Music: The Associates

Billy Mackenzie and Alan Rankine

The Associates were a PostPunk band formed in Dundee, Scotland, by singer Billy Mackenzie and guitarrist/arranger Alan Rankine. Their songs marked part of the shift from Post-Punk towards its "phase two", New Pop (which comprised names like ABC and Frankie Goes To Hollywood.

Their debut single was a cover of David Bowie's "Boys Keep Swinging". It attracted a good deal of attention, allegedly including Bowie himself. Two years later, and, after recording their debut album (which had backing vocals by Robert Smith of The Cure), released seven singles, in a quick succession, which was remarkable for that time.

Their entry into the top charts came, however, with the album Sulk, a luxurious album which spawned singles like "Club Country" and "Party Fears Two". Billy Mackenzie's campy (but dignified) vocals and Rankine's amazing production and guitar playing skills were what always set The Associates apart from the majority of the Post-Punk bands. Martha from Martha & The Muffins also contributed to the album with keyboards and backing vocals.

However, Billy's erratic behaviour (which included cruising for hours and missing his passport so he didn't have to perform at certain talk-shows, especially outside the UK), along with drug use and reluctance on his part to tour America led to Rankine leaving the group.

They released two more albums (one was unreleased by the label, who thought it wasn't commercial enough), but, while still having some good songs, it didn't had the same impact and the band ended in 1990, after the release of Wild And Lonely. Two years after, Billy's debut solo album, Outernational, got released. Billy and Rankine briefly got together in 1993 to make new material, but constant speculation of a reunion tour caused Billy to get reluctant again and they split for the final time.

In the final years of the group, Billy also collaborated with Yello and Shirley Bassey.

In 1995, Mackenzie committed suicide at the age of 39, shortly after his mother's death and his struggle with clinical depression. Rankine became a lecturer in music and also collaborated with Belle and Sebastian on Tigermilk.


Studio Albums
  • The Affectionate Punch (1980)
  • Fourth Drawer Down (the compilation of the seven singles released in 1981)
  • Sulk (1982)
  • Perhaps (1985)
  • The Glamour Chase (1988) (Unreleased until 2003)
  • Wild And Lonely (1990)

Tropes associated with the band:

  • Camp
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Billy, obviously.
  • Everything Is an Instrument: Sort of. According to Alan, they used to do a thing called ballon guitar, where they'd fill a balloon with water until it was the size of a fairly small breast, and then, by holding it with a hand, it would be used on the strings in order to control the feedback coming from the amplifier.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Billy and Alan were this till Alan left the group.
  • New Sound Album: Sulk.
  • Post-Punk: Especially in the first two albums.
  • Roma: Billy's father was one, which probably helped explain his erratic behaviour.
  • Secret Relationship: "18 Carat Love Affair" is about a (possibly gay) love affair and the protagonist (Billy) trying to hide that from everyone else. In real life, he kept his affairs (romantic and sexual) with both men and women in private and seperately (in terms of time and even in terms of geography).
  • Shout-Out: "White Car In Germany" is this to Kraftwerk and Conny Plank (especially in terms of sound).
  • Take That: "Club Country" is considered to be this to the New Romantic scene at the Blitz's.