Associates in concert – 1986 – BBC In Concert Series – BBC Radio 1 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection
Associates to end out the weeks worth of 80s New Wave/Funk/R&B/Mashup, recorded in concert in 1986 and broadcast by BBC Radio 1 and their In Concert series.
Billy Mackenzie and guitarist Alan Rankine met in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1976 and formed the cabaret duo the Ascorbic Ones, although Rankine claimed that this was “a fantasy band that Bill and I dreamt up to give ourselves a past”. In 1978, they recorded songs as Mental Torture before changing the name to the Associates.
Disappointed that their early recordings were not getting picked up, Mackenzie concocted the stunt of doing a cover of David Bowie’s “Boys Keep Swinging”, without copyright permission, just six weeks after Bowie’s version hit the UK Top 10. Released in June 1979, this debut Associates single reached No. 15 in Record Mirror’s Scottish chart and gained them airplay on John Peel’s Radio One show. MacKenzie later said that the band recorded the Bowie song “to prove the point. It was a strange way of proving it, but it worked. People said, ‘That is awful. How dare they!'” The ensuing attention earned them a contract with Fiction Records, and their debut album, The Affectionate Punch, followed on 1 August 1980.
A string of 1981 non-album singles on the label Situation Two were compiled as Fourth Drawer Down, released that October. These releases saw the band develop an interest in experimenting with unorthodox instrumentation and recording techniques, including sounds being amplified through the tube of a vacuum cleaner on the track “Kitchen Person”. Also in 1981, Rankine and Mackenzie released a version of “Kites” under the name 39 Lyon Street, with Christine Beveridge on lead vocals. The B-side, “A Girl Named Property” (a remake of “Mona Property Girl” from the “Boys Keep Swinging” single), was credited to the Associates.
The band’s breakthrough came in 1982 with the release of the single “Party Fears Two”. Buoyed along by the popularity of synthpop at the time, the song reached No. 9 on the UK Singles Chart with the band becoming one of the leading acts of the new pop movement. Two other hits followed, “Club Country” and “18 Carat Love Affair”. On 14 May 1982, the band released their most commercially successful album, Sulk. Martha Ladly, of Martha and the Muffins, contributed backing vocals and keyboards to this album.
Rankine left the band in 1982 just before the Sulk tour. This proved disastrous for the band’s career; the band was being courted by Seymour Stein of Sire Records, but without MacKenzie’s willingness to tour, Stein lost interest. Mackenzie continued to write and record music under the name Associates until 1990. In 1985 the album Perhaps was released and charted at number 23 in the UK Albums Chart.
Mackenzie committed suicide in 1997 at age 39, shortly after the death of his mother. He had been suffering from clinical depression. He was contemplating a comeback at the time with material co-written with Aungle. The albums Beyond the Sun (1997) and Eurocentric (2000) were released posthumously and, in 2004, reconstructed and expanded with new unreleased songs into the two albums Auchtermatic and Transmission Impossible.
As a reminder of their formative period – here is a performance from 1986 that could probably use cranking up a bit – just enough for the neighbors to notice.
Stay tuned for Saturday.
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