Orange Juice: The Glasgow School: Released – 2005

THE first time I interviewed Orange Juice was terrifying. I still bear the scars.

Facing Edwyn Collins, James Kirk, David McClymont and Steven Daly must rank as one of the most intimidating encounters of my career in music journalism.

The location was a dingy flat above a kebab shop in the West End of Glasgow.

Orange Juice were promoting their 1980 debut single, Falling And Laughing, on indie label, Postcard Records.

They wanted to talk. Or did they?

Guitarist Kirk and bass player McClymont barely said a word.

Singer Collins spoke on behalf of the band, his condescending brickbats expertly teed up by drummer Daly.

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They sniggered and sneered at all my questions, however relevant.

In their orbit, The Velvet Underground ruled supreme. Motown, Chic and Creedence Clearwater Revival pulsed on their radar.

Everything else was of no consequence whatsoever, and instantly dismissed.

Sitting in the corner, Alan Horne – Postcard’s self-styled supremo – looked on proudly as his charges made life uncomfortable for your rookie reporter.

I was getting a hard time from four posh boys, peeking out from beneath floppy fringes, who wore sandals.

I’ll say that again … sandals! I’d never previously even met anyone called Edwyn.

Despite the ordeal, I still succumbed to “The Sound of Young Scotland”, the Postcard slogan appropriated from Berry Gordy’s hit factory in Detroit.

It was impossible not to be swept up in the sheer adrenalin rush created by Falling And Laughing, and subsequent singles Simply Thrilled Honey and Poor Old Soul – all released within a frenetic 12-month period.

But the jewel in the crown was Blue Boy, their second release in August 1980.

The song’s accelerating intro is still eerily reminiscent of the theme from Bonanza, the US Western TV series.

Collins’ distinctive vocals sit astride jangling guitars, melodic bass and driving drums.

There was also a real edge to his lyrics.

Lines such as: “Oh curse and bless him with the gabardine which surrounds him/See him writhe at the sight of your eyes which repel him” … displayed an approach not yet prevalent on the Scottish music scene.

Blue Boy is 2:52 minutes of indie-pop genius, where not a single second is superfluous. The excitement of hearing it for the first time has not diminished 40 years on.

The rise of Orange Juice, while meteoric, was haphazard. On stage, they were often infuriating, beyond shambolic.

But when they got it right, they were thrilling.

A show at the Mayfair in Glasgow in 1980 – with The Fire Engines – has taken on an almost mythical status.

Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream named it as one of his six favourite gigs of all time saying:

“Bobby Bluebell did the sound. Every time Edwyn Collins took a solo, he turned his guitar up in the mix. It sounded like a Velvet Underground bootleg.”

Capturing their appeal on a full album was the next logical step.

On May 27 and 28, 1981, the band recorded 12 songs at The Hellfire Club in Glasgow.

The tiny studio, in the basement of a Glasgow tenement, was run by sound engineer, David Henderson.

“The space was two rooms, with just a window in between. Conditions were extremely basic …half of the basement was actually derelict,” recalled David

“Because the equipment we had was so limited, we couldn’t really do much in the way of overdubbing.

“But I remember the band being really well rehearsed for it. Which was very unlike them. We mixed the tracks the following day.”

Among the songs recorded were, Three Cheers For Our Side and Wan Light, written by Kirk.

Plus a string of tracks penned by Collins including In A Nutshell, Dying Day and Texas Fever.

Satellite City was inspired by the appearance of The Nu Sonics – their previous group – at a Glasgow disco of the same name in 1978.

HeraldScotland: The original press pack photo, with Edwyn Collins' signatureThe original press pack photo, with Edwyn Collins' signature

They’d shared a bill on a “punk rock night” with Simple Minds, who were making their live debut.

They also taped a spirited cover of Vic Godard’s, Holiday Hymn, a staple of their live set.

Several major London labels had shown an interest in signing the band.

But Horne decided on a finance deal with Rough Trade, with the album licensed via Polydor.

The band recorded You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever with producer Adam Kidron.

The album, released in February 1982, reached No 21 in the charts.

But while the 13-song collection accurately reflected the development of the band, something was missing. Their rough edges had been smoothed.

Felicity, an early Nu Sonics’ song, was a welcome addition.

But a re-recording of Falling And Laughing didn’t hold a candle to the original.

A cover of L.O.V.E. Love, by Memphis soul legend, Al Green, was ill advised.

The polished production, and use of session musicians, while well intentioned, was another step removed from the band’s core appeal.

“I felt the album was too slick and lifeless. It sounded nice, but didn’t have what we captured in The Hellfire Club,” said David.

“All that had disappeared along the way. It still had great versions of the songs, but the production style wasn’t great.

“In those days, major record companies would automatically think … if we throw a lot of money at this and get in a ‘name producer’, it’s going to turn out ten times as good. It doesn’t always work out that way. It had lost the rawness.”

Several months later, growing internal tensions within the band led to Kirk and Daly leaving.

They later formed their own group, the short-lived Memphis.

Collins and McClymont recruited Malcolm Ross, former guitarist with Postcard stable-mates,

Josef K, and drummer Zeke Manyika.

Their second album, Rip It Up, provided that long sought after hit single when the title track reached No. 8.

It was surely the ultimate irony that the song’s synthesised disco feel gave it a definite novelty value.

Again, it was a million miles removed from any of the Postcard singles.

A further two albums followed – Texas Fever and The Orange Juice – in 1984. The latter recorded only by Collins and Manyika, after Ross and McClymont had moved on.

Fans had to wait several years before the release of three compilation albums, which showcased the band’s true appeal.

Ostrich Churchyard in 1992, featured the Hellfire demos, plus selected Postcard tracks.

The message was clear when the sleeve design boldly stated: “Orange Juice – The debut L.P.”

The Heather’s On Fire, followed 12-months later, bringing together their first four singles, and radio sessions.

But in 2005, Domino Records released a superb 23-song compilation titled, The Glasgow School, which chronologically gathered all of the Postcard releases and demos together. It was voted “Reissue of the Year” by Uncut magazine.

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One reviewer said: “While, You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever is rightfully considered a classic in its own right, the material on The Glasgow School makes it sound pale by comparison.”

More than 40 years after the Hellfire Club closed its doors, David is of the same opinion.

He said: “At the time, I remember thinking … we’ve really captured something here. We’ve managed to get all their raw energy down on tape.

“Until the various compilations, nobody had heard these songs. But you could buy it on cassette down the Barras, so somebody must have bootlegged the demo.

“I think things started falling apart internally when they moved to London, which I don’t suppose helped in the studio.

“When I recorded them, there were no big fall-outs. They were quite a happy bunch.

“But something was definitely lost along the way between Glasgow and London.”

Music historians should seal The Glasgow School in a time capsule to give future generations a history lesson on how Collins, Kirk, McClymont and Daly helped change the face of indie-pop.

But, in the interests of accuracy, they should stick a new label on the CD sleeve saying:

“Orange Juice. Freshly squeezed. Not from concentrate.”

THE Billy Sloan Show is on BBC Radio Scotland every Saturday at 10pm.

'The Glasgow School is the very essence of Orange Juice'

DOUGLAS MacIntyre first encountered Orange Juice when they recorded Falling And Laughing, at Emblem Sounds, in Strathaven.

“Emblem was run by John McLarty, who was a tailor by trade, but whose hobby was recording country music bands,” he recalled.

“I was 16 and had been making a demo there with some school pals.

“John said: ‘I have these lovely boys working in the studio. I think their music would be right up your street’.

“I bought the single on his recommendation. It sounded fantastic.”

A few months later, Douglas heard me play Blue Boy, on my radio show.

“I bought the single immediately and went to see them at The Bungalow Bar in Paisley,” he said.

“The gig almost felt like it was Orange Juice ‘coming out’. I was just dying for something good to happen in Glasgow.

“Suddenly Orange Juice were in the NME. They, WERE that thing.”

In 1994, MacIntyre launched his own label, The Creeping Bent Organisation, inspired by Postcard and Fast Product in Edinburgh.

He has released more than 100 records by a range of acts, and is musical director of Port Sulphur, who feature ex-Orange Juice guitarist James Kirk, Vic Godard and Davy Henderson, of The Fire Engines.

“There was something between the original Orange Juice line-up which created a real magic,” he told me.

“Over the years, there has been a suggestion the band members didn’t get on. But sometimes that environment – where everyone is vying for position or has differing views – can create a real creative tension.

“So, who knows what made Orange Juice so amazing.”

MacIntyre – now Assistant Principal at Riverside Music College – reckons the band were so ambitious, signing to a major label was inevitable.

“I think they felt that with the Postcard singles they’d reached a peak. Poor Old Soul got to No. 80, which, the way record distribution was at that time is pretty amazing.

“They were selling a lot of singles, but if they’d done that in chart return shops they’d have been in the Top 40.

“Those singles are the very essence of Orange Juice. Whereas, while the songs on the first album were good, the production felt poor.

“If they’d gone into a studio with somebody like Alex Chilton, capturing the sound they had on Postcard, that would have been perfect.

“So, I definitely think The Glasgow School is the very essence of Orange Juice.”