Goodbye Mr Mackenzie’s triumphant return – in all their Glory.
GOODBYE MR MACKENZIE make a triumphant return to the world of music with next week’s re-release of ‘The Glory Hole,’ and additional plans for a nationwide tour.
The Glory Hole was originally a series of demo recordings created in the band’s front room with the aid of an ailing Tascam 16 track tape machine, but its rerelease is bolstered by the addition of three previously unheard songs from 1995.
Back then all was not rosy in the Mackenzie camp with the band hounded by the tax man over a VAT bill in the region of £80,000 – a bill which had been left for them by their management.
However, with the eventual release of the home-made album came a tour and what was meant to be a grand finale concert at the Mayfair [now the Garage] in Glasgow in December 1995. They were, physically at least, half the band they had once been as Rona Scobie, Big John Duncan and Shirley Manson were all absent for this final hurrah.
Nobody imagined Goodbye Mr Mackenzie would reform, but 25 years later they did. And it was phenomenal. With a string of sell out shows the old juggernaut swiftly gathered momentum, culminating in a triumphant performance at Glasgow’s Barrowland’s in December 2019.
But during those troubling times, did lead singer Martin Metcalfe believe his band could, would, survive?
“The future of the band was as you say, dark. It was really a terrible time,” he said.
“When you try hard for over a decade to create a band and take it forward and you have some success i.e., a good record deal, good reviews, UK top 40 chart position then when that ends, there’s a terrible emotional vacuum. Not only that but there’s a dreadful financial mess. Debts started springing up out of nowhere. Extreme tax debts, musical equipment debts and there were emotional debts. A lot of anger was in the air and if you add to that various addictions that had to be fed, then the emotional toll was horrific.”
However, anniversary, celebratory, re-release albums don’t always work. Fans grow older, tastes and perspectives change. But with a fanbase bordering on the evangelical, how does he feel about his group retaining the ability to sell-out venues?
“The Glory Hole’ is a weird album that’s for sure. It’s hard/punk rock in places and not really what we were known for in the ’80s but I think our fans are more open minded than many bands of that era,” he added.
“We always stuck our toe in very murky waters. Fans that accepted ‘Face To Face’ in 1987 had to be open minded, that particular song was so in your face that it takes a special type of person to go there.
“I’m maybe being a bit arrogant here, but I believe they would have been Bowie fans in the ’70s. Those fans didn’t desert him because he chose to change course and our fans have a similar acceptance. I’m sure they’ll prefer one approach to another but in the end, they look at the big picture.”
The three previously unreleased tracks included on the album sound as fresh as the day they were recorded, and a perfect antidote for these troubled times. ‘Stopwatch’ offers a glimpse into what a rumbunctious liaison between Goodbye Mr Mackenzie, The Ruts and The Cult would produce. It’s one of the greatest songs you’ve yet to hear. It was discovered on a cassette tape but somehow manages to retain all its original energy whilst at the same time sounding like an entirely new recording.
“Yes, ‘Stopwatch’ is really raw and punchy. I only used a small guitar amp on that, but it sounds huge,” adds Metcalfe.
“I’m very proud of those songs. The three of us still had a surprising level of focus amongst all the carnage. We had other songs at that time, and they were never recorded properly but you know sometimes it’s great to imagine a ‘lost album,’ it’s like the lost island of Atlantis. It makes for a very comforting fantasy in a weird way.”
Following the band’s silence, they returned with 2020’s triumphant gigs, but did this lean spell include any doubt towards the band’s future, and looking ahead to this year’s gigs, is there any apprehension about performing once more given what we’ve all been through of late, perhaps even a mixture of anxiety and excitement?
“It all happened in a matter of weeks and was a shock to every member of the band and that’s the truth.
“It’s sad we can’t get Shirley to complete the line-up. Even if she would do a handful of songs in a couple of shows if for no other reason than for the sake of the fans. I think we could get away with adding some Angelfish songs into the set to make her appearance more notable. After all those songs were meant to be part of the Macs album ‘Five.’
“I can however understand why her management wouldn’t want her appearing as a backing vocalist. It would seem strange after all she’s achieved as a frontwoman.
“Anxiety and excitement are not a heady mix I’m afraid. They are counteractive forces which is bad for planning and morale. We hated those days building up to the Barrowland 2021 and we especially hated that bands and promoters were left by government to make those difficult decisions. Saying that, we are definitely excited about performing later in the year. We’re optimistic.”
Goodbye Mr Mackenzie never received the acclaim their output merited, and I’m not alone in wondering if Metcalfe believed his group deserved a wider audience?
“The humble thing would be to say, ‘of course not!’ But there are definitely days you think ‘if only we’d been that little bit bigger,’ maybe able to tour in the USA without having to lose money.
“Most of the time though it’s fine. Like our trusty, front of house, soundman Pete Ramsay always says, “it is what is.” We can accept we are largely a UK phenomenon and that’s OK, after all we’re a large enough entity to consider recording another album and that is good fortune. Being able to manifest your creativity is an honour and even more so that anyone cares enough to listen and enjoy.
“We’ve got it good.”
Born out of confusion and pain, The Glory Hole, as a final document, rages at the stars.
And it would appear that rage was not in vain.
For details of 2022’s nationwide tour – and to order ‘The Glory Hole – see below: