It is to my eternal shame that I haven’t really featured The Orchids all that much on the blog.  As this bio demonstrates, they have much in common with musicians in whom I store a great deal:-

Acclaimed Glasgow band The Orchids recorded for cult independent label Sarah Records. Formed in 1987, this prolific yet overlooked five-piece recorded a string of singles as well as three excellent albums, Lyceum (1989), Unholy Soul (1991) and Striving For the Lazy Perfection (1994). Often compared to similarly cerebral pop operators such as Felt, Aztec Camera and Primal Scream, the band split in 1995 at the height of their powers. Most of their records were produced by Ian Carmichael of One Dove.

The band reformed in 2004, and have since released three more albums: Good to be a Stranger (2007), The Lost Star (2010) and Beatitude#9 (2014).

The band passed me by, entirely, back in the 90s. I can offer no explanation other than the first two albums coinciding with a turbulent period in my life and then feeling very old (at the age of 26/27) as the ‘kids’ lost their minds over Sarah Records and the new sound of indie-pop. I do now own all three of those albums, courtesy of them being reissued many years later on CD, complete with a plethora of bonus tracks of singles, b-sides and demo versions. There’s plenty of material to come up with at least two quality ICAs but I’ve just found the task to be beyond me, mainly as I feel something of a fraud having not invested, financially or emotionally, in the band back in the days. For now, here, picked at random, is one of the singles:-

mp3: The Orchids – Something For The Longing

Released with the catalogue number SARAH 29 back in 1990



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… 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.



The fact that I have the long-running Saturday series focusing exclusively on music from Scottish singers or bands means I often neglect to feature some decent stuff in the midweek slots.

For instance, back in October 2013, I mentioned the fact that I had VERY belatedly discovered The Orchids some 25 years after they were at their peak and releasing all sorts of great songs on Sarah Records; it had always been my intention to follow-up that particular post with some more from the band but I never seemed to get round to it.

But here’s an effort to rectify that by showcasing the three songs that made up SARAH 23, a three-song EP from September 1989.

mp3 : The Orchids – What Will We Do Next?
mp3 : The Orchids – As Time Goes By
mp3 : The Orchids – Yawn

These really are three very fine slabs of music. Obviously had no chance of finding a big audience with the youth of the day immersed in and obsessed with baggy/Madchester. The first two tracks are along the lines of what you’d expect with As Time Goes By in particular feeling as if it would still get folk up on the indie-disco/twee dance floor. But the third is much more experimental and nature and not remotely anything you’d expect to find on the label the band were attached too. It’s also a mind-boggling seven and a bit minutes in length….which is longer than a number of four-track EPs that were being issued by a number of their contemporaries.




The front and back of the three-track 7″ debut single for Sarah Records by The Orchids.  Worth well over £100 if you’ve still got a half-decent copy.  Released in January 1988 and has the catalogue number of SARAH 2.

Being lazy, let me just lift from wiki:-

The Orchids are a Scottish band that achieved success with Sarah Records. Formed near Glasgow in 1986, the Orchids released a series of underground singles on the influential Sarah Records . The group’s line-up comprised James Hackett (vocals), John Scally (guitar), Chris Quinn (drums), Matthew Drummond (guitar) and James Moody (bass). Their producer, Ian Carmichael, often played keyboards on their records. The group split up in 1995, playing their final gig at the Sarah Records farewell party.

The Orchids were musically one of the most interesting Sarah bands and certainly developed far more on that label than any band except, perhaps, The Field Mice. Starting with a fairly conventional melancholy guitar pop sound on Lyceum and contemporaneous singles, they moved on to become more keyboard and sample/effects-based for their second and third albums, Unholy Soul and Striving For the Lazy Perfection, developing a more electronic sound, possibly as a result of their producer, Ian Carmichael, who was a member of dance band One Dove.

Their entire back catalogue was re-released on CD on LTM in 2005. The band had already reformed in 2004 with new bassist Ronnie Borland, and released their fourth album Good to Be a Stranger in February 2007. The album was issued on Madrid based label Siesta, with the band playing live gigs for the first time in twelve years. In 2010 the group released a fifth album, The Lost Star through Pebble Records, mixed by a returning Ian Carmichael.

A few friends over the years had mentioned The Orchids to me, but having completely missed out on them in their day, and not willing to pay the really silly money that come with any material released on Sarah Records, I never chased things up. A while back tough I stumbled across a posting about them elsewhere and that’s when I found out about the re-releases on LTM so I promptly sent off for all three of the LPs.

The great thing is that they also include the very hard to find 45s that weren’t ever made available on the original LPs meaning I’ve had almost 60 songs to learn and love.  Not surprisingly I suppose, I’m finding myself much more attracted to the earlier material – the stuff described as having a fairly conventional melancholy guitar pop sound, and have certainly fallen for the charms of SARAH2:-

mp3 : The Orchids – I’ve Got A Habit

mp3 : The Orchids – Give Me Some Peppermint Freedom

mp3 : The Orchids – Apologies

Great mention of Irn Bru in the lyric of the lead track…….

All of this leads me to announce that as of tomorrow, the Saturday Scottish single returns, with more re-posts from the old blog until I catch up with things again later this year