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.

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

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

A LAZY STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE : 45 45s AT 45 (9)

ORIGINALLY POSTED ON WEDNESDAY 4 JUNE 2008
(and again on 29 October 2013)

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Dave and The Cat, the two bright lads behind the Jock’n’Roll website came up with the brilliant concept a couple of years back to try to find out what was the best ever Scottish single by asking folk to send in their Top 10s by e-mail.

The idea proved incredibly popular as sad blokes like me sent in lists that made the case for long-forgotten tracks by equally long-forgotten acts. The rules were pretty easy and straightforward – the songs in question had to have been a single and the act had to have been Scottish.

This didn’t stop your humble scribe falling foul of the rules – I was certain that Musette and Drums by The Cocteau Twins had been a single or at the very least part of an EP, and so put it forward within my particular 10. I was completely wrong – it was only ever an LP track, and so I was invited to re-submit.

As for whether an act was Scottish or not, this was entirely down to Dave and The Cat. For instance, Lloyd Cole (born in Derby) was allowed in on the basis that the remainder of the Commotions were Scottish. Rod Stewart (born London) was not allowed in despite most Americans believing he was the most famous Scottish singer on the planet.

Before long, some newspapers and radio stations picked up on what was happening and the boys began to began to be interviewed about things. What seemed to most get the attention of the media was the fact that the song destined to be #1 was wholly unexpected.

I’m not sure if the majority of those who voted in the Jock’n’Roll poll actually chose Party Fears Two as their all time #1 Scottish single. However, I would place a very large wager that maybe as many as 75-80% of voters will have found a spot for it somewhere in their Top 10 thus giving it more than enough votes overall to take the top position.

Click here for the full rundown

There’s just something about Associates and Billy MacKenzie that makes people get all nostalgic and proud that they and he came from Scotland. When the band seemingly burst onto the scene out of nowhere in 1982, it was with songs that were genuinely unlike anything else you had ever heard. Even all these years later, the stuff still sounds incredibly vibrant, fresh and unique, and very difficult to categorise. It’s just so much easier to have a listen to the breakthrough single and its b-side (which is a different version from that on the LP Sulk) :-

mp3 : Associates – Party Fears Two
mp3 : Associates – It’s Better This Way

Billy had a mischievous wit and charm that endeared him to his fans. He always seemed to have a twinkle in his eye whenever he was on TV. This was a band that seemingly wanted to put fun back into pop music without diluting its quality. The appearances on Top Of The Pops soon became must see affairs, culminating in one time where Alan Rankine turned up with a chocolate guitar (£2,000 from Harrods) and broke it up into pieces to give to the audience while Billy and the others mimed away trying to avoid getting a fit of the giggles.

And although the band were based out of necessity in London, Billy in particular seemed to love just taking the piss out the capital and talked lovingly of his home country, and in particular his home city of Dundee.

You couldn’t help but like Alan and Billy as people – the fact that they were making incredible music was an amazing bonus.

Having discovered them via the hit singles, it was easy to see by delving into the back catalogue that the poppy stuff wasn’t typical of the band. Where they went from here was always going to be interesting. Sadly, 1982 with its hit singles and the consequent masterpiece LP was the last Associates work that the duo produced.

Alan chose to leave the band but Billy carried on, drafting in other musicians to work alongside.

It’s all too evident more than 25 years later to realise just how integral Alan was to the sound and look of Associates. There was also a particular chemistry between him and Billy that was never ever recaptured in full, despite an awful lot of the post-Sulk recordings being tremendous pieces of work with some amazing vocals from Billy.

January 2007 was the 10th anniversary of the death of Billy Mackenzie, and I paid a long tribute to the man in the pages of this blog. At the time, I said his legacy is a volume of work that has highs and lows, albeit one that is dominated by that 1982/83 era of Sulk. Even if that had been the only LP he had ever made, Billy would still be a legend in pop music. I stand by that statement……

(That posting, incredibly, was one that I was able to retrieve from the limited archive acess I had at the old blog. I re-posted it in August 2013.  If you would like to read the full tribute, you can click here).

(I later did an equally lengthy piece on Alan but alas it is lost forever thanks to bastard google acting on dmca notices.)

 

BILLY MACKENZIE RARITIES….COURTESY OF SID LAW (7)

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A very welcome one-off summer special…….

Happy Summer Holidays Mr Vinyl Villain! I’ve been enjoying the Altered Images series and the Devoto “Rainy Season” was good to hear again. I remember being in the front row of an Edinburgh Fringe Show with Claire a few years back (and I still have a lovely signed risque poster). It was called “Lady MacBeth Firmed My Buttocks” and was a delight… however I digress.

I attach a completely unreleased track by The Associates featuring Billy and Alan. It is a cover of Paul Ryan’s song which was a big hit for brother Barry Ryan. Billy loved those kinda “Cabaret” Bacharach style, full-blown songs. On “Eloise” we can hear a young Billy (probably 1979) crooning his way through Rankine’s punky, guitar driven arrangement. Probably recorded at Craighall Studios in Trinity Edinburgh in 1979 with the same unnamed “Cabaret Musicians” responsible for the demos which were released as “Double Hipness” by Virgin in 2000.

Enjoy

Sid

mp3 : Associates – Eloise

JC adds…………It’s a long long way from the sounds that became the hits.  As Sid says it is very punky and having been lucky enough to see the Big Gold Dream documentary the other week it is very clear that the boys fitted in perfectly to the scene that was building up in and around the capital city in the late 70s.