You know me, I’m acting dumb
You know the scene, very humdrum
Boredom, boredom

Howard Devoto & Pete Shelley: Boredom

You know me, I’m acting dumb-dumb
You know this scene is very humdrum
And my favorite song’s entitled ‘Boredom

Edwyn Collins: Rip It Up

Polydor Orange Juice didn’t match Postcard Orange Juice for me. Not because I’m any kind of indie snob, but with the departure of James Kirk and Steven Daly, some of their early magic was clearly lost. I still liked them but no longer did I L.O.V.E… Love them.

The last time I saw the band live was when they played Glasgow’s Mayfair late in 1982 with the Switchblade Sisters in support. This was in the wake of the release of I Can’t Help Myself, a single that sounded like a hit to me but which stalled at #42. Some copies of their second album Rip It Up included a sticker that proclaimed: ‘Featuring the hit single I Can’t Help Myself‘, but hits in Britain back then were generally thought to be ones that made the top 40. Close, but nae cigar.

Now based in London and on a major label whose acts included everyone from Level 42 and James Last, Orange Juice’s profile remained high but despite Edwyn previously declaring to local fanzine Stand And Deliver that in Glasgow they had ‘no competition’, his band’s success had been completely outstripped commercially by two of their former Glaswegian contemporaries.

As they played the Mayfair, letting fans pay in at the door, Simple Minds – who Edwyn liked to dismiss as ‘poser neds’ – were announcing a second date at nearby Tiffany’s due to ‘phenomenal demand’ while Altered Images, who may have once have considered signing to Postcard (depending which band member you listen to) had, like Simple Minds, established themselves as chart regulars. Happy Birthday peaked 40 places above I Can’t Help Myself.

That was it, I reckoned. Collins’ band were never going to make the big chart breakthrough, but I hadn’t yet heard Rip It Up, which would be the second single taken from the album. With its irresistibly zingy guitar riff and squelchy Roland TB-303 synth bassline, this track was immediately embraced by the kind of pop audience who were more Howard Jones than Howard Devoto and wouldn’t get Edwyn’s Buzzcocks homage.* The ‘sophisticated amateurism’ of Rip It Up finally propelled the underachievers into the top ten and onto Top of the Pops.

March 1983 saw them perform twice on that show as the song made its way up the charts. By the time of their second appearance a fortnight after the first they were poised at #9. I didn’t see this at the time due to work shifts and a growing disinterest in TOTP but I have now watched some highlights of the whole show on YouTube and Orange Juice did put in one of the more memorable performances in the programme’s history.

Edwyn, the man in black with the black Burns Nu-Sonic, looks fresh-faced and happily making the transition from NME to Smash Hits. David McClymont, on the other hand looks like he’s just emerged from Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell, apparently as a result of far too much of the lethal combination of amphetamine sulphate and whisky. Many of us have been there – hey, I was trashed myself that night at the Mayfair and remember nothing about it – but few have managed to ever appear so utterly blootered on national television.

Luckily only miming was required although that even mostly proved an impossibility for David.

Apparently McClymont’s shenanigans earned Orange Juice a reprimand from their Polydor paymasters and a ban from Britain’s biggest pop show but on the bright side the single rose again when the UK charts were next announced. It was, though, leapfrogged by the latest Altered Images single, Don’t Talk To Me About Love.

This was the lead single from their third album Bite, my copy coming in the form of a cassette tape earned by handing out leaflets advertising a record shop in the south coast of England for an hour or so (I had moved south of the border again since the Mayfair show). Not the most financially remunerative work I’ve ever undertaken but an easy enough way to get my hands on what seemed like free music, a not so common concept back in the age of the Walkman.

The LP cover, incidentally, was later voted 18th ‘best dressed sleeve’ by NME readers in their annual poll. I’m a big fan of the art deco font myself and its placement and definitely no complaints about the image either. The young woman voted 5th ‘best dressed female’ in that same poll didn’t scrub up too badly during the photoshoot.

Half of Bite had been recorded by Tony Visconti, half by Mike Chapman. Visconti, of course, established his reputation by working with the likes of David Bowie, Marc Bolan, Iggy Pop and Sparks, Chapman had been half of the Chinnichap brand along with Nicky Chinn. In the 1970s, they worked with Mud, Smokie and Racey. So it might have surprised many that the ultra slick, Don’t Talk To Me About Love was produced not by Visconti but by Chapman, although to be fair he had more recently (without Chinn) worked with Blondie on hits like Heart of Glass and Rapture, which explains the disco sheen of that synth pulse. Few songs sounded better on the dancefloor that year.

Finally, if you’re wondering about the image (x2) at the top of the post, it’s one of a series of songs reimagined as British kitchen sink films of the early 1960s by Mark Reynolds and a print of it is available to buy here.

*According to Edwyn, even producer Martin Hayles didn’t understand the reference.