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Baker's Dozen

Versions 13.0: Shirley Manson's Favourite Albums
Elizabeth Aubrey , June 6th, 2018 10:19

In a satisfyingly forthright Baker's Dozen, Garbage singer Shirley Manson argues for boycotting un-gender-balanced festivals, explores Scottish sonic pride, discovering the finger-banging potential of listening to The Clash and says a life without misery is incomplete. All that plus enthusiastic recollections of music from Nick Cave, Patti Smith, The Stone Roses and more


The Associates - Sulk
The Associates were a huge band in Scotland; they certainly had some success in the rest of the world, but they were ours. Certainly when I was growing up I hadn't yet really discovered too many Scottish bands at that point – this was to change of course but these were one of the first I discovered. 

 The Associates struck me because I was aware that they were Scottish after I saw them on Top of the Pops and suddenly I made this connection between, 'Oh, you can be from Scotland, where there's no music industry, and be successful. You can get on Top of the Pops, you can be heard by an audience'. It was just a peculiar lesson and a sudden revelation for me of the possibilities that existed for musicians. 

When you come from a country where back then there was no real established record industry, per se, they stood out. We had a couple of great record labels, you know, 53 & 3rd and Postcard Records and so on, but it was rare to get signed to those two labels, and they were still very small and independent; it was difficult to have the clout of a major London-based record label. 

The Associates really captured my imagination. I loved them musically and I was really interested in their style. I was obsessed with the 'Gloomy Sunday' cover that Billy Mackenzie did. He had this extraordinary operatic voice; I'd never heard anything like in my life before. 

I used to go to this club called the Hoochie Coochie Club in Edinburgh, which was big in the game for me, like I spent every weekend at this club. I was introduced to Billy Mackenzie and we really hit it off; I just was kind of obsessed by him. I just thought he was brilliant and really funny, irreverent, rebellious, and fascinating with the voice of an angel. He was so tortured and he had such a sad story in the end. 

When I heard that he had taken his own life, I was so gutted: the whole of Scotland felt like they had lost a son. He had so much to give – he wasn't just sort of average, he wasn't an averagely successful musician: he was this extraordinary talent, a great interpreter and, again, a great communicator. He was able to make his own brilliant music but to also re-interpret classic songs that had been done by the greats and still he brought something of his own to that.  

I think 'Gloomy Sunday' by The Associates is by far the greatest version of 'Gloomy Sunday' I've ever heard, and I've heard some amazing versions, like the one by by Sinéad O'Connor or Billie Holiday, but he brings something really special to that.

The Associates helped build Scotland's musical confidence to then start really exploring the music scene on its own terms, as opposed to going through London.