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 Game – Dave 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.

Free – BEF 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 Climb – Billy 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.

Eurocentric – Billy 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

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #32 : BILLY MacKENZIE

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I’m on a hiding to nothing this week for no matter what I pick it will not come close to the gems that Sid Law shared with us in his guest series on the late, great Billy MacKenzie.

Thought I’d go with one of covers as it’s quite lovely:-

mp3 : Billy Mackenzie – Wild Is The Wind

The most famous version was of course that by David Bowie who included it on Station to Station back in 1976. Billy’s version was released posthumously and is a sad reminder of what great voice he was in, even during his most troubled days.

HE WOULD HAVE TURNED 58 YEARS OF AGE TODAY

Billy MacKenzie

I recently sent Sid Law an e-mail with a great big ‘thank you’ on behalf of everyone for his words and songs in the recent Billy Mackenzie series. Here’s his lovely reply:-

I’m really glad the Billy posts were appreciated by your Vinyl Villain readers. I am awfie glad that people took the time to download some of the music I sent on to you, I hope it casts a little more colour and light on Billy and the range of his music. Billy and The Associates left behind a legacy of some very fine work which was remastered and expanded in the Virgin re-issues. For me the tragedy was always what was missed from the re-issue schedules, the weird collaborations, the mental B-sides, the long deleted and forgotten, the out-takes, the unreleased stuff. Maybe its all a bit train spotter-ish… but that is being a fan.

I think the work Billy was doing during the last few years of his life was some of the best he had ever done. His vocal work with Barry Adamson, Apollo Four Forty and Loom are of a richness, depth and scope which eclipsed almost everything he had ever done before. He was flying…

Billy would have been 58 on Friday 27 March.

Please find attached two commercially unavailable items of some charm and interest. The fully extended 12″ Mix of “Cinemas Of The World” from Billy’s 1987 collaboration with Uno. The following year The Associates released their last Warners single “Heart Of Glass” and on the four track 3-inch CDEP version (there were many formats…) there lurked “Her Only Wish” a dark little beast of a song which never saw the light of day on any of the re-issue CDs.

Post as you see fit Jim!

All the best – enjoy what we have!

Sid Law

How could I resist??

mp3 : Billy Mackenzie/Uno – Cinemas Of The World (12″ mix)
mp3 : Associates – Her Only Wish

And here’s one from me….fairly widely available but a personal favourite:-

mp3 : Associates – Breakfast (Peel Session)

Enjoy

BILLY MACKENZIE RARITIES….COURTESY OF SID LAW (6)

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In 1996 Billy was in London trying to get a record deal. Epic and Nude were both interested and while the fine detail and deal was sorted out, Billy had been recording a vocal for yet another collaboration. This time it was with those epic progsters Apollo Four Forty.

Already well-known for their remix and production work on everyone from U2 to The Moody Boys, they had ditched the extended exploration of cryogenic preservation evidenced on their “Millenium Fever” debut LP in 1994 (do check it out – I love it!) to create a sample-icious follow up album “Electra Glide In Blue”, but they needed someone to do a kind of “Billy MacKenzie” style performance on a tune called “Pain In Any Language”. There was only one person to get in for the job.

Top @440 dudester Noko described how “up” Billy was “about the whole thing”. It was the last song Billy wrote, recorded and completed in his life. It is a career highpoint and in a bitter twist turned out to be Billy’s swansong.

mp3 : Billy Mackenzie /Apollo 440 – Pain In Any Language

There is a tiny wee clip of Billy in “The Glamour Chase” documentary showing Billy laughing and having a cup of tea during the recording session with Apollo Four Forty. He looks full of beans. When Nude signed a deal with Billy in late 1996, Apollo Four Forty were given the nod to produce four tracks for Billy’s album for Nude. Listen to this track and imagine what an album that could have been. It was never made.

Sid Law

And that, dear readers, brings an end to what has been a truly wonderful series and one that was I honoured and humbled to have hosted on T(n)VV.  Thank you so much Sid.  Please feel free to share more treasures with us.

BILLY MACKENZIE RARITIES…COURTESY OF SID LAW (3)

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Okay it is 1988. It has been nearly three years since The Associates last LP “Perhaps”. The slightly techno friendly cover of Blondie’s “Heart Of Glass” has not set the charts alight despite a slew of formats (three 12″ versions, CD single, 7″ single, a 3D printed sleeve with some special glasses inside the sleeve etc). Billy has an album sitting in the can, Shirley Bassey has just covered one of his songs with Yello. In a quick series of moves Warners dropped Billy from their label and stopped the release of the already completed album “The Glamour Chase” dead in its tracks.

Three years of work on “The Glamour Chase” album and a decade of writing, recording and gigging. Now labell-less, deal-less and all his material in the can in a Warners basement and staying there. It is hard to comprehend that kind of blow. But a mighty blow it certainly was. After being dropped from the label over lunch in a Mayfair restaurant, Billy asked the record company executive given the task of dining and dropping him for a cab home on the record company account. The exec readily agreed and in a legendary move Billy took a cab home – all the way from London to Dundee.

“The Glamour Chase” did not surface in a proper release until 2002 when it was thrown in as a non-ironic freebie with the first CD release of 1985’s “Perhaps”. Some of it is fairly pedestrian lightweight, late 80’s funky standard pop stuff but there are some tremendous songs on it (particularly the Boris Blank produced Because You Love, Snowball, The Rhythm Divine and In Windows All) but perhaps the real standout track was a song Billy had been playing live for a few years called “Empires Of Your Heart” and everyone should hear it. Listen to this… can you believe a record company dropped this guy and left this kind of material in the can?

mp3 : Associates – Empires Of Your Heart

I also attach a track from a bootleg called “The Audience That Fell To Earth”. Billy MacKenzie with Paul Haig and some others performing “Empires Of Your Heart” at Wilkie House on 14 September 1986.

mp3 : Billy Mackenzie/Paul Haig – Empires Of Your Heart (live)

Cheers
Sid Law

BILLY MACKENZIE RARITIES…COURTESY OF SID LAW (2)

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In 1992 Billy’s “Outernational” solo outing hit the shelves. marred by delays and record company troubles it slid out almost un-noticed, received little attention and neither of its singles troubled the charts. Circa Records folded shortly after its release and Billy’s career seemed stalled again.

So it was that in late 1992, ten years after they had last worked together, Billy’s old Associate Alan Rankine phoned Billy up and the pair began recording again in Auchterhouse. Half a dozen songs from those reunion demos eventually surfaced on the “Double Hipness” CD in 2000. One of those songs was called “Edge Of The World” (it is well worth buying the CD for that and the other 29 tracks!). However in 1992/93 Billy wasn’t keen to tour or perform live – so that Billy/ Alan reunion simply never got off the ground. Those recordings were shelved until after Billy’s death..

However, Billy knew a good song when he wrote one. In 1996 the song was still unreleased in any official form. That summer Billy was back down living in London and heard an instrumental track by Loom. Loom’s members Bent Recknagel and Ralph P. Ruppert (AKA Headman) were London-based and ran the Millenium label.  Billy, having heard their instrumental track on a cassette, had sang “Edge Of The World” over it, his melody and lyrics locked in perfectly.  MacKenzie contacted them, visited their studio on the Portobello Road in London and the track was finished in half an hour.  The result was quickly released as “Anacostia Bay (At The Edge Of The World)”.

It is a blistering raw vocal performance, emotive and right up there with any of Billy’s best vocals, with burbling synths, sequencers and percussion propelling it along. In its original form it is a 12 minute 42 second version and was released on 12″ and CDEP back in August 1996.

This was the last record with Billy’s name on it which was actually released in his lifetime (as far as I am aware).

Over the years between 1992 and 1996 Billy had also worked on the song with Steve Aungle which later led to some confusion over authorship. The title of the song for the Loom release had become Anacostia Bay “At The Edge Of The World” or “Anacostia Bay” (At The Edge Of The World) probably to differentiate authorship from the different versions of the song for publishing reasons.

To add to the confusion a mis-spelled “Steve Neugal” is credited with Additional Keyboards and Programming on the Berlioz Mix of the Loom track!

An edited version of this Loom version of the song was later released on the posthumous “Auchtermatic” CD.   But this is the entire, full-length, spectacular original – unavailable for nearly 19 years….

mp3 : Loom feat. Billy Mackenzie – Anacostia Bay

BILLY MACKENZIE RARITIES…COURTESY OF SID LAW (1)

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It was back at the turn of the year when Sid initially got in touch.  The e-mail was entitled ‘Cheers, Happy New Year’ and it said:-

Still enjoying your blog Mr Villain! Thought I’d be a little presumptuous and send you some Billy in the form of a little-heard version of It’s Over just featuring the orchestra. BEF dragged it out of their vaults a few years back.

Hard to believe that it will be 18 years ago this month since Billy died.

Happy to dredge my vault for anything you might want on the Billy front if you are thinking of a wee post later in the month. I do have an awfie lot.

Orrabest

Sid Law

From there we hatched a plan with the intention of having a whole week’s worth of posts in the run-up to the anniversary but stormy weather and power-cuts in Sid’s neighbourhood led to delays and this change of tack.

After I’d thanked him for sending me the orchestral mix of It’s Over, Sid quickly sent over another e-mail with an example of the sort of rarities he has.

Another from Billy. His take on Randy Newman’s “Baltimore”.

A version of the track (there are a couple) appeared on the ridiculously limited edition posthumous “Wild Is The Wind EP” on Paul Haig’s ROL label (Paul Haig had nothing to do with the actual recording – it ain’t a MacKenzie/Haig number).

The song never re-appeared on any of the posthumous CD album issues of unreleased material and hasn’t been seen or heard since.

Enjoy.

Sid Law

mp3 : Billy Mackenzie – Baltimore

As our benefactor says, enjoy.

I should mention that Sid very generously supplied high-quality rips of all the songs.  It’s my decision to pare these back to mere CD quality for the blog.  At the end of it all, I’m intending to put the hi-quality versions up for a short period of time.

BILLY MACKENZIE : A SMALL APPRECIATION

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Most people with even just a passing acquaintance with early 80s UK pop music will be vaguely aware of Billy Mackenzie thanks to the run of three chart singles – Party Fears Two, Club Country and 18 Carat Love Affair – enjoyed by his band Associates back in 1982. If those three classic 45s had been all that he had ever lent his distinctive and unique vocal talents to, then Billy Mackenzie would still be worthy of having a place at the top table of pop geniuses for they are unlike any other hit songs of that era that more than three decades on still have the ability to impress and astonish with every single listening.

It will be 18 years ago tomorrow since Billy took an overdose to end his life just two months short of his 40th birthday – and there will be a special guest posting coming your way from one of his biggest and long-standing fans  – Sid Law – who for a number of years kept the flame alive in a tremendously informative and quite unique fan site called Whippet At The Wheel (click here).

The site was only up and running for a short period of time and there were only ever 32 postings….but what made it so very special was that Sid was posting songs and music that otherwise had never been made commercially available at any time…and he’s kindly doing the same tomorrow as well as allowing me to put up a piece of music today. I’m really thrilled and honoured.

At the time of Billy Mackenzie’s his death, he had been largely forgotten by most music fans and considered an irrelevance by all but the most loyal of his fanbase. As is so often the case, it took death for a more honest and meaningful reappraisal of his career to happen and if anything he is better known today than he was even at the height of his fame.

A lot of this has to do with the initial 1998 publication of The Glamour Chase by Tom Doyle, in which Billy’s life-story is told with huge affection and honesty. The book led to a 40-minute long television documentary here in Scotland (currently available to view on YouTube – just click this link), and then in 2009 a play was written and performed in his home city of Dundee and at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Two years later, Tom Doyle revised and updated the biography, leaning on much of what had been said and written in the first decade of this century, a period in which a poll of many hundreds of Scottish music bloggers had voted Party Fears Two as the greatest ever Scottish single and in which many famous musicians the world over had cited Billy Mackenzie as being as big an influence on them as anyone else.

As with any well-written and well-researched biography, the book filled in a lot of gaps in knowledge in terms of the personal and fleshed out much in terms of the musical. It shed light on the complex nature of Billy’s love for his home city; as a teenager he couldn’t wait to escape its confines in a period when it was in very steep decline – physically, economically and culturally – but it was also his place of refuge when things weren’t going so well for him. It highlights just how hard he and others worked to make his band a success – it wasn’t until the release of their 10th single and 3rd LP that Associates finally had a hit – and tries to make sense of the accompanying madness and chaos that led to the band, in its most commercially successful guise, imploding almost immediately.

In a pre-internet age, when all we could rely on were carefully crafted press releases or interviews in music papers/magazines, fans could only look on and wonder why Billy always seemed to be at loggerheads with his record companies and why his material, when it was released (if it was released!!) seemed to veer violently between the brilliant and the banal with very little in-between.

We now know with hindsight that Billy struggled with the constant commercial failures and was bemused by the success of many others who were making music in the late 80s and early 90s. He put himself under huge pressures to turn his career around but all he succeeded in doing was to make himself more and more ill as time passed – not that he let on to anyone as his public appearances still saw that cheeky, mischievous grin and glint in the eye, albeit he never went anywhere without a beret as he hated the idea of going bald (there’s a great clip in the STV documentary of a performance in which Billy provides evidence that no matter how handsome a devil you are, it is impossible to look good while wearing a wig).

But his death, even to those of us who were long-time fans, came as the most huge shock. Billy had been somewhat out of the limelight for a few years, and it was almost impossible to find any Associates records as they had been long-deleted by record companies. But we had been reading that he was on his way back having just signed a contract with a new label and was busy in the studio.

It’s since become apparent that a series of events, not least the death of his mother, triggered-off a bout of very serious depression for Billy, but it was an illness that he hid even from those who were closest to him as is quite clear from the documentary with his father and a sister making very brave and heartbreaking contributions.

Billy’s death was sad and tragic. But I think, having read The Glamour Chase, that it was an ending that was in some ways inevitable.

His legacy is a volume of work that has highs and lows, and one that is dominated by that 1982/83 era of Sulk. Even as I mentioned earlier, even if it had just been the three singles from that era that he had left behind then Billy would still be a legend in pop music.

He possessed, without any doubt, a unique singing voice. He had attitude and a fierce streak of independence.  And while he had the support of some in the music industry who stood up for him at all times, it was still a requirement that sales had to be healthy, failing which you had better be willing to bow-down before the powerful moguls and do what you’re told.  He failed in the former and he wouldn’t ever dream of doing the latter.

It’s impossible to guess what the past 18 years would have been like if Billy was still alive. He might have found the magic touch for another hit out of the blue (a la Edwyn Collins and A Girl Like You). Most likely however, is that he would still be recording albums to be bought by just the hard-core of fans, for it took his death to rekindle interest in his work and the re-release of most of his material. But as I say, we just don’t know.

I’m just someone who appreciates the music he left behind, whether as a band member, solo singer or as a collaborator with countless others.  When I first penned a tribute to him over at the old place, marking the 10th anniversary of his death, one of the songs I went with was a cover of a Roy Orbison number that he had recorded for Music of Quality & Distinction Volume One, a 1981 project from the British Electric Foundation.  Knowing my love for that particular cover, Sid sent me something a little bit special that I’m now sharing with you:-

mp3 : B.E.F. featuring Billy Mackenzie – It’s Over (Orchestra Mix)

R.I.P Billy.   You were a sublime talent and you are much missed.

PS

Such has been the amount of stuff that Sid has been sending over to me that I will be keeping some of it back for other posts in the coming days.  It really is the most incredible set of emails to ever fall into my Inbox since the discovery of ‘lost’ Paul Quinn songs and videos.

MAYBE

maybeOh come on……after the past two postings you knew this was inevitable (at least Jimdoes did!!).

Sadly, I’ve only one song with that as the precise title:-

mp3 : Paul Haig – Maybe

It’s the rather ordinary and throwaway b-side to a decent single from 2007:-

mp3 : Paul Haig – Reason

If you look up the dictionary definition of ‘maybe’, the word often offered as an alternative is ‘perhaps’.  And there’s one song in the collection with that as its title:-

mp3 : Associates – Perhaps

The title track of the 1985 LP that was the first Associates record released after Alan Rankine had quit.

I genuinely had no idea that when I decided to follow-up McAlmont & Butler with posts entitled ‘No’ and ‘Maybe’ that I’d end up with something that featured both Paul Haig & Billy Mackenzie.  I had absolutely no recollection of that particular Pail Haig b-side until I looked it up.

It makes sense I suppose the to finish it all of with the rather stunning opening track from their on-going collaboration throughout the 90s that received a posthumous release in 1999 as Memory Palace two years after Billy’s tragic suicide:-

mp3 : Haig/Mackenzie – Thunderstorm

PS : You won’t believe whose turn it is to feature in the Scottish Singles feature tomorrow…..who do you think might just come after Pastels in the alphabetical list??????

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SINGLE (Part 77)

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Today’s words are courtesy of Whippet at The Wheel, a wonderful former blog dedicated to the life and work of Billy Mackenzie:-

The guitarist Steve Reid was a long time friend of Billy’s.

“Orbidoig” had been a name used by Mr Reid and Christine Beveridge for their musical project formed some time after Christine had taken on vocal duties with Strange News in 1980. Billy had managed to help get Orbidoig a deal with Situation Two back in 1981, which had resulted in a single “Nocturnal Operations”/ “Up Periscopes”. Billy MacKenzie is credited with playing tubular bells on “Nocturnal Operations”. It was recorded around the time Christine Beveridge briefly joined Billy and Alan to form 39 Lyon Street and record one track “Kites”. The Orbidoig single sleeve photo is actually a publicity photo of 39 Lyon Street which has been severely cropped – leaving only Christine.

In the wake of the Rankine split, 1982 saw Billy team up with old pal and fellow Dundonian Mr Reid once more for a one-off single “Ice Cream Factory” released neither as a Billy MacKenzie solo single nor as an Orbidoig release… but as “MacKenzie Sings Orbidoig”! A rich musical creation spawned under the watchful eye of producer Mark Arthurworrey and written by Stevie Reid, the outcome made for a spot of uneasy, easy-listening. Released in 12″ and 7″ versions, the single received scant airplay and bombed. The B-sides were a dub version of the A side called “Cream Of Ice Cream Factory” and another track “Excursion Ecosse En Route Koblenz Via Hawkhill” a melodic but rather twisted, gnashing bit of guitar wrangling from Mr Reid. Hawkhill, for those who have no experience of Dundee is a pleasant cosmopolitan road which stretches from the big roundabout at The Marketgait, past the end of Blackness Road and down onto the Perth Road.

The 7″ has a place in the cupboard and is the 77th alphabetical single in this long running series:-

mp3 : Mackenzie Sings Orbidoig – Ice Cream Factory
mp3 : Mackenzie Sings Orbidoig – Excursion Ecosse En Route Koblenz Via Hawkhill

Enjoy!!!

UPDATE TO ABOVE POST

A reader kindly pointed out the the b-side ‘skipped’ a bit early on in the recording.

I’ve re-done the track and the problem is now resolved……

PENSIONER POP

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As has been widely reported this past week, 66 year old David Bowie has made the twelve-strong shortlist for the 2013 Mercury Prize.  It would therefore seem, as far as the critics and others who make up the Mercury judging panel that his latest LP, The Next Day, is one of the best 12 albums released in the UK this past year.

I can’t say whether this is the case, although I strongly suspect not.  I’m more inclined to think that his inclusion is more to do with giving a high media profile to this year’s award than the merits of what was his 26th studio LP.  The reason that I can’t say for sure is that I’ve given the LP a total bodyswerve, as I have all his new material ever since the travesty that was Tin Machine in the late 80s and early 90s.  If any of you have remained loyal and faithful to his output in recent years, please let me know if in fact the latest LP is worth investing in….after all, I’m going to be bombarded with it on displays any time I venture into any High Street music store between now and the awards ceremony at the end of October.

Bowie is a performer who I’ve long felt ran his course in the mid 80s.  Just about all of his albums from the 70s  have more than stood the test of time  – it should also be recognised just how prolific he was in that decade with an an album in every year except 1978 – but then again there had been two absolute classics in 1977 in the shape of Low and Heroes.  I also remain fond of parts of Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) from 1980.  The worldwide phenomena of Let’s Dance in 1983 was truly something to behold with the production and sound capturing the popular music of the era quite perfectly, albeit it was a long long way away from the music I was listening to.  It’s a recod which made Bowie the #1 box office attraction for a few years – the royalties from the classic rock stations playing the hit singles from that era must still be mega given how often I stumbled upon them during my recent few weeks in Canada.

My admiration for Bowie began to fall away around the time of Live Aid.  Many have said that he was one of the outstanding performers that day but I was disturbed by the fact that out of all his back catalogue he chose to perform Heroes and in a way that seemed congratulatory to all the rock stars who had shown up that day in London and Philadelphia.

What I find interesting about his career, which now spans a jaw-dropping 46 years, is that so many modern musicians cite him as a huge influence and have covered his songs, either in concert or as b-sides or album tracks.  But almost inevitably, these covers are of songs from the 60s and 70s with scant regard to the later material.  And instead of me posting some great songs from the 70s which I’m sure are well-known to all readers of this blog, I thought I’d share some of the covers I’ve most enjoyed:-

mp3 : Black Box Recorder – Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide

mp3 : Vivian Girls – John, I’m Only Dancing

mp3 : Billy Mackenzie – Secret Life of Arabia

mp3 : Franz Ferdinand – Sound & Vision

mp3 : Bauhaus – Ziggy Stardust

Actually, the only reason I’ve included that FF cover is that the dooh-doohs at the start are supplied by Girls Aloud…..very bizarre!

And here’s a cracking acoustic C&W version from Mr Bowie himself:-

mp3 : David Bowie – Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) (live and acoustic)

Enjoy.

AS SEEN OVER AT THE OLD PLACE : JANUARY 2007 (3)

Here’s a piece I’m still proud of:-

BILLY MacKENZIE : 27 March 1957 – 22 January 1997

billygb4

I’m anticipating that many a blog will be commemorating the fact that today is the 10th Anniversary of the sad death of Billy Mackenzie. I don’t know that what I’ve got to say will be all that different, but I’ll offer some facts, and then I’ll offer some thoughts.

Billy was born in Dundee, Scotland and it was just outside that city that he took his own life with an overdose of prescribed sleeping pills. As a musician, commercial success and recognition didn’t happen overnight, and when it eventually did come, it was for an all-too brief period. By 1997, he was largely irrelevant except to a loyal fanbase. As is often the case, it took death for a reappraisal, and Billy is now regarded by many critics as one of the greatest musical talents of the late 20th Century.

His life-story is told with affection in The Glamour Chase by Tom Doyle (since updated and re-issued in September 2011)

it’s a thoroughly honest, entertaining, engaging and balanced biography. The author is very obviously a fan, and yet the book is never sycophantic for the sake of it. It recognises that Billy was often his own worst enemy and far from perfect.

I mentioned above that Billy wasn’t an overnight success. It wasn’t until the release of their 10th single and 3rd LP that Associates finally had a hit. But Party Fears Two and Sulk became instant classics.

But in what was the first of many strange career moves, Associates at their most successful split-up almost immediately but while Billy maintained the name but he was more or less a solo artist with backing musicians (in the same way that Aztec Camera was simply a vehicle for Roddy Frame).

Some more singles and albums followed, but no hits. Some of his post-Sulk songs were great, some were average, and some were disappointing. There were fall-outs with record companies and unreleased LPs. In frustration, Billy dropped the moniker of Associates and started to record and perform under his own name as well as work in collaboration with other artistes. The world still didn’t pick-up on his talent.

To those of us who were long-time fans, the end was a huge shock. Billy had been completely out of the limelight for a few years, and it was almost impossible to find any Associates records as they had been long-deleted by record companies. But we had been reading that he was on his way back having just signed a contract with a new label and was busy in the studio.

It’s since become clear that a series of very sad events, not least the death of his mother, triggered-off a bout of very serious depression for Billy, but it was an illness that he hid from those who were closest to him.

Billy’s death was sad and tragic. But I think, having read The Glamour Chase, that it was an ending that was in some ways inevitable.

His legacy is a volume of work that has highs and lows, and 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’m trying to give a truly honest appraisal when I say that while Billy MacKenzie was a reasonably talented writer, his best songs came when he wrote with others.

But what he did posses, without any doubt, was a singing voice that was unique. He also had attitude and a fierce streak of independence. Sadly, he lived in a period when all that mattered were record sales and a willingness to bow-down before the powerful record industry moguls and do what you’re told.

It’s impossible to guess what the past 10 years would have been like if Billy was still alive. He might have found the magic touch for another hit out of the blue (a la Edwyn Collins and A Girl Like You). Most likely however, is that he would still be recording albums to be bought by just the hard-core fans, for it took his death to rekindle interest in his work and the re-release of most of his material. But as I say, we just don’t know.

I haven’t found this the easiest set of words to put together since starting up TVV. Nor did I find it easy choosing some songs to post in memory.

In the end, I’ve gone for a pre-Sulk recording, a track from Sulk, and a post-Sulk recording, together with a cover version Billy recorded in 1982 at the height of his commercial success. I apologise for the poor quality of the cover version. But I think it captures Billy’s voice at its grandest.

mp3 : Associates – White Car In Germany
mp3 : Associates – Skipping
mp3 : Associates – Breakfast
*mp3 : Billy MacKenzie – It’s Over
(from the 1982 LP Music of Songs & Distinction by British Electric Foundation)

(* far better quality copy of his incredible take on the Roy Orbison classic than I’ve previously posted on the old blog!)

If you haven’t read Tom Doyle’s book, I urge you to do so. It’s one of the best music biographies ever put to paper.

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2013 Update

I have it on very good authority that work is at an advanced stage of producing and issuing an Associates boxset….