Thursday, 26 November 2015

Even Dogs in the Wild

Purely by chance I recently caught Ian Rankin promoting his latest Rebus novel on the radio (what a busy schedule these successful writers have).  I knew that he was a music fan of about my own age and as soon as he said the book was called Even Dogs in the Wild I got the reference to the Associates song of the same name.  It made me revisit my interest in their music and re-read The Glamour Chase, The Maverick Life of Billy Mackenzie by Tom Doyle.  The tragedy of the tale is the fact that someone so apparently exuberant and bursting with life and ideas (as is evident from the early records) could take his own life before he reached forty.

I never bought the later records, but my favourite period is the 'classic' combination of Mackenzie and Alan Rankine that produced the melodious and metallic  The Affectionate Punch and the run of amazing Situation 2 singles such as Tell Me Easter's on Friday, Message Oblique Speech,  Q Quarters, Kitchen Person and White Car in Germany; Sulk I feel has been rather overrated, although the two singles off it Party Fears Two and Club Country are fantastic.  I never got to see Mackenzie and Rankine live, the partnership sundered as a result of substance abuse and Mackenzie's reluctance to tour.

According to Doyle's biography (p.140), by 1984: 'It was increasingly becoming apparent that it was as a piano-accompanied torch singer that Billy felt at his most comfortable in the live arena.  Warners, keen to coax him back into live performance on whatever level, arranged a date at London's legendary jazz haunt Ronnie Scott's on 9 December 1984.  Billy had not performed live in the capital for four years ... so there was the inevitable clamour for the 200 tickets made available, although ironically, Warners quickly snapped up three-quarters of the allocation and this key event was witnessed by an audience comprising mainly record industry personnel and music journalists.  Viewing the existing footage of this half-hour performance was as close as the majority of Associates' fan base got to witnessing the unarguable peak of Billy Mackenzie's live career.'  It wasn't all music biz types there, I managed to get tickets for me and my friend from an agency in Shaftesbury Avenue: it was clear as soon as we sat at our table that this was no ordinary gig audience and we felt like the only real 'fans' there.  I loved it, although obviously half and hour was not nearly enough time.  Footage of the show is online and this (unreleased at the time) was my favourite song of the evening.  I saw The Associates a couple of times after this (Leicester Poly and St James's Piccadilly) but it wasn't as special as the Ronnie Scott's show.

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