News & Editorial

Billy MacKenzie - the voice of an angel

Article text
Billy MacKenzie (27th March 1957 – 22nd January 1997) was best known as the singer from The Associates, the band he founded in Dundee with guitarist Alan Rankine. Given his prodigious multi-octave range, it was impossible to forget the Scottish vocalist.

"Party Fears Two", "Club Country" and "18 Carat Love Affair" remain some of the most distinctive singles to come out of Britain in the early Eighties. The band experimented with unorthodox instrumentation and recording techniques, including sounds amplified through the tube of a vacuum cleaner on the track "Kitchen Person" in 1981.

’Party Fears Two’ from 1982 on Top of the Pops

Artists who've covered "Party Fears Two" include the Divine Comedy, Dan Bryk, King Creosote and Heaven 17. The Associates released their most commercially successful album, Sulk, in 1982. Martha Ladly of Martha and the Muffins contributed backing vocals and keyboards.

Billy interviewed on the Tube

In July 1994 Billy gave one of his last formal interviews. Gilbert Blecken asked the questions.

Following the death of his mother the previous year, Billy Mackenzie committed suicide in 1997. He'd been suffering from clinical depression, though artistically his career had taken a recent upturn. His father found Billy curled up on a dog basket in a shed where his beloved whippets were sometimes kenneled.

Alan Rankine became a lecturer in music at Stow College in Glasgow, and worked with Belle and Sebastian on their 1996 debut album, Tigermilk.

Dundee repertory theatre: trailer for Balgay Hill, a play based on a biography of Billy, 'The Glamour Chase' by Tom Doyle.