Thursday, January 21, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter A, Part 8)

They may have called themselves Associates, but this band has been the boss of my A section for many years. I have more pieces of vinyl featuring the talents of Billy MacKenzie than anyone else from the first letter in the alphabet. So many, in fact, I can't possibly make them all fit in the photo today.

I was 14 when I bought my first piece of plastic from Associates, and the purchase was made without ever hearing a note from them. I read an interview with MacKenzie in Melody Maker while killing time in a record store. I had an obsession with Scotland (still do!), and I'm sure being from there is what cinched it, but I was so taken by the printed conversation that I bought an album that very day. Most of the conversation centered around 'Perhaps,' the album that was going to be out in a few months, and a couple of the singles that would be on that record had already been released, but I didn't know anything about that at the time. The interviewer kept contrasting the new album to the last one, 'Sulk,' and I remember MacKenzie downplaying the previous effort, saying something about the new songs being about love, which he claimed he knew nothing about in the 'Sulk' days. With Alan Rankine's defection, of course he would say that. It would be quite some time before I knew how big the album had been a couple of years earlier in the UK, and it would be even longer before I learned of the hijinks that went on while the masterpiece was being made... in and out of the studio.

Anyway, I went to the A section of the record store. There was no subsection just for Associates... something I would have to get used to out in the sticks. I found one copy of one album from them. I would have to "settle" for 'Sulk.' I'm not sure if those of you in the UK are aware of this, but the American version of 'Sulk' bears little resemblance to the album you know. Here was the A-side released by Sire in this country:

"It's Better This Way"
"Party Fears Two"
"Club Country"
"Love Hangover"
"18 Carat Love Affair"

So, these were the first five songs I ever heard by Associates. Even if you want to make the argument that the versions we received over here were inferior (the first two songs were remixed and "Club Country" was edited), you have to admit this singles fest is a stunning way to be introduced to Alan Rankine and MacKenzie. I know I'll never forget it. Here are two from what's left of my 30-year-old vinyl. Associates are too important to me to confine to one day. Plus it's going to take some time to convert all of these to digital. So, depending on how far I get tonight, I may have another post featuring Billy tomorrow.

"Party Fears Two"
"18 Carat Love Affair"

7 comments:

Echorich said...

Everything Associates/MacKenzie is wonderful, but Sulk is sheer Brilliance!! I have the US and UK versions of Sulk and you are right Brian, two completely different animals. 18 Carat Love Affair is sort of the middle child to this period of Associates, never really getting its due respect when compared to Party Fears Two or Club Country. It might be the closest BM and AR ever got to a conventional pop song as well.

Brian said...

Hi Echorich. I think the musical gods wanted me to hear these more accessible songs first. Something like Kitchen Person may have scared me off if I had heard it in 1984. My delicate ears weren't ready for that. Now it's just about my favorite.

kevinpat said...

Sorry guys I got nothing. An acquired taste. Which perhaps makes it more worthy. Just doesn't work for me. Tried many years ago. I got nothing. :)

charity chic said...

Keep trying kevinpat!

The Swede said...

I'm by no means a Billy MacKenzie completest and have thoroughly enjoyed being introduced to so many less obvious tunes over the past year by various blogging chums, including your good self. 'Party Fears Two' and 'Club Country' will probably always be my go-to tunes though. Those songs still sound quite unlike any other pop single I've ever heard.

Brian said...

Can't argue with you, Swede. The singles from that period are wonderful.

Kevinpat, No need to apologize. Echorich and Post Punk Monk are just about the only other Americans I have ever come across that are into Associates, and those two may very well be the biggest fans I have ever come across. My next post or two may be more up your alley.

CC, I assume by your little push that you also like Associates, and that makes me very happy.

JC said...

Not a bad intro by any stretch of the imagination..

Mine was 'White Car in Germany' from which I went backwards to the rest of the early material and I just freaked when 'Sulk' came out to the extent that I had more or less worn it out within six months and had to buy a replacement. It was also one of the first CDs I bought when I was shifting away from Vinyl (we all were...believe me that we fell for the hype on sound quality!!) as I couldn't ever imagone not being able to play the album.

I do understand where kevinpat is coming from....it's a bit of an acquired taste and everyone of us has blind spots in terms of not getting or liking someone or a band that many others rate so very highly.