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Monday, 15 June 2009

associates / alan rankine - 'the glamour chase'

The following is my report of the recent showing of the Associates documentary 'The Glamour Chase' at the DCA, and the accompanying Q+A with founding member Alan Rankine. Originally posted on the Associates thread on I Love Music, just felt like re-posting here.

The full 40 minute edit of the documentary "The Glamour Chase" was given only it's second public airing at the DCA in Dundee tonight. It was originally made in 1999 for Grampian and STV. It's good, fairly zips through the life and times, I never saw the original 23 minute version when it was broadcast, but it must have battered through at a fair pace! Most of the detail is familiar from Tom Doyle's book of the same name, unsurprising as he was involved in the making of the documentary and the fact that the book itself was fairly exhaustive. There's talking-head contributions from the likes of Michael Dempsey, Max Hole, Chris Parry (a "Kiwi c-nt", according to Rankine...), Billy's father and sister, Boris Blank, Martin Fry, Glen Gregory, Marc Almond, Siouxie Sioux, Noko from Apollo440 and others. There's a few clips of the Ronnie Scotts performance in 1984 in a kind of jazz trio arrangement, not sure how widely available that has been but it looked great - the sound quality was good and clear, it would be great to have the audio of that.

Afterwards we got "Billy Sloan in Conversation With Alan Rankine", which was quite enjoyable. Sloan was knowledgeable and understated and not at all playing up to his reputation. Sloan basically asked him about his time in the band from beginning to end, his memories of Billy, that sort of thing. A few questions from the audience at one point but I couldn't think of anything to ask. On the subject of "William It Was Really Nothing", Rankine said that he doesn't know if anything ever happened between Billy and Morrissey, but if he knew Billy as well as he thought he did then he probably shagged Morrissey ragged... By the sound of it, they had fun at the time. He also mentioned that they got their rights back for recordings a month ago, I assume he meant "Fourth Drawer Down" and "Sulk" and the "Double Hipness" material which was previously licenced to V2, and that they'll probably be doing something with it. On the subject of watching Billy carry on as Associates after his departure, he did say that other than some of the songs on "Perhaps", he didn't really rate the post-"Sulk" output, and that it was clear by the "Wild and Lonely"-era videos that Billy's heart wasn't in it.

The Q+A was finished off with the playback of a recently made recording of the lost Associates song "The Twins of Gemini". Rankine said that they'd worked on it at the time, but never recorded it, finished the lyrics or properly performed it other than maybe accapella at parties. Apparently this version was only finished the night before, and features Steven Lindsay on vocals, Craig Armstrong on piano and Rankine on bass. Someone asked him later if it was getting a release, he said they'd maybe be doing some more work on it but that it was a possibility.

Got the chance to shake Rankine's hand on my way out, didn't really have much to say. He had a few signed, unplayed 12"s of "White Car in Germany" that he was handing out, got one of those.
The picture above is indeed the signed copy of "White Car In Germany".

Although I was aware of the Associates before hand, they first captured my imagination properly in the Autumn of 2002 when I first moved to Dundee and bought Tom Doyle's Billy Mackenzie biography 'The Glamour Chase'. It's a great read, partly because Billy's life itself is so fascinating and partly so because it was the first time I'd read a "rock biography" and been familiar with the not just the places named, but also some of the social backdrop to the story. The book appears to be out of print now.

The beauty of Billy's music for me is in it's unpredictability - both in terms of how other worldly it can be, but also how varying in quality it can be. I won't pretend I like every note that Billy/the Associates ever committed to tape, but when they hit their mark they were fantastic - "The Affectionate Punch", "Tell Me Easter's on Friday", "White Car In Germany" and, of course, "Party Fears Two" amongst many others.

The play 'Balgay Hill', inspired by Billy Mackenzie, runs at Dundee Rep until 27th June. Hopefully I'll get a chance to go and see it after my night shifts.

[Video] Associates - "Party Fears Two" ('Top of the Pops, 1982)
[Video] Associates - "White Car In Germany" (Dutch TV, 1982)

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