Billy MacKenzie Fandom In The Aftermath: It Was The Best Of Times, It Was The Worst of Times [part 5]

Billy strikes a pose with a clarinet © Peter Ashworth

Part 5: Death As A Career Move…

The next seven or eight years following Billy’s death saw all manner of his recordings get a release from various labels and concerns. While MacKenzie was gone and would no longer create music after 1996, that which he had stockpiled and recorded with various friends and collaborators found its way to our eager ears. It was enough of a bounty to have shamed many of his still living peers. Billy went from having two album length CDs and a handful of CD singles available to an expansive laundry list of music that in some cases have been issued and re-issued in the ensuing years. To wit…

List of Posthumous Releases From Billy MacKenzie/Associates

[unreleased material in red italic]

  1. 1997: Billy MacKenzie – Beyond The Sun CD [Nude]
  2. 1997: Associates – The Affectionate Punch [remix] CD [Fiction]
  3. 1999: Haig/MacKenzie – Memory Palace CD [ROL]
  4. 2000: Associates – Sulk DLX RM CD [V2]
  5. 2000: Associates – 4th Drawer Down DLX RM CD [V2]
  6. 2000: Associates – Double Hipness 2xCD demos – inc. “Auchterhouse Sessions” [V2]
  7. 2001: Billy MacKenzie/Steve Aungle – Eurocentric CD [ROL]
  8. 2001: Billy MacKenzie/Steve Aungle – Wild Is the Wind CD EP [ltd. 500] [ROL]
  9. 2002: Associates – The Glamour Chase/Perhaps DLX RM 2xCD [WEA]
  10. 2003: Associates – The Radio 1 Sessions vol. 1 CD [Strange Fruit]
  11. 2003: Associates – The Radio 1 Sessions vol. 2 CD [Strange Fruit]
  12. 2004: Billy MacKenzie – Transmission Impossible compilation CD [One Little Indian]
  13. 2004: Billy MacKenzie – Auchtermatic compilation CD [One Little Indian]
  14. 2004: Haig/MacKenzie – Memory Palace DLX RM CD [One Little Indian]
  15. 2004: Associates – Singles 2xCD every single released in life [WEA]
  16. 2004: Associates – 4th Drawer Down/Sulk bundled 2xCD [V2]
  17. 2005: Associates – The Affectionate Punch DLX RM [Fiction]
  18. 2006: Billy MacKenzie – Outernational DLX RM CD [Virgin]
  19. 2006: Associates – Wild + Lonely DLX RM CD [Virgin]
  20. 2010: Return To Love 7“ [Destination Pop]
  21. 2013: Billy MacKenzie – Outernational DLX RM CD [Cherry Red]
  22. 2016: Associates – The Affectionate Punch DLX RM 2xCD [BMG]
  23. 2016: Associates – 4th Drawer Down DLX RM 2xCD [BMG]
  24. 2016: Associates – Sulk DLX RM 2xCD [BMG]
  25. 2016: Associates – The Very Best Of 2xCD [BMG]
  26. 2017: Billy MacKenzie – Beyond The Sun LP [One Little Indian]
  27. 2020: Associates – Perhaps DLX RM 2xCD [Cherry Red]
haig/mackenzie - memory palace
Rhythm of Life | UK | CD | 1999 | ROL 003

1999 brought another album of new material recorded with his friend Paul Haig as demos when the two were just having a lark. Of course, in the aftermath of his death, Billy’s sketches took on new weight, and here he was paired with a cohort who was no slouch in the post-Punk talent department either! The two of them played almost everything here but Steve Aungle was one of the few guests to play as well. More about him later. Haig released the CD through his Rhythm of Life label and I immediately ordered one. It was possibly the first time I bought a CD direct from an artist online.

The other and possibly bigger event of 1999 was the publication of Tom Doyle’s biography of Billy, “The Glamour Chase!” Never was I so impatient to read a musical biography, but the unfurling of MacKenzie’s life was as equally dramatic as the high-contrast Art Pop, and reading the story gave valuable insights as to the hows and whys of Billy’s quixotic path through the music industry. Reading it engendered heartbreak for the difficulties that Billy insisted on adding to his path. The thought was that it never could have been “easy” for this mercurial talent. He could be counted on to pick the most difficult path forward in most cases. Or to walk away from the assumption of success. This has been a book that I’ve returned to on more than one occasion, and I’ve just found out that Doyle issued a 2nd edition that I now need to try and buy. But that one is also in the netherzone between $50-$100 these days.

associates sulk V2 edition
V2 | UK | CD | 2000 | VVR1012012

The big news of 2000 was that V2, the Richard Branson post-Virgin label after selling the mother label to EMI had signed up to reissue Associates material. And I was thrilled to get what were said to be an accurate representation of “Sulk” that no longer had the US Sire meddling to the track order and listing. Hearing “Ba De La Bap” for the first time was a mind-stunning experience. I found it hard to believe that I was listening to music from 1981-2 since the deconstructed beats were unlike anything like that back in the day! How they did that without computers or samplers was something I’d still like to read an interview with producer Mike Hedges on!

The shrill “Nude Spoons” was another revelation. Being far more extreme than the Peel Session version I’d previously had. I subsequently learned that the version of “Club Country” here differed from the 5:32 UK LP mix, so the tradition of not accurately compiling “Sulk” was upheld. Three B-sides were appended to the running order and four unreleased tracks were added as well. With their vaunted chemical intake [see “The Glamour Chase” – Tom Doyle], these guys were outrageously productive and even the lesser lights held a fascination for their sonic alchemy.

fourth drawer down V2 edition cover art
V2 | UK | CD | 2000 | VVR1012022

Even though I had five of the eight tracks from “Fourth Drawer Down” on “Popera,” this album was my personal favorite of the Associates oeuvre. It was the most extreme and uncompromising vision that the band had as they had recorded a series of singles for the Situation Two label in a deal that sat between the debut album on Fiction and “Sulk” on WEA. The singles were compiled into this album [for Beggar’s Banquet]. The cinematic cabaret of “The Affectionate Punch” was shot through with a deeper paranoia here [the drugs couldn’t have hurt there] to turn into something far more insular, yet dazzling. The magnetic lure of its deliberate strangeness would somehow be married with blissful pop on their subsequent album, but I prefer the more off-putting vibe that “Fourth Drawer Down” had in spades. “Sulk” may be a better album, but “Fourth Drawer Down” was my favorite Associates album.

associates double hipness cover srt
V2 | UK | 2xCD | 2000 | VVR1012032

The band’s V2 Y2K hat trick was completed with the “Double Hipness” compilation. Two CDs of demos recorded throughout the various period when Associates were Billy writing and singing with Alan Rankine. This also encompassed the 1993 Auchterhouse Demos where the duo tried to strike up their partnership again only to founder on Billy’s ambivalence towards the required touring as well as his peripatetic sessions with musicians other than Alan Rankine. In spite of knuckling down and writing and demoing a lot of material in a short period, the reunion ultimately foundered. leading Scot music maven Bruce Findlay, who was working with the two, to suspect an element of cash-in in the attempt.

At the end of the day the 1993 material was maybe a victim of bad timing. In an environment of Techno and Grunge, maybe a certain segment of the music buying populace were clamoring for the return of Associates [my hand was in the air], the bulk of listeners probably couldn’t have been bothered. And I suspect the A+R people they tried to sell the demos to felt likewise. But for all of the underachieved promise that their reunion ultimately delivered, the notion of a two CD set of MacKenzie’s and Rankine’s demo material was a solid notion. We’ve written about it here and the project still hold s together like a compelling collection of great B-sides where ideas came fast and furious to be worked out quickly.

With MacKenzie’s perfectionist nature and penchant for reworking and remixing material until it was £250,000 in the red, maybe the recording of demos was where MacKenzie should have been aiming for all along? I feel that many artists can benefit from things like collaboration and spontaneity as it helps artists from becoming too remote and insular. Fortunately, much of MacKenzie’s unreleased work yet yo come was recorded from this perspective.

Next: …Five Years

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
This entry was posted in Core Collection, Scots Rock, Surviving The 90s and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Billy MacKenzie Fandom In The Aftermath: It Was The Best Of Times, It Was The Worst of Times [part 5]

  1. Steve Shafer says:

    PPM,
    Didn’t know much about The Associates until reading your posts, and had never heard the mind-blowing “White Car in Germany” track until yesterday (!). The only Associates I have in my collection is the wonderful “Heart of Glass” 12″. But that will soon change–I just mail ordered “Fourth Drawer Down” off of Discogs.
    Thank you!
    Steve

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Steve Shafer – Strap yr’self in, laddie! Prepare for amazement. I’m glad I’m not the only one who was spinning around in a wilderness bereft of Associates for long years. There’s something about them that’s just not simple or pat so they do not have a dedicated channel to our ears through the cultural white noise like so many other bands. For some reason. You didn’t live in a cultural backwater like I did but our experience in not encountering them easily was alike.

      Like

      • Steve Shafer says:

        …And I just found a nice copy of the “Kitchen Person” 12″ in the wild at one of my favorite used record stores on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. My Associates’ collection groweth.

        On an unrelated note, I’ve been on a big Telex kick after picking up their great 2021 “This Is Telex” comp. I recently bought Telex’s “Brainwash” 12″ and “Looking for Saint Tropez” LP at the aforementioned record shop, too. Mute Records is slated to reissue all of their albums in the near future.

        Like

        • postpunkmonk says:

          Steve Shafer – Good news on the Telex. Hopefully not only on LP format! They’ve done this before only to see the collection outpace my modest budget. I should act this time but the want list…is…soooooo long!

          Like

  2. I’m pleased to see the official albums have gotten the DLX RM treatment, and while I was certainly aware of post-MacKenzie material out there (mostly from the Monk), I did not appreciate how much of it there was! I’m happy to report that Double Hipness is available for the streaming for those who partake, along with an oddity I was unaware of called “The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot” (live at Ronnie Scott’s) and a live compilation album.

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      chasinvictoria – As I recall, I urged you to get that “Wild Is the Wind” EP. I believe you did, but it’s thousands of miles away now. I still need the 2016 2xCDs of everything! They were announced in a 2015 Pledge Music campaign when I was saving for a big vacation and as these things often happen, I still have not acted! But I’d better…and soon!

      Like

  3. Richard says:

    Well Heads up .. we have been working on a Billy Mackenzie Box set for Cherry Red Records that is coming in March or April 2022 … to keep on it check our group The Affectionate Bunch on FB

    Like

  4. Richard says:

    PS … Most of Billy’s Recordings will be on that Boxset .. 94-96 and some new redone one’s

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.