Remembering Three Unique & Disparate Talents ~ Billy MacKenzie, Ian Dury & Dudley Moore

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I made a note a few weeks ago that I shouldn’t forget to mark the birthday of one of British pop’s finest, idiosyncratic and spectacular voices; the late Billy Mackenzie, who would have been 52 today. However, I subsequently found that two, just as unique and much loved, talents both shuffled off this m.c. on this date; Ian Dury and Dudley Moore.

1982 belonged to Billy MacKenzie. We couldn’t get enough of Scottish pop via Postcard’s Josef K, Orange Juice and Aztec Camera, plus the amazing Fire Engines and Dundee’s duo, The Associates. The Associates had released around 10 acclaimed indie singles in a little over two years before being signed to WEA and exploding into our living rooms with two stunning singles and exhilarating TOTP performances.

Whereas the early singles had been NME-lauded arthouse electronica, hugely influenced by Bowie’s trio of Berlin albums (Low, Heroes and Lodger), Party Fears Two and Club Country were joyous, spangly explosions of pure pop with no loss of street cred. Mackenzie looked supremely confident with a huge cheesy grin, looks that could melt hearts and his incredibly cavernous operatic voice.

He had it all, it seemed. Yet it didn’t quite work out. He never saw the Top 20 again. He continued to make music on and off, both with Associate Alan Rankine and in various solo projects, notably with Barry Adamson and BEF but success proved elusive.

I like to imagine that if he were still here he’d be back in vogue as an elder statesman of 80s pop, perhaps championed by the likes of Franz Ferdinand, because he was too big a talent to be forgotten.

Not sure about the vest and bus conductors hat combo but this is still a great pop single.

Ian Dury died on March 27th 2000 (where did those 9 years go?). His legacy as a unique pop talent seems to have been usurped by his status as official National Treasure. Whatever, his name liveth on, but it does no harm to remind ourselves that New Boots and Panties was a classic album (Sweet Jean Vincent, Billericay Dickie, Clevor Trever) and What a Waste and Hit me with Your Rhythm Stick were wonderful singles.

Does Dudley Moore have a place here on Pop Junkie? You bet he does. Apart from the fact that he and Peter Cook have the keys to the city, Dud was a massively underrated composer of light, jazzy easy listening. The Dudley Moore Trio were just as much a part of the swinging London sound as any beat group. Although hard to get hold of, The World of Dudley Moore and the Bedazzled soundtrack album are both essentials in any easy-listening collection. Two months ago there was a wonderful clip on youtube (alas, now taken down) of Dud and Mama Cass with Lulu singing the Archies’ Sugar Sugar on her Saturday night show. You can keep your damned X Factor ~ this was what passed for entertainment in the old days! Dud died on March 27th 2002. He couldn’t sing, but he couldn’t half play the old joanna.

RIP Billy, Ian & Dudley.

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