Goodbye Mr MacKenzie achieved notoriety in what I call that magical time in underground music. Before grunge when alternative wasn’t the mainstream and MTV told us exactly how many minutes we were allowed to watch that post-modern independent chic in the form of 120 Minutes.
Through it all Goodbye Mr MacKenzie frontman Martin Metcalfe has seen those stylistic changes in music and has both kept his creative integrity as well as evolved to the beat of his own drum. And while those styles continue to change, Martin continues to reinvent himself with both solo work as well as The Filthy Tongues, among other things.
In this interview, we talk with Martin about his beginnings in Scotland and the rise of Goodbye Mr MacKenzie as well as the release of their inceptual album ‘Good Deeds and Dirty Rags’ and reunion shows and much, much more.
Check out our review of ‘The Rattler’ from ‘Good Deeds and Dirty Rags’ reissue HERE.
Vintage Goodbye Mr MacKenzie – Brandenburg in Berlin by Martin Becker
One of Scotland’s most iconic rock bands, Goodbye Mr MacKenzie will be re-reissuing their seminal album ‘Good Deeds and Dirty Rags’. Inspired by the massive success of their 30-year anniversary tour, they are doing a vinyl and CD reissue of the album that started it all. The long-play has been remastered for both formats. The CD version will include 3 additional tracks from those early years, not previously included in the original edition.
The band’s key line-up consisted of Martin Metcalfe on vocals, John Duncan on guitar (previously of The Exploited), Fin Wilson on bass guitar, Shirley Manson and Rona Scobie on keyboards and backing vocals, and Derek Kelly on drums.
“This re-issue of Good Deeds was as big a surprise to us as anyone. A quick decision to reform in January and it’s been a fairground ride touring ever since. Getting the rights to re-issue was protracted but now that it’s here we are really pleased. At gigs the fans have been bringing the house down, singing along with every word,” says Martin Metcalfe.
“Thirty years Is half a lifetime ago but we feel lyrically it’s still relevant. Two songs ‘Good Deeds’ and ‘Goodwill City’ end with rants based on the received (false) knowledge of the era and seem relevant with the current ‘fake news’ obsession. Other songs look at the then rise off the Christian Right in the USA and how the media pay their bills by exploiting a tragedy. All this stuff is still happening now. We live in scary times and the LP’s apocalyptic landscape seems to reflect that.”
‘Good Deeds and Dirty Rags’ was Goodbye Mr MacKenzie’s first album, released in 1989. It entered the UK charts at No.16 and the band quickly attracted a large, loyal support north of the border. Incredible live shows and singles like the top 40 hit ‘The Rattler’, in particular, further cemented a fond place in many hearts.
A colorful and varied career followed, involving releases of 2 more albums through major labels, further UK singles chart positions, working and recording with members of Talking Heads, and touring and playing with bands like Blondie, The Ramones, B.A.D., Afghan Whigs, Aztec Camera and the late great Vic Chesnutt, amongst others.
As The List noted in their 50 Greatest Scottish Bands feature, “The MacKenzies left behind the most complex and fascinating footprint of any Scottish band. Live they were stunning. Lead singer Martin Metcalfe looked like the MC of a, particularly debauched cabaret troupe. While their Scottish counterparts were looking at soul and Steely Dan for inspiration the MacKenzies were taking theirs from the Pixies and the Birthday Party.”
Formed in Bathgate, near Edinburgh, Goodbye Mr MacKenzie came to prominence in the late 1980s after being signed to Capitol Records on the strength of their first two independent label singles. Never standing still, they released 6 albums in total before morphing into Angelfish in the US with the line-up of Manson, Metcalfe, Wilson and Kelly and Manson taking over lead vocals. They continued to recorded music at that time.
Goodbye Mr Mackenzie played their final live show at the end of 1995 and Shirley Manson went on to enjoy huge success with Garbage, while Martin Metcalfe, Derek Kelly and Fin Wilson returned to Scotland to form Isa and The Filthy Tongues. It is now just The Filthy Tongues, a trio that still thrives today. Big John Duncan became a backline and guitar technician for Nirvana and played guitar with them during their 1993 concert in Roseland Ballroom, NYC, also having worked with Twisted Sister, the Foo Fighters and Ministry.
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