I prefer Orange Juice

Around thirty years ago, I was somehow watching Young Musician Of The Year, or something similar. The middle-aged presenter was interviewing a late-teenage violinist and he was marvelling at the fact that she liked “pop music” as well as classical, the former being exemplified by Orange Juice.

“Which one do you like best?”,

he asked. She replied, to his disappointment:

“I prefer Orange Juice”.

When I myself was a teenager, my musical development was a little slow. I didn’t really engage properly until 15 or so, and took a path from the more to the less obvious. This didn’t include anything like Orange Juice, though of course as I sucked the Indie Knowledge Canon, I came to know of them, though I felt Josef K cast a very long shadow over all the other Scottish stuff. My second memory of them was from a visit to Platt Fields for a free gig with Dub Sex, The Man From Del Monte and (the band I’d come to see) Happy Mondays, in 1986 or so. Possibly this one, or this one. The DJ played Rip It Up followed by Blue Monday, in the rain. (I think that was also when I bought my first fanzine – Whip Me and Go Moo).

Now, as a middle-aged person myself, I decided I wanted to see Edwyn Collins at this year’s Meltdown at the South Bank. It would be yet another gig where I wouldn’t know most of the songs, and I wondered about the audience composition. In the end, most of them were 5-10 years older than me, the prime age for the Postcard Records heyday in the early eighties. In the row behind me, a couple were fondling something they’d received from Jeff Bezos, before things started. The support act was Colorama, who all seemed like such well brought up young men. All but one perhaps, because a band member was at a loose end during one song and wandered over to the other side of the stage, playing horribly discordant notes on the keyboard, next to the singer, who couldn’t do anything about it. He clapped his hands and shook a tambourine, too. A dangerous character.

One of the group next to me asked the name of that band and (at the time) I had to say I didn’t know. She was determined, and discovered it from a mixing desk person. Apparently one of them was in “agony” because of a tennis injury, which was a shame because it was a

“really good rally as well”.

My neighbour on the other side, who only had a seat because I’d taken one of my original two back for a refund, wandered back during the interval, having ignored Colorama. He was tweeting away, to Edwyn Collins and others, Instagramming and – who knows – maybe Tindering as well.

It turned out that two of Colorama were part of Edwyn Collins’ band, who came on first. Collins had to be assisted across the stage and sat rather decorously on a monitor, with what looked like a small bottle of water at his side. There was a lectern at his side, in case he had trouble with the lyrics. His voice still has the fragile, resounding quality of old and as the gig progressed it seemed as though he was really enjoying it, particularly as he burst into fits of chuckles between songs. He gave us some insights, including that

“This one I stole from the Velvet Underground. Imagine that?”

and some reflections on the lyrics he wrote many years ago:

“Gets a bit dark at the end there, doesn’t it? Before the stroke I was mad”,

to which the singer from Colorama added:

“After it, you were really mental”.

The songs I did recognise included Rip It Up – an excellent version, even without the squelchy synth bass of the original – Felicity, Blue Boy and Falling and Laughing. My neighbour, while clearly a very keen fan, spent a lot of time taking photos and writing down his own set list and sending out posts. At various points people stood up and danced, which of course means the people behind them can’t see, causing a rippling of elevation. The first time this happened, the man on other side (part of the Tennis Group) was forced to stand up, which then blocked the view of his wife, who had for some reason joined her friend on the row behind, after trips to the toilet. When she stood up herself later on, she indicated her wishes to him, saying:

“Please don’t stand up.”

which felt pretty unpleasant to me.

Still, the remarkable thing was the warmth and joy of the evening, which even carried me along, when I wouldn’t call myself a proper Orange Juice fan. It felt like a celebration as much as a gig.


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