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

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