Cliff Cooper – Founder & CEO

I’ve always considered eye-catching cars to be a very good and engaging way to promote and advertise your brand. The Orange Beach Buggy soon became a well known sight around London.

Beach buggies were very much the ‘in thing” in London around 1970. The idea originated in America, where they’re known as ‘Dune Buggies’. They were invented in the 1960s by a Californian boat builder named Bruce Meyers, who had pioneered the use of fibreglass for vessels. Meyers then had the idea of using the material to build a lightweight off-road car based on a Volkswagen chasis, and the Dune Buggy was born. I read about this at the time, and I was intrigued. It was a nice coincidence that the colour of the first dune buggy Bruce designed and began marketing in the mid-1960s – the ‘Meyers Manx’ – was a deep orange colour.

Orange Shop staff, 1970 From left: Robin, Cliff, Rocky, Ed, Veronica

I found a company in East London that produced buggies in kit form and powered by a Volkswagen Beetle engine. I bought four and sold three. All three buyers kept the Orange logo on the bonnet. The one I had was loaned out to people such as rock stars and the English eccentric, Screaming Lord Sutch.

Screaming Lord Sutch

Peter Green and Danny Kirwan

I was a good friend of Screaming Lord Sutch and was more than happy to let him drive my buggy about town when he was campaigning to become a Member of Parliament. I also loaned the buggy to music papers such as NME and Record Mirror, who used them on their sales promotions. The Orange beach buggy did a lot to boost our brand awareness.

 

Martin Celmins – Author of The Book of Orange

50th Anniversary Crest

Looking back through the pages of The Book of Orange and Building the Brand, and recalling the many hours of interviews with Cliff Cooper that have provided that book’s structure as well as the detail, there is one main theme running through the company’s journey which is now in its sixth decade. Namely, that Orange have prospered when their products – and the inspiration that created them – took risks and broke new ground, but success was more limited when, on occasion, the company seemingly followed trends.

One fact about Orange’s fifty years in business that is not generally known is that they have produced amplifiers throughout all of that time. After the company closed in 1979, Orange amps continued to be made hand-built in very small numbers – throughout the 1980s. Cliff refers to this as the company’s “simmering” period.

It says a lot about the strength and staying power of the Orange brand worldwide, that in the mid-1990s the Gibson Corporation took up the opportunity to manufacture Orange’s classic mid-1970s product range under license. And yet, the Gibson/Orange “retro” years were only moderately successful. Why? Because Orange has never been a retro brand: its image and styling still clearly resonate with the psychedelic 1960s, but beginning with the “Pics Only” amplifier in 1971 the company’s perspective has always been about looking to technology of the future.

The launch in 1975 of the world’s first digitally programmable amplifier – the OMEC Digital – is another case in point. But, conversely, the introduction of the Series Two range of amplifiers in 1979 saw Orange uncharacteristically following amp styling trends of the late 1970s, and the range was not a great success.

Orange’s pioneering achievements in the first decade of this millennium started to happen very soon after Cliff returned to run the company in 1998. At the time he asked himself and his colleagues two vital questions – “what’s new, and what’s next?” The answer came in the shape of the AD Series, and with these award-winning amplifiers and combos Orange was firmly back to the future.

Since then, the company’s massive investment in transformer R&D, the styling and features of the Tiny Terror range and, most recently, the design of the Isobaric bass loudspeaker cabinets, are three very different products that resulted from one and the same approach: namely, that the brand Orange will always be about the future – and about the future viewed in a global context of manufacturing. The Voice of the World.

To underline this way of thinking, the final product featured in Building the Brand is the OPC – the world’s first computer/guitar amplifier designed specifically for the musician. Reading all about the OPC’s development from its initial concept to the production stage …here you have an idea and a product that is Orange to the core.

Here’s to the next 50 years!

 

 

Orange wins The Queen’s Award For Enterprise and International Trade 2006 and 2009 and once again in 2012

www.queensawards.org.uk, Nov 09

“The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise are the UK’s most prestigious awards for business performance. They recognise and reward outstanding achievement by UK companies. The Awards are made each year by the Queen, on the advice of the Prime Minister, who is assisted by an Advisory Committee that includes representatives from government, industry and commerce, and the trade unions.”

Queen’s Award Logo

Cliff Cooper – Founder & CEO on the 2006 Award

I felt very proud and honoured to have such an award conferred upon us. It is the highest accolade the country can award a business. On the day itself, the grandeur of Buckingham Palace made me reminisce forty years earlier when I was living in the office at the back of the Orange Shop where it all started.

Damon Waller – Former MD on the 2009 Award

Receiving the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade for the second time is a great achievement. We are the only company in the music industry in recent years to have won this award more than once. Sustained growth in international sales will remain a crucial part of our marketing strategy.

Cliff Cooper on the 2012 Award

In 2012 we received the Queen’s Award For Enterprise and International Trade for the third time in six years which is an unprecedented achievement. This is the UK’s most important business award and I am so proud of everyone at Orange for this amazing honour but equally important, I would like to thank all of our dealers, distributors and the millions of users around the world  for making it possible.

2006, Cliff Cooper is presented to HM The Queen

2009 – Cliff Cooper, CEO, with Damon Waller, MD, are presented to HM The Queen and HRH Prince Philip

From left: Sam, Mark, Adrian, Cliff, Sir Simon Bowes-Lyon, Damon, Jane, Chloe and Lisa receive the award

The OPC was a computer designed and built for a specific purpose: just as you have PC’s for gamers – the OPC was a computer made for musicians by musicians.

OPC 2011

Charlie Cooper – Marketing Director

I’ve always been interested in building computers and media centres. A few years ago my dad, (Charlie is Cliff’s youngest son) brought back some old 1970s Orange cabinets and we didn’t really know what to do with them. Then I came up with this idea of building an entire computer to be housed in an Orange cab, and putting a TV on top. When it was built everybody thought that it was a really nice looking media centre.

In 2007, I read that VIA Technologies had announced a new form factor called ‘Pico-ITX’ which enabled system builders to make much smaller computers. However, Pico-ITX was limiting in performance and expandability, so after lots of research, I decided on an ‘ITX form-factor motherboard’ which featured one of the first Intel Atom processors because, for me, they were the fastest processors you could easily get in a small motherboard at the time.

I made a proof-of-concept OPC whilst I was at university using a hammer, glue and a broken Orange Crush 10 amplifier. This OPC was simply a basic Intel Atom-based computer fitted inside a small Orange Crush cabinet. I then used it at my student house as a portable media centre hooked up to my TV . After that I showed people at Orange headquarters what I had done and what I now wanted to do.

The reaction of some staff at the time was hesitant because they felt that, as a product, the OPC was too different from what Orange do. And yet, others embraced the idea enthusiastically. But in general people wanted to see how this concept could be developed and so the OPC went though various revisions and improvements until we finally had an almost release-worthy prototype. We were excited about what we had created but we weren’t sure if we were getting excited about a product that the public just wouldn’t ‘get’- after all, why had no other company done this before?

We took the OPC along to the Musikmesse 2010 exhibition in Frankfurt where, in confidence, we showed it to people from the audio industry saying “we’ve made something different, what do you think?” The response was amazingly positive after showing various demos. Premier Guitar magazine managed to twist my arm into recording the OPC for YouTube and for their magazine. Previously, other magazines also wanted to film the OPC but we had said ‘no’ because we weren’t yet confident enough about the product to show it to the public. But by the end of the show we were amazed that people understood the product for what it was and loved it.

A few weeks later, the OPC video went out on the internet and became one of the most talked about gadgets from the Frankfurt show. So much so, that various companies including Intel got in touch wanting to help me put faster and better hardware inside the OPC.

From time to time, you might well hear about the various ‘music computers’ out there. But the interesting thing is that they don’t seem that much different from your average computer, well… compared to what we’ve done. The exciting thing about the OPC is that it actually looks like it’s geared for music – which it is – and you really do have more fun making music with it, because there’s no worry or hassle over desktop space, interface configuration, speakers, software, plug-ins and so on… for the first time ever this was all sorted out and available in the same box.

Doug Doppler demos the OPC at NAMM 2011

 

Cliff Cooper – Founder & CEO

Intel approached us to use our OPC to demonstrate their latest generation of processors – code-named ‘Sandy Bridge’ – at their booth at the CES 2011 show in Las Vegas. We decided it would be a great opportunity to demonstrate the low latencies and high performance of the OPC by inviting Orange endorsee, Tiago Della Vega, to break his own world record in the Guinness Book of Records as the fastest guitarist in the world. He did this at the Intel booth by playing ‘Flight of the Bumble Bee’ by Rimsky-Korsakov at 340 BPM [Beats Per Minute] using the OPC. It was amazing to watch and so successful.

Tiago Della Vega sets a new world record at CES 2011

Designer, Charlie Cooper, demonstrates the Orange OPC to Will.i.am of Black Eyed Peas at the Intel Booth: CES 2011, Las Vegas, USA

ORANGE UK
In 2009 Orange moved their headquarters to a much larger facility and office complex in the UK located in Borehamwood in Hertfordshire.

It is the home of the Orange Custom Shop where we pioneered and developed the Tiny Terror amplifiers and Isobaric bass cabinet design. There is a separate department dedicated to transformer design and the study of wave forms and sound propagation. The OPC musicians personal computer was also developed here and researched through to production.

ORANGE CHINA
The shift of some production to mainland China in 2006 proved to be the right move for Orange; a fact that was highlighted by the incredible success of the Crush and Tiny Terror ranges. It showed that with strict quality control and good product management, solid state and valve amplifiers can be manufactured in China with stunning build results.

In the latter part of 2010 Orange made a major investment and purchased a superb new office complex and manufacturing facility in Jiashan, County Zhejiang Province near Shanghai. Apart from our regular management team visits, many of our international staff are multi-lingual and keep in touch through instant messaging and video conference calls.

ORANGE USA

ORANGE USA has grown into a major company over the last ten years and plays a crucial role in Orange’s global business operations. Some fine quality Orange products are now also manufactured in the US and we have a team of bright young people dedicated to taking the company forward.

From left: Mr Lim, Cliff Cooper, Damon Waller and Luke Zollinger celebrate the opening of the China office complex and manufacturing facility, October 2010

Cliff Cooper – Founder & CEO

One day in 1978 – without giving any notice – building contractors appeared on the scene, closed off New Compton Street and prepared for demolition work of all the shops… including ours. Customers and suppliers could not enter the street and the shops couldn’t trade.

A good friend of mine, Nigel Benjamin (ex – Mott the Hoople’s front man), suggested I contact his father, Ben, who was a barrister. After explaining our situation, Ben told us that the builders were totally out of order. His advice was simple: I needed to ‘move a judge’ and persuade him to issue an injunction against the developers. An injunction would immediately stop all construction work and would be extremely costly to them.

As we had not been given proper and formal notice Ben was able to persuade a judge to issue an injunction. He believed the developers would be unlikely to sue, and each day that passed would have cost them a small fortune by holding up the development.

On the same day the judge issued the injunction, I received a frantic phone-call from the property developers who asked me if I would attend a meeting at their offices in London’s Pall Mall.

I arrived at their prestigious offices and was directed to the boardroom. Inside, four well-dressed gentlemen asked me how much money I would accept to remove the injunction and allow building work to continue. I held my breath for a moment and said £100,000. They immediately called in their secretary and dictated a short letter requesting a cheque for that sum to be drawn in my favour. I was delighted with the outcome – although I couldn’t help thinking that I could have asked for more. Nevertheless, I was very happy with the outcome. The pay-out bankrolled our move to new offices at Mason’s Yard in St James’s London. It did mean that we had to close the Orange Shops for good, to make way for the bulldozers. Their closure marked the end of an era. I think that almost everyone who worked for Orange back then has at some time made contact with me and said how much they miss those days.

Those days were so exciting, every day bringing new problems and new opportunities, and it never ceases to amaze me how after closing the shop, some forty or so years later, I am once again doing what I loved doing then, back working with Orange, but as a truly global company.

The Orange Shop.

Emperor Rosko

Cliff Cooper – Founder & CEO

Rosko is a very energetic larger-than-life character – even by DJ standards! He was adamant that his PA had to be the loudest as well as the best. When Orange upgraded it to 4000 watts he was overjoyed. Unfortunately, the council health inspectors weren’t so pleased because such a high-powered disco PA meant that our volume levels were over the 113 decibels limit allowed at the time. So he had council officials following him around town as well as young disco dancers. It was Rosko who helped to get us the BBC Radio 1 Road Show contract which was fantastic exposure for us.

Rosco’s 4000 Watt PA

Emperor Rosko

I was able to send Cliff the occasional bit of business, and in turn he was able to help me. I asked Cliff to build a cartridge machine for jingles and the BBC used it for over two years. Then I finally talked him into making me tons of Orange equipment at cost price. In return, I invented the Orange Road Show – the mobile discotheque I took around the UK.

Both Cliff and I were promotionally minded. An example of this was when we did ‘The Great Rock’n’Roll Show’ at Wembley, which had just about everybody appearing, with me as the host and DJ in between the acts. For that disco we emptied every showroom and factory that Cliff had in order to build this massive PA system – 50,000 watts or something like that – which was absolutely unheard of at the time. Artists appearing included Chuck Berry, Bill Haley, Little Richard and Roy Wood – I remember Chuck and Richard were fighting over who was going to close the show. As an event, it was vast at the time – and, of course, there was all this Orange gear on stage.

Emperor Rosko

Johnnie Walker

Cliff Cooper

We soon formed a solid working relationship with the BBC, who used Orange PA’s exclusively for their summertime Radio 1 Road Shows. DJs, Emperor Rosko and Johnnie Walker, were great ambassadors for Orange, so when Johnnie needed sponsorship for his motor sport passion, I was more than happy to get involved.

Johnnie Walker and Cliff with Orange staff

Johnnie Walker

I really wish I’d used Orange for my own show because it was great equipment with a great sound – and it looked so striking. Every amplifier up until then was black and suddenly there’s Orange with this big name on the front. But Orange was then very much Rosko’s domain and at the time I thought it would have been seen to be copying Rosko! I’d seen Stevie Wonder using Orange and so when I knew I was going to meet Cliff I was expecting some high-powered businessman type.

What amazed me when I met him was how mild and friendly he was… and even quite shy with a gentle voice.

One abiding memory of Cliff is his enthusiasm and his excitement at being able to sponsor a stock car. I was just so grateful that somebody had come in with some sponsorship to help me go stock car racing. But my main memory of Cliff was that he was so very different from how I expected him to be.

Johnnie Walker

Landing the deal for Orange equipment to be used exclusively onstage at the MIDEM shows was a real coup for us…. It was where Stevie Wonder first tried and loved our amps, and in effect launched Orange onto the world stage.

Cliff Cooper – Founder & CEO

MIDEM (Marché International du Disque et de l’Edition Musicale) is a music business exhibition held in Cannes, France. Each year, Cannes hosts this record exhibition as well as the famous film festival. Managers, record companies and artists take their promotional tapes and songs for publishing to the exhibitors. Would-be stars go around the exhibitors stands looking to secure record, publishing and licensing deals.

The guy who actually started it back in 1967 was Bernard Chevry. I can’t remember how I first got in contact with him, but he was looking for a company to supply amplifiers and a public address system for MIDEM. Bernard asked me to fly over to Paris where his business was based. The deal I put to him was a three-year contract to supply all of the equipment for the festival at a fee of $20,000 each year. That was a lot of money in those days. We sent the equipment over in two large Mercedes trucks, along with studio technicians and engineers.

The central focus at MIDEM was the theatre, where world-class stars would stage special shows promoting their latest records to all sectors of the music industry. To my delight, in the very first year, Stevie Wonder – one of my favourite artists – performed. I met him and invited him to come and visit Orange Studios when he was next in London. Stevie took me up on my offer and recorded some demos. That was how our association and his subsequent endorsement of Orange started. There’s no doubt in my mind that it was Stevie who really promoted Orange worldwide and helped us to earn our title ‘Voice Of The World’.

Stevie Wonder with Orange at MIDEM

 

Cliff Cooper – Founder & CEO

We originally had the idea of building the biggest speaker cabinet in the world so we built two guitar cabinets that were 24×12”. We also built a 10×15” bass cab. We used these cabinets at outdoor festivals and we received massive press coverage.

Those cabs certainly sounded great and were extremely loud. When we took these Goliaths to the Frankfurt Trade Fair in 1971, they stole the show.

Bob Vining and Bill Pilfold with the colossus. Short’s Gardens, WC2, circa 1970,

Early outdoor festival Orange PA rig, circa 1970

Beat Club Logo

Cliff Cooper – Founder & CEO

After we set up Orange Hire in 1969 we supplied Orange equipment to a lot of English and American bands when they worked in Germany and the rest of Europe on tours organised by the major German promoters, Lippmann and Rau.

People working in the German music business soon began to notice these orange-coloured amplifiers on stage. Out of the blue, I got a phone-call from Mike Leckebusch who was the producer of the Beat-Club television show which was broadcast nationwide from Bremen. Mike asked me whether we would provide Orange backline equipment for his show, and I was only too pleased to oblige.

This was an important development for Orange because although bands who appeared on Beat-Club had the option in the studio of using their own equipment, fortunately for us most of them chose to use Orange and many of them then placed orders for equipment with us soon after.

Beat-Club gave Orange television exposure throughout Germany and orders began to flow in. As a result of this we decided to form a German subsidiary – Orange GMBH