Every week when I sit down to write this column in my office, one of my prize possessions is hanging on the wall over my left shoulder – a framed NME magazine cover from 1981, autographed by Edwyn Collins, the lead singer of Scottish group Orange Juice. One of my other prize possessions is sitting in the ‘O’ section of a box of 7″ singles not far away. That would be “Blueboy,” the third single release by the very same Orange Juice, Postcard Records 80-2. Actually, I have two copies of the 7″ sitting in the box. To explain the impact that single had on my life to this point cannot be measured. To a large degree, it is the reason why I am sitting here and writing this column here today, and precipitated the journey in music that has led to this point.
We all have those epochal moments where music changed our lives. To many in recent generations it may have been “Smells like Teen Spirit”. To older folk it was more than likely The Beatles. For another group of people, it was late 70′s punk rock, something that indeed touched my life. But it was this Orange Juice single that really changed mine. It all started one early Sunday morning, listening to the local public radio station. And “Blueboy” came on. I’m not sure what it was, or why it happened, but that two minutes and 52 seconds grabbed my attention, and I never looked back. Sure I had bought records before, some of them even vaguely alternative, and I had been a fan of more than one group to that point. But that Orange Juice song, with its barreling rhythm guitar introduction and the slightly off key vocals, made me an instant devotee. And it was a trigger to a world of other music. Writers compared Edwyn & co. to the Velvet Underground, and so I set out to investigate Lou and John and Sterling and Mo. A snapshot of a lyric (“I wore my fringe like Roger McGuinn”) meant I was on the hunt for The Byrds. Subway Sect, Wire, The Modern Lovers, The Go-Betweens, The Triffids – the paths to new music were numerous. I collected more Postcard Records, and the Aztec Camera singles led me to Love and other gems from late 60′s LA. Al Green, Chic… the list goes on. And of course Orange Juice became the first band who’s records I obsessively collected – 7″, flexidiscs, 10″, 12″ with alternate versions, I had to have them all. A set of vinyl, incidentally, which has followed me around the world.
But it didn’t just stop there. The Postcard label was the inspiration for me to be involved in music – I started on public radio (yes the same station mentioned above), began helping out musicians, started my own label, and ended up moving across the world to release music and sign bands. When I started a record label, my guiding light was Postcard – that’s what I wanted to emulate. Later on I was privileged to release an EP of Postcard Records tracks, including an Orange Juice song – probably my most thrilling moment as a label owner. Though it wasnt just me. Talk to Creation founder Alan McGee, and he’ll wax lyrical in the same way about the influence of Postcard, and how it was the germination for his forays into music too – so without that Scottish label maybe we wouldn’t have had Oasis and My Bloody Valentine. The list of other labels influenced in the same way is endless- Heavenly, Sarah, Slumberland… And there is no doubting that Orange Juice opened up a world of Scottish music at the same time. If there was no Orange Juice, maybe there would be no Jesus & Mary Chain, no Primal Scream, no Teenage Fanclub. And more than one contemporary group, Franz Ferdinand and Belle and Sebastian being just a sampling, have gone on the record citing the lasting influence of the Glasgow four piece led by Edwyn Collins.
And so why I am writing this today? Well, for one thing to revel in the glory of music, and the profound lasting impact it can have on our lives. That is what some people in the biz sometimes forget. It IS about the music. And how much it can mean to people. You never know when that one song – albeit on radio or some crackly old LP or an MP3 – will suddenly grab someone’s life and launch them on a journey just like mine. It is magical.
I’m also writing this because on Monday Domino Records released Coals to Newcastle – a lovingly curated and expansive box set of all Orange Juice’s recordings. 6 CDs and 1 DVD of the finest in Glasgow post-punk. All the albums are there, from the sparkling debut You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever to the final force majeure, The Orange Juice, remastered and ready to be discovered, or rediscovered. Do you believe in magic? Because this collection is full to the brim with it. And “Blueboy”? Indeed, that’s in there too. What more can I say? Buy it. I will be.
-Cool Hand Luke