Cheerio Mr Mackenzie
All good things must come to an end. Brian Donaldson looks back at the chequered history of
Edinburgh’s biggest band since Thel
Bay City Rollers.
Aspiring young pop stars should read no further. For here is a story of record company hassles. ﬁnancial dire straitery and all-round frustration which would leave George Michael thanking his lucky stars. It is less than startling that this crew of lads and lasses from Lothian have decided to call it a day. So. farewell and adieu to the aptly monikeer Goodbye Mr Mackenzie.
As the band prepare to end it all with a ﬁnal single. ‘Hard'. which features present Garbage chanteuse Shirley. and shebang at Glasgow’s Garage. Mackenzie‘s co-founder and frontman Martin Metcalfe is left to ponder on what could well have been and the monetary carnage which certainly remains. ‘We were in so much ﬁnancial garbage together that it could have ended up in a horrible ﬁght,‘ he reflects, ‘but Kelly (drummer and co-writer Derek) and l have watched this cash come in and go right back into the VAT and accountant's bill. That‘s just about over and done with and if we get a new deal then it’s starting all over again older and wiser.‘
()n arriving in Edinburgh in 1986. Metcalfe and Kelly took their band round the pub circuit playing Psychedelic Furs and Velvet Underground covers. reeling in their members in true Old Testament
l l l
inexperienced at playing live at that point. we blew our deal. Nobody would touch as with a bargepole but we persevered. for some reason.‘
That perseverance led to a deal with Capitol
: America and the luxury of dishing out Yuletide gifts
for the ﬁrst time in years. The band was completed around this time by the larger than life ﬁgure of fornter Exploited man. John ‘Big John' Duncan and the Mackenzies began to see the world. A period of recording at Berlin's Hausa Studios in particular. left an imprint on Martin Metcalfe's memory. ‘lt was sort of rudimentary. made of wood and like a Nazi rally hall or something.‘ he remembers. ‘Unfortunately
they built horrible council flats right in front ofthe
window where you used to be able to see the Wall from.‘
The band were at their most proliﬁc now but wranglings with record labels artd the onset of litigation left the Mackenzies in a state of flux. From Capitol they moved to EM] and then on to Radioactive. a branch of MCA America. Loathed by
the MCA bosses, the band were forced to leave
Martin Metcalfe smiles In the face of adversity
As I987 dawned. the bartd parted company with stylce. Keyboardists and vocalists Shirley Manson and Rorta Scobie joined. soon to be followed by bass
1 player Fin Wilson.
‘At one gig it was us facing no audience except 4D or 50 A & ii men,’ recalls Metcaife. ‘Being really inexperienced at playing live at that point, we blew our deal. Nobody would touch us with a bargepole but we persevered, for some reason.’
Wet Wet Wet guru Elliot Davis. launching themselves into the A 6‘: R display window. ‘At one gig it was us facing no audience except 40 or 50 A and R men.‘ recalls Metcalfc. 'Being really
' Radioactive and re-sign secretly under the
pseudonym of Artgelﬁsh. This led to one dilemma. ‘We couldn’t take John because he was too obvious a
character. ' admits Metcalfe. ‘The company heads
would have thought. “yep. that‘s them. I know that big guy there. l've seen hint before."
With minimal chart success (‘The Rattler‘ scratched the Top Forty) and a be-gone attitude emanating from the music press. Goodbye Mr Mackenzie saw the tunnel's lights dimming. Big John's frustration led to him forming The Gin Goblins while the lure of Butch Vig drew Shirley Manson into Garbage. Not that she has arty regrets. ‘We had a blast and I learned a lot too.‘ she recalls. ‘I wouldn't be able to handle what's happening today if it wasn't for what I‘d gone through in the past.’
And so RIP Goodbye Mr Mackenzie. As the members follow their diverse paths there may be many who will mourn. i suspect they will be flocking to The Garage.
Gum/bye Mr Mackenzie say gum/bye at The Garage. Glus‘gmt‘ on Sun I 7. 1)(’(‘.
Two of the most expressive voices in Scottish music share a December concert in their home town of Edinburgh. Dick Caughan’s uncompromising, highly individualised delivery owes a lot to Irish and Scots traditional singing styles, punched out with the 603 and 70s urban folk singer’s determination to change an unjust world. Tam White’s distinctive roughcast growl is coated in the stone dust of his years as a mason. But his love of the blues and soulful, jazzy Inflectlon is allied to a feeling he communicates of having been there,
Tam ‘Whlt salt mines?’ White
large he has.
done it. And over a long career, by and
‘Dick’s not actually from Edinburgh; he’s a Leither, I’m a Market boy. My father was from the Crassmarket too. I was actually born where Rabble Burns stayed when he was last in Edinburgh in the tenement above the White Hart
‘Dick and I don’t work in the same worlds, but I’ve always been aware of the similarities. A lot of my stuff’s tongue-in-cheek, but it’s just as political. The blues is all about that, the work songs, grinding poverty, victimisation; all the same problems. So I always love to listen to him.’
Tam’s not exactly been toiling in the salt mines over this last year, as his career in films continues. Heard but not seen as the singing voice of Robbie Coltrane in Tutti Frutti, he’s since graced the silver screen as the Chief of Clan MacCregor in
Braveheart, and just returned from months shooting Cutfhroaf Island in Malta and Thailand. ‘It’s a swashbuckler. Ceena Davis is the star, I play the ship’s quack doctor. In Malta there’s a big pool where they film the sea scenes, make big waves for the ship and all that, but I found myself in BJ.’s, a little jazz club where I used to go and jam every week. The video effects guys were from u, they could all play. Then the Caribbean scenes in Thailand, sailing round islands. It wasn’t too painful.
‘But i get back and Dick’s away on tour, so we won’t be able to get together till just before the gig. There are a few things we’ll do together though. A bit of rock and roll at the end. Cood fun. It’s Christmas, there’s no need to be serious.’
Tam Whlfe and Dick Caughan play Edinburghs Pleasance Theatre, Sun 17.
Tire List 15 Dec l995-ll Jan [996 51