While jetsetting around Spain with the Villains I asked JC about getting the Charged Particles series going again. I proposed to get the ball rolling with a bit about Shirley Manson, whose name I’d casually dropped in a recent TVV post. It’s not much of a story, but it fits in nicely with another Charged Particles entry about my gym buddy Chris, who turned out to be a Foo Fighter. So, here you go:


My wife, the beautiful Goldie the Friendly Therapist (GTFP), has a childhood friend named Lisa, whose boyfriend was a nice guy named Dan. “You’ll like Dan,” Goldie told me, “he’s a bassist in some band.” The band turned out to be Garbage. Dan wasn’t one of the four principal band members but he had recorded and toured with them. When Lisa and Dan got married I was hoping the band would be there because I was really interested in talking to Butch Vig. I didn’t listen to Garbage; nothing against them but just not my thing. But Butch Vig! With the possible exception of OK Computer I don’t think there was a more important rock record in the 90’s than Nevermind, and Vig was the guy that produced it for Nirvana!

The wedding took place on a classic Hollywood summer night at a 1920’s hilltop mansion. Probably because of Goldie’s long friendship with the bride, we were put at the band table. The Garbage table, as it were. Before I could position myself next to Butch Vig, Shirley Manson sat herself down at the corner on my left, gave me a big smile, reached out her hand and said, “Hi! I’m Shirley.” “I know who you are,” I smiled back. Then we chatted for the next 3 hours. I can say from personal experience that she is an absolute sweetheart. She has what can be called a charming laugh, and she laughed a lot that night. No airs or pretensions whatsoever; no need to call any attention to herself. Never having heard her interviewed, I was surprised at her thick Scottish accent. For some reason we got to talking about David Beckham, who I think had just been sold to Real Madrid. “Ach, e’s pew say wept!” said Shirley. It took me a moment to understand she was saying that Beckham was pussy-whipped by Posh. Then she did a pretty funny imitation of their appearance on Da Ali G. Show.

I don’t really remember what else we talked about. I just recall that she was super friendly, asked loads of questions, laughed quite a bit, didn’t talk about herself, and was a lot of fun. Later in the evening a few of the band left the table and went off to smoke cigars on a veranda looking down the hillside. I like a cigar and was regretting I hadn’t thought to bring one of my own. Shirley must have noticed my envious look because she turned to me and said, “Oh! Would you like a cigar?” and popped off somewhere before I could answer. She returned and presented one for me. So I nicked off to the smokers and had a cigar. With Butch Vig.

Goldie has a theory that I’m constantly running into famous folks because I am the least starstruck person there is. There are thousands of celebrities in Los Angeles, but very few are celebrated for doing something intelligent, or for being kind souls, so I’m just not interested. I used to work at a firm that did a lot of industry work which involved meeting loads of famous people, and there are very few I’d like to meet again. And I figure that people just want to be left alone anyway.

At the end of the night Shirley gave me a hug and kiss on the cheek and said, “Lovely talking with you, sweetie!” I’d love to tell you that rock stars and international sex symbols naturally gravitate to me, but it was just happenstance. She might remember the night, because it was a very beautiful wedding of one of her close friends, but I sincerely doubt that Shirley Manson would have the faintest idea of who I am or was. It was a good cigar, though.

Garbage – Medication


JC adds – in case anyone wasn’t aware, all charged particle songs must end with the letters -ion.





(Originally posted on the old blog on 11 April 2009)

All that talk the other day of Paul Haig got me thinking of other great songs to come out of Edinburgh. And right away, this piece of magic from 1986 sprung to mind:-

mp3 : Goodbye Mr Mackenzie – The Rattler

Goodbye Mr Mackenzie actually formed in Bathgate, which is a small town some 15 miles or so west of the capital, and their first single in 1984 was recorded (as The Mackenzies) on the record label of a local further education college.

This follow-up single was put out on the Glasgow-based Precious Organisation, which was the home to the soon chart-conquering Wet Wet Wet, but despite a lot of support from local radio stations across central Scotland (with one of the lines changed to avoid references to eating beavers), it flopped. There continued to be a real buzz about Goodbye Mr Mackenzie – this was a time when Scottish acts like Deacon Blue, Hue & Cry and the afore mentioned Wets were hugely popular and GMM were lumped in with all of them – so it was hardly a surprise that they ended up signing to a major label, in this case Capitol Records, in early 1988.

The first couple of singles flopped, and so band and label decided to release a re-recorded version of The Rattler which hit #37 in the UK charts in 1989.  Debut LP, Good Deeds And Dirty Rags, did make the Top 30 a few months later, but a fourth single from the album sold poorly.

While some of the songs were as radio-friendly and catchy as many of their Scottish contemporaries, GMM never quite took off as expected – this was probably down to the fact that live they were quite a different proposition.

For instance, the lead guitarist was a huge bear of a man who was once part of a local punk outfit (and still looked as if that’s where he’d rather be) and there was a strange gothic-looking girl on keyboards and backing vocals, and you could never accuse them of being cuddly and photogenic…

With no real sustainable success, the record label lost interest, and while the band soldiered on for a few more years, they ended up as a mere footnote, albeit one that left us four LPs, about a dozen 45s/EPs and a couple of live recordings.

After they broke up, the gothic backing singer went onto find real fame and fortune :-

mp3 : Garbage – Queer

Yup, it was Shirley Manson who used to stand at the back of the stage with GMM, and before long she was a huge star the world over as lead singer in the band put together by Butch Vig, previously best-known as producer of Nevermind, the breakthrough album by Nirvana…..with whom Big John Duncan, the guitarist with GMM, occasionally played live.

It’s a small world y’know….

mp3 : Nirvana – Radio Friendly Unit Shifter

My copy of the 1986 single is well worn out, and the mp3 of The Rattler is taken from a CD compilation that gathers up all sorts of indie songs from that year, but I have managed to salvage one of the b-sides:-

mp3 : Goodbye Mr Mackenzie – Candlestick Park