Associates were a Scottish post-punk and new wave band of the early 1980s.[1] They were known for the unique voice of singer Billy Mackenzie. Their biggest success was in 1982 with the UK Top 10 album Sulk and UK Top 20 singles "Party Fears Two" and "Club Country".


 [hide*1 History


1979–1982: Associates mk. 1[edit]Edit

Mackenzie and guitarist Alan Rankine met in Dundee in 1976 and formed the cabaret duo The Ascorbic Ones.[1] In 1979, they recorded songs as Mental Torture before changing the name again to Associates. Their debut single, a cover of David Bowie's "Boys Keep Swinging", was released June 1979, just six weeks after Bowie's version hit the UK Top 10 in April. This was followed by a string of singles and two albums, The Affectionate Punch and Fourth Drawer Down.

In 1981, Rankine and MacKenzie released a version of "Kites" under the name 39 Lyon Street, with Christine Beveridge on lead vocals. The B-side, "A Girl Named Property", was credited to The Associates.

The band's breakthrough came in 1982 with the release of the single "Party Fears Two". Buoyed along by the popularity of synthpop at the time, the song reached number 9 on the UK Singles Chart.[1] Two other hits followed, "Club Country" and "18 Carat Love Affair". That year the band released their most commercially successful album, SulkMartha Ladly, of Martha and the Muffins, contributed backing vocals and keyboards to this album.

1983–1990: Associates mk. 2 and commercial decline[edit]Edit

Rankine left the band in 1982 just before the Sulk tour. This proved disastrous for the band's career; the band was being courted by Seymour Stein of Sire Records, but without Mackenzie's willingness to tour, Stein lost interest. Mackenzie continued to write and record music under the name Associates until 1990. The albums PerhapsThe Glamour Chase (which the record company refused to release, considering it not commercially viable) and Wild and Lonely were made during this period. However, recordings were sporadic and subsequent Associates records failed to reach the charts in the UK and sold far fewer than their early albums.

1991–present: split and aftermath[edit]Edit

The Associates name was eventually put to rest, and Mackenzie released an electronica-influenced solo album Outernational in 1992 with limited success. In 1993, Mackenzie and Rankine began working on new material together. News of an Associates revival generated hype and speculation of a tour, and the demos recorded by the two were promising. However, Mackenzie was not fully committed to the reunion and especially touring with it, so Associates split for a final time. Mackenzie went back to his solo work, signing a deal with Nude Records and finding a new collaborative partner in Steve Aungle. Between 1987 and 1992, Billy worked with Swiss avant-garde outfit Yello. Mackenzie wrote the lyrics of the song "The Rhythm Divine" performed by Shirley Bassey on the album One Second, with Mackenzie singing backing vocals. Mackenzie contributed to three Yello albums: One Second (1987), Flag (1988) and Baby (1991). Some tracks for The Glamour Chase and Outernational were recorded with Boris Blank at Yello's recording studio.

Mackenzie committed suicide in 1997 at age 39, shortly after the death of his mother. He had been suffering from clinical depression. He was contemplating a comeback at the time with material co-written with Aungle. The albums Beyond the Sun (1997) and Eurocentric (2000) were released posthumously and, in 2004, reconstructed and expanded with new unreleased songs into the two albums Auchtermatic and Transmission Impossible.

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

The book The Glamour Chase by Tom Doyle documented the band's career and Mackenzie's subsequent life.


Before Mackenzie's death almost all Associates records had been deleted. Former band member Michael Dempsey and the Mackenzie estate began a reissue programme to make sure the band's legacy continued. Almost every Associates album has been re-issued so far, including a 25-Anniversary edition of The Affectionate Punch in 2005. In addition to the original albums, two compilation albums have been released: Double Hipness (2000), a collection of early tracks with the 1993 reunion demos; and Singles (2004), an extended version of Popera - The Singles Collection which caught up with post-1990 material and included the cover of Bowie's "Boys Keep Swinging". In 2002, The Glamour Chase (recorded in the years 1985-87) was eventually released. Finally, Wild & Lonely and Mackenzie's solo album Outernational were repackaged with bonus tracks in 2006.

Artists who have covered "Party Fears Two" include The Divine ComedyDan BrykKing Creosote and Heaven 17. An instrumental section of "Party Fears Two" was used as the theme music for the BBC Radio 4satirical current affairs series Week Ending.

The instrumental piano passage from the "Nocturne VII" track (which appeared on the posthumous Beyond The Sun album) was used in the BBC series Masterchef in November 2009.

An edited version of "Club Country" appeared in the second series finale of the BBC drama Ashes to Ashes, set in 1982.

American electronic pop duo Microfilm recorded a tribute song to Billy Mackenzie in 2009 titled "I'll Sing Like Billy Mackenzie in Heaven" which featured guitar and additional vocals by Scissor Sisters' member Del Marquis. It appeared on the 2009 EP Blips Don't Lie and the subsequent singles compilation I Am Curious: Microfilm 2006-2010.[citation needed]

Band members[edit]Edit

Note: There are many other instrumentalists who augmented Associates through their tenure but not all are known especially on earlier demos etc.

  • Billy Mackenzie - vocals
  • Alan Rankine - guitars, keyboards and other instruments (1977–1982, 1993 for reunion)
  • John Sweeney - original drummer
  • Michael Dempsey (formerly of The Cure) - bass guitar (1980–1982)
  • John Murphy (later of SPK and Death In June) - drums (1980–81)
  • Steve Goulding (formerly of Graham Parker & the Rumour and later of The Mekons) - drums (1982–1983)
  • Howard Hughes was a friend of Mackenzie and played keyboards live and on his later albums PerhapsThe Glamour Chase and Wild and Lonely. (1984–1990)
  • Steve Reid was a friend of Mackenzie and played guitar on Perhaps. (1982–1984)
  • Roberto Soave - bass (1983–1985)
  • Moritz Von Oswald - drums (1985 onwards), percussion on Wild and Lonely; also composed some songs on Outernational and did various remixes of Associates songs with Ralf Hertwig.
  • Anne Dudley of Art of Noise - strings on Wild and Lonely. (1990)
  • Martha Ladly (previously of Martha and the Muffins) - keyboards and vocals on Sulk. (1982)
  • Robert Smith (lead singer of The Cure) - backing vocals on "The Affectionate Punch".
  • Jim Russell - drums (1984)
  • Ian McIntosh - guitars, live and radio sessions after Rankine left, (1982–1985)
  • Martin Lowe - live guitars (1982)


Studio albums[edit]Edit


  • Popera (WEA East West, 1990)
  • The Radio 1 Sessions (Nighttracks, 1994)
  • Double Hipness (V2, 2000)
  • Radio 1 Sessions Volume 1;1981-83 (Strange Fruit, 2003)
  • Radio 1 Sessions Volume 2;1984-85 (Strange Fruit, 2003)
  • Singles (WEA, 2004)[1][2]


  • "Boys Keep Swinging" (Double Hip, 1979)
  • "The Affectionate Punch" (Fiction, 1980)
  • "Tell Me Easter's on Friday" (Situation Two, 1981)
  • "Kites" [as 39 Lyon Street] (1981)
  • "Q Quarters" (Situation Two, 1981)
  • "Kitchen Person" (Situation Two, 1981)
  • "A" (Fiction, 1981)
  • "Message Oblique Speech" (Situation Two, 1981)
  • "White Car in Germany" (Situation Two, 1981)
  • "Party Fears Two" (WEA, 1982) UK No. 9
  • "Club Country" (WEA, 1982) UK No. 13
  • "18 Carat Love Affair" / "Love Hangover" (WEA, 1982) UK No. 21
  • "Even Dogs In the Wild" (1982)
  • "Matter of Gender" (1982)
  • "Those First Impressions" (1984) UK No. 43
  • "Waiting for the Love Boat" (1984) UK No. 53
  • "Breakfast" (1984) UK No. 49, NL No. 36
  • "Take Me to the Girl" (1985)
  • "Heart of Glass" (1988) UK No. 56
  • "Country Boy" (WEA, 1989 - withdrawn)
  • "Fever" (1990)
  • "Fire to Ice" (1990)
  • "Just Can't Say Goodbye" (1990)[1][2]
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