I suppose I could have waited a few more months for the Saturday series to go through the letters J,K,L,M and N before getting round to this, but quality calls.

There’s a tremendously informative bio on The Orchids over at LTM Recordings, an independent record label which specialises in reissuing specialising in reissues of what are often long-deleted back catalogues (and whose website has been useful in pulling together info for the Paul Haig series currently appearing on Sundays)

The entry for The Orchids goes into some depth about the formation of the band in 1985, and how a number of DIY recording efforts eventually led to them being one of the first bands to be signed up by the fledgling Sarah Records in 1988. My excuse for not knowing all that much about the label, or indeed ever owning any original releases, is related to the period coinciding with a time when I temporarily lost interest in music, finding time only to keep an eye and ear on, for the most part, mainstream and chart stuff.

Almost all of The Orchids’ back catalogue from this golden era was re-issued on three compilation albums a few years back. I picked up copies of each of them and found myself loving a fair bit of it, although some of the material felt a bit sub-standard, just a bit too jarring on occasions, while other times there was little semblance of a memorable tune.

One of my favourites of theirs is Defy The Law, a fabulous sub-two minute piece of pop that sounds very much like Felt, and was part of the EP that came out as their second release for Sarah. Over to Alistair at LTM:-

The second Orchids single, in November 1988, was the four track ‘Underneath The Window, Underneath The Sink’ 7″. This was the first Orchids records to be recorded at the legendary Toad Hall, and the first to be produced by Ian Carmichael, unofficial sixth member of The Orchids. Carmichael of course later found some kind of fame with One Dove, although really The Orchids pretty much laid down the blueprint for much of their sound, and were given a thanks on the sleeve of that hit One Dove album. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The ‘Underneath The Window’ single was recorded and released in the midst of the UK’s Poll Tax conflict, and came with a poster featuring a collage of anti-Poll Tax material adorned with the message ‘The Orchids say don’t pay the Poll Tax’. There was more on the record itself, with the blunt song ‘Defy The Law’ (never did revolt sound so sprightly and gorgeously weightless as this) and a blatant ‘FUCK THE POLL TAX’ etched in the run-off groove. And whilst maybe it’s just my snobbery that prefers the initial print-sun sleeve of shades of blue over the starker blue and white later version, it was nevertheless another fairly horrid sleeve housing a fantastic record.

I hadn’t actually equated the song with the popular anti-authority movement, which very much took shape here in Scotland as the poll tax was introduced here before any other part of the UK and went a long way to entrenching a new generation’s worth of hatred for the Tories. If I’d only owned the vinyl, I’d have been much wiser.

It’s a fabulous EP all told, with the four songs displaying different facets of the band, but all adding up to being able to make a case for them being the new kings of indie-pop; only problem was, they were ascending to the throne at a point in time when very few actually cared…..it was now all e’s, dancing and baggy dungarees. Foppish haircuts and a devotion to jangly guitars was soooooooooo yesterday:-

mp3 : The Orchids – Defy The Law
mp3 : The Orchids – Underneath The Window, Underneath The Sink
mp3 : The Orchids – Tiny Words
mp3 : The Orchids – Walter

I now live reasonably close to where Toad Hall Studios were located having been completely unaware of their existence in the decade or so that they were in use.



  1. I have this 7″ and a few others, but it’s the first one that I really want. I’m going to give this one a spin before bed. Another stellar post, JC. The Orchids are one of my favorite Sarah bands.

  2. I was late to The Orchids party purchasing the 10″ of Lyceum at some point in ’89’/’90. This was due to effusive comments from relatives of one of the band members and the skilful name-dropping of Sarah. It was noted that I would ‘love’ them. Listening to Lyceum there was no love. I thought it ok – very much of it’s time – but not no deeper feeling. Very much on the periphery of subsequent releases I hastily resigned The Orchids to a tag of ‘not one of my bands’.

    How wrong I was then. This was not the first or last time I would be proved wrong.
    Sometime mid 90s I dug out a compilation tape and was wowed by a song that I couldn’t place. The song: Underneath the Window, Underneath the Sink. Having sourced the band and song I then unearthed what little I owned of The Orchids and began a little love affair.

    In recent years the band have silenced many doubters as to their skill as songwriters and musicians with strong, wilful LPs which, sadly, have been largely ignored.

    Lyceum … it will always hold a special place.

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