A Tribute to Alan Rankine

Paying tribute to The Associates and Alan Rankine, one of Scotland’s most influential musicians.

On the 3rd January 2023, founding member and guitarist of The Associates, Alan Rankine, passed away at the age of 64. The Associates were a Scottish band covering various musical genres from post-punk to Indie Rock. But how did it all begin?

In 1976, Rankine from Stirlingshire and Billy Mackenzie from Dundee met. They became a cabaret duo initially called Ascorbic Ones. The pair eventually settled on The Associates after changing their name to Mental Torture. In 1979, their cover of David Bowie’s Boys Keep Swinging was given airplay on Radio One by John Peel. This brought the band their first record deal with Fiction Records, The Cure were also signed to this label.

The artwork for The Associate's first album, The Affectionate Punch.

The following year, the band’s first album The Affectionate Punch was released with singer Robert Smith from The Cure appearing on some of the backing vocals.

This would be the first of three albums the duo would record together. 1981 saw the Scottish pair releasing a compilation of their singles called Fourth Drawer Down. 1982 album Sulk would be Rankine’s last with the band.

Sulk was fundamental in the band’s commercial success, including hit singles Club Country, 18 Carat Love Affair, and Party Fears Two. Rankine parted ways with the band shortly after its debut. However, Mackenzie carried on releasing material in his own name and under the band’s identity. This wouldn’t be the final time the pair would record together but there would be a lengthy wait before that happened.

Both Mackenzie and Rankine had solo careers. Rankine’s began in 1986, four years after his departure from The Associates. He signed with Belgian label Les Disques du Cr√©puscule and released three albums with them. He produced for various acts including Paul Haig, Anna Domino, and Pale Foundations. Cocteau Twins’ EP Peppermint Pig was also produced by Rankine in 1983.

Other than his solo music career, Rankine also worked as a lecturer at Glasgow’s Stow College. He helped to form an in-house record label, Electric Honey. This label assisted in the launch of many bands and artists. These include Biffy Clyro, Snow Patrol, and Belle and Sebastian. On the band’s Instagram page, Richard Colburn of Belle and Sebastian spoke of Rankine’s passing and his time as a student of the late musician. Rankine arranged performances and recordings for artists at the college, most of whom had never performed live before. Colburn said of two specific performances, “both gigs were completely shambolic…but Alan remained patient and helped us along the way. If it wasn’t for Alan, our path would’ve been very different.”

Album artwork for The Associates' final compilation, Double Hipness. With Billy Mackenzie (left) and Alan Rankine (right).

Mackenzie and Rankine reunited in 1993, though this would unfortunately be short-lived. They recorded numerous demos and tracks. However, in 1997 at the age of 39, Billy Mackenzie passed away.

Subsequently in 2000, Double Hipness, another compilation was released including the demos of songs recorded in the brief reunion. This included a re-release of 18 Carat Love Affair and remaster of the cover that pushed their career, Boys Keep Swinging.

Alan Rankine had an incredible impact on the Scottish music industry. He helped launch musical careers of numerous others, some of which have gone on to amass huge international audiences. Rankine’s legacy is clear with a music career spanning multiple decades. His memory will live on through his work with The Associates, his solo career and the work of those inspired by, and launched by him.