Lovelorn, naive and vibrant, these foppish lads from the middle-class Glasgow suburb of Bearsden fashioned post-Byrds jangle and skinny white soul into their own nervy, lo-fi brand of romantic pop, paving the way for The Smiths, Belle & Sebastian and Teenage Fanclub.
Orange Juice heralded the demise of post-punk, proposing a life-affirming mindset in which ‘pop’ wasn’t a dirty word and it was cool to sing love songs. As much as they worshipped Lou Reed and his Gretsch guitar, there was no room for heroin or methedrine in their world; they barely even touched alcohol.
Edwyn Collins wore plastic sandals and a Davy Crockett hat. Guitarist and co-singer James Kirk sported a Barbour wax jacket. Bassist David McClymont’s trousers and hair appeared to date from the Spanish Civil War, and drummer Steven Daly looked like the neat, bookish civil servant he was. It was a rebellion against rock’s macho wardrobe, and it wound their rivals up a treat.
What Orange Juice had over the majority of Glasgow bands was their record label buddy Alan Horne. 50% neurotic weirdo and 50% genius pop aesthetician (0% business strategist) he had founded Postcard Records to release Orange Juice’s Falling and Laughing (1980). Crushed by his latest crush, the humiliated and heartbroken Edwyn Collins concludes: “What can I do but learn to laugh at myself?”
The American sound of the single inaugurated a whole tradition of Scottish outfits, from Lloyd Cole & The Commotions to Teenage Fanclub, who looked admiringly across the Atlantic – their gaze, ironically, often falling on Anglophiles like Big Star.
Suddenly – thanks to bravura notices in the press – Orange Juice were a hip item.
Simply Thrilled Honey (1980) was gorgeously fey and wondrously eccentric in structure, climbing a hill at the end just to rush down in a breathless tumble, while the fourth single, Poor Old Soul (1981), reverted to the disco-punk of Falling and Laughing – all flustered rhythm guitar and a walking bass line. But it was far better produced.
This was Orange Juice’s most concerted attempt at a mainstream hit, but while it topped the independent chart effortlessly it stopped short at number 80 in the “real” chart.
The group’s sound was still too ramshackle for mainstream radio, and Postcard lacked the muscle to get the hits Alan Horne craved.
With album tracks already in the can, Orange Juice Mk I were already falling apart anyway; Attention had made Horne insufferable. Collins wanted commercial success. Daly did too, but the band would oust him anyway.
Kirk resisted a switch to Polydor and sabotaged an A&R-attended show by turning up in an undertaker’s coat and playing without his guitar plugged in. But Orange Juice did sign to Polydor and released the album You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever (1982).
Immediately Daly and Kirk were gone and Collins’ brief chart pop moment beckoned, while the volatile Horner released great records by Aztec Camera before securing a cadet label – Swamplands – with Polygram.
Guitar, vocals, keyboards