The Associates

The Associates

Profile:
Billy MacKenzie and Alan Rankine formed The Associates in Dundee, Scotland, in 1976. They released a self-funded 7" of Boys Keep Swinging mere weeks after David Bowie had released his original. This scam got them a publishing deal with Bowie's publishers and a proper record deal.

By 1980 they were touring with The Cure and signed to Fiction Records, for whom they recorded The Affectionate Punch. At the turn of the year they relocated to Situation Two and put out a string of singles, later compiled on the album Fourth Drawer Down, recorded using money from major labels who were expecting demos to be produced with their cash... In tandem with their increasing consumption of coke and speed, the groups' music became increasingly deranged and experimental. John Murphy and Mike Dempsey (ex-The Cure) became official members.

The Associates signed with WEA in 1982. Martha Ladly joined as back-up singer. Billy and Alan immediately scored a string of UK top 20 chart hits. The album Sulk made the UK top 10, winning album of the year awards in the UK music press. The groups drug use was at a peak - Billy & Alans behaviour was becoming somewhat erratic. On the eve of their biggest ever UK tour MacKenzie pulled out. A US deal with Island was consequentially lost. Deciding that he couldn't continue, Alan Rankine left the group. From this moment on, The Associates were to be just that: Billy MacKenzie solo, with different associates for each release.

MacKenzie started recording a follow up album. 1984s Perhaps cost WEA £250,000. It took 3 years and 4 production teams to record - twice (dissatisfied with the original production Billy "lost" the first versions' master tapes, forcing a re-recording). The album had some chart success, but WEA were dissatisfied, and started pressuring MacKenzie to follow a more straightforward pop-soul direction. Frustrated by WEA's lack of support, MacKenzie focussed on collaborations, most notably with Yello (featuring on One Second, Flag, Baby and writing The Rhythm Divine).

1988's comeback single, a cover of Blondie's Heart Of Glass, failed to chart. WEA refused to release its parent album, The Glamour Chase, and with MacKenzie over a million pounds in debt to the label The Associates were dropped.

Circa quickly signed MacKenzie and in 1990 released Wild And Lonely, the last album of original music under the The Associates name. 1992's album, the Thomas Fehlmann / Boris Blank-produced Outernational was issued under the artist name Billy MacKenzie. Even though the album had good reviews in the press and Baby was single of the week in Melody Maker, the album stiffed - partially due to Circa winding down operations.

Aside from an aborted Associates reunion with Alan Rankine in the mid-90s, MacKenzie remained a solo artist, collaborating in the 90s with Peach, Barry Adamson, Paul Haig and Apollo Four Forty amongst others. At the end of 1996, after four years without a deal, he signed with Nude Records.

Tragically his first release for the label was a post-humous one. The death of his mother in 1996 was likely the trigger of an emotional breakdown that led him deeper and deeper into a depressed state. Billy MacKenzie died aged 39, on 22nd January 1997 from an overdose of prescribed and over-the-counter pills.
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The Associates Discography

Albums

Associates* The Affectionate Punch (Album) Fiction Records France 1980 Sell This Version
Associates* Fourth Drawer Down (Album, Comp) Beggars Banquet, Beggars Banquet Netherlands 1981 Sell This Version
The Associates Sulk (Album) Associates, Beggars Banquet Germany 1982 Sell This Version
The Associates Perhaps (Album) WEA, WEA Canada 1984 Sell This Version
The Associates Wild And Lonely (Album) Circa, Circa UK 1990 Sell This Version
none Billy Mackenzie & The Associates Billy Mackenzie & The Associates - Billy Mackenzie & The Associates In Concert(14xFile, MP3) Not On Label (Billy Mackenzie) none 2011

Singles & EPs

The Associates Boys Keep Swinging (Single) Double Hip Records UK 1979 Sell This Version
The Associates The Affectionate Punch (Single) Fiction Records, Fiction Records UK 1980 Sell This Version
Associates* A (Single) Fiction Records UK 1981 Sell This Version
The Associates White Car In Germany (Single) Situation Two UK 1981 Sell This Version
39 Lyon Street / The Associates 39 Lyon Street / The Associates - Kites / A Girl Named Property (Single) RSO UK 1981 Sell This Version
Associates* Message Oblique Speech (Single) Situation Two UK 1981 Sell This Version
The Associates Tell Me Easter's On Friday (Single) Situation Two UK 1981 Sell This Version
Associates* Kitchen Person (Single) Situation Two UK & Ireland 1981 Sell This Version
The Associates Q Quarters (Single) Situation Two UK 1981 Sell This Version
Associates* A Matter Of Gender (Single) Fiction Records, Fiction Records UK 1982 Sell This Version
The Associates Even Dogs In The Wild (Single) Flexipop UK 1982 Sell This Version
Associates* 18 Carat Love Affair / Love Hangover (Single) Associates, Associates, Beggars Banquet, Beggars Banquet US 1982 Sell This Version
Associates* Club Country (Single) Associates UK 1982 Sell This Version
Associates* Party Fears Two (Single) Associates Netherlands 1982 Sell This Version
The Associates Waiting For The Loveboat (Single) WEA, WEA Spain 1984 Sell This Version
The Associates Breakfast (Single) WEA, WEA UK 1984 Sell This Version
Associates* Those First Impressions (Single) WEA, WEA New Zealand 1984 Sell This Version
The Associates Take Me To The Girl (Single) WEA Germany 1985 Sell This Version
The Associates Country Boy (Single) WEA, WEA Germany 1988 Sell This Version

Reviews

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futureimage

futureimage

February 27, 2006
edited over 11 years ago
Well, if it was any band that should still be alive today, it's the Associates. They took Joy Division's sound, added much higher vocals, and evolved their ideas tenfold.
Recommended Albums: Sulk, Fourth Drawer Down, The Radio 1 Sessions (1981-1983), Singles.
After the loss of Alan Rankine, Billy MacKenzie couldn't replace the unique ideas and sounds that Alan had produced, so after Perhaps, the synth-punk sound was lost amongst the drum machines and digital synths.
Associates definitely have to be one of the most underrated names in synth-punk.

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