Tuesday, 30 November 2010

And Finally... rebooted !

Been a case of Life getting in the way a bit recently, hence the lack of posts.

First up there is a version of “Heart of Glass” which I overlooked in my Valentine’s Day post earlier this year. It is of course the "Orchestral Accapella" Mix from the promo only version of The Temperament Mix 12” and the info and photo comes courtesy of Dom T. Many thanks.

Another Associates/ MacKenzie enthusiast, Jim D, passed on some great info regarding the Jih tracks “Take Me To The Girl” and “Come Summer Come Winter”. Mr McKenzie co-produced these for Grant McNally’s Dundee group back in 1988 and Billy provides backing vocals too. Thanks again Jim.

There is also the issue of Peach (or Peach Union if you are in the US). Pascal Gabriel formed Peach after his success with S’Express and Bomb The Bass, recruiting Paul Stratham and Lisa Lamb (she’d just had a hit with a version of The Isley Brother’s “Summer Breeze”). Pascal had worked as a producer, remixer and general knob twiddler with Billy on “Outernational” and its resulting singles. The CD “Audiopeach” was released in late 1997 and featured Billy's backing vocals on two tracks - “Deep Down Together” and “Give Me Tomorrow” (which was released as a single in Japan). The whole “Audiopeach” CD is a fine blast of techno-pop with a kind of St Etienne/ Dubstar shiny grooviness. Worth tracking a copy down.
In 1998 Paul Haig released “Listen To Me” as a limited edition 7” single (100 copies). Although the track turned up on the “Memory Palace” CD the following year, the 7” version is different and clocks in at 4.04 rather than the Memory Palace’s shorter 3.42 version.
Two demos Billy worked on shortly before his death - “Deamanda” and “Put It Right” (also known as “Let’s Rise”) are worth tracking down. I had originally written of a version of "Return To Love" which is different to that on the "Eurocentric" CD and has been circulated for fifteen years amongst Billy's fans. Someone has kindly pointed out that Destination Pop has now released this alternate version of "Return To Love" as a "single" over in Germany. The B-side track of the German single is "The Soul That Sighs" and is the same version that's on "Eurocentric". So if you want to spend nine quid getting the different version of "Return To Love" posted out on vinyl from Berlin you can contact the Destination Pop label. Or contact me here if (for comparison purposes) you want a copy of the 320 mp3 I ripped from the audio CDR I received thirteen years ago... (I actually think my CDR version is sharper sounding than the German single version, but mine suffers from a tiny sound dropout 50 seconds in which I must get in and fix).
The Billy MacKenzie of "Perhaps" was a little undecided as to which lucky lady should spar with him on "The Best Of You". Although we all know that the fairground attraction Eddie Reader finally got the gig... but Billy had a few others waiting in the queue... none other than Annie Lennox (whose contribution is a bit tentative IMHO) and the very strict Gina X. The Gina X version gets my vote every time!
There is also the unbelievably 28 year old (5.33) extended "Party Fears Two" 12” which remains uncollected as does the 30 year old original (4.30) 12” of “Tell Me Easter’s On Friday” (the version on Fourth Drawer Down is a different version to the original 12"). Makes you feel your age!

Billy’s wondrous collaboration with Barry Adamson on “Achieved In The Valley Of Dolls” (4.27) was one of the last collaborations released during Billy's lifetime. The track was universally praised as was the album it came from. The version of the track which was released posthumously on Auchtermatic (4.23) has had some of the white noise on the intro edited out - hence the different running time, but is exactly the same mix. Adamson’s album “Oedipus Schmoedipus” is a musical tour-de-force and everyone who doesn't have a copy should get themselves one. Right now! Fourteen years on from its release it still sparkles and sounds very hip. It features cameo vocal appearances from Nick Cave, Billy McKenzie, Jarvis Cocker, Miranda Sex Garden and other guests - who are all guided through a maze of great tunes, hip musical references and funky samples (plus the usual cinematic jokes) by the Godlike Mr Adamson. The entire CD is a real tour-de-force brimming with Mr Adamson's utterly groovy wit, stunning musicianship and classy production.
Jarvis Cocker’s contribution to "Eodipus Schmeodipus" is the track “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Pelvis". The song features many layered voices on its Bowie-ish “Lets Dance” style intro. And to little old me it sounds very much like Billy’s voice is one of those singing "save me from my own hand" on the song. Ironically it remains an uncredited vocal appearance but that does very much sound like Mr McKenzie in there. There is also the “Radio Friendly Mix” of Jarvis-the-Onanist's plea from the ultra-rare Eodipus Scheodipus Promo 3 12”. Anyone else figure that is Mr McKenzie's voice taking the third harmony in on the intro? Answers on a postcard please.

All the best

Happy St Andrew's Day!

Sid Law

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Outernational Extras

Between 1997 and its re-issue in 2006 my CD copy of Outernational was copied many times for other fans. I usually stuck on all the twelve inch and cd single extras from the Outernational related single releases on the CDRs I was asked for. I never charged anybody anything (even postage) and trades of rare stuff were the order of the day. The CD re-issue of Outernational had a couple of extras but missed ten or so items from that time.
First single off Outernational was "Baby" in June 1992. There were a few non album extras on the 7", 12" and CD single (and there was also a notable reduction in the number of formats which labels were willing to pay for!). We had
CD single
Baby 4.04
Sacrifice and Be Sacrificed (CH 8032 mix) 5.03
Grooveature (D 1000 mix) 5.00
Colours Will Come (US 60659 mix) 4.12 [remixed by Larry Heard]
7" single
Baby 4.04
Sacrifice and Be Sacrificed (CH 8032 mix) 5.03
12" single
Baby 4.04
Colours Will Come (Larry Heard Remix) 5.16
Opal Crush 4.31
Colours Will Come (Raw Stylus Remix) 5.02

All the tracks except "Baby" were different versions/ mixes than the ones eventually released on Outernational. I remember seeing the "Baby" video on TV a few times and I really did think that it was going to be a massive hit... but no... despite a rather cool video shot at the Scotland Street School Museum in Glasgow (you can see the M8 traffic rolling past in the background) the single stiffed just outside the top 40.

Next up for release was "Colours will Come" which was released as a single on the same day in September 1992 as Outernational was launched. Despite having already given us two versions of the track on the Baby 12", Circa decided we needed another version so that is just what we got. Three out of the four tracks on the release had been remixed by Pascal Gabriel. Trance-meister Mike Koglin tweaked and twiddled at the other, giving Feels Like The Richtergroove a lighter snappier feel than the album version.
CD single
Colours Will Come 4.25
Opal Krush 4.28
Look What You've Done 5.28
Feels Like The Richtergroove 4.01 [remixed by Mike Koglin]
7" single
Colours Will Come 4.25/Opal Krush 4.28
12" single
Colours Will Come 4.56
Opal Krush 4.26
Look What You've Done 5.28
Feels Like The Richtergroove 4.01 [remixed by Mike Koglin]

The single disappeared without a trace. I heard it played once on Radio Forth. It was poorly pressed and I had to return two copies to the record shop because they were warped. Slow initial sales for the Outernational album (released on cassette and CD only) meant that when Circa finally popped its clogs a few months after its release and their catalogue was deleted, Outernational had only shifted a few thousand copies - making it a real rare beast for many years. In interviews at the time Billy referred to Outernational as having "a glacial beauty" perhaps an accurate summation of the rate at which it was shifting units.

There were promo copies of a Pastime Paradise single which were squeezed out just as Circa went down the plug. The extra track from that (Outernational II) can be found in my June post under Unique Promo Tracks.
In my box of goodies I keep under my bed I found this little treat. A great wee interview with Billy from 1985 from Studio One (a short lived Borders TV series hosted by Muriel Gray which featured The Armoury Show and Big Country in subsequent weeks). It features a rather strange astrology reading for Billy. Eerie. Most eerie.

All the best

Sid Law

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

39 Lyon Street Kites 12"

The 39 Lyon Street Kites 12". 

Released in 1981, it features Christine Beveridge on a whispery lead vocal with Billy taking the back seat until the choruses. The Associates were allowed to release singles on other labels as long as Billy didn't sing lead vocals on the A-side. Recorded in the midst of the Situation 2 stream of singles, Kites is an atmospheric musical delight. The twelve inch version has a rolling piano intro which slides effortlessly into an utterly groovy version of Simon Dupree And The Big Sound's biggest hit.

It was released on RSO Records in a one single deal. The B-side A Girl Named Property is credited to The Associates and is the same version released on Fourth Drawer Down.

39 Lyon Street is behind the blue car (centre picture).

Billy explained some of the background to this record in a Smash Hits interview in May 1981 "Around 1976 a lot of us (including Alan Rankine, the other founder member of The Associates) were living in a flat at 39 Lyon Street in Dundee. We used to hold parties almost every night and the kind of music we used to play was sophisticated club-style music. Some of us even used to sell 1920's clothing. Christine was one of the people who lived there. When me and Rankine played the cabaret circuit we used to play the 'Kites' number. The next thing to be released by 39 Lyon Street will be a quasi-Neil Sedaka song called '18 Carat Love Affair'."

Of course things changed and we never got another 39 Lyon Street song nor did we get the projected Orbidoig album John Peel informed us that MacKenzie was producing back in October 1982.

Enjoy what we have

Sid Law

Fire In Da House!

August 1990 and Circa were keen to recoup. April's single Fever had not delivered and pressure to prise a hit out of the Wild and Lonely album was mounting. Fire to Ice was next up for release as a single. Again a multiple slew of formats gushed out of the corporate machine in the form of cassingle, 7”, 10”, 12”and a CD single.

The UK 12” claims to be an "extended remix version" but at 4.34 it clocks in at the same length as the original album version. Maybe there is a wee bit of tweaking the knobs or re-EQ-ing in the 12" production but not much of a difference. The many formats yielded a few non-album songs which were collected for the CD re-issue and you can find them all there.
Across the pond in the USA, where Wild And Lonely was released by Charisma, the Fire To Ice single was remixed by house and nu-groove supremo Bobby Konders and released on a 12” single. Featuring no less than six clubby Konders mixes, the 12” takes the listener on a pleasant ramble through some tinkling, jazz-infused piano house.
In addition, the US release of Wild And Lonely has a different version of Ever Since That Day which features a trumpet/ sax solo (at 3.11 – 3.34) which didn’t appear on the UK Circa release.

All the best

Sid Law

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Just Cant Say Goodbye

It was Summer 1990. Glasgow was European City of Culture. In May Luciano Pavarotti had performed his hit single “Nessun Dorma” to 12,000 ticket holders at the SECC. A month later on the 3rd of June, somewhere between a quarter and half a million music fans ground Scotland to a halt, attempted to drink Glasgow dry and later that evening bottled Sheena Easton off the stage at Glasgow Green. Yup I’m talking about The Big Day - Glasgow’s Year of Culture nod to the masses. A free concert featuring everyone from Maria McKee, Texas, Aswad and The Associates to Big Country, Deacon Blue and – briefly - Sheena Easton
The Big Day was massive. There were stages dotted all around the city. The Associates played the George Square stage in the afternoon. It was packed and Billy and his 1990 band of Associates performed a great wee four-song set featuring Fever, Give, Club Country and Just Cant Say Goodbye. The sound was great. A Scottish television channel was broadcasting it and I had my very first video recorder running back at my flat taping it. I had taken out a rental package for this very purpose from Glen’s, Robertson’s, Hutchison and Stepek.

Later that night, after Big Country and Deacon Blue had blown the stage away on Glasgow Green, myself and my cronies staggered back to the flat only to find that my footage of the Associates set had been cruelly cut short by an advertising break. One of the adverts was for Glen’s, Robertson’s Hutchison and Stepek. The irony was not lost on me.
When the station had gone to an advertising break the stage cameras were just put down and left running. Luckily the live audio feed was saved so twenty years on we can see most of and hear all it. The Associates play what later (in Jan 1991) would be their last ever single at their last ever gig. As far as I am aware this was Billy MacKenzie's last public stage performance too.

The song had been a live favourite since 1985 and is on a few mid eighties bootlegs. When the single appeared it arrived on cassette single, 7", CD and two 12" ers. Aside from the regular 7" mix and b-sides like 1,2,3 and I'm Gonna Run Away From You (which were collected on the Wild And Lonely CD re-issue) we had exclusive mixes. And yes, once more it was those Teutonic techno knob-twiddlers Thomas Fehlman and those Marathon chaps AKA Time Unlimited AKA Moritz Von Oswald and Ralf Hertwig. All three (Fehlman, Von Oswald and Hertwig) were members of Palais Schaumburg alongside Holger Hiller (who recorded the "Whippets" single with Billy) . Those Krautrock connections and Germanic leanings just keep turning up.

On the first 12"
1. Time Unlimited Mix (7.23) Remixed by Marathon/Thomas Fehlman
2. Time Unlimited Piano Mix (6.57) Remixed by Marathon/Thomas Fehlman
3. US Mix (4.59) Remixed by Julian Meddlesome
On the second 12"
1. Time Unlimited Instrumental Mix (7.09) Remixed by Marathon/Thomas Fehlman
2. Karma Mix (6.04) Remixed by Marathon/Thomas Fehlman
On the CD single
1. Time Unlimited Piano Mix (6.42) Remixed by Marathon/Thomas Fehlman
2. US Mix Remixed by Julian Meddlesome
Despite being a very respectable sounding single and having the slew of dance remixes and formats, the single stiffed. It was played in the background during an argument in the Queen Vic on Eastenders one dark night in January 1991.
It was an ironic yet fitting title for the Associates to bow out on. Then that was it. Goodbye. No more Associates.

All the best

Sid Law

Thursday, 5 August 2010

A Few That Slipped Through The Net

Okay maybe if I’d planned this blog properly it would run effortlessly from A to Z via all points in between, creating a spiders web of posts and links chronologically snaring and cataloguing everything the re-issue schedules missed. But I’m afraid I don’t work like that. So here are a few things which none of us should really be without.
I was listening to the V2 CD re-issue of “Fourth Drawer Down” last night and I realised that The “Original Version” of Q Quarters remains forever shipwrecked on the B-side of the Q Quarters 12”. With a weird beat driven intro it is a sparse, haunting version which has somehow managed to add even more paranoia and at the same time prove that less is more. This is a gem from a time when Billy and Alan were pumping out the Situation Two series at a rate of knots while sustaining levels of quality, experimentation and sheer sonic brilliance which no other band has (in my ever so humble opinion) approached.
On a more mundane note… and just before we all get over-excited… the version of “A Girl Named Property” on the original vinyl of “Fourth Drawer Down” (which claims to be 5.25 on the Sit 2 record label) is exactly the same length as the version which appears on the V2 re-issue (which comes in at 4.56). It is a 1981 labelling error so we can all calm down.

Leap ahead to the “Perhaps” era. Lurking on the B-side of “Those First Impressions” 12 incher is a great instrumental version of “13 Feelings”. Totally different to the instrumental version which came on the cassette version of “Perhaps”, this one has the feel of the original “Perhaps” recordings. It has a BIG sound – edgy, shiny and shimmering with something which got lost in the endless re-recording and remixing which eventually produced the “Perhaps” we all know and… errr... are familiar with. Production credits are to Billy MacKenzie and Mark Arthurworry. Steve Reid gets the sole writing credit. I wish “Perhaps” could be rammed back through the mixing desk and come back out sounding like this.
Then there is the “Breakfast” 12” package. The title track has a slightly different mix to the album version. We also get “Breakfast Alone” - an instrumental version. Then the blistering version of “Kites”- I wonder why Warners didn’t slap this on the “Perhaps” re-issue as an extra. But they didn’t.

All the best

Sid Law

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Unique Promo Tracks

By summer 1988 "The Glamour Chase" recording was completed, the pressure was on, the multi-formatted "Heart of Glass" single had stiffed badly and Warners were looking for some way to recoup around a million quid which had been poured into MacKenzie's lavish recording schedules. Billy delivered the record company "Country Boy" as the next single.

Perhaps the most off-the-wall recording in all of MacKenzie's lush career. Powered by an elastic band bassline, an echoey beatbox and featuring some exotic Tyrolean close harmony barbershop backing vocals by Die Zwei (who also wrote and produced the track) the song has a heart wrenching vocal performance form Billy.
Die Zwei consisted of Gerd and Udo Scheuerpflug who had released "Countryboy" as a single back in 1985.
Hear Die Zwei in full action here, performing "Western Union" a track on their "Countryboy " 12".

I dont think for one minute Billy thought of "Country Boy" as a contender for a top ten single for the Christmas of 1988 (though it would have been a thing of wonder to see Billy and Die Zwei performing on the same bill as Angry Anderson knocking out "Suddenly" and Cliff Richard doing "Mistletoe and Wine" ). The charts had been bouncing all year with SAW's Hit Factory and the emerging UK house scene was throwing the likes of Inner City, Yazz and S'Express some credible chart action. My suspicion is that Billy could see the way the wind was blowing at Warners and was throwing an elaborately wrought and beautiful spanner in the works on his way out of the swing doors. Five thousand promo 12"ers and CDs were pressed up for a December 1988 release.

Nestling on the promo "Country Boy" CD was a unique version of "Just Cant Say Goodbye". Classified as the "12" Mix" the song had not been featured on any Associates records up till then - although it had been a regular live favourite from 1985 onwards. The song eventually turned up on "Wild and Lonely" and became the last ever Associates single in January 1991. This early version of the song has only seen the light of day on the 1988 "Country Boy" promo 12" and promo CD. It has a real charm, its basic production at odds with the later Julian Mendelson uber production and the Marathon/Fehlman housey techno remixes.
In the end Warners never released the single, shelved "The Glamour Chase" and dropped Billy from the label, leaving him to take the infamous taxi ride back to Dundee. The "Country Boy" track did eventually appear on the "Popera" compilation a few years later and "The Glamour Chase" album in its complete and finished form was slipped out fourteen years later as a freebie in the "Perhaps" CD re-issue.

In late 1992 "Outernational" was busy not selling and a third single from it was planned - a cover of Stevie Wonder's "Pastime Paradise". Promo CDs were issued but then Circa folded and the single was never officially released. The promo featured a mostly instrumental mix of "Outernational" called "Outernational II". It has never appeared anywhere else since.

All the best

Sid Law

Friday, 26 March 2010

Some Remixes and a unique Promo-only vocal

Having said goodbye to Warners, Billy MacKenzie had quickly secured a deal with Circa (a Virgin offshoot) with "Wild and Lonely" being the first of two albums MacKenzie would record and release for his new label. Warners had licensed the old Associates material to East/West in order to release "Popera" - a collection of Associates singles from 1981 up to 1988.
Billy had never really liked the results of attempts to remix old Associates material before (both the remixed Affectionate Punch and the US Sulk remixes being cases in point). However, when Billy heard the four remixes which had been commisioned for an EP to accompany the Popera collection he was thrilled. Those responsible for the work were none other than Thomas Fehlmann and Marathon, some very up-to-the-minute remixers and producers who were riding the 1990 techno wave and twiddling the knobs! With two remixes each of "Club Country" and "Waiting For The Loveboat", the Popperetta EP was released to help promote the Popera compilation.
Of course Billy knew all these teutonic remixer and producer dudes from waaaay back, they had been founder members of Palais Schaumburg along with Holger Hiller (see "Whippets" post). Marathon (also known as "Time Unlimited") were Moritz von Oswald and Ralf Hertwig. Moritz von Oswald had performed drumming duties for the Associates since 1985 and played on Wild and Lonely. Fehlmann went on to become an integral part of The Orb and continues to share duties at the starship Orb controls with Dr Alex Paterson to this day. During a Radio Tay interview in 1992 Mackenzie referred to his Krautrock leanings, namechecking Kraftwerk and confessed to "even listening to Neu!". "Popperetta" was released in December 1990 on 7" and 12" (there are as yet unconfirmed reports of a CD issue as well but no-one has seen one!). 

Oh yeah... and also... the unique vocal on this promo only 12"

Back in the day, in 1987, when Yello were just slipping out "One Second" they gave away a free 12" with the first 2,000 copies of the album. The version of "Call It Love" on the 12" is unique and has an utterly beautiful mix. From Billy's multi-harmonied hums on the intro... to the amazing lead vocal he contributes... from Boris Blank's immaculate production... to the seagull noises... I love it. It is a really, really groovy track. The verse Billy sings turned up later on Outernational's "Feels Like The Richtergroove" but this stonking version of "Call It Love" gives a tantalising hint as to what might lie in that mysterious box of goodies Boris Blank has hidden under his bed.

I will be sipping a glass of champagne or two over the weekend. Billy would have been 53 tomorrow. It is my birthday too!


Sid Law

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Take Me To The Girl

Aaah late 1985... autumn came. I was studying in another country. My best pal sent me over a couple of cassettes of various stuff. Paul Haig, Armoury Show, Skids, Aztecs, Orange Juice and the contents of the latest Associates 12 incher. I wasn't sure what to make of it. My best pal didn't either. We'd kept waiting for Billy and whoever his Associates were now, to produce a blinder, off the wall, Ice Cream Factory meets Skipping album. Instead we got a glossy, very slickly produced single which kinda hinted at the european tinge which made "Breakfast" so great. . It was given a twelve inch mix in the only way 1985 knew how. The B-sides were interesting, a different take on the song called "The Girl That Took Me" a very jazzy, laid back arrangement of the single track. "Perhaps Perhaps" was next, a clubbier mix of the "Perhaps" track. I was then treated to an instrumental version of the single edit of "Take Me To The Girl" and that was it. It was great to get more stuff but it wasn't exactly what I thought I was waiting on...
1985 was my first time living away from home. Of course, I loved it and greatly enjoyed going out drinking late in strange bars and partay-ing. Though granted it was in Northern Ireland and it was the mid 1980's. More peaceful times for Ulster were still a bit further down the road, and the wearing (in downtown Ballymena) of the black Mackenzie-style beret (my best pal had thoughtfully given it to me on my departure) was an ill advised one-off.
Christmas found me arriving back in Glasgow for some partay-ing, fearlessly wearing my beret and "Breakfast" T-Shirt on Byres Road.
I found myself grabbing a groovy looking ten inch version of "Take Me To The Girl" from the first record shop we entered. It had the regular "Take Me To The Girl" single version and "Perhaps Perhaps" (the remixed version from the 12") but I was gobsmacked to find three of the Ronnie Scott's gig tracks from 9 December 1984 on the B-side. They were "God Bless The Child" "Even Dogs In The Wild" and "The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot"! The quality was superb! Played unplugged with brushed snare drum, piano, bass and sax, it was a legendary set.
A wee seven inch single then plopped out of my pal's issue of Sounds. It was the "Christmas Cracker" featuring - yup- "Breakfast" live at Ronnie Scotts 9 December 1984. All we needed now was "The Crying Game" and "No" and we had the whole set! Those particular missing tracks never materialised (but they were recorded by Warners) a pity the whole batch didn't make their way out. I saw the whole film of the gig and still have a copy, but the sound fidelity is not as good as the vinyl record releases.

So anyway now having plunged myself back to the strange places my life took me in late 1985 I can tell you that the soundtrack to that autumn and winter was taken up a great deal by these songs. None have been collected on the re-issues. 

All the best

Sid Law

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Heart of Glass

Aaaah.... Valentine's Day is nearly upon us! True Love Always? Shattered Dreams? Broken Hearts? What better day to do a wee post about the second most multi-formatted Associates record of all time. Back in 1988 I astonished myself by purchasing five versions of "Heart Of Glass" when it came out. Normally a bit of a tightwad, I simply couldn't resist splurging out time and again for the various versions of what was the first Associates record in nearly three years. Perhaps I thought that my Uber purchasing would catapult the single to the top of the charts? Nope. Truth be told, I wasn't very keen on the track. I'd heard it performed live a few years before and had a version they did for a Radio One session (which is still the version I prefer to this day). I mean there was nothing wrong with the track... it just seemed a bit... well... pedestrian. However, the slew of different formats meant a treasure trove of remixes, otherwise unavailable B-sides, demos and alternate versions of other songs.

The seven inch had the regular single edit of "Heart of Glass" and a very dark piece of work on the B-side called "Her Only Wish" which never made it onto the Perhaps/ Glamour Chase re-issue set. A pity because it is a rather bitter, snarling bite of a wee song produced by Billy MacKenzie.

The 3" CD Single had a clutch of goodies. The regular single edit of "Heart Of Glass", "Her Only Wish", the original demo of "Breakfast" (produced by Martin Rushent) and a new version of "Those First Impressions" with a Linndrum intro and some quite sparkling production from Martyn Ware. Associates on CD for the first time too!

Three 12" versions of "Heart Of Glass" appear in my collection.

The Auchterhouse Mix (5.11) 12" (remixed by Robert Gordon from Sheffield's Fon Force) also had an "Auchterhouse Instrumental" version (4.46) of "Heart Of Glass" plus "Her Only Wish".

The Temperament Mix 12" was extended (6.46), remixed by Francois Kevorkian and Goh Hotoda, had lots of extra drummy bits and a weirded out ending (the track stops abruptly with a crash of breaking glass). Kevorkian had previously remixed tracks such as PSB's "Rent", U2's "Two Hearts Beat As One", The Smiths "This Charming Man" and Yazoo's "Situation" and was resident deejay at the likes of Studio 54 in NYC. He remains to this day a house and electronic music legend. This 12" version had its sleeve remixed into a 3D sleeve and came with a pair of Associates 3D glasses to look at it through while you listened to the record. On the B-side lurked "Her Only Wish" and another track "Heaven's Blue" - a fragile minute long piano piece which did make it onto the Perhaps/Glamour Chase reissue (so you wont find it in my batch of goodies here).
I also got my hands on a white label promo of The Auchterhouse Mix 12". It doesn't say what the song is on the label. My copy is mis-labelled with the actual tracks being the opposite of what the labels say.

I've also tossed in the "Heart Of Glass" (Dub Mix) which appeared on the "Country Boy" promo only 12" and CDEP.

All the best

Sid Law

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

bloggers and writers

Steve Aungle has been writing a Billy Mackenzie blog for a few weeks now. Very interesting, well-written and entertaining. Well what else would you expect from the musician behind the exquisite "Eurocentric" CD release? His blog is here.

Another writer, fellow Dundonian, wordsmith, poet and visionary W N Herbert has his own unique vision of Billy at his all encompassing site here.
"Billy MacKenzie
Dundonian angel, therefore intensely eccentric and depressive. Whippet boy possessed of the most gorgeous voice of the Leighties. Flinger of nude spoons deep into the silvery Tay. Nearly forgotten fallen icon: Billy was everything that grotesque Laughtonesque Herbert wanted to be but could never even dream of becoming. He was certainly everything that Herbert thought iconic: localised yet international, transgenderic (and therefore worthy of a neologism), Catholic, large-familied, stand-up-and-entertain-us-with-a-songabilly. His early work had a deranged synthetic loveliness; his later material failed commercially; his last, posthumous releases redeemed utterly."
WN Herbert has (in my own ever so 'umble opinion) a superb piece of poetry on his site here called "A Lament For Billy MacKenzie".
All the best
Sid Law

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Anacostia Bay

In 1996 I was walking down Cockburn Street in Edinburgh when I saw a 12" in the window of a record shop. It was a kind of specialist shop for DJs and techno freaks. I usually frequented Fopp!, Lizard or Avalanche, but the name slapped across the 12" meant I simply had to go in and buy it. The 12" was credited to "Loom featuring Billy MacKenzie" and a CDEP featuring four versions of the track was also on sale. I went back home clutching both items (I just saw a copy of the CDEP for sale at $120 today!). Loom's members Bent Recknagel and Ralph P. Ruppert (AKA Headman) were London based and ran the Millenium label. Billy MacKenzie heard their instrumental track on a cassette and sang "At The 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.

The song "At The Edge Of The World" had been recorded with Alan Rankine back in 1993 at the Auchterhouse reunion demo sessions. In 1996 the song was still unreleased in any official form. Over the years 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 Rankine/ Aungle versions of the song for publishing reasons. To add to the confusion "Steve Neugal" is credited with Additional Keyboards and Programming on the Berlioz Mix of the Loom track! The track also features a little snippet of a whispered (female?) vocal sample which I cannot discern (it glides in at 3.27, 3.33 and 3.37). Answers on a postcard please. The Anacostia River is in Washington DC (where it flows into Chesapeake Bay), the title might be a reference to Billy's visit to Washington during his 1990 Wild And Lonely promotional tour of the US.
An 8.32 edited version of the Loom track was released on the posthumous Auchtermatic CD in 2004. The original track is an exquisite 12.44 piece of electronica with Billy giving a performance which can stand next to any of his career highs. I was bowled over when I first heard this fourteen years ago. It still bowls me over!
All the best

Sid Law

Tuesday, 19 January 2010


Steve Reid, guitarist on the Strange News tracks (see post "Some Early Associated Tracks") 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.

Of course Billy MacKenzie and Steve Reid continued to work together on Perhaps.

All the best

Sid Law

Monday, 18 January 2010

I've Just Got To Be Free

Earlier this week I posted a couple of tracks Billy MacKenzie recorded with Dundee band Strange News. I suppose those two tracks were the first of his many collaborations outwith his Associates. I mean The Affectionate Punch had only just been completed and there he was... looking for something different, seeing new horizons and running off with other musicians to record. It was a pattern which continued for the rest of his career and made for a fabulously varied musical legacy. We can hear Billy's voice working alongside a whole host of musicians, collaborators and influences far beyond his various Associates line ups. Billy just didn't seem to want to toe any record company's line or limit his vision of what he could achieve. He just had to be free...

Billy first recorded with British Electric Foundation on 1982's Music Of Quality And Distinction Volume One. It was released on cassette, lp and as a 5x7" single boxset (it crept out on CD in 1991). MacKenzie contributed lead vocals to two tracks (they appear together on one 7" in the boxset). The first is an aching version of Roy Orbison's "It's Over" featuring John Foxx on acoustic guitar.
The second is an 80's funky, Linndrummed-up version of Bowie's "The Secret Life Of Arabia". BEF's top Linndrum programmer, Martyn Ware then went on to produce some of Billy's shiniest moments on the Perhaps album (including the gorgeous 12" version of "Those First Impressions" which still remains criminally unavailable). In October 1991, ten years after Music Of Quality And Distinction Volume One, BEF slipped out Volume Two. Just one track from Billy this time... a stunning version of "Free". Billy had recorded the track in London in March of 1990 and it was to be released as a single in mid 1991, but was pulled at the last minute. I managed to grab one of the few copies that did slip out though!

Oh yeah and I almost forgot... In 1982 a Virgin compilation album of dance remixes plopped out called "Methods Of Dance Volume II". Unavailable anywhere else, then or since, and lurking at the end of side two, is a monumental 7.06 dubmix of The Secret Life Of Arabia with plenty of Billy all over it!

All the best

Sid Law

Sunday, 17 January 2010

"The Audience That Fell To Earth"

Tasty treat here. A wise cracking Billy singing at the top of his game with Paul Haig and a very tight band. Billy and Paul take lead vocal duties on alternate songs. This isn't an audience recording but is taken from the mixing desk. I picked up this wee bootleg at a record fair in the Station Hotel in Ayr a couple of weeks after attending the gig. Highlights for me were "Walking On Thin Ice", a cover of the Yoko Ono song where Billy really gives it laldy. He takes no prisoners on "Empires Of The Heart" either.

The gig had a great atmosphere. Billy and Paul were massively popular in Scotland at the time, despite the lull in Associates activity and Paul's post-Joseph K solo career kinda stalling on the brink of him getting really big. Billy looked around the hall at the crowd, smiled and uttered the immortal words "The audience that fell to Earth" before singing "It's Better This Way". A night of wonder.

All the best!

Sid Law

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Some Early Associated Tracks

Remember cassette fanzines, flexidiscs and NME send off in the post for 'em tapes? Those were the days eh? Well Associates did their share of contributing oddly unique tracks for them. Works in progress all of them. "Even Dogs In The Wild" popped out twice in two such unique versions. The first of these versions slipped out on the compilation cassette "Irrationale" which was released in 1979. I got my copy (£1.99) through the post from a list in the back of the NME in 1980. It is one of my favourite Associates tracks ever. Reverb dripping off the guitar, Billy intoning, phrasing and having a laugh. It fades out over the whistling solo and its 2 minutes 20 seconds are over just far too quickly. I'd really love to hear an unfaded out version of this performance/mix. Another version was supplied on a clear flexidisc with the Flexipop Magazine Issue 20 in 1982. Flexipop mis-spelled Alan Rankine's name, dropping the "e" in Rankine in the writing credit on the disc. Here the track is much more in line with The Affectionate Punch version, but with a grubbier mix, a slightly different vocal and backing vocals and a wild, distorted whistling solo from Billy. Great track.
"Aggressive And Ninety Pounds" appeared on the New Musical Express's "Mad Mix II" cassette (1984). It's an early version of "13 Feelings" with Billy "do-doo"-ing all the way through while Stevie Reid plays guitar over strings and a tinny beatbox. On the NME cassette insert playlist (click the photo below) the band name "Associates" had become "The Associates featuring Billy MacKenzie"! In 1988 I bought a cassette (for £3 inc P&P!) from a classified ad in the NME. It has a very similar sounding version of "13 Feelings" on it but with a slightly beefier drumsound. The cassette was of some of the original "Perhaps" Sessions - which is, of course, where the "Aggressive And Ninety Pounds" NME track originates.

I've also found another couple of tracks ("Sinking Deeper" and "Hungry Look") from a Dundee band called Strange News which featured Billy MacKenzie on vocals, Steve Reid on guitar, Andy on Bass and Gavin on Drums. Billy wrote the lyrics on both tracks [listen out for "Every breath you breathe belongs to someone there" on "Hungry Look"]. Recorded just after Billy MacKenzie and Alan Rankine's MkI Associates had recorded The Affectionate Punch, Stevie Reid took Andy round to visit Billy, they picked up their drummer, motored down to Edinburgh and recorded both tracks in an afternoon. Billy and Andy split the studio costs between them apparently. I was given the two tracks on a CDR in Dundee at a Billy MacKenzie tribute night in Fat Sam's a few years back.

All the best

Sid Law