Orange Juice ‘Rip It Up’

The excellent Edwyn Collins explains how Buzzcocks, new-fangled bass synths and music press tittle-tattle shaped Orange Juice’s TB-303 trailblazer, ‘Rip It Up’

“We recorded ‘Rip It Up’ at Berwick Street Studios in London during the album sessions in 1982. It was Malcolm Ross on guitar, David McClymont on bass, Zeke Manyika on drums – and me on guitar. We were all excited to start the record. We were in Soho, Berwick Street Market was outside. Every day I loved getting into the studio. This was the happy time, before the problems developed!

“The title ‘Rip It Up’, just came out. It was an old song title from Eddie Cochran and I really admired him, because he did everything: he was a producer, he was an inventor and he died when he was 21, for goodness sake. The other line that always sticks with people is ‘I hope to God you’re not as dumb as you make out’ from the chorus. I wrote it about a girl, I suppose… ‘Sultry in the rain…’, I was a romantic – overly romantic, if anything. 

“I knew I wanted to use the Roland TB-303 for the bassline. It was a new thing at that point. I discovered it in Sound On Sound magazine, so I’d heard of it before, and then I saw one in a shop on Denmark Street. It was quite cheap at the time – I think it was £150. It had just arrived. There was no acid house back then, this was 1982, then in 1988 acid house started and adopted the 303. But I was just experimenting a lot then. I was young and I was excited by all of that.

“Martin Hayles, the producer, helped me programme it as he could understand these things. I told him what I wanted and sang the line and he programmed it. I wasn’t particularly tech-y at that point – I certainly wasn’t a studio boffin. Although when we did the track ‘Barbecue’, we used the 303 again and I programmed it myself. So there was that Roland bassline and then, for the rhythm guitar, I ripped off Chic and Nile Rodgers and did it with a Burns Nu-Sonic guitar.

“Over your career you go in and out of favour, but when the ‘Rip It Up’ album came out, I remember the review in NME and it got a right slagging off. I was so furious. I was flouncing about, refusing to get on the tour bus, which shows what a complete idiot I was at the time. It was really sad, but you lived and died by the music papers those days. 

“These days, it’s very difficult to get across the relationship we had with the music press back in the 80s. You just devoured it every week, even if it was just to see what your rivals were up to. There was no collegiate vibe. Everybody hated everybody and you took almost as much pleasure at another band’s failings as your own success. It was competitive at the time. Nastiness for nastiness’ sake… especially me!

“Then there was our label. After the first album, ‘You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever’, Polydor said, ‘You must have a hit’ and I ignored them. It was like, ‘Where do you think you find these hits? Under stones?’. But I was, in a way, quite desperate to get one, privately. Back then, if you’d seen ‘Top Of The Pops’ you couldn’t figure out why it was so hard to have a hit. It was pretty dreadful a lot of it, so it was frustrating. Then I had a hit. ‘Rip It Up’ reached Number Eight and hung around for a long time. 

“I remember from 1984 to about 1989 I wouldn’t play it live. It wasn’t until about 1989 that Grace, my wife, said, ‘For goodness sake… why?’ I said, ‘You don’t play your hit until you have another hit!’. Grace said, ‘What kind of a stupid rule is that!? Who made that up?’. ’Me!’. It’s ridiculous when you think about it!

“The other little thread that’s come back recently is that the photography for my latest record, ‘Badbea’, was taken by a guy called John Maher, who was the drummer in Buzzcocks. He lives out in Harris, in the Outer Hebrides, and he’s a brilliant photographer. We bumped into him at Inverness airport one day and we got talking. I always loved Buzzcocks and ‘Rip It Up’ had that line, ‘My favourite song’s entitled Boredom’. John Maher said, ‘We always loved that!’. So in among all the Chic and Eddie Cochran, there’s Buzzcocks, you know? My music was always tributes to all the songs I loved. I wore my heart on my sleeve.”

“Orange Juice was quite short-lived, fights just developed. But since ‘Hope And Despair’, my first solo album in 1989, there have been no fights. I’ve worked on albums with people like Dennis Bovell on bass, on album after album, and I’ve never fought with them. Going solo is marvellous!

“The phrase ‘rip it up’ really seems to have caught on and everybody uses it as a headline for everything. There was an exhibition in Edinburgh last year about the history of Scottish pop, it was just a big grab-bag of everything – and they called that ‘Rip It Up’, not that we even took part!

‘Badbea’ is out on AED. With thanks to Grace for her help with this interview

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