AOTW: Associates – Fourth Drawer Down

21/06/2010 § 22 Comments

As Barbryn brought back AOTW – seems a shame not to try & keep it going, so let’s go back to 1981 & the 2nd Associates Album, Fourth Drawer Down.

The Associates, Billy Mackenzie & Alan Rankine, got their start by self-releasing a version of Boy’s Keep Swinging, days after Bowie released the original. Bowie’s publisher signed them & they got a deal with Fiction, toured with the Cure & released their first album The Affectionate Punch. Major labels became interested & gave the band money to produce demos for a new album. Instead the boys used the cash to release a bunch of singles, that they later compiled on Fourth Drawer Down. They probably used some of the cash on coke and speed as the music and production became increasingly mad. There’s only 8 songs on the original album (you get a few extra B-Sides on the CD & the Box). Not too many synth pop fans on here, especially when it’s early 80’s tech – so you’ll have to make do with the voice that sounds as if it’s from a Europe on another planet & not from Dundee.

Anyway, the Majors eventually got their album (Sulk), even though the band didn’t compromise their sound. Despite this, The Associates found themselves in the charts and on Top Of The Pops. Things soon got out of hand, Alan Rankine left, and it went downhill from there. The Associates were now just Billy, and despite putting out some great songs here and there, it was never the same. Sad ending, Billy died on Jan 22, 1997 (overdose), age 39. It’s unlikely that “William It Was Really Nothing” was about Mackenzie. Billy did record a tune called “Morrissey, You’re Really Something” & he trained whippets.

It’s boxed. Reactions anticipated with interest.


§ 22 Responses to AOTW: Associates – Fourth Drawer Down

  • barbryn says:

    I bought “Sulk” a few years ago on the back of various music journalists calling it a lost classic, but was pretty much baffled by it. I haven’t listened for a few years, though was thinking I ought to again, as I’m a bit more receptive to things like deranged 80s electro these days.

    But I’m afraid this hasn’t converted me. I can see the talent and imagination, and can imagine I might get into this in the right mood and circumstances – but can’t imagine what that mood and circumstances might be. It’s not the middle of Monday afternoon when you’re supposed to be writing about elephants, anyway.

  • bethnoir says:

    I too had only heard Sulk up until now. The description of their attempts to create new sounds (miking up drums with water in them and so on) made me think they’d sound like some avant garde industrial band I mention too often, but I found the album a little too normal sounding for my taste. Very interested to hear this one, will be back to comment further, thanks for dropping it.

  • bethnoir says:

    *pout* it won’t let me unzip the album, is it because I have a Mac?

  • Blimpy says:

    I have tried so so many times with The Associates, but it hasn’t ever clicked for me.

  • bishbosh says:

    I of course knew Party Fears Two/Club Country/18 Carat Love Affair, etc, already but I didn’t really fall in love with the Associates/Billy Mackenzie until his posthumous album, “Beyond the Sun”. Which is just beautiful and a real fave of mine. (His track with Apollo 440, Pain in any language, is amazing too.)

    Some Associates stuff I now absolutely love, some I still find a little impenetrable. And I can’t usually take a whole album of it all at once (even Sulk). I know some of these tracks (White Car in Germany, Tell Me Easter’s On Friday), but look forward to checking out the rest – thanks shoegazer!

  • makinavaja says:

    I have Sulk and it gets the occasional outing (last time, after Phud’s fleeting appearance on RR). I like Billy’s voice and like to think I understand what’s going on but like bishbosh can really only enjoy the Associates in smallish doses. I’m looking forward to listening to this although I don’t expect to enjoy it all – if that makes sense.

  • Shoegazer says:

    @Beth – the album isn’t here (posting a full album on the ‘Spill is probably pushing it)- so even a Mac won’t find it. It is in dropbox.

    @Bish, if you like the Apollo 440, you will also love the stuff BM did with Yello (ask Shane). The Popera comp is great too.

    The rest of you could try again with some coke & speed? Nah, perhaps not. Thanks for giving it a whirl, anyway.

    Who’s going to sign-up for next week’s album? – 1st claim in these comments bags it.

    • bishbosh says:

      Hey Shoey! I have Popera somewhere on cassette from way back whenever it was released – great title, great comp. Don’t think it’s available on CD any more but I guess it might be iTuneable… And I love “The Rhythm Divine” (at the time, I was only aware of the Shirley Bassey version, which I have kicking around on 7″ somewhere) but not familiar with any other Yello-Billy stuff.

      Have you heard the different mixes of “Anacostia Bay (At The Edge Of The World)” he did with Loom? Amazing. One version eventually surfaced on “Auchtermatic”, I think, but I randomly picked up a CD single of them all in Reckless Records some time in the mid-90s. Back when I was kind of au fait with what was going on in the world of music anyway…!

    • bethnoir says:

      I downloaded it from dropbox, which is usually fine, don’t know why it didn’t work, it’s made me listen to Sulk again anyway, so that’s good.

  • panthersan says:

    thanks for this Shoey, but it’s a thumbs down for me too, i’m afraid.

    I appreciated the weirdness of it and the diversity of the tracks, but just couldn’t find anything to grab on to to make me listen again……I did try though!

  • exodus says:

    I’m one of the handful (I think Webcore may be one of the others) who bought ‘The Affectionate Punch’ & I still listen to it regularly. The singles off ‘Sulk’ were fab, but the album itself has always left me a bit cold. Associates high point for me was the (much) later single ‘Breakfast’, which will be submitted as an earworm when I get my act together and digitise it.

  • steenbeck says:

    I’m listening to it now, and I quite like it. I’d never heard of them before and I didn’t know quite what to expect. I like the brief glimpses of melody and sanity in the midst of some messy madness. It reminds me of music I would have been intrigued by and a little scared of in the late 80s. I think it will take a couple of listens.

    Thanks, Shoey.

    • exodus says:

      Steen, if you’re new to the band you should try to check out their two big hits, both off the ‘Sulk’ album – ‘Party Fears Two’ & ‘Country Club’.

      • steenbeck says:

        Thanks, Exodus, I’ll look them up.

        And I was hoping I could ask you…I actually bought some blackcurrant bushes! I got them around the time of the last frost – so maybe March (although we had a cold spring). They’re two years old. They’re doing very well! They even have berries, which they weren’t necessarily supposed to this year. But…my question is…when should they be ripe? I thought of it as an autumn thing, but they’re already darkening. Is it because it’s been about 100 degrees every day here???? Anyway, they seem very healthy, and it’s only a couple of dozen berries, not sure what to do with that. BUt I love them!! When do the berries ripen by you?

      • exodus says:

        Hi Steen – for some reason it looks like I’m replying before you asked the question. Blackcurrants are a summer fruit, so now’s about right for them – ours have just started to turn black over the last week or so (it’s helped that we’ve had a really sunny spell). If they start falling off the bush, they’re ready!

        Basically, this year’s new growth will produce next year’s currants, so as yours are new let the plants have their head this year, and don’t prune anything away in the winter. After a couple of years start cutting off some of the older branches, from the base leaving room for new growth to come through. Enjoy!

      • exodus says:

        forget the first sentence there – just a quirk of this site I think.

  • bethnoir says:

    It works now! I really enjoyed the first 3 tracks, but then felt like listening to something else for a while. Prefer it to Sulk. As someone else said, his voice is the major pull, but this music is interesting too.

    p.s if you’re providing the drugs, Shoey, I’ll listen to it under the influence 🙂

  • Shoegazer says:

    These divided opinions are getting really interesting – am glad I posted it now.

    @Bish, Billy sang one track on One Second (as well as the lyrics for Devine) & did backing vocals on most of Baby. Will sling some of these in the box later. Am pretty sure he appears on some of Barry Adamson’s stuff too, but will have to poke around to find em. Only have the album version of Edge.

    @Exodus, Breakfast is ace, but you can hurt yourself if you try to hold that note as you sing along.

    @Beth, can’t get it to upload – maybe if I had a Mac?

    @Steen, glad you like so far

    No claims for next week yet? All you need is a good album & a thick skin.

  • bishbosh says:

    @Shoey: Yeah, he sings on Achieved in the Valley of the Dolls, one of the high points (for me) of Barry Adamson’s Oedipus Schmoedipus (along with Nick Cave on The Sweetest Embrace).

    @Exodus: Yeah, Breakfast is my favourite too. Think between us we’ve mutuo-nommed/donded it several times on the Mothership!

    If no-one else is up for it, I’ll deffo come up with next week’s AOTW. May not be to everyone’s tastes but that’s half the point, innit?

  • Shoegazer says:

    Hah, the ‘Spill collective can’t even agree on a band we all like – we should be in Government.

  • exodus says:

    I already knew a couple of tracks here, but I’ve had a listen through the lot now. Most of them are nearer the sound world of ‘Affectionate Punch’ than ‘Sulk’ to my ears, and I have to admit it’s those I prefer. Definite feeling of a band exploring options.

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