«Billy MacKenzie» - biography, albums, songs, video clips

For motocross racer, see Billy MacKenzie (motorcyclist).

William MacArthur "Billy" Mackenzie (27 March 1957 – 22 January 1997) was a Scottish singer, with a distinctive high tenor voice; he was best known as a member of Associates.


Mackenzie was born and grew up in Dundee. As a youngster, he lived in Park Avenue in the Stobswell area and attended St Mary's Forebank Primary School and St Michael's Secondary School. He led a peripatetic lifestyle, decamping to New Zealand at the age of 16, and travelling across America aged 17. Here he married Chloe Dummar, the sister-in-law of his Aunt Veronica. While Mackenzie was quoted as saying the marriage was made to stave off deportation so that he could sing with the New Orleans Gospel Choir - calling his wife a 'Dolly Parton type' - Dummar still believes the pair were in love.He left her after 3 months of marriage and returned to Dundee, and the two never had contact again. Chloe Dummar filed for divorce in 1980, and Mackenzie did not contest the filing. Chloe's brother, Melvin Dummar, claimed to be the "one sixteenth" beneficiary of the estate of Howard Hughes, until the case was thrown out in 1978.

He returned to Scotland where he met Alan Rankine and in 1976 formed the Ascorbic Ones. They changed the name to Mental Torture and finally Associates in 1979. Rankine left The Associates in 1982, but Mackenzie continued to work under the name for several years until he began releasing material under his own name in the 1990s. Mackenzie also collaborated with many other artists during his career. In 1987, he wrote lyrics for two tracks on Yello's album One Second: "Moon On Ice", which he sang himself, and "The Rhythm Divine", which was sung by Shirley Bassey and was released as a single. A version sung by Mackenzie was released on the tape and CD versions of the Associates' Popera compilation). Mackenzie also collaborated with B.E.F. (British Electric Foundation) for their two albums Music of Quality and Distinction Volume I (1982) & Volume II (1991).

Morrissey of The Smiths was said by Craig Gannon of The Smiths to have written the song William, It Was Really Nothing about Mackenzie, after a brief friendship together.

On 22 January 1997, depression and the death of his mother are believed to have contributed to Mackenzie's suicide. He overdosed on a combination of paracetamol and prescription medication in the garden shed of his father's house in Auchterhouse. He was 39 years old. Now a significant cult figure, much of his musical legacy has been released in the past few years. He was the subject of a biography by Tom Doyle, The Glamour Chase, in 1998.

The Cure song "Cut Here" written by Robert Smith, a friend of Mackenzie, is about the regret Robert felt about seeing Mackenzie a few weeks before his death backstage at a Cure concert and not giving him any of his 'precious time' and fobbing him off. Siouxsie Sioux wrote the song "Say", revealing in the lyrics that they were going to meet just before his death. The song was released as The Creatures' single in 1999 and charted in the UK Top 75. For her Medúlla album, Björk considered singing a beyond the grave duet with Mackenzie using recordings given to her by his father, but eventually decided against it.

Between 9–27 June 2009, a play entitled Balgay Hill about the story of Mackenzie's life was showing at Dundee Repertory Theatre, in Mackenzie's home town. It tells the story of his life through the eyes of four fictional characters, and the title of the play derives from the name of the Dundee cemetery where the singer was buried.


With the Associates

Main article: Associates (band) § Discography



  • Outernational (1992), Circa - reissued in 2006 with 3 extra tracks then reissued in 2013 on Cherry Red with 4 extra tracks
  • Beyond The Sun (1997), Nude - UK #64
  • Memory Palace (credited with Paul Haig) (1999), Rhythm Of Life - reissued in 2005 by One Little Indian with 4 extra tracks
  • Eurocentric (credited with Steve Aungle) (2001), Rhythm Of Life
  • Auchtermatic (2005), One Little Indian
  • Transmission Impossible (2005), One Little Indian


  • "Baby" (1992), Circa (YR86/YR86T/YRCD86)
  • "Colours Will Come" (1992), Circa (YR91/YR91T/YRCD91)
  • "Pastime Paradise" (1992), Circa (YRCDJ102) - CD Promo copies produced, but final release never materialized - tracks inc Pastime Paradise (album version), Outernational II, Ever Since That Day (US Mix), Because You Love.

Guest vocals

Lead vocals

  • BEF's Music Of Quality & Distinction Volume 1 album: Secret Life Of Arabia and It's Over (1982)
  • Stephen Emmer's Vogue Estate album: duet with Martha Ladly on Wish On (1982)
  • Annie Lennox: duet on The Best Of You; the original Perhaps sessions version, the re-recorded album featured Eddi Reader (1985) †
  • Sweden Through The Ages EP: It Helps To Cry (1986)
  • Yello's Snowball And The Sound Of Yello: Life Is A Snowball (1987); unreleased promo CD
  • Yello's One Second album: Moon On Ice (1987) †
  • Yello The Rhythm Divine (version 2): special limited edition 12" single (MERXR253) featuring MacKenzie's lead vocals in place of Shirley Bassey's (1987); the same recording later appeared on the Popera album (1990) †
  • Uno's self-titled album: Cinemas Of The World single (1987)
  • Holger Hiller's Oben Im Eck album: title track and version, We Don't Write Anything On Paper Or So, and Whippets single (1987)
  • Yello's Baby album: Capri Calling (1991)
  • BEF's Music Of Quality & Distinction Volume 2 album: Free. (1991) Free also appears on the 1998 BEF 'Best Of' album, later reissued by Disky in 2001
  • Loom's Anacostia Bay (At The Edge Of The World) single (1996) † ‡
  • Barry Adamson's Oedipus Schmoedipus album: Achieved In The Valley Of The Dolls (1996) ‡
  • Apollo Four Forty's Electro Glide in Blue album: Pain In Any Language (1997) † ‡

† lyrics by Mackenzie ‡ also appear on Auchtermatic

  • Unreleased tracks Sinking Deeper and The Hungry Look recorded 1980 under name Strange News. Billy, Steve Reid and rhythm section Andy and Gavin. Only copies of tracks exist.

Backing vocals

  • The track "Fields" on the Joy album by fellow Scottish band Skids: "Fields" single (7" and 12" mixes) (Virgin, 1981) also released on Skids' Dunfermline CD (1987)
  • Yello's One Second album: the singles "Call It Love", "The Rhythm Divine" > and 'Goldrush' (1987)
  • Yello's Flag album:, the single "Of Course I'm Lying", and "Otto Di Catania" (1988)
  • Jih's Take Me To The Girl single >, title track plus "Come Summer Come Winter" and "Wake Up" (1988)
  • Boris Grebenshikov's Radio Silence album/single: "That Voice Again" (1989)
  • Yello's Baby album: "Drive/Driven" and the single "Rubberbandman" (1991)

(6 of Billy's Yello tracks later released on the Essential Yello album) (1992)

  • Siobhan Fahey: "Do I Scare You" (1996) unreleased until 2004 when it first appeared on Shakespears Sister's 'Best Of' double CD, and then on the "3" album in 2005
  • Peach Union - AudioPeach album: "Deep Down Together" and "Give Me Tomorrow" credited as The MacArthurettes with Caragh McKay (1998)
  • Paul Haig's "Listen To Me" single (1997)> = lyrics by MacKenzie
  • Featured on "Oben Im Eck" from Holger Hiller's LP "Oben Im Eck" (1986)

Other credits

  • Orbidöig's "Nocturnal Operations" single: Billy played tubular bells (1981) this single reissued in 1984, credited as The Sensational Creed
  • Paul Haig's Chain album: "Chained", lyrics by Mackenzie, performed by Haig (1989)


External links