# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Alan Rankine - 1958-2023

  by Grant McPhee

published: 7 / 1 / 2023

Alan Rankine - 1958-2023

I don't think I was fully prepared for meeting Alan. I don't think anyone was. He was a larger-than-life force of nature, a true one-off. I first met him when our co-producer Erik Sandberg arranged a meeting between Alan and myself for our Scottish Post-Punk documentary, ‘Big Gold Dream’. Alan immediately put my nerves at ease with his warm charm and what was immediately apparent to anyone who has met him, his highly amusing but outlandish banter. Being a pro at interviews he immediately clocked that we were heading down the “grey and drab” route that was often the cliche'd portrayal of 'indie' and 'Post-Punk' music in documentaries so appeared to decide -on his own- to add some colour to the proceedings and cheer things up. The morning spent with him was probably the funniest day I've ever had at work but speaking to Alan did not feel like work. It was a joy. At the end of our filming we had perhaps 2 ½ hours of completely unusable material from a near three hour interview. It wasn't that it was unusable in the traditional interview sense – where often you are left with a tape full of “umms, errs or I don't remembers”; quite the opposite in fact. In another universe Alan would have made a remarkable storyteller, raconteur or stand-up comedian. His memory was pin sharp and his recollections were concise and thoughtful. They were, however, mostly completely unrepeatable publicly, certainly without the aid of expensive lawyers. This didn't matter though. It was a joy to hear him talk and what we could legally use was magical, fun and warm. Alan completely changed the feel of our film from this moment. Precise details about studio techniques – which he could and did provide – were somehow now not as important to us as an overall feel of the bigger picture he presented, how a sense of fun and chaos can hook in an audience. And he knew exactly what he was doing and chose to do the interview his way for a reason. I can't thank him enough for that day, it showed me a new way of assessing the past that I have brought to other projects I've been involved with. Alan could provide it all – minuscule detail regarding single releases, all perfectly recalled, but also those wild extra-curricular anecdotes that are equally part of The Associates. Together they create the myth. I was struck that he appeared to have an innate understanding for 'feel' in project at a gut level– which I think can be clearly sensed in the wonderful music he made in The Associates and the songs he helped others make. But Alan also had a prodigious gift as a musician and producer to combine these two seemingly differing approaches of making music into a rare and unified whole. He is probably the most naturally gifted musician I've ever had the pleasure to speak to and as has been said, this often went unnoticed due to Associates bandmate, Billy Mackenzie's equally larger-than-life personality. While Alan could bring spontaneity to a project, he will be remembered as much for his precision in the studio and his love of experimenting. The two Associates albums are full of some of the most amazing musicianship, ideas and wild creativity to feature on any album of the 1980s and beyond. Still luminous and fresh. Alan had a fantastic pop sensibility and his musical partnership with Billy Mackenzie managed to perfectly combine the best of the songwriting greats with a wild, experimental approach rarely heard in pop, creating songs that are still unique and magical. Billy's description of the Associates sounding like 'Abba on Acid' is at once typically humorous but also very astute. Alan and I stayed and touch and I was delighted when he asked the ‘Big Gold Dream’ team to create a series of 'the story behind the song' videos for the Associate's re-releases. It was truly an honour to sit on his couch while he played and discus these classics in front of us. I didn't know him particularly well but from this I was given a little glimpse into his world. Alan had a larger-than-life personality but I could sense a hint of sadness in him. He would talk about anything – except himself. Every conversation or question would eventually come back around to Billy. I don't think he ever fully got over his tragic death and he stated again and again in interviews that Billy was the only person to make their vision complete. I hope they are now making music again. I know Alan would like that. Alan's skills and his incredible body of work has rightly fully been acknowledged and written about far better than I could do. I just want to take this opportunity, much like he taught me, to look at the bigger picture. Alan's importance was not just about being able to play any instrument or the madcap adventures. The Alan Rankine 'whole' is more than this. His music is steeped in his personality, and above the humour it was his kindness which immediately struck me. Kindness is a skill that is rare and Alan had that in abundance in addition to his prodigious musical and storytelling talents. His kindness and willingness to help others will go far beyond The Associates. Anyone who was lucky enough to be his student at Stow College will know how much he has helped shape and inspire lives - both for musicians such as Belle and Sebastian and those bands’ own fans. Alan knew that I made non-documentary films and once, without any discussion reached out to me to offer to write a soundtrack, gratis. I am absolutely certain that for many others like myself, who came briefly into his orbit that Alan would be constantly offering his help, advice, wealth of wisdom and encouragement without any need for personal gain. I got the impression that he just loved to see people be creative. Of course, like others I'd receive my share of random or perplexing texts or messages but that was Alan and I'd treasure them. I'm still puzzled that he didn't know how to turn off his television. It had never occurred to him to do so, despite the years of him owning it that this was something other people did. He was likely equally perplexed that I'd asked him to when we needed to record audio for his interview. We managed it though. I'd like to offer my condolences to his friends and family. I only knew him a little but from being in his presence for a short time and experiencing his warmth, kindness and talent, I know how much his friends and family will miss him. Rest easy, Alan and thanks for the music. You were a true, one-off maverick genius.

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Alan Rankine - 1958-2023

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