mona Property Girl – not bad, eh?  The next song that I was to hear just floored me.  The Affectionate Punch was/is, will always be, a thing of beauty.  I couldn’t afford the single so had to wait till I could find a second-hand copy of the LP. I did. I still have it. It’s been played within an inch of its life.  There are many that are more adept to work through the technical aspects of what the band were doing.  I had no idea then and I’m no further forward now.  My own, possibly inadequate description, would be Primal Pop.  When I first heard the, at times, cacophonous Transport to Central (1st release, on The Affectionate Punch) it moved me to tears.  It still has that power all these years later.  It remains my favourite song by the band and is a thing of joy.

“The Affectionate Punch LP grabbed life by the throat and screamed ‘fuck you’.  Sulk, on the other hand, is a more polished affair than its predecessor. Sulk gently removed one or two fingers from life’s throat but stared it firmly in the eye and gently whispered ‘define us if you dare, you bastard’. Packaged with the sublime compilation, Fourth Drawer Down, The Associates crammed a delicious sense of breadth, scope and bonkersness and peppered it all with angular post-punk guitars and joyful pop sensibilities into those initial three LPs.  To say nothing of Alan’s work on Peppermint Pig, or later, his inspirational work at Stow. 

“I wish I was at home so that I could connect with my vinyl.  Instead, it’ll be digital. There’ll be less of a connection but no less majesty. 

“You are Alan Rankine.  You and Billy Mackenzie are The Associates.  Together you helped define a post-punk generation and continue to do so. 

“Alan. Enjoy your next adventures.  Say hello to Billy.  Thank you! “


Here’s some tunes:-

mp3: Associates – Boys Keep Swinging
mp3: Associates – Transport to Central
mp3: Cocteau Twins – Peppermint Pig (12″ version)
mp3: Paul Haig – Big Blue World (12″ version)

The blog is now back and open for business as normal.  But rest assured, the remainder of the Nutley Brass tunes will still be coming your way as bonus postings each and every afternoon.



  1. There’s a great relatively recent interview with Alan on Martyn Ware’s ( Heaven 17) Electronically Yours podcast .

  2. The news about Alan’s passing hasn’t truly sunk in yet, it’s such a devastating loss. Since the fall of 1981 and the very random entry into my life of the single A (and especially the flip Would I…Bounce Back) Billy and Alan have been the centre of my musical life. When I in the 2016 BMG re-issue of the first 3 albums got a mention in the thank you-section I felt I could die happy. Which of course wasn’t true, but it was and still is a high point in my life.
    I hope Billy and Alan now, again, make extra-ordinary music together – likely with a mischievous smile.
    Thanks JC and flimflamfan for the lovely post.

  3. Losing Billy just seven years after finding Associates felt like a gut punch. But at least Alan was still here to connect with. There was still a connection to that dazzling and inventive music. And now he’s gone. And I can feel the possibilities diminishing. As stated, there were no others who sounded like Associates. Maybe “Felt Mountain,” the first Goldfrapp album, came within striking distance, but nothing else comes to mind. Things are going to be colder and darker moving forward.

  4. Flimflamfan, that was a beautifully written tribute that tapped into what I think so many of us feel about Alan. Whilst I’ve enjoyed much of what he and Billy released post-Associates, what they wrote and recorded together was like capturing lightning in a bottle.

    Thanks for writing it and thanks to JC for posting it. Absolutely wonderful, even though I wish you’d not had the find the words in the first place. RIP Alan.

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