Of all of the albums of 1982 that we've chosen to re-examine, 'You Can't Hide Your Love Forever' is likely to be the one that will have the least fanfare, no heavyweight vinyl reissues, no celebratory tours, no in-depth features in monthly magazines or accompanying 33 1/3 edition books, no devotional threads on Twitter. And there's just something so very wrong about that.
To understand Orange Juice, it's worth looking at the record label that first released their music: Postcard Records was one of those brief but brilliant independent record labels of the early 1980s, up there alongside the eccentric brilliance of Liverpool's Zoo Records (Echo & the Bunnymen and The Teardrop Explodes). Labels that acted as cultural communiqués for music scenes' in faraway cities.
Like their contemporaries, Postcard was a labour of love driven by an ambition that far exceeded any conventional business sense. And, in the case of Postcard, what could be more maverick, more DIY, than a business launched from a tiny flat (allegedly working out of a sock drawer), in Glasgow by two idealistic young men with just a few hundred quid to their name. Those two young men by the way were Alan Horne and Edwyn Collins, the lead singer of Orange Juice.
Although the label would also introduce the wunderkind Roddy Frame and Aztec Camera and the artier Josef K to the world, it's Orange Juice whose oft-kilter blend of pop, punk, disco and soul that would be synonymous with the label. In 1980 the vibrant joy of 'Falling and Laughing' was both the band's and the label's debut release. The ramshackle blend of The Byrd's and Velvet Underground guitar sound (that had yet to be branded as 'jangly'), felt so fresh. That style, rhythm guitars played at double speed to the drumbeat, pitted guitarist James Kirk and Collins with Steve Daly on drums. David McClymont added bass. And then there was Collins crooning pastiche, eloquent romantic lyrics, and droll delivery. Sometimes charming, sometimes scathing, often laugh-out-loud highly amusing.
What Orange Juice understood was that, after the sternness of post-punk, the band needed to create something that represented, according to Davy, a 'turning away from the dark side' (and what could be brighter and more anti-rockist than being named after a non-alcoholic fruit drink?). And so the band was unapologetically quirky, their playful onstage dress sense (Davy Crockett hats, plastic sandals and Boy Scout shorts), as well as Collins love of the VU's '1969 Live' album, there was also a huge fondness for Chic to be found in their sound. Audiences did not know what to make of them and would often express that confusion in a loud and unrepeatable fashion...
Despite an early adoration by the more influential writers at the NME and Sounds, Orange Juice failed to get much on-air support (John Peel felt obliged to play 'Falling and Laughing' just once after he'd had a less than convivial encounter with Alan Horne). Although there was a handful of well-received singles on Postcard, there was a sense that the wider pop world was moving ahead without them and, worst still, that others were making chart-friendly versions of their sound. As part of their rethink, Orange Juice signed to Polydor and got Rough Trade to fund the recording of their debut album proper: 'You Can't Hide Your Love Forever'. In doing so, the independent music purists were irked, and more was to come...
'You Can't Hide Your Love Forever' would bring together re-recordings of the aforementioned 'Falling and Laughing', and the glorious whimsy of 'Wan Light' (written and sung by Kirk). This brought accusations that they now sounded 'too polished', which feels undeserved. Compare those two versions of 'Falling and Laughing'...and be honest, doesn't the latter just sound far more competent than the former?
The album introduced newer songs (the romantic 'Dying Day', the biting but beautiful 'In a Nutshell' ). It was clear that the combination of funk guitar and horns, especially songs like 'Satellite City' had been borrowed by the ever grinning and Aran sweater-clad Haircut 100 on their jaunty debut 'Pelican West'. Furthermore (and this is the one that irks me the most), it's difficult to listen to lines like: 'I wore my fringe like Roger McGuinn's/ I was hoping to impress/ So frightfully camp, it made you laugh/ Tomorrow I'll buy myself a dress/ How ludicrous' on the magnificent 'Consolation Prize' and not think that its witticism in the face of romantic rejection is far more endearing than the version that would emerge out of Manchester a year or so later.
The triumphant moment on 'You Can't Hide Your Love Forever' is the brisk and effervescent 'Felicity' (another Kirk composition), which would later give The Wedding Present both their first great cover version and a template for their early sound. It is also is the only song I'm aware of that could pay homage to Ken Dodd's 'Happiness' and be sincere in doing so. It's a shame that after Kirk left the band later that year, the song soon disappeared from the live set.
'You Can't Hide Your Love Forever' reached an unassuming number 21 and the lineup that recorded it soon splintered. It is a record that not only should have been greeted as a fabulous collection of songs but as one of the great transitions from post-punk to (as Paul Morley named it) 'new pop'. It should have sat neatly alongside 'Dare', 'Sulk', 'Kilimanjaro', 'Penthouse and Pavement', and 'The Lexicon of Love' in the list of records by idiosyncratic artists that mischievously snuck into the mainstream. Its re-evaluation is long overdue.
Edwyn Collins 2007 Happy Shopper interview in Outsideleft, here
Jay Lewis is a Birmingham based music, movie and arts obsessive. Jay's encyclopedic knowledge of 80s/90s Arts films is a debt to his embedded status in the Triangle Arts Centre trenches back then.
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