ALL OUR YESTERDAYS (21/22)

Album : Coals to Newcastle – Orange Juice
Review : Drowned in Sound, 9 November 2010
Author : Aaron Lavery

Over the last decade Orange Juice have been cited as a key influence by all manner of acts. Unfortunately the casual punter has for some time had difficulty in discovering what the big deal is. The Glasgow band’s key components – their spindly, DIY take on soul, Edwyn Collins’ unusual croon, their joy with an absurb lyric – were clear to see as an influence on everything from their Eighties contemporaries right up to modern indie adventurers such as Wild Beasts, but there was never any sense of completeness for anyone really wanting to get their teeth in. To see the sleeve of 1982’s You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever proudly displayed on the sleeve of a Belle & Sebastian DVD but not be able to go out and listen was perhaps the indiest cock-tease available.

For anyone wishing to fully delve into the strange of world of Orange Juice, the drip-drip availability of compilations and reissues was both alluring and frustrating. However, the itch can now be comprehensively scratched with Coals To Newcastle, a seven disc box set that gathers together Orange Juice’s complete discography, including radio sessions, B-sides and a collection of videos and live performances that couldn’t be more of their time if they came on VHS.

Like a lot of box sets, this sudden torrent of material can initially be overwhelming. Although Orange Juice come from an era when the B-side could be just as impressive as the main event, it can still be a struggle to maintain enthusiasm when listening in massive stretches. But then again, it’s probably not designed to be devoured that way – Orange Juice were such a strange beast, changing their line-up and musical leaning so quickly, that the only real mainstay was Collins’ absurd, cocky but vulnerable voice at the heart of it all. Instead, Coals To Newcastle works as a series of Postcards (arf!) showing how Orange Juice morphed from a gangly, awkward bunch of boys who should know better into a more widescreen but ultimately frustrated group.

The first disc on Coals To Newcastle is actually a bit of a misstep, as it’s already been released as 2005’s The Glasgow School. Appearing here with some changes to the track listing and a couple of interesting additions, it essentially serves up an initial taster of Orange Juice #1. This is the Orange Juice that felt they had the world at the feet, that had the London music scene scrabbling up past Hadrian’s Wall to find ‘the sound of young Scotland’, only to find it dressed like “a member of the aristocracy down on its luck”.

This era of Orange Juice, the one that has probably caused the most ripples in indie circles since, is encapsulated by discs one and two, the latter of which contains You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever plus myriad extra tracks. Together, they encapsulate what made the band so exciting at the time, and what has intrigued certain sensitive types ever since.

To suggest that the band’s ability never quite matched up to their ambition here might sound cruel, but it’s meant as a compliment. The likes of ‘Falling And Laughing’ and ‘Simply Thrilled Honey’ are solid gold classics, a rush of adolescent feeling wrapped in furiously strummed guitars. Elsewhere, the band’s almost punkish belief that they can do anything – write grandiose reflections on catching your reflection in a mirror, or imaginings of retribution to local bully boys – is rendered more human by the slight missteps the band make, words packed in like an overstuffed suitcase and rhythms discarded mid-song before being picked up again later on. The giddy sense of abandon can still be heard today, and is still infectious for the listener.

The benefit of the box set is captured in the first track of Coals To Newcastle’s third CD, ‘Rip It Up’, easily the most recognisable Orange Juice song and their only real hit. It’s a shock here as it marks such a change from the earlier discs, with the first incarnation of the group dissolved and Orange Juice reconstituted as a pop-funk curiosity, and most significantly joined by Zimbabwean drummer Zeke Manyika. To hear the Rip It Up LP, full of sax solos, squelching keyboards, and Manyika’s multi-layered rhythms is quite jarring, but the juxtaposition underlines the similarities with the earlier Juice.

Collins’ unmistakable voice is still there, and so is his grand ambition. Opening the album with their perfect pop single, the band follow it with ‘A Million Pleading Faces’, an afro-beat inspired shake-up of proceedings, and then follow that with ‘Mud In Your Eye’, a slice of blue-eyed soul that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Style Council LP. Elsewhere, Collins resurrects an old b-side that opens with him proclaiming “breakfast time! Breakfast time!!” over a slouching reggae rhythm.

Rip It Up is full of enough strange stuff to keep us intrigued today, and plenty of genuine pop moments – the Motown homage ‘I Can’t Help Myself’ for instance – that should have fired it to big success. That it didn’t perhaps explains Orange Juice’s next move.

Discs four and five are based around the band’s next official releases, mini-album Texas Fever and their swansong, The Orange Juice, both released in 1984. The contrast between the two is intriguing as it shows a side of the band that hasn’t really been captured in the Orange Juice compilations released so far. It’s clearly still from the same minds that concocted the jittery, excitable early act and the smoother, shades-wearing Orange Juice that appeared on Top Of The Pops, but it’s somehow a bit harder, musically speaking.

This is where Coals To Newcastle really earns its spurs. To hear Texas Fever is to find a band stripped of the musical excess of ‘Rip It Up’, replacing it with a Sixties-inspired world of close harmonies and even – shock horror corduroy fans – guitar solos. It still finds time for Collins to fit in a ridiculous ‘scary’ voice on ‘Craziest Feeling’, but it wouldn’t be Edwyn if it didn’t slide towards the ludicrous on occasion.

Listening to The Orange Juice, made when the band was officially just Collins and Manyika, again underlines the benefit of the box set. Overshadowed by the more popular and more influential parts of the back catalogue, here it can be judged on its own merits. Thankfully, it stands up well. Its mood is captured on ‘A Little Too Sensitive’, on which Collins turns his trademark cynicism inward, and seems to analyse just why he’s been left standing (almost) alone whilst the music he helped to create has gone on to soundtrack the early part of the decade.

It’s a reflective end to the band’s discography, albeit enlivened by the track ‘What Presence?!’, an early indicator of the guilty pleasure silliness Collins would bottle on ‘A Girl Like You’, and ‘Salmon Fishing In NY’, a heavier number that ends the record in a blizzard of guitar feedback. Accompanied here by numerous b-sides, live tracks and, believe it or not, dub mixes, plus that extra disc of radio sessions, it means Coals To Newcastle lacks a real finale, but that’s a problem of box sets in general, not just this one.

So what to make of the whole thing? Well, as an introduction to the band, it won’t work, simply because of its size. For that, you can get The Glasgow School and hear the influence of that early Orange Juice. For those that want to delve deeper however, this is pretty much darned essential. It confirms Orange Juice as more than an influential indie band – it shows up their ridiculousness, their ambition, their open-mindedness, their limitations, their self-reliance. It leaves you converted to their cause, whatever it is and however foolish it may be. It’s also something you can see yourself returning to, rather than keeping on a shelf for posterity. You can’t really ask for more than that, can you?

mp3 : Orange Juice – Falling and Laughing (Peel Session, 1980)
mp3 : Orange Juice – Mud In Your Eye
mp3 : Orange Juice – Craziest Feeling
mp3 : Orange Juice – What Presence?! (Kid Jensen session, 1984)

JC adds : You really should delve.  It’s bloody marvellous.  And I still can’t quite get my head round the fact that I got a thank you in the credits within the accompanying booklet.

 

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #219 : ORANGE JUICE (2)

Orange Juice.

ICA 57 was my stab at coming up with the perfect 10-track LP. There’s the occasional day that I think I nailed it, but for the most part I find myself wondering why certain pieces of music didn’t make it. I’ve long thought that the time was ripe for a Volume Two but I have more or less run out of superlatives to accompany the tracks. The solution? Scour the internet and find a few hundred words from someone else that have me nodding in agreement.

Here’s Alexis Petridis, with his review of the Coals to Newcastle boxset, as published in the Guardian newspaper back in November 2010.

Tucked away on this six CD and one DVD boxset, there’s a brief radio interview with Edwyn Collins. It hails from just after Orange Juice’s greatest commercial success, when Rip It Up reached the top 10. The group’s frontman seems weary and cynical, his conversation punctuated with awkward laughter. Mention of the music press-boosted New Pop movement of which Rip It Up was supposed to be a perfect exemplar – clever, radio-friendly, powered by the modern-sounding squelch of the Roland 303 synthesiser – sets him off: “Bland … insipid … vacuous … disgusting.” He sounds not like a man who’s finally claimed his rightful place on Top of the Pops, but someone who thinks he’s already blown it.

Listening to the music on Coals to Newcastle in chronological order, you can see why. The first CD contains the early singles and the unreleased debut album Ostrich Churchyard. It documents the startling 18-month period during which Orange Juice minted a sound that brilliantly connected the agitated, trebly strum of the Velvet Underground’s What Goes On to the scratchy funk guitars of disco; dragged rock music further from its primal macho roots than anyone before had ever dared; wrote a succession of staggeringly brilliant songs – Falling and Laughing, Dying Day, Consolation Prize; and singlehandedly, if unwittingly, invented what came to be known as indie music. The music press thought they’d be huge. Orange Juice had the tunes, arch, witty lyrics that could conceivably have provoked Morrissey-like devotion, and in the lush-lipped and befringed Collins a frontman who might conceivably have provoked teen mania.

Predictions of their imminent ascendancy seemed to tactfully ignore a number of facts. Orange Juice’s charm was bound up with the fact that they sounded spindly and ramshackle by comparison with most early 80s pop, and looked deeply weird in their plastic sandals, cravats and tweeds: in every sense of the phrase, they offered a kind of charity-shop Chic. Collins’s voice was an acquired taste: he sounded not unlike a tipsy man launching into an after-dinner speech with his mouth still full of port and walnuts.

They signed to Polydor, which didn’t seem to know what to do with them, beyond adding the brass section that was the 80s major label’s default answer to bridging the gulf between the indie chart and the real thing. Trailed by an audacious cover of Al Green’s L-O-V-E (Love), You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever sounded great – if you hadn’t already heard earlier recordings. But the Smash Hits audience opted instead for Haircut 100 and their David Cassidy version of Orange Juice’s sound: all the tweeness, none of the intelligence or grit.

In search of greater professionalism, Collins fired half the band, including the other songwriter James Kirk. The Rip It Up single was fantastic, but on the accompanying album, Orange Juice sounded shattered, as if they didn’t have a clue what to do now. Let new drummer Zeke Manyika write afrobeat inspired songs? Rework old B-sides in a reggae style, thus proving at a stroke that Orange Juice B-sides were desperately ill-suited to being reworked in a reggae style? Plonked in the middle of the album, an Ostrich Churchyard leftover called Louise Louise is a reminder of past glories.

It might have signalled the end, had Collins not been rather more steely than the fey image suggested. Just how steely and determined wouldn’t become fully apparent until 2005, when he battled back to health after two strokes that initially left him unable to walk, talk, read or write. Twenty years earlier, it manifested itself in rebuilding Orange Juice, with Manyika’s help, into the sleek, smart unit of 1984’s Texas Fever and The Orange Juice, where a perfect middle distance was located between the shambolic clangour of their early work and a more polished, funky sound. Collins turned his sardonic lyrical eye on his own waning commercial fortunes on the gorgeous A Sad Lament and Lean Period: “Please don’t expect consistency from me,” he crooned on the latter.

By then, of course, it was too late, as a clip of the band on Whistle Test demonstrates. As they charge through a frantic version of What Presence!?, a ticker spools along the bottom of the screen. “Also tonight! Jean Michel Jarre! Spandau Ballet! Kim Wilde’s record collection!” What price Collins’s sardonic, clever observations in that climate? They split in 1985. Incredibly, within a year, a generation of indie bands were hailing them as an influence of almost mythic proportions. Subsequently, so would everyone from Belle and Sebastian to Franz Ferdinand and Wild Beasts. The good – all of which is here, along with enough live tracks, demos and B-sides to blur the line between exhaustive and exhausting – would eventually out.

Side A

1. Rip It Up (12” version – released in 1983)

The 1983 hit single….and until the solo success of A Girl Like You, the only song likely to have generated much in the way of royalties for Edwyn Collins. Some fun facts, all of which are true:-

– it wasn’t the lead-off single from the album of the same name (released in November 1982) as that distinction went to I Can’t Help Myself

– it proved to be the first chart single to ever feature the Roland TB-303 synthesiser bassline (wonderfully reproduced in the live setting by David McClymont)

– it has a very noticeable mimic of the two-note guitar solo that was heard on Boredom, the lead song on the Spiral Scratch EP by Buzzcocks…and the mimic comes just as Edwyn is declaring it his favourite song

– it contains a backing vocal by Paul Quinn, but sadly he didn’t appear on stage during either of the Top of The Pops appearances, although Jim Thirlwell (of Foetus On Your Breath ‘fame’) did mime the sax solo contributions to great effect

2. Lovesick (released in 1980)

Often I find it hard to get through to you
Words become barbed and stick in the throat
My reasoned argument seems to be so obscure
Tripped myself up, there’s no need to gloat.

Seemingly tucked away on the b-side of Blue Boy, the second and finest of the Postcard singles., it was in fact a deserved double-A side but such was the majesty of its flip-side that it didn’t get the attention it deserved

3. Bridge (released in 1984)

From the mini-LP Texas Fever (the original vinyl release had just six tracks). It’s a record made during a time of stress with Edwyn not wanting to make an album full of Rip It Up style singles but managing to alienate bassis David and the maverick genius guitarist Malcolm Ross (the only man to be an official member in each of Aztec Camera, Josef K and Orange Juice) to the extent that the group split up with just drummer Zeke Manyika hanging around to work alongside the frontman. Like so many other albums recorded in such circumstances, it manages to be a work of wonder, tantalisingly offering up something new and different sounding from what had come before. Bridge was the single from the mini-album. It has a groove and catch that are infectious and comes with handclaps you just want to replicate when you’re moving to it on the disco floor. Only you won’t get the chance as most DJs will shun it. Au undeserved #67 flop.

4. L.O.V.E. Love (released in 1981)

The move from Postcard to Polydor didn’t overly concern me. To be fair, I was a naïve 18-year old who thought that the singers/bands/musicians could fully dictate the music that as to be released.

I hated this single with a passion when it was released. It just wasn’t Orange Juice, not with horns and soulful backing singers, whose talents particularly showed up the fragility of Edwyn’s voice as he struggled to hit the higher notes – this Al Green cover (whoever he was!!) sounded the wrong sort of song to get the most out of the band as it started to dawn on me that the record label held all the aces.

At least the consolation prizes on the b-side were listenable so buying both the 7” and 12” versions didn’t feel like a total waste of money. It took me a long time to grow up, expand my tastes and accept that this was, as Petridis says above, an audacious cover.

5. Simply Thrilled Honey (released in 1980)

Ye Gods….how did I leave this Postcard single off ICA 57?

Truth be told, it’s not up there as one of my OJ faves, but given I’m now part of a wonderful collective that has taken our name from said song, it’s a must.

https://www.wegottickets.com/event/468991

Side B

1. The Artisans (released in 1984)

The final Orange Juice album could have been something that merely fulfilled a contractual obligation but instead proved to be a crowning glory that is certainly up there with the quality and consistency of the Postcard songs. In reality, it’s Edwyn’s debut solo album, shaped by Denis Bovell on the production side (and keyboards) with additional help from some old pals – Zeke on drums and Clare Kenny (ex-Amazulu) on bass. Its ten tracks enjoy a high level of quality and craftsmanship throughout, with guitar-heavy songs sitting comfortably alongside heart-wrenching and wistful ballads, whose lyrics sway from the heart-felt to the caustic, barbed and tongue-in-cheek, but at all times with a knowing sigh that it was the world’s loss that it hadn’t been remotely ready for Orange Juice. This is one of the piss-take efforts, one that has as fine a groove as any in the band or solo canon, thanks to Bovell’s contribution on the Vox Organ.

2. Holiday Hymn (recorded in 1981 – released in 1992)

Back in 1981, Vic Godard had written Holiday Hymn and performed it live with Subway Sect on only a handful of occasions. Edwyn immediately felt that it would make for a perfect Orange Juice song and so he recorded it from the mixing desk, learned the lyrics and cords, and took it into the studio for his band to learn and play. A studio version would eventually see the light of day with the release of Ostrich Churchyard

3. A Sad Lament (released in 1983)

A Sad Lament was first released as the b-side on the 12” version of the Rip It Up single (or as one side of the bonus disc in the limited edition 2×7” versions) before finding its way onto the Texas Fever mini-album the following year. It’s inclusion on the mini-LP is, I believe, an acknowledgment that it was too good a song to have simply been left as a b-side, especially when most who had bought Rip It Up, via the standard 7” version, would have only been able to play the Malcolm Ross composed track, Snake Charmer.

Long regarded as a long-lost and difficult to get hold of classic, the record label, a part of the 2002 compilation ‘Edwyn Collins & Orange Juice – A Casual Introduction 1981/2001’ decided to include A Sad Lament in the tracklist….only to butcher the track by removing part of the intro and outro and cutting off a full 80 seconds of music. Suffice to say, it’s the original you’ll find here……

4. All That Ever Mattered (released in 1984)

The weepy ballad from the final album. It may well be the sad thoughts of someone looking back as the dying embers of a once passionate relationship are finally extinguished, but it could also be the parting shot to former bandmates as, by this time, they were barely on speaking terms (thankfully they would kiss and make up in later years).

5. Lean Period (released in 1984)

This joke I’ve made at my own expense has long since been worn thin
And yet by recompense you respond with a wink and a knowing grin

None of Edwyn’s biggest fans, when listening to his resigned state-of-the-nation address in the opening track of the final album could ever have imagined he would still be making great music to entertain, enthral and enrich us 35 years later. It’s so good to have him around and to be making the quality music you’ll find on his 2019 album Badbea, in which he blends beautifully the old and the new to deliver something that still sounds and feels essential. It’s such a contrast, in particular, to one of his peers and an 80s hero who is now specialising in finding different ways to disappoint, seemingly each and every day.

JC

THE POSTCARD SINGLE THAT NEVER WAS….

The above photo is the reverse of the sleeve for Chance Meeting, a single released by Josef K on Postcard Records in 1981 and given the catalogue number 81-5. If you look closely or indeed magnify it, you’ll see that the opportunity has been taken to list all the previous singles, along with their catalogue numbers, as well as the anticipated next release:-

81-6 : Orange Juice
Wan Light c/w You Old Eccentric

Only it never happened. It was meant to be a 45 with both sides devoted to James Kirk songs. The band sped off to Polydor before there was a chance to issue a fifth single for the Glasgow label; indeed there would be one further 45 ever released out of West Princes Street, Glasgow and that was 81-8 : Mattress Of Wire c/w Lost Outside The Tunnel by Aztec Camera just before they signed to Rough Trade.

Wan Light was later recorded for You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever, the debut album, but it’s likely that the Postcard single would have been more like the rough n ready demo version previously recorded or perhaps the version recorded for BBC Radio 1 and broadcast on the Richard Skinner Show in January 1991.

You Old Eccentric was later issued on the b-side of the 12″ version of Felicity, but again it’s likely that the Postcard version would be more similar to the version recorded for BBC Radio 1 and broadcast on the John Peel show in October 1980.

On that basis, and with thanks to Auntie Beeb, here is the Postcard single that never was, 81-6:-

mp3 : Orange Juice – Wan Light
mp3 : Orange Juice – You Old Eccentric

JC

DOING PENANCE

I’m barging the Saturday series out-of-the-way today so that I can follow-up after the welcome and varied responses to ‘True Confessions.’

First of all, as ever, a huge thank you to everyone for taking the time to fire over your view, thoughts and opinions; as I’ve said on so many occasions, it’s the quality of comments and guest contributions that make this venture all worthwhile. I had a feeling the idea of slaughtering a few sacred cows would prove controversial and so it sort of proved.

One thing I want to make very clear is that I’ve never liked the idea of using the blog to be negative and over the past eleven and a bit years, the percentage of posts that don’t celebrate music has been tiny. I’d even like to think that the ‘Had It. Lost It’ series is in some ways celebratory in that the idea is to reflect on how good, and indeed great, a singer or band had been only for it to go awry.

The concept behind ‘True Confessions’ was similar. This series, if it was going to be as such, was intended to look at one song in isolation by an act that I otherwise liked or admired; it also had the rider that the act had to come from a past era so that I couldn’t simply give the finger to something that was contemporary on the basis that I ‘didn’t get it’. I chose The Model on the basis that I have enjoyed a lot of the music produced over the years by Kraftwerk but had never warmed to their best known and arguably best-loved song, certainly among the general public.

If this comes across as conceited to some of you, then I’m truly sorry. But I do think there has been a slight misunderstanding of what I was hoping to achieve.

In essence, it was like trying to recreate an on-line version of an argument down the pub between folk who care and are passionate about music. This was never just to carp about a bad song as I don’t believe there is such a thing as a bad song – but there are quite a lot of songs that I don’t care for; indeed there are many more songs that I don’t like or enjoy than I have in the vinyl, cd and digital collection inside Villain Towers, but I have no intention of spending time or energy writing about them just for the sake of it.

I’ll try and illustrate this with an example from the comments. Alex considered that “the worst song ever in the history of songs has to be Paul Simon “You Can Call Me Al” which is from the “acclaimed” Graceland album.” I’m not sure if it is quite the worst ever in the history of songs, but it is one that I’ve never taken to. But at the same time, I’ve never really taken much to Paul Simon’s solo career and so don’t feel that I’m qualified to post a negative piece on You Can Call Me Al as I can’t consider it any sort of context.

It was also the case that any song that fell under the microscope for the series had to be one that was, on the face of it, universally acclaimed. As such, I’d never entertain the idea of any Oasis song featuring or the suggestion of Don’t You Forget About Me by Simple Minds; in the case of the former, this was a band that divided opinion from Day 1 and in respect of the latter I think it’s fair to say that, despite its millions of worldwide sales, most Simple Minds fans don’t regard it as the band’s finest moment.

I agree wholeheartedly with Moz’s comment that “one person’s caviar is another’s fish paste sandwich, and we should all respect that”. The key word here is ‘respect’ and that was, I think, what C was alluding to when she said “I like the sound of this series….don’t mind the idea of interspersing the large number of posts about things we like with some about the things we don’t….want to understand the basis behind the opinions I don’t agree with …..as long as it doesn’t become too personal of course”.

Having weighed things up, and slept on it all overnight, I’m going to keep the feature going as an occasional series and will take guest contributions as long as they fit the criteria. That rules out CC doing anything on U2 and SWC is barred from frantically writing why The Smiths suck….but don’t worry too much buddy as I’m likely to make a confession about one of their songs.

One more quick visit to the box by me to wrap things up.

I could very happily go the rest of my life without ever hearing both sides of a particular 45 by Orange Juice. It doesn’t sit easy with me given how much I’ve written about the band over the years and that I was given a namecheck in the credits of the Coals to Newcastle boxset (such things should really be reserved for those who have blind faith!).

As I said in my OJ ICA ,

“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 had 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.”

I actually understated how much I disliked this particular single that was released in August 1982. It sounded as if the band wanted to spend the rest of their careers somewhere down the bill on WOMAD festivals. The songs are a real mishmash of influences, none of which had been part of any of the Postcard era or the debut album. I wasn’t ready for it and to be quite honest, I’ve never ever steadied myself to fully accept it as an Orange Juice recording. It’s really strange as the work Zeke puts into the songs, particularly on Hokoyo, would later be replicated in parts on Soul Mining by The The, and that’s an album I will never allow a bad word to be said about. Maybe it’s about time and place.

mp3 : Orange Juice – Two Hearts Together (7″ version)
mp3 : Orange Juice – Hokoyo (7″ version)

So there you have it. Orange Juice getting slated on T(n)VV.

Who’s next for the confessional box?

PS

Echorich indicated that he liked the idea of B-Side Gems. The old blog was full of such postings – indeed it was launched with the intention of offering up unknown and rarely heard b-sides on a regular basis at a time when the back catalogues of many 80s and 90s artists were obsolete. One of my first postings was a Lloyd Cole track which was impossible to get a hold of without having a 12” single – it’s since surfaced on a boxset of rarities.

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Butterfly (Planet Anne Charlotte mix)

I’ll try and dig out some b-side postings from the archives and put them up over the upcoming festive period.

JC

IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (7)

Today’s debut 45 launched a label as well as a band:-

mp3 : Orange Juice – Falling and Laughing

I really don’t think I can add all that much to the praise I’ve heaped on Orange Juice and Postcard Records on previous occasions.

One thing I have observed is that the reputation of the band and the label seems to grow with each passing year, possibly from the legacy in that they seemed to create templates for many to follow in their footsteps. I do find this somewhat amusing as everyone, and in particular Edwyn Collins and Alan Horne, were regarded as joke figures by many of their contemporaries, including here in Glasgow. The first sign of change of attitude can be traced to the mid-80s and the emergence of a new breed of writers, particularly those who served their apprenticeships with fanzines before landing proper media jobs, and the explosion of performers whose teen and adolescent years were spent listening to the records and similar sounding songs on other small independently run labels such as Rough Trade.

This new cognoscenti were fulsome and consistent in their praise of the Postcard rota and for the Postcard way of doing things. All of a sudden, it was fashionable and hip to drop 185 West Princes Street into conversation and music press interviews. It may have dropped off again in the early 90s when grunge took over, but it rose back up in the middle of that decade when Edwyn enjoyed his world-wide solo hit and then even higher again a decade or so later when he suffered his life-threatening illnesses; this second wave of praise and enthusiasm wasn’t out of sympathy, but instead was the recognition of just how unique and different it had all been from the beginning.

But was Falling & Laughing the best ever Orange Juice single? My opinion, and I’ve expressed this on the pages of the blog before, is that honour should be bestowed on another 45 from the Polydor years.

But………..and here’s the kicker in today’s post, I want to change my mind. I still think Felicity is the Orange Juice song I most enjoy listening to and I don’t see that changing. But without Falling and Laughing there wouldn’t have been Felicity or Blue Boy or I Can’t Help Myself or What Presence. There would unlikely have been many other great indie and pop bands to emerge out of the shadows here in Scotland and further afield if it wasn’t for the fact that Postcard Records got up and running, albeit it never really got all that far at the time. And so, for all sorts of reasons, I have to now say that Falling and Laughing is the greatest 45 ever released by Orange Juice.

JC

THE FAREWELL SINGLE IN ALL ITS GUISES

Orange Juice signed off with a flourish with their final single having the very tongue-in-cheek title of Lean Period. It was issued in 7″ and 12″ formats in a brown paper bag (the reverse side of the 7″ version is pictured above), a 12″ format with a printed sleeve and a limited 7″ edition that came with an additional flexi disc with two live tracks.

Despite all this, it staggered around the nether region of the charts but as this was a time when the charts were measured on a Top 100 it meant, in official terms, that Lean Period actually spent three weeks in the official rundown – entering at #78, rising to #77 and then leaping, salmon-like to the giddy-heights of #74 in October 1984.

mp3 : Orange Juice – Lean Period
mp3 : Orange Juice – Bury My Head In My Heads
mp3 : Orange Juice – Lean Period (12″ dub version)
mp3 : Orange Juice – Rip it Up (live)
mp3 : Orange Juice – What Presence?! (live)

The flexi disc recordings are very lo-fi, ripped as they are straight from those fragile and flimsy bits of plastic and so you’ll have to turn the volume right up. There are superior versions available via the Coals to Newcastle boxset but I thought I’d stay true to the blog’s principles.

JC

THIS ONE’S FOR JOHNNY BOTTOMS

The day is drawing ever closer when our dear friend Jonny the Friendly Lawyer (JTFL) aka Johnny Bottoms, the country bassist, will cross the Atlantic with his fellow Ponderosa Aces to begin the tour of English cities and towns. I’m delighted to say that I’ve made arrangements to get myself down to the gig in Manchester on Sunday 23 April, and all being well I might get to hook up with another dear friend of this parish, the mighty Swiss Adam of Bagging Area fame.

If anyone cares to join us, then feel free to come along for the ride. To paraphrase one Adam Ant, country music is nothing to be scared of.

As evidenced by this #4 hit from October 1981:-

mp3 : Squeeze – Labelled With Love

A sad and melancholy single lifted from the excellent East Side Story LP, on which Elvis Costello did a sterling job in the producer’s chair, it was the band’s final ever entry into the Top 10. It’s a very fine example of a talented band, fronted by incredibly gifted songwriters, demonstrating that they can turn their hand to any genre.

The b-side was a bit of throwaway fun:-

mp3 : Squeeze – Squabs on 45

It’s a medley of earlier singles akin to what was a fad at the time in the UK where excerpts of hit songs, sometimes from one act but more often than not from a variety of artists, were spliced together as a 45. Very scarily, an act called Stars on 45 enjoyed four Top 20 hits in the UK in 1981/82 by employing such a technique. And yes, Squeeze were making a point about how awful these medley efforts were – everything reduced to one simple beat and rhythm.

Orange Juice also did something similar as a piss take for a Peel Session:-

mp3 : Orange Juice – Blokes on 45

JC

A LAZY STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE : 45 45s AT 45 (3)

ORIGINALLY POSTED ON MONDAY 16 JUNE 2008

(and again on 6 November 2013)

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From January 1982.

It reached the giddy heights of #63 in the UK pop charts.

This is the sound of happiness. On a double A side 7″ single.

I really don’t think I need say anymore….

mp3 : Orange Juice – Felicity
mp3 : Orange Juice – In A Nutshell

PS

The irony here is that my favourite Orange Juice single, while sung by Edwyn Collins was in fact written by fellow band-member James Kirk.

Hence the William Shatner reference in this cover version:-

mp3 : The Wedding Present – Felicity

Many years later, James did his own great version of the song:-

mp3 : James Kirk – Felicity

PPS

Little did I know, when I originally penned this post in 2008 that I would later be contacted by Domino Records and asked to fill in a few gaps as part of their background work as to what should and shouldn’t be included in the Coals To Newcastle boxset, the result of which I was one of a number of people thanked in the sleevenotes. That’s the most rock’n’roll thing that’ll ever likely happen in my life…….

SHAKE YOUR BODY DOWN TO THE GROUND

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D.I.S.C.O. does not suck…..as publicly said by Edwyn & co in the notes that accompanied the vinyl release of the LP Ostrich Churchyard back in 1992:-

Satellite City

Written in the aftermath of an early Nu-Sonics concert (17th January 1978) supporting British reggae outfit Steel Pulse and much to our chagrin, an embryonic Simple Minds at the Satellite City disco in the clouds (above the Apollo). For a long time this was referred to as the ‘Disco Song’ in part homage to Chic’s ‘Dance Dance Dance – Yowsah! Yowsah! Yowsah!’

Intuition Told Me Parts 1 + 2

During this period I would frequently open Orange Juice sets alone with my Gretch ‘Black-hawk’ guitar for company and very nervously perform Intuition Told Me part 1 before being joined by the group for the now more obscure part 2. I suppose now is as good a time as any to reveal that “Did I mention in the first verse….” was a direct lift from ‘Yes Sir I Can Boogie’ a female duo from Spain.

Ergo…..it is acceptable to equally like jingly-jangly Caledonia pop and the sort of music that led to packed floors directly under mirrorballs.

mp3 : Orange Juice – Satellite City
mp3 : Chic – Dance Dance Dance (Yowsah Yowsah Yowsah) (12 inch version)
mp3 : Orange Juice – Intuition Told Me (Part 1)
mp3 : Orange Juice – Intuition Told Me (Part 2)
mp3 : Baccara – Yes Sir I Can Boogie

Enjoy

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #57 : ORANGE JUICE

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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’.

SIDE A

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.

SIDE B

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)

ENJOY!!!!

MY FAVOURITE EVER CASSETTE ALBUM

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A reader made a passing comment the other week about going out of his/her way to purchase a cassette version of an album simply to pick up an extra otherwise unavailable track. That got me thinking back to late 1984 and the release of The Orange Juice, the fourth* and what turned out to be the final studio album by Orange Juice.

* Yes, I know the sleeve states it was (the third album) but I’m one of those who counts Texas Fever, a mini-LP released earlier in 1984 as an OJ album.

In many ways this was really the first ever Edwyn Collins solo album. By now the band had collapsed within itself and Edwyn only had Zeke Manyika for permanent company and so guest musicians were brought in for the recording sessions, most notably Clare Kenny (ex Amazulu) on bass while legendary dub reggae producer Dennis Bovell, who was behind the desk for the record, added his keyboard skills.

The ten tracks on the album are actually, and this might be sacrilegious on my part, among the best songs that were ever attributed to Orange Juice. Yes, they are a long long way from the rough and ready screechy/jangly guitar indie pop of the Postcard era but there’s a real quality about many of the songs that can be attributed to Edwyn’s continually improving song-writing abilities and quite honestly, if this had been a band’s debut album then the world would have sat up and taken huge notice instead of being dismissed in a whim of huge indifference. By now, Edwyn and Zeke knew that the game was up  and that many at Polydor Records had lost patience with the band but in one last brilliant hurrah they managed to get budgets for promo videos (with What Presence?! being directed by the acclaimed Derek Jarman) and what can only be described as some very tongue-in-cheek television advertising.

They also convinced the label to issue the record on what was then standard vinyl and cassette but that the latter should have the 10-track LP on one side while the other should became home to seven songs in what was described as the original 12” mix format. The outcome, rather unusually, was that the cassette format outsold the vinyl format but overall not in enough quantities to have the album make the UK charts.

And that would have been a total travesty and a thoroughly wretched way for the band’s career to come to a close but thankfully the thirty years since have been very kind to Orange Juice and they are probably better known and certainly better loved and appreciated than they ever were in their heyday.

I’d love to offer all seven tracks as they appeared on the cassette but sadly I don’t have the technology to make the transitions from tape to mp3. But I will take what I have from vinyl and CD and do something:-

mp3 : Orange Juice – I Can’t Help Myself (12” vinyl)
mp3 : Orange Juice – Rip It Up (12” version)
mp3 : Orange Juice – Love Sick (re-recording from Rip It Up single )
mp3 : Orange Juice – Flesh Of My Flesh (12” mix)
mp3 : Orange Juice – Out For The Count (alt mix from Texas Fever sessions)
mp3 : Orange Juice – What Presence?! (12” mix)
mp3 : Orange Juice – Lean Period (12” vinyl dub version)

To be honest, I find this mix of Flesh of My Flesh bordering on the unlistenable thanks to the annoying use of effects and gimmicks that take away any sense of rhythm or tempo. And to be completely honest, even the shortened 7” version of the song is one of my least favourite OJ recordings…..I just could never take to it.

But hey…..dig that extra guitar break instead of the harmonica in the middle of What Presence?! Sheer class…………….

Oh and its a fresh ‘rip’ of I Can’t Help Myself that has eliminated what was a jump when it appeared on the blog previously.

Enjoy

TELL ME WHEN THE FUN BEGINS

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Oh, how we can giggle now at the picture sleeves, but did Edwyn Collins ever think his rig-out of jacket, collar and tie, red shorts, white socks and brogues were remotely hip? Or even fey???

Postcard Records had come and gone, but the wish of its founder Alan Horne that all the bands should find fame and fortune with major labels seemed set to come true.

Orange Juice had signed to Polydor Records, but we were all delighted to see that the debut single still had the word POSTCARD printed above the Polydor symbol and indeed the famous drumming kitten was also very prominent on both the sleeve and label. Edwyn, James, Stephen and David hadn’t sold out after all……

But what’s this…a song written by Green/Mitchell/Hodges? Have they recorded a cover or is it some sort of writing team attached to their new home??

mp3 : Orange Juice – L.O.V.E…love

OK, I quickly learned that it was a cover of a song by Al Green, but being the uber-indie post-punk 18 year-old, I didn’t know that at the time (in fact I wasn’t really aware who Al Green was given he’d barely had a hit in the UK).

I wasn’t sure what to make of this record at the time. In fact I was a bit disappointed with it in many ways as it seemed awfully polished. It even had horns on it when all I wanted was guitars. Thankfully, as I aged, so did my tastes improve and while I still won’t place it in all time Top 20 of OJ songs, I do tap my feet, nod my head from side to side and croon along whenever it plays.

Tell you something though, the b-side was an instant smash:-

mp3 : Orange Juice – Intuition Told Me (Pt 2)

What wasn’t there to love about a song that contained the lines?

Please, please
Tell me when the fun begins
Please, please
As soon as you stop your whining Jim

And I whined a lot in those days. Still do in fact. And I’m happy to confess that Intuition Told Me (Pt 2) is still a song that I rank among the Top 2 the band ever recorded……and the best one that Edwyn ever wrote for them.

Polydor had high hopes for Orange Juice. I’m guess they were staggered by the fact that it stuck at #65 in the charts on its release in October 1981.

Oh, the sleeves above? The camp one is the 7″ and the other is the 12″. What do you mean you need a better explanation than that??

Here’s the instrumental that was available on the 12″:-

mp3: Orange Juice – Moscow

This was a re-recorded and more polished version of the song that was originally put on the b-side of Falling and Laughing.  It was, at the time, a much sought-after piece of music and one of the reasons I bought the 12″ in the first place!!

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SINGLE…….

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……..will return next week.  There’s a piece of plastic that should be getting featured this week but I seemed to have filed it away in the wrong place and it will take a bit of time to find it and convert the vinyl to a new mp3 (a previous conversion to mp3 is unsatisfactory as I missed the first few seconds on one of the two tracks).

In the meantime, here’s a John Peel Session to enjoy:-

mp3 : Orange Juice – Dying Day
mp3 : Orange Juice – Holiday Hymn
mp3 : Orange Juice – Three Cheers For Our Side
mp3 : Orange Juice – Blokes on 45

Recorded on 3 August 1981 and broadcast seven days later. The last of these tracks is very silly indeed…..

SIMPLY THRILLED : THE PREPOSTEROUS STORY OF POSTCARD RECORDS by SIMON GODDARD

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All three previous books on pop music written by Simon Goddard have been a delight to read and so I was bursting with excitement and anticipation approaching the release of his endeavours to tell the story of Postcard Records .
As someone who is old-fashioned enough to still want to walk into a shop to buy things rather than go on-line, I set out on a tour of book stores across Glasgow on the supposed day of publication only to find none had been delivered, although very helpfully I was informed some book and record shops were expecting copies in time for Record Store Day on Saturday 19 April.

Sadly, this didn’t prove to be the case.  I could have gone to a personal appearance by the author the following day and picked up a copy but couldn’t reschedule pre-arranged plans.  On Easter Monday the shops were closed, and come Tuesday and Wednesday I was too busy with work to find time to get into the city centre shops.  Thankfully, the late night openings on Thursday allowed me to take care of things. All that pent-up energy waiting to see what was behind the wonderfully designed cover led me to read the first few pages on the train home rather than do the usual thing of getting lost in music.

It was a strange introduction in that a short but informative prologue told the tragic story of Louis Wain, the Victorian and Edwardian era artist whose drumming cat became the symbol adopted by Postcard.  It’s only a short journey from the city centre to my home…just enough time to read the seven-page prologue and whet my appetite for what was to follow.

Over the course of the next two nights, interspersed by a particularly tiring and troublesome day at the office, I devoured the remaining 240 pages of the book.  And I woke up on Saturday morning feeling a bit iffy and sick as if I’d eaten something that was a bit off.

It pains me to say it but Simply Thrilled : The Preposterous Story of Postcard Records was a bit of a let-down. I’m not saying it’s a badly written or boring book – far from it – but the sense of excitement and anticipation of the chase of getting my hands on a copy was far greater than what I felt as I turned its pages.

The fault lies with the way the author has gone about the task.  The publicity material churned out by the publishers says:-

“This is the preposterous true story of Postcard Records, the renegade label which, with its mad DIY ethic, kickstarted the 1980s’ indie music revolution. From its riotous punk origins to the intertwining sagas of Orange Juice, Aztec Camera and cult heroes Josef K, this is how they took on and triumphed over the London ‘music biz’ big boys, against all odds. Acclaimed music writer Simon Goddard has interviewed everyone involved in the making of the legend of Postcard Records. The result is a giddy farce involving backstabbing, ‘Arthur Atrocious’, gluttony, heartbreak, ‘Disco Harry’, cheap speed, ‘Janice Fuck’, disillusion, Victorian lunatics and knickerbocker glories. But it’s also the story of creating something beautiful from nothing, against all the odds.”

Simon Goddard has interviewed everyone and has seemingly taken everything they said at face value and published it.  He himself knows such an approach is risky – in the foreword to the book he says what follows is a fairy-tale and not a documentary. He admits that many people’s recollections contradicted one another while others were distorted for what could be any of a number of reasons.

So what we get is a book which feels too much of an in-joke in which the main protagonists tell the story as they want it to be remembered and which, understandably, puts them in the best possible light.  This book isn’t really the story of Postcard Records – it’s more the like one of those projects in which people are asked to give their memories of a time and a place – in this instance Glasgow in the late 70s and early 80s – for a talented writer to record for posterity. I do admire the tenacity of the author in getting the notoriously reclusive Alan Horne, the brains behind the whole Postcard venture, to speak to him in such depth.

It’s quite clear that Simon and Alan spent countless hours together and there can be no argument that the mogul has a treasure-chest of wonderful anecdotes, many of which are embellished throughout the book.  But such is the size of the shadow cast by Alan Horne that I can’t help but feel that the story would have been better told as an authorized biography of his life and times rather than having others come in and say completely contradictory things and so confuse matters.

In terms of the music, the main focus is on Orange Juice and Josef K which is fair enough given that between them they accounted for around three-quarters of the material released on the label.  And while the chapter on the Go-Betweens is one of the most enjoyable in the book  – Glasgow must have seemed like a strange and alien planet to Grant McLennan and Robert Foster – the dearth of material on Aztec Camera is a bitter disappointment.  They don’t feature until well into the book and there’s not actually all that much said about them.

It’s almost as if this version of the story of Postcard comes to a crashing halt at the time Orange Juice decamped to a major label and Josef K called it quits in the aftermath of one disastrous gig too many in a Glasgow discotheque in August 1981. It certainly reads to me that Roddy Frame was signed to the label only because it allowed it to boast of having a 16-year old wunderkid on the books rather than the label owner actually liking his music.  As such, it is no real surprise that Alan Horne makes no real effort to make a star out of Roddy.

Simon Goddard admits he has written a preposterous tale which means he hasn’t been able to come up with the definitive story of Postcard Records. And therein lies my disappointment in his latest book. In saying all of this, I am glad I bought Simply Thrilled.   It has a number of  very funny and outrageous tales although whether they are true or not is another matter.

It is also a reminder that the Glasgow of the late 70s and early 80s was not the greatest place in the world if you dared to be different and a bit of a dreamer.  It was a conservative city in its outlook and its attitudes and all too often those traits made it a dangerous and frightening place for flamboyant and confrontational characters like Alan Horne and Edwyn Collins.

The book ends at the point in time when Alan Horne  gets the opportunity to set up Swamplands as part of the London Records empire.  How that came about is one of the best and loveliest stories in the entire book….but to say anything more would be to spoil things.

I think I can however, get away with quoting, in full, the afterword:- “So when is your book ending? Just with Postcard? Those were sort of my normal years compared to what came after.  Seriously, the real nuttiness was when I went down to London.  That’s a whole different soap opera of insanity there. Another story. God! That’s a whole other book…”   – ALAN HORNE Here’s hoping.

It’s not that long since I posted all of the Postcard singles on the blog, so today I’ll link in a few alternative takes, all inspired by the book:-

mp3 : Orange Juice – Felicity (flexi version)

(recorded April 1979 at an Edinburgh concert on a low-fi cassette by Malcolm Ross; made available on flexidisc with copies of Falling & Laughing as well as various fanzines)

mp3 : Josef K – Heaven Sent

(recorded for a Peel session in June 1981; given a posthumous release as a single in 1987 by which time Paul Haig had re-recorded it in a completely different style at the outset of his solo career. Oh and the tune is also near-identical to that of Turn Away as appears on the Orange Juice LP Rip It Up)

mp3 : Aztec Camera – We Could Send Letters (NME Version)

(different mix from the Postcard b-side; made available on C81, a mail order cassette from the NME)

mp3 : Go-Betweens – Your Turn, My Turn

(a song Grant and Robert offered to Postcard for release as a second single on the label but which was turned down flat by Alan Horne)

Enjoy.

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SINGLE (Part 84)

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Well it couldn’t be any of the Postcard singles as they were all featured a short time ago.  Instead, on this alphabetical trace through singles within my collection by Scottish bands, here’s something from 1984 for Part 84:-

mp3 : Orange Juice – Bridge
mp3 : Orange Juice – Bridge (Summer 83 version)
mp3 : Orange Juice – Out For The Count

As found on the 12″ of catalogue # OJ5, released on Polydor Records in February 1984.

This is one of THE great lost and forgotten Orange Juice singles.  Funky as fuck.

The b-sides contain a live version of the single (although I can’t find any details at all of where it was recorded and which precise date in the Summer of 83) while this tremendous version of Out for The Count has some terrific keyboard and guitar solos. A much more downbeat version would be re-recorded later on and included on the self-titled LP from later in the year.

Oh and the 7″ version of the single also had a flexidisc on offer:-

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mp3 : Orange Juice – Poor Old Soul

Almost unrecognisable from the Postcard version.  I can just imagine Pharrell Williams getting his hands on any of these tracks and turning them into huge hits……..

ENJOY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!