Who are they?
Hailing from Edinburgh, Scotland in the late seventies The Associates were comprised of the dynamic duo of Billy MacKenzie and Alan Rankine. From the offset it was apparent that the Associates at something different to offer. Both men were deeply influenced by a wide range of musicial genres including cabaret, rock, jazz and blues.
Many art school dropouts at the time sported such a diverse taste in music – but very few were able to channel these influences through their collective talents to create something as truly unique as the Associates work.
It was this unique sound that won the group their first record with Fiction Records – after an executive at the company got hold of a copy of the band’s particularly inspiring cover version of David Bowie’s ‘Boys Keep Swinging’.
The Asssociates released their debut LP ‘The Affectionate Punch’ in 1980 on Fiction to widespread praise from music journalists.
18 months later the group decided to move onto the ‘Situation Two’ label – on which they released their classic ‘Sulk’ album. ‘Sulk’ brought the Associates their first taste of success with the LP entering into the UK album charts at #10. This was on the back of three successful forays into the UK top 30 with ‘Party Fears Two’, ‘Club Country’ and ’18 Carat Love Affair’
It took the Associates three years to release their next album ‘Perhaps’. By this stage MacKenzie and Rankine were barely on speaking terms. ‘Perhaps’ was largely ignored by the public and the critics and lead to the complete cessation in relationships between the formative members.
What are they most famous for?
1982 was the Associates year. They had a string of Top 30 singles which were backed up by a set of extremely entertaining television and live shows which gained them much widespread support. ‘Party Fears Two’ is still reverred today as an underground 80’s classic.
They were particularly infamous for choosing to cover rather unusual songs live. Two such examples are Blondies ‘Heart Of Glass’ and Bowie’s ‘Boys Keep Swinging’.
A huge shadow was cast over the bands legacy after Billy McKenzie committed suicide in 1997. What made his death particularly tragic was that his career was on the way back up again after clinching a record deal with Suede’s label ‘Nude’.
Why aren’t they famous?
To say Billy MacKenzie was difficult is like saying Thatcher was ugly. MacKenzie was unwilling to comprise himself for the sake of infamy. Constant squabbles with record companies and the media meant that the band were unable to actualise their potential on the world stage.
The Associates were a band people either loved or hated. McKenzie seemed to alienate the public as much as he captivated it with his histrionics.
Where to start
The Associates back catalogue is quite fascinating. Trying to track their musical progression is mesmerising, this in itself makes their first three LP’s must-haves for the serious music fan.
For the ideal introduction to the band – have a listen to ‘Sulk’. ‘Arrogance Gave Him Up’, ‘Party Fears Two’ and ‘Club Country’ are all completely unique and captivating scores.