Alan Rankine was the maestro of the Associates’ post-punk pop – and an architect of indie
As the multi-instrumentalist musical force behind the Scottish art-pop band, and later as a producer and label boss, Rankine was an adventurous, experimental, inspirational figure
It starts with a constellation of synthesiser drones and a piano riff that sounds as if it’s being played on crystal chandeliers, and ends with a sample of smashing cups. In between, the Associates’ Party Fears Two is five and a half sweeping minutes of art-pop perfection – a song commonly hailed for the vaulting, otherworldly vocals of mercurial singer Billy Mackenzie yet every bit as much a testament to the songwriting and musicianship of multi-instrumentalist Alan Rankine.
Formed by Mackenzie and Rankine between Edinburgh and Dundee in 1979, the Associates were genius architects of magical, muscular outsider anthems; a febrile cocktail of sex, drugs, chaos, breathtaking good looks and rampant creativity. For a fleeting period in 1982, they kissed the sky with three hit singles. As a producer, Rankine helped craft a shimmering swathe of 1980s music for artists including Cocteau Twins, Paul Haig and the Pale Fountains. In the 1990s, as a lecturer at Stow College in Glasgow, he played a critical role in the origins of another seminal Scottish band with a distinctly outsider outlook, Belle and Sebastian.