David Corio

Billy MacKenzie of The Associates

Wormwood Scrubs Park, London, UK

In the music business for every group that ‘makes it’ there must be countless others that don’t succeed. The Associates are a typical case. At the beginning of the decade lead singer Billy MacKenzie, guitarist Alan Rankine, Michael Dempsey (bass) and John Murphy (drums) were being touted as a force to be reckoned with in the new-wave era and had already found cult status. MacKenzie’s soaring vocals over four octaves could sound operatic and Rankine’s guitar style was widely copied - their sound was acknowledged by Bono as a big influence on U2. Rankine left the band in 1982 after two albums and a few highly regarded singles and they never managed to reach the heights that had been predicted of them after his departure.

Billy MacKenzie was the large personality and front man in the group and a mesmerizing live performer with his soaring vocals dominating the sound. He also collaborated with Swiss duo Yello and B.E.F. but never found commercial success. Off stage he was much quieter and prefered to spend time in his native Scotland breeding and racing his beloved whippets which was as much of a career as his music. in 1997 after his mother’s death and bouts of depression Billy MacKenzie commited suicide in his father’s garden shed in Dundee. The Cure, The Smiths, Morrisey and Sioxsie Sioux all wrote songs about him after his death.

Billy MacKenzie of The Associates