Tuesday, 1 April 2008

The Orgone Box



In 1994 there appeared a single by an English band Orange on the Chrysalis label called Judy Over The Rainbow. The song is a brilliant slab of psychedelic power pop with hooks to die for and
is rightly rated by a surprising number of people as a stone cold classic. But that was it, one sunburst of a single and then the band disappeared without a trace, leaving behind just a three-song legacy. Over the years the legend of Orange grew and all agreed, if only the band had made an album then said release would have surely rated as one of the finest of the decade. Bill Forsyth of Minus Zero fame, known as the Sam Spade of pop for tracking down and releasing the lovely and totally obscure up to then. L.A. band Skooshny for our listening pleasure, had long been an Orange fan. He once more turned Pop detective to try and track down the band to find out if there was more. But this time he drew a complete blank. The only thing he had was a name gleaned from the song writing credits of the single, Rick Corcoran. And so it remained until a couple of years ago when David Gray lead singer of the fabulous Idlewilds visited his shop. Bill mentioned Orange to him and David not only knew the single, he also had a tape of demos by the band before Orange, The Green Tambourines. The year after that he tracked down a tape of Orange tracks recorded at Abbey road.The need to track down the enigmatic Mr. Corcoran and see if a release of this material was possible became even more critical and yet he remained elusive to any amount of searching. Then, as the way of such things, happenstance took its turn. Six months ago the journalist Jennifer Nine came into his shop with a CDR of the forthcoming release by General Store. The General Store album is a delightful, early seventies feeling, country pastiche and the man behind it was one Tam Johnstone from Sussex. Jennifer also played Bill something that Tam had drummed on. The band was called The Orgone Box and within seconds he remarked that they sounded remarkably like this band he knew called Orange. Tam Johnstone it turned out had been the drummer in The Green Tambourines and The Orgone Box was in fact one Rick Corcoran!
By the next day Bill and Rick, now based in Bournemouth were deep in phone conversation. The Orgone Box was an album that had had a very limited release in Japan only and once heard, it was apparent that this was the album we had all dreamed the Orange would have been. Glorious pulsing psych-drenched power pop of the highest order, lyrically intelligent and driven by joyous energy and majestic melodies with more hooks than a lifetime subscription of Anglers Weekly. Rick obviously loves what he's doing and it shows in spades. With the Minus Zero release of The OrgoneBox now finally upon us it's time to talk to Mr Corcoran and finally after all these years find out the untold story of all things Orange.



So how did you first get into music?
My brother taught me how to play a few chords on the guitar and piano when I was about fourteen and I sort of taught myself from then on by playing along to records. When I joined my first band I was sixteen and working in a nightclub in Sheffield. There was a band with a silly name rehearsing in the afternoons and I used to get up and jam with them after I'd swept the broken teeth and pigs trotters off th efloor Anyway that was my first band. Growing up I got a cross section of influences. My dad was a Beatles fan, Frank Sinatra too. My mom listened to Rodgers and Hammerstein, and my brother was into Be-Bop Deluxe and prog rock in a big way so there was always a lot of that stuff being played around the house. My thing was always guitar pop more than anything – first The Beatles, then Sweet and stuff on Top of the Pops, then Punk and bands like Cheap Trick and The La's. Nowadays if I'm honest I download my favourites off the Internet, stuff like I'm Mandy Fly Me, You're So Vain, Silver Star by the Four Seasons and Guitar Man by Bread. Apart from obvious stuff like The Beatles and The Beach Boys I've always been into one-off tracks and hits more than any one band and I still am.

So how did you start making your own music?
When I first moved to London, I joined a band called Sugarbush who were a sort of Replacements/Tom Petty-ish type band. We gigged around Richmond and Fulham for about six months and then I took off with the drummer and the bass player and formed the Green Tambourines. The Tambourines were the first good band I'd been in but maybe we were a bit out of time. I mean we were playing guitar pop while your Jesus Jones and Acid House were happening! As far as I knew an E was a major chord. Island Records put us in the studio with Wreckless Eric producing but they wanted us to be Nirvana so that didn't work. We also had a daft manager who played jazz on his answerphone and didn't know anyone, so you can tell how organised we were. Anyway we did some memorable gigs around London but we split up after about 18 months. I'm still in contact with two of the guys from the Tambourines, in fact the drummer Tam Johnstone played drums on the Orgone Box and the bass player Tim McTighe did the orchestral arrangement on the track Find The One.



So this was when Orange came about?
Orange came together quite quickly after that. I was playing guitar for a band at the Midem festival in France and I gave one of my demos to their manager He offered me some studio time, but only if I had a band, which I didn't. So Orange was formed by picking the first three guys I came across - not a good move. We signed with Chrysalis by making them think we'd been together for ages but actually I didn't know the band from Adam and they didn't know me. The demos that got us signed were all my work, I'd done them at home but the record company couldn't tell - as a band we didn't sound anything like them. When I. heard the recordings we did at Abbey Road they could have been different songs. It was a joke, but it was my fault because I'd roped them into it. The first thing we did after signing for Chrysalis was the single Judy Over The Rainbow. As far as I can remember I had a good time making it because the producer Dave Eringa, was a really funny bloke and the song went down really easy. The response from the radio was good too – loads of plays on Radcliffe and Independent stations. Everybody at the gigs knew the song, which was great because it was the first time anything like that had happened for me. I think, if we'd been a cooler band it would have been a hit. Nowadays I prefer the 4-track demo version that I wrote and recorded while I was with the Green Tambourines and which is also on the Orgone Box album. I like the arrangement on the Orange version but it's played too fast and sounds a bit hectic to me, which incidentally sums Orange up. I relate more to the slower spaced out feel of the original, it rolls along as opposed to jumping, if you know what I mean, and it's less gimmicky. Orange recorded loads of my songs for Chrysalis but none of them ever got released. Because we never got on as a group of people we never really hit it off as a band. I think the bad feeling started right at the beginning when I got rid of the first drummer and another guitarist who happened to be mates with the rest of 'em. I don't think they ever forgave me for that, but there you go. Although I don't particularly enjoy being hated, that on it's own didn't bother me. It was the laziness and playing crap that I couldn't work with. They were always late for gigs, which is fine if you play great and look great but they didn't – songs were always breaking down. In the end we went into Chipping Norton studio with Gus Dudgeon, to re-record an album we'd fucked up at Rockfield. But the band just couldn't get their parts together. The guitarist couldn't think of anything to play and the drummer just gave up and asked if we could use a drum machine! I found it all a bit embarrassing in front of a guy like Gus – I mean he did Space Oddity and Rocket Man for godsake!
After three days work they went home for the weekend and never came back. I haven't seen them since. It was all my fault because I roped them into it. I ended up finishing the album with Gus but it never came out because Chrysalis dropped the whole project anyway. Funnily enough that was the best feeling I'd had for along time.




You're time with Orange doesn't sound a happy one. Did it put you off the whole music thing?No, I thought sod all that major record company stuff and spending weeks in big studios getting drum sounds, comping vocals and everybody eating three course meals. I hated it, so I borrowed some money and hired some tape machines and started recording new songs at home. I did this kitsch campy song called Find The One, which is a kind of Roy Orbison thing and some Japanese label heard it and asked me to do an album, which eventually turned out to be The Orgone Box. Making it was a really enjoyable experience for me. I had four 8-track tape machines, a 32 channel desk, a load of effects, three amps and half a dozen guitars all set up in my flat so I could make a right racket. I wrote most of the songs while I was recording them. What I did was put down some guide drums with a click, added a bass line, a bit of guitar and a vocal. Then I took the tapes and the machines to this place called the House in the Woods, which is a big old mansion house in some woods just off the M25. 1 got hold of Tam Johnstone and he laid the drums down to my guide track in what looked like a big dining room or a library or something. The feel was just right and the whole thing took about four days.
Then I took the tapes home again and spent a few weeks doing overdubs and generally just had a great time playing around with the music. I've always wanted to be in a great band but when it comes to recording I always seem to be at my best when I'm working alone. It's just the way I am. That way I can conjure up and maintain an atmosphere that I feel is right for the song and put all of myself into the performance, instead of reacting to an atmosphere created by others. I don't like being hurried or slowed down by other people. I like to do things in unorthodox ways and at unsociable times. I can start work on an idea one day and just keep working until I'm happy. I don't think about sleeping or eating. Those things just break the flow up for me. I'll stop when I'm satisfied or when I get bored or when I drop. At the end of the day it's not the sound quality or making sense that I'm most bothered about, it's whether there's a spark in the record that excites me, a feel that takes me somewhere else in my head, that's what I do it for I mean just listen to Noddyland. The crowd on there is from the Shea Stadium gig, I had it in my cans while I was singing and playing guitar at the same time and it was like a fantasy gig for me. Pure tennis racket!




Listening to the album it strikes me how literate and thought provoking the words are.
It's a very personal and private record lyrically and at the same time I feel that the tunes are universal. Nearly all the songs are introspective themes because that's the way I am. I'm always thinking about what I'm thinking or what you're thinking and my songs usually analyse me. Listen to Anaesthesia, Bubble or Ticket With No Return for instance - lyrically I'm being very melancholy, even a bit down on myself. But at the same time the tunes are very uplifting, very welcoming to the listener I think the tunes contain a hopeful message.
So what the heck is an Orgone Box anyway?The Orgone Box was a thing devised by a psychoanalyst called Wilhelm Reich. He claimed that Orgone was some kind of universal energy and that he could capture it in his device and then use it to treat illness. I read about it in a book on the occult by Colin Wilson and I liked the idea of it. It sounded musical to me and I'd done most of the record in my flat, which I suppose is a kind of box, so bobs your uncle, as they say It's nothing profound I just liked the sound of it.



How does it feel now the album is finally coming out?
It's funny how things come about, I honestly thought that the album would never get off the ground .The Japanese label got closed down and I couldn't get anything else going, so when Bill phoned me out of the blue I was dead chuffed. I'm hoping that the Minus Zero release will prick up some ears. I read somewhere that if the music is playing the audience will find it one day and I believe this. Sooner or later the album will make its mark, and to be honest I could do with the money to do more recording. At the moment I've got the bones of another album written and I've just started putting the ideas down on tape. As it stands I think the first side is going to be about eight songs all joined together in a kind of mosaic. I'd love to get something else out this year if possible, that's what I'm aiming for.


The Second AlbumI'm sure that this will be the start of lots of new music from the abundantly talented Rick Corcoran. There's already a major buzz around this superb album and now he's on the pop map I'm confident 'he will soon become one of it's most enduring and best-loved landmarks. Now hand me that compass.

 Update from Sugarbush Records 2013
The entire album has been re-recorded, dubbed and remastered. There are 4 or 5 entirely new versions of songs + 1 brand new track. It will be out on vinyl and dowload, however we at SR are only doing the vinyl. A long time ago I formed a band SILENT BLUE. After we did our LP TUNE IN in 1990, the line up changed. Tam johnson came in on drums, RICK CORCORAN on guitar and TIM MCTIGHE on bass. They then went off in 1991 and formed GREEN TAMBOURINES. None of them played in ORANGE, however they both play on the (post Orange) ORGONE BOX LP.

To confuse things even more I (Markus Holler) played in ORGONE BOX for several live shows (Spain, Liverpool, Bournemouth, London) about 10 years ago. I also released a CD ACHIN' FOR SUMMER that Rick plays on too (but tracks are demos from the SILENT BLUE era).
Confused? Incestous? Yes....but it gets worse. Now Rick is back, and with Tim McTighe has reworked that entire original ORGONE BOX CD for a vinyl issue on my own SUGARBUSH RECORDS, formed back in 1989 to release the SILENT BLUE LP. It's like a magic circle of sorts and we always seem to end up doing stuff together. However, Rick is a true genius and his work is his own, with a little help from his mates.
Once this album is out, and it IS the final version of the LP the plan is to release a 6 track mini LP of NEW Orgone Box material!!!!!!! But let's wait and get this thing out. Thanks for all the interest, and spread the word!!!!!

4 comments:

markus holler said...

I run SUGARBUSH RECORDS, have played live with ORGONE BOX (1 gig in Spain and a few in the UK back around 2003-5) and we are releasing on vinyl for the 1st time the ORGONE BOX (SELF TITLED) album. It will be out in May/June 2013 on SUGARBUSH RECORDS. The trakc listing is revised and there is one new track, also Rick has re-recorded a few of the 4 track numbers with new vocals and backing (Such as Judy). There is also a totally new version of MIRRORBALL. It will ONLY be out on vinyl, so get those record players out. Limited edition of 300. Rick is finishing off the LP right now.

Sugarbush Records said...

the entire album has been re-recorded, dubbed and remastered. There are 4 or 5 entirely new versions of songs + 1 brand new track. It will be out on vinyl and dowload, however we at SR are only doing the vinyl. A long time ago I formed a band SILENT BLUE. After we did our LP TUNE IN in 1990, the line up changed. Tam johnson came in on drums, RICK CORCORAN on guitar and TIM MCTIGHE on bass. They then went off in 1991 and formed GREEN TAMBOURINES. None of them played in ORANGE, however they both play on the (post Orange) ORGONE BOX LP.

To confuse things even more I (Markus Holler) played in ORGONE BOX for several live shows (Spain, Liverpool, Bournemouth, London) about 10 years ago. I also released a CD ACHIN' FOR SUMMER that Rick plays on too (but tracks are demos from the SILENT BLUE era).
Confused? Incestous? Yes....but it gets worse. Now Rick is back, and with Tim McTighe has reworked that entire original ORGONE BOX CD for a vinyl issue on my own SUGARBUSH RECORDS, formed back in 1989 to release the SILENT BLUE LP. It's like a magic circle of sorts and we always seem to end up doing stuff together. However, Rick is a true genius and his work is his own, with a little help from his mates.
Once this album is out, and it IS the final version of the LP the plan is to release a 6 track mini LP of NEW Orgone Box material!!!!!!! But let's wait and get this thing out. Thanks for all the interest, and spread the word!!!!!

Anthony J. Langford said...

The Active Listener brought me here.
Thanks for all the great info. What amazing music.
cheers

SUGARBUSH RECORDS said...

This may be of interest, the "new" ORGONE BOX album LORNE PARK TAPES is out now on vinyl on SUGARBUSH RECORDS, www.sugarbushrecords.com

Rick is also recording TWO new albums which will be released by us on vinyl. Markus www.sugarbushrecords.com