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The Glamour Chase: The Maverick Life of Billy Mackenzie [Paperback]

Tom Doyle
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.99
Price: 10.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 Sep 2011
A first-rate charmer with a devilish twinkle in his eye, Billy MacKenzie was a maverick figure within the music industry whose wild and mischievous spirit possibly did him more harm than good. As frontman of the Associates, gifted with an otherwordly, octave-scaling operatic voice, MacKenzie, together with partner Alan Rankine, enjoyed Top Twenty chart success in 1982. At the height of their success, however, they split. Over the ensuing years, MacKenzie gained a reputation for his unhinged career tactics, generous spirit and knack for squandering large amounts of record-company money. Born in Dundee in 1957 he was the eldest son in a large Catholic family. He was bullied at school and sought refuge in music. He was a schemer and dreamer, a breeder of whippets and a bisexual who kept quiet about his private life. During his lifetime, his unique vocal gift attracted the attention of Shirley Bassey, Annie Lennox and Bjork. However, in the tradition of Scott Walker, Syd Barrett and Nick Drake, MacKenzie's tale is one of thwarted talent and, ultimately, tragedy. He was found dead, aged 39, at his father's home in Scotland, on 22 January 1997, having taken an overdose.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Polygon An Imprint of Birlinn Limited; Revised edition (1 Sep 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846972094
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846972096
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 303,836 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Billy Mackenzie was unique. Blessed with an extraordinary voice, which shifted effortlessly from bass blues to falsetto diva posturing, the Dundee-born Mackenzie fronted the Associates' early 80s series of archly literature, miraculously melodious hit singles and a classic album, Sulk. But the success collapsed, and saving a few scattered moments of genius, Mackenzie fell into obscurity. When news broke in January 1997 that he had killed himself days before his 40th birthday, most people had long forgotten he was alive.

Tom Doyle is a Dundee lad himself who first met Mackenzie in his teens. From a plethora of interviews, he has fashioned a fascinatingly intimate account of Billy's rise and fall. Although print can never capture that voice, Doyle depicts Mackenzie as good old-fashioned genius: temperamental and perfectionist to the point of neurosis. Doyle recreates some marvellous moments, such as Mackenzie's first television appearance, and his encounter with Shirley Bassey, who recorded his The Rhythm Divine. But the lasting impression is one of chaos and waste--of one of music's most idiosyncratic talents thrown away by a recording industry that had not the faintest idea what to do with him. Hopefully Doyle's book will get Mackenzie back in the public eye--and his long out-of-print oeuvre back in the record shops. --Alan Stewart --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

'An affectionate portrait and incredibly well informed. A fine epitaph for an extraordinary character and talent.' --Record Collector

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE BEST ROCK N ROLL BIOGRAPHY EVER WRITTEN 7 Dec 2001
Format:Paperback
Tom Doyle's book about Billy Mackenzie is the greatest rock n roll story ever told. Except that it's not really about rock n roll. It's got nothing to do with sex and drugs or throwing TVs out of hotel windows. Billy's biography is a hugely funny, strangely innocent, ultimately tragic family story.
He was the handsome, charismatic, mischievous frontman of 80s Scottish pop band The Associates. Looking like a cross between Johnny Depp and Mickey Rourke, Mackenzie had a voice that could scale three octaves and still burst a microphone with its power.
Not surprisingly, everybody - including Warner Records - thought Billy would go on to become a global mega-star. And s a young man, he did really, really wanted to be a pop star and he loved music. But, most of all, he loved his family... he loved his whippets... and he loved a laugh.
Mackenzie was an unusual guy, with an irrepressible sense of humour. He was a
charmer from a tough, 'rag-and-bone trade' background. And he'd been an athlete at
school. So, he could handle himself in a business deal, or indeed a punch-up.
The one story most people know about Mackenzie is how he was eventually 'let go' by
Warners. They'd invested a fortune in him. He'd given them a few hits, given the A&R
man assigned to look after him a nervous breakdown, pulled heaps of scams, stunts and
gags on them. And though he never owned up, he had probably pinched the master
tapes to one of his own albums - which are still missing.
And even when Warners finally had had enough, they still liked him. So they took him to
lunch to tell him the bad news: he was being 'dropped'. As they were leaving Billy said to
Max Hole, their A&R man: 'Don't look so sad Max." And Max asked "Will you be alright?
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Rhythm Divine 30 Aug 2004
Format:Paperback
There has been much purple prose written about the music of Billy Mackenzie and the Associates - about his operatic voice, his cheeky demeanour, his insatiable lust for life...but most of it came after his untimely death. By the time he died Billy was forgotten by the mainstream music press...but some of us remembered him, willing him back into the charts where he belonged.Tom Doyle's book is a masterclass in how music biographies should be written - Billy is in turn funny and frustrating, inspiring and infuriating.Tales of excess and largesse reveal a complicated man driven by fame but endlessly pulling away from it.Record company indifference and the clamour for commercial success contribute to him being marginalised at the fringes of the music biz but in the end Billy was master of his own destiny and perhaps the most telling passage comes when he's engaged in conversation with a former bandmate Steve Knight telling him how everybody is prophesising big things for him ''But I'm not gonna do it, I'm just gonna throw it all away''. Read this book , buy yourself a copy of Sulk and remember him.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and readable 7 May 2004
Format:Paperback
Tom Doyle is a gifted writer. His research is thorough and he manages to remain objective even while it is clear that he was a big fan of Billy's. He writes with humour and compassion and once I'd started reading this fascinating and tragic account of one of the greatest pop stars who never was I couldn't put it down till I reached the end; at which point I had to find some Associates tracks and read it again!
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE VOICE OF AN ANGEL; THE CHEEK OF THE DEVIL 3 Sep 2001
Format:Paperback
Tom Doyle's book about Billy Mackenzie is the greatest rock n roll story ever told. Except that it's not really about rock n roll. It's got nothing to do with sex and drugs or throwing TVs out of hotel windows. Billy's biography is a hugely funny, strangely innocent, ultimately tragic family story.
He was the handsome, charismatic, mischievous frontman of 80s Scottish pop band The Associates. Looking like a cross between Johnny Depp and Mickey Rourke, Mackenzie had a voice that could scale three octaves and still burst a microphone with its power.
Not surprisingly, everybody - including Warner Records - thought Billy would go on to become a global mega-star. And as a young man, he did really, really wanted to be a pop star and he loved music. But, most of all, he loved his family... he loved his whippets... and he loved a laugh.
Mackenzie was an unusual guy, with an irrepressible sense of humour. He was a charmer from a tough, 'rag-and-bone trade' background. And he'd been an athlete at school. So, he could handle himself in a business deal, or indeed a punch-up.
The one story most people know about Mackenzie is how he was eventually 'let go' by Warners. They'd invested a fortune in him. He'd given them a few hits, given the A&R man assigned to look after him a nervous breakdown, pulled heaps of scams, stunts and gags on them. And though he never owned up, he had probably pinched the master tapes to one of his own albums - which are still missing.
And even when Warners finally had had enough, they still liked him. So they took him to lunch to tell him the bad news: he was being 'dropped'. As they were leaving Billy said to Max Hole, their A&R man: 'Don't look so sad Max." And Max asked "Will you be alright?" And Mackenzie replied "Yeah.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars William, it was really something........ 14 April 2013
By punky
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a massive fan of The Associates and indeed Billy Mackenzie this book is just brilliant!!
Their songs were very much part of the 'soundtrack to my life'..in the early 1980's
With this book Tom Doyle brilliantlytells the Billy Mackenzie Story.. An artist who sadly is no longer wth us..
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