A GUEST SERIES
25 – Little Fluffy Clouds – The Orb (1990 Big Life Records )
Released as a single in November 1990 (Reached Number 87)
Re-Released in November 1993 (Reached Number 10)
Some of you will remember that this was the song that Badger played when he was given the all clear by the doctors after finding a rather worrying lump in his ballsack four or five years ago. Badger loved The Orb, they were his go to ‘2am music’ but he didn’t always see them that way.
Just over ten years ago, Tim Badger described The Orb as ‘pretentious beardy weirdy, plinky plonky, new age, tied dyed t-shirt wearing wankpuffins’. This was after a night out in Torquay when I’d stuck one of their albums on in the car on the way home. To be fair to Tim he’d been drinking Long Island Teas for the past hour and was in his words “so drunk that he was pissing tequila”. He then went on to wax lyrical about how making tracks that were 40 minutes long was just silly and that playing chess on Top of the Pops was neither big nor clever.
So I was surprised when about roughly six weeks after that momentous statement. I received a phone call from Tim asking me if I was doing anything next Wednesday night. He wanted to know whether or not I wanted to go and see The Orb in Ashburton. I raised an eyebrow. Twice.
The first eyebrow rise was to question why The Orb were playing in Ashburton on a Wednesday in November. I mean this is 2008 or 2009 and I know that The Orb’s stock has fallen but this is still quite a thing.
Ashburton for those in the dark is a small market town in South Devon, that’s sole purpose in life is to provide walkers with somewhere to park before rambling across Dartmoor; back then it had literally no good pubs at all. Nowadays, it is a little better, it does at least have an artisan bakery that does very good olive bread.
The answer it turns out was because a friend of the band had just purchased a bar in the town and the band had offered to play an opening night gig at the venue. Tim had through his contacts managed to grab a couple of tickets for opening night.
The second eyebrow rise was to remind Tim that roughly six weeks ago he called them ‘beardy weirdy plinky plonky wankpuffins’. This was met with “Is that a no?”
No, it’s a yes. I have to admit I was quite excited by the thought of seeing a secret Orb gig even if it was in Ashburton. Largely because they might play this
Because it’s an absolute banger.
Six days later we travelled down to Ashburton to the gig, our tickets clearly marked ‘Special Guests £12’ tucked inside our pockets safe and snug.
We arrive to find it full of tie dyed t-shirt wearing wankpuffins. As we walked through to the bar, Tim nudged me, pointed to a bloke with a beard that looked like a rose bush and said “told you, I bet the beer is organic and massively overpriced”.
The bar had two beers on tap, both of them organic, and cheap at £5 a pint. Oh, and the only snacks sold behind the bar was pretzels. Pretzels. In Ashburton. I’m going to briefly mention the toilets. Sorry. It’s not relevant to the story either, I just remember them vividly.
This is because there was a fish tank in the gents. I have no idea why. I’m told the ladies had pink plastic flamingos stuck to the wall.
Anyway, back to the gig. We stood and waited for about an hour, slowly sipping our organic beer (which tasted like pond water by the way) and munching on a solitary pretzel. It was ten pm when a bloke in a Levellers T-shirt jumped on stage and approached the mike.
I’ve never been a fan of compares at gig, you know what I mean, over enthusiastic chaps who jump on stage and encourage people to whoop and ‘give it up for…’ Well that happened.
Well sort of, Levellers man actually gave a speech. It turned this was the bar owner and he welcomed everyone to his pub. He said that this was his dream and that he wanted to put Ashburton on the musical map, this is met with cheers from the crowd, not all of them were sarcastic.
Five minutes later he finally introduced ‘tonights entertainment, the first of hopefully many lives acts to grace this stage’. Now, the word ‘hopefully’ stood out from this statement.
Then he paused…and said “We are so lucky to have got them before they go off on tour with The Orb, please clap wildly for…” Another pause…
And then he shouted “Dreadzone!!!!” so loudly that the floor shook. I turn and look at Badger who realising his mistake quickly looks at the floor, before telling me he was ‘going to the bar’.
It doesn’t matter as it happens because Dreadzone were excellent. They shuffled on to the stage, there was a couple of embraces with Levellers Man and then they burst into this
Fight The Power (1995, Virgin Records, Number 86)
And it was kind of brilliant. If brilliant is described as sixty or seventy predominantly white middle aged middle class blokes bopping up and down out of time to a throbbing bass and beats so deep and dubby that it makes you feel dirty.
The bar stayed open about a year. It’s a Chinese restaurant now. I’m told that System 7 played the opening night a few years back.