Billy MacKenzie gave me goosebumps with every note that fell from his lips. It's hard to understand how something like "Just Can't Say Goodbye" wasn't a massive hit. It had all the right elements - a soaring vocal, killer hook, ABBA-esque piano bombast and spine tingling, girl group style backing vocal arrangements.
Watch where you're swinging that thing, Billy. You're liable to poke out someone's eye!
It's so easy to get stuck in a YouTube k-hole. Sometimes it turns up diamonds. Check out this rare clip of Associates performing the Dave Berry hit, "The Crying Game", which peaked at #5 on the UK singles chart in 1964. It was famously covered by Boy George in 1992 for the film of the same name. Watch Billy throughout. You can see there's some kind of internal dialog going on behind his eyes. Genius.
My introduction to Associates was through an unlikely avenue. When my father started his career in television, his first job was at a production house in Manhattan where he dubbed music videos and performance clips for the labels. The building was directly across the street from the MTV studios.
Billy's urgent, insistent, operatic vocal captured my attention immediately. The Baroque inspired keyboard lines were unique and quite like nothing I'd hear before. The haunting voice at the end following Billy's mighty yelp sent shivers down my spine. Dad was spot on.
I didn't come across Associates again until 1985 when I began shopping for import singles in Greenwich Village on a regular basis. One day, my eyes fell upon the 12" single of "Waiting For The Loveboat". I recognized the name and bought it without having heard a note. Another mighty fine purchase indeed.
Associates volley between being heartbreakingly beautiful and lovingly tortured. Each track on "Singles" is a gem worth unearthing. Start digging.