by / March 20th, 2009 /

My Roots Are Showing – Orange Juice

When I first heard them something stirred within me. It was a typically dire Scottish summer’s evening in 1981, and I was sitting alone in my dad’s car, as many of us did during the golden age of CB radio. Sadly, my schoolmates, Pioneer and Velocity Girl, weren’t available to chat on channel 14, so I switched to Radio Clyde for musical solace; in such moments, lives are changed. The first song I heard was Poor Old Soul (Part One) by Orange Juice; 2 minutes of rollicking, funky guitar pop that the DJ announced proudly to be Glaswegian in origin. I just had to own it; only, in a seaside town with only The Woolworth’s That Time Forgot for vinyl indulgence, getting my mitts on it had to wait a few years.

Still, Orange Juice were a fresh breath of pure-pop air, not only to someone keen to escape the trappings of teenybop hell, but to the whole Scots music scene and beyond. Signed to would-be svengali Alan Horne’s label, Postcard (The Sound Of Young Scotland, also home to Aztec Camera, Josef K and The Go-Betweens), Orange Juice were four young lads with raccoon hats, checked shirts and hearts full of soul. They were led by Edwyn Collins, the Scottish Cole Porter, a man whose iconic hairstyles and witty, ironic, self-deprecating lyrics about doomed romances would inspire devotion amongst an army of young men – preceding the ‘Morrissey effect’ by some three years.

Orange Juice’s four, utterly treasurable, Postcard singles, Falling And Laughing, Blue Boy, Simply Thrilled Honey and Poor Old Soul sounded like nothing else around: scratchy punk with soulful vocals and disco basslines; they were all in the garage but looking at the stars. Orange Juice signed to Polydor and in February 1982 released ‘You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever’, quite the most beautifully ramshackle, lovingly assembled collection of genius pop songs ever released as a debut album, anywhere in the world. Well, in this writer’s humble opinion, anyway. The problem was, the world wasn’t really listening.

OJ may have had a modicum of chart success in 1983 with the seminal Rip It Up, but nowadays Edwyn Collins is only widely known for his 1995 solo smash, A Girl Like You. It’s a huge pity. In 2005, Domino released The Glasgow School, a beautifully-packaged compilation of every brilliant thing Orange Juice ever did for the Postcard label; it’s a timely reminder to all about why me, The Wedding Present, Franz Ferdinand, Belle And Sebastian and even His Purpleness, Prince are eternally grateful for those wet, lovelorn, early -80s Scottish summers.