It’s been 18 months since I made an effort for an Imaginary Compilation Album for Edwyn Collins. It’s been 18 months that I’ve been putting off having a stab at an ICA for Orange Juice.
The dilemma here is that the band, despite only releasing records over a five-year period between 1980 and 1984, have three quite distinct periods to take into consideration. In the beginning was Postcard and its four singles (as well as an album that finally saw light of day in October 1992), as well as the debut album on Polydor. Then you have the mid-period when two of the original members left the band just as it finally enjoyed its brief dalliance with chart fame. Finally, there’s the time when the records came out under the name of the band but were, in effect, the first Edwyn’s solo recordings. I could very easily have three ICAs for each period but that would be cheating.
So here we go, with what I have decided should be called ‘The Sound Of Happiness’.
1. Felicity (single, 1982)
A #63 smash hit in the UK charts. Written by James and sung by Edwyn. It probably came to far more people’s attention a few years later when David sang lead vocal when his band The Wedding Present included it within a Peel Session. James himself would then cover it on his sole solo LP in 2003. I finally got to hear it played live in June 2013 when Vic Godard sang it during a set in Glasgow when he was joined on stage by its composer (now there was a ‘wow’ moment in my gig-going career).
One of the greatest bits of pop music of all time with a killer hook and chorus. It’s my favourite ever 45 from a Scottish band. It was a no-brainer for the opening track of the ICA and for the studio version refrain to supply an imaginary title. But, for a change, I’ve decided to go with the version recorded for a BBC Radio 1 session – it was the Richard Skinner show in January 1981 – and which was finally made available on the Coals To Newcastle box set in 2010 in which said refrain is missing!
2. What Presence?! (12” single, 1984)
For all that the early material is the stuff that everyone considers to be the most influential on the growth and development of indie-pop (and I won’t argue against that being a fact), I’m a sucker for the swan song material on the final album. By now it was just Edwyn from the original line-up albeit Zeke had been the drummer since 1982 (and whose talents were also being utilised by the likes of Matt Johnson and Paul Weller).
The lead-off single from the final LP climbed to the giddy heights of #47 – a few more thousand sales and we may well have been treated to what I’m sure would have been a legendary Top of The Pops appearance. Edwyn’s baritone vocal showed that he’s been paying attention to how his good mate Paul Quinn treated a song.
3. Blue Boy (7” single, 1980)
Falling and Laughing may have been the debut but Blue Boy has proven to be the most enduring and enjoyable single from the Postcard era. And surely the greatest song to ever make use of the word ‘gabardine’.
The unexpected appearance of an organ just short of two minutes in adds to the charm of this otherwise noisy and frantic guitar frenzy.
4. Consolation Prize (LP track, 1980/1982)
Glasgow has long ‘enjoyed’ a reputation for being a tough town built on the blood, sweat and toil of heavy and grimy industries. Until Orange Juice came on the scene, all of the local bands played music which veered towards the hard end of the music spectrum. They would never dream of writing songs about wearing fringes in tributes to a 60s singer or that a bloke is considering buying women’s clothing. As for admitting that they will never be man enough for anything??……………don’t even go there.
Camp, comic and cool. With the sort of few-notes guitar solo that made punk music so enjoyable and got on the nerves of those whose music veered towards the hard end of the music spectrum. I’ve included the Postcard version rather than that which appeared on You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever simply on the basis that it lasts about 25seconds longer and has a really weird note two seconds in!
5. I Can’t Help Myself (7” single, 1982)
The old adage of ‘musical differences’ had been was cited when Steven and James left the band after the debut album but in this instance it was the truth. This left Edwyn and David to take things forward, augmented by the fantastically talented Malcolm Ross and a Zimbabwe-born drummer called Zeke Manyika but the initial fruits of their labour – the double-sided single of Two Hearts Together/Hokoyo – was a huge disappointment and nothing like any of the old songs. It was a worrying time.
All fears however, were banished when the next single hit the shops. A lyric in which Edwyn admitted he was concerned about the future delivered over probably the most danceable and funky tune the band ever recorded. The 12″ version is one of the few instances when an extended sax solo is appropriate…..sadly, my copy jumps a bit a couple of times and so you will all have to make do with the 7″ version.
1. Intuition Told Me (b-side 1981 & LP track 1982)
In which I cheat and sneak an extra song onto the album.
Intuition Told Me So is a song of two distinct halves. Part 1 (which is just 69 seconds long) was put on the debut album while Part 2 (clocking in at a shade over 3 mins) came out as the b-side to L.O.V.E. Love. The original and superior versions didn’t appear until 1992 when Ostrich Churchyard was released (this is what the debut album would have sounded like if it had come out on Postcard instead of Polydor). It’s those that I’ve gone for in this wonderful sing-a-long call and response in respect of fun beginning when the whining stops.
2. Out For The Count (b-side 1984)
As I’ve said before, the ICAs that I pull together won’t necessarily be the best or indeed my favourite ten songs as the idea is to create an album that works well as a stand-alone item. Thus it is time to include the first version of Out For The Count.
This is proof that Orange Juice had come a long way in a short period of time, or I suppose more accurately that Edwyn’s song writing abilities had done so. A track driven along by an upbeat organ sound but inexplicably left off the mini-LP Texas Fever and used instead as the b-side of the single Bridge. Purists who longed for the jingly-jangly guitars were probably appalled but I was intrigued and delighted. New guitar bands such as The Smiths were now on the block and so it seemed right that Edwyn sought to deliver a different sort of sound to keep things moving along. A slower and most wistful version of the song would later be re-recorded for the final LP.
3. Three Cheers For Our Side (Peel Session, August 1981)
It just wouldn’t be right to not include a lead vocal from James on this ICA.
One of the criticisms of the debut album is that the production moved away from the original spirit of the band with, for instance, the use of female backing singers being seen as gimmicky and unnecessary. This is certainly true in the LP version of Three Cheers For Our Side.
But what annoys me more than anything else though, is this use of professional backing singers exacerbates the fragility of James as a lead singer and makes him sound a bit ridiculous. Much better to go back a few months to the version recorded for their second and final John Peel session (later BBC appearances would be with David ‘Kid’ Jensen) in which, probably for the last ever time (until the 90s re-releases) they sounded as if they were on Postcard and not a major.
4. Falling and Laughing (single, 1980)
The indie equivalent of the pelvis doing That’s All Right (Mama) or the Fab Four hitting payola with Love Me Do. A genuine break-through moment in the history of popular music. Y’know, I think I’ve just found the area I’d like to study if I was going for a PhD….
5. In A Nutshell (LP track, 1982)
Having had a go about the backing singers ruining Three Cheers, it is only right to acknowledge that they turn this song from the Postcard era into an absolute epic. Interesting too that the very first OJ post break-up compilation was named after the track that had closed the debut album. The final minute after the vocals come to an end is magical and, to quote another song that didn’t quite make this particular cut, it’s so audacious.
Now let me get the songs posted before I change my mind again.
mp3 : Orange Juice – Felicity
mp3 : Orange Juice – What Presence?!
mp3 : Orange Juice – Blue Boy
mp3 : Orange Juice – Consolation Prize
mp3 : Orange Juice – I Can’t Help Myself
mp3 : Orange Juice – Intuition Told Me (Part 1)
mp3 : Orange Juice – Intuition Told Me (Part 2)
mp3 : Orange Juice – Out For The Count
mp3 : Orange Juice – Three Cheers For Our Side
mp3 : Orange Juice – Falling and Laughing
mp3 : Orange Juice – In A Nutshell
And building on what The Robster did with his wonderful ICA for St Etienne, here it is as as two sides of an LP.
mp3 : The Sound Of Happiness (Side A)
mp3 : The Sound Of Happiness (Side B)