That strain again*: Billy Mackenzie

Camera 360
Billy’s grave, whippets top right

The Knife used to have a passing acquaintance – no more than that – in the 1980’s with Billy Mackenzie, who was a delightful person when I first met him, but became a bit difficult after he got famous – Top of the Pops, record deals etc. I guess drugs had played their part.  The Associates were a great live act, and the first album in particular, The Affectionate Punch, was/is quite wonderful. This very entertaining blog reminiscence by Steve Aungle tells you a lot about the time and about the man himself.

The songs were original and often brilliant, but the highlight was Billy’s voice. Really quite something.

He killed himself eventually, and his gravestone in Dundee features one love of his life: his whippets. There’s still a lot of people out there who remember him and his work.

Here though is Billy singing a cover, Gloomy Sunday. Not from The Affectionate Punch, but the subsequent Sulk, itself a pretty unusual work. A remarkable  song about death and suicide, and I think, better than the more famous version by another Billie (Holliday)

*Twelfth Night:

“If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again! it had a dying fall:
O, it came o’er my ear like the sweet sound
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour!”


2 thoughts on “That strain again*: Billy Mackenzie

  1. the Hungarian who wrote this song killed himself too- and it was said that the song was cursed i.e. anyone who sang it would die before their time- this seems to be the case with Billy dying at 39 and Billie Holiday dying at 44.

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