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

 

 

In early 1969, we introduced cartoon comic strip advertising, which was very successful and after a short time, attracted a devoted following – many fans actually wrote to us with their own ideas for the cartoons. They had a tongue-in-cheek humour, and often exposed emerging situations in our business.

 

The comic strips were popular in Germany too!

Cliff Cooper – Founder & CEO

Turntables

Orange Strings – They actually were orange too!

In the early years we used our name on all sorts of selected products which were music-industry related and which we believed there would be a demand for. We started with the Orange DJ Consoles. Then guitar and bass strings, which sold very well. The microphones came next: anti-feedback condenser microphones with a hypercardioid pattern to give a more directional response. These microphones were virtually indestructible and initially silver in colour. We later had them enamelled in four different colours and supplied carry cases for them. They were made for us by a company called Calrec, who were based in West Yorkshire. These microphones were also used for studio recording.

Orange Microphones

Drums were added to the range and were made by our French distributor, Capelle. For the first set delivered, we had the hardware plated with 24-carat gold. This immediately gained the attention of the press, and the Orange Drums were launched. More products came, including stroboscopes which were very popular in those days. We sold huge amounts of T-shirts and caps, which of course helped promote our brand.

Drums

Strobe

We also designed an Orange guitar [below], which we had built for us by the famous American luthier, Randy Curlee. We only sold six of these guitars, and to date we have only been able to trace one of them, which is owned and still used by John Miles. These guitars were beautifully made and sounded great. I wish I’d kept one for myself.

Only 6 of these guitars were ever made.

Orange Guitar

In the late 1990s we introduced the Orange computer tower.

Cliff Cooper – Founder & CEO

Our amps were covered in orange, but I believed that we should also make claim to the fruit. The Orange tree was the first thing that came to mind, so the Orange World Tree was included in the design – its roots encircling the world.

We came up with slightly different visuals for the World Tree as we developed the idea.

Evolution of the Orange Tree

Creating the Orange Crest

Crests and coats of arms are very British, heraldic and expensive looking – everything I wanted our amps to be. I decided we should design our own crest – it would certainly make our amps different. One of the things that I never understood about the music equipment industry back then was that everything looked so similar.

We were a very small business with very small money but we tried to appear bigger, hence slogans such as ‘Voice Of The World’ – we did even consider ‘Voice Of The Universe’ – and our advertising tried to project this. The photo [below] was taken of me in early 1970 in the back of the Orange Shop with early artwork for the Orange ‘Voice Of The World’ tree idea. This ended up on the crest as well as a stand-alone logo. In the early days I used to live and sleep in that back office using a Vox column speaker cab plastic cover as a sleeping bag.

Cliff lived in this small room at the back of the Orange Shop

The Crest: Forever part of the brand

Some four decades later, the Orange Crest remains an essential part of our brand’s livery, and I’m pleased that it has stood the test of time and still attracts interest – as the cheeky 2003 press cutting from Playmusic Magazine shown below illustrates.

Press cutting from Playmusic Magazine, 2003

We spent a lot of time designing and creating the symbols used in our crest. To promote our new company, in 1970 we created a different style of advertising for our music equipment retailing – the cartoon comic strip. The comic strip shown below explains what the Orange Crest symbolises, but in other cartoons, we took good-humoured swipes at our rivals. These ads appeared regularly in the trade press and were extremely successful. The artist who sketched these cartoons was Brian Engel, who was in a band called Mandrake Paddle Steamer, and was also a talented songwriter and vocalist. It was Brian who painted the previously mentioned psychedelic fascia on the front of the Orange Shop.

These cartoons were scanned from an early advert in Beat Instrumental

Cliff Cooper – Founder & CEO

Very soon, 8-track recording studios had become the new industry standard. I formed Amity Schroeder as an Orange affiliate company with Roger Jeffrey as chief designer. We started to build our own tape decks, starting with an 8-track. I invested a lot of money in Amity Schroeder, and soon found out that it was a struggle to introduce a new brand into the highly competitive studio equipment market. Nevertheless, we managed to keep our heads above water with our early range of analogue tape recorders and ‘spot’ cartridge machines built for radio broadcasting studios. Our clients included the BBC and a number of independent radio stations.

Amity ‘Spot’ Cartridge Jingle Machine

From left: Cliff Cooper, Jenny Murd and Roger Jeffrey. Amity exhibit their professional studio equipment at the APRS trade show

Amity Schroeder then designed and marketed the world’s first 16-track tape recorder, and built a 1-inch tape deck . This was cast in aluminium and machined to exacting tolerances, and was really ahead of its time. We had the tape heads specially designed for us by Nortronics in the USA. These had an excellent crosstalk specification. Later, we introduced a 24-track recorder that utilised our newly designed 2-inch tape transport .

Amity 1” Tape Transport

Amity 24-Track Tape Recorder with a 2” Tape Transport

At that point we really needed to manufacture these machines in larger quantities. Due to other business commitments, I couldn’t devote the time it would have needed to open a new facility and develop this specialist market. It would also require a huge financial investment, which would have weakened the other businesses. It was time to sell. The company that bought Amity Schroeder was Trident Audio.

Amity ‘Spot’ Cartridge Jingle Machine

Being able to perform well on stage ensures longevity of record sales

Cliff Cooper – Founder & CEO

By forming the Orange Agency, my plan was to string together the other music-related activities we had already started. There were some vacant premises above the Orange Shop at 4 New Compton Street, so I acquired an existing agency run by Bob Anderson and Bob Hurd and we moved them in above the shop. They immediately started booking bands and artists into venues up and down the country.

Joe Cocker

The business grew rapidly, and before long we were booking tours. We booked Joe Cocker into The Pheasantry club in London’s Kings Road, Chelsea, and as a result we became sole booking agents for that club. We also booked groups into the Speakeasy, The Marquee Club and other famous London venues. We flew in huge acts from America and toured them throughout Europe. These were very exciting times for us.

Publishing is the bank of the music business and songwriting is the lifeblood that sustains it.

Cliff Cooper – Founder & CEO

Orange’s publishing division started in late 1969. After reading a standard publishing contract from my lawyer, Nick Kanaar, I had a basic grasp of how publishing worked. Nick, who was and still is a famous lawyer specialising in publishing, helped me to understand the craft. I learned that music publishing is very involved and far more complex than just contracts. It is an international business and a knowledge of all the world collection societies and the territories in which they operate, is essential. I now needed an expert to head the company.

I asked Dennis Sinnott to join Orange. Dennis had worked in music publishing ever since he left college and was Head of Copyright at EMI before joining us. He still runs Orange Publishing from St. Louis in America. Dennis has also written a book called ‘Masters of Songwriting’, which is essential reading for anybody who is keen to succeed in today’s ‘Digital Download’ music industry.

A Rose’ The Musical. Orange Publishing signs deal with Bill Kenwright

Dennis Sinnot – MD Orange Publishing

EMI Publishing was in Dean Street Soho, and then later Charing Cross Road, just around the corner from the Orange Shop. At EMI, I was working on deals with bands and artists such as Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Wishbone Ash, Queen and Bob Dylan. I then discovered that a lot of our artists were laying down demos or doing finished masters at the Orange Studio. It was a very good studio in a great location, because you had all of the best writers and the big artists – such as David Bowie and Rod Stewart – coming to Denmark Street. Sometimes they came looking for good songs. It was a very exciting place to be, and my Orange Publishing office was on the third floor of 22 Denmark Street. My first impression of Cliff was that he had so much energy, and everything about his attitude was positive. Then, the next thing I knew, he was offering me a position at Orange Publishing. Over lunch, Cliff told me that, basically, I could do whatever was needed to establish Orange Publishing.

At EMI, I was in charge of about fifteen people and a catalogue of over one million songs. EMI Publishing was massive but everything there had pretty much already been done for me. I saw Orange Publishing, on the other hand, as a huge challenge – almost everything there still needed to be done, and it was down to me to get it organised. I remember I had this gut feeling that Orange was really going to go places as a company – and it was not long before I was proved right.

Over the next five or so years Orange Publishing signed an incredible variety of bands and artists, ranging from punks and rockers like Cock Sparrer, and The Little Roosters, right through to The Tremeloes and Kenny Ball. Many of them had records out on Orange’s AMI subsidiary label. Orange Publishing (now Orange Songs) currently has a huge catalogue with numerous copyrights including the Grand Rights to several musicals and film scores.”

Cliff Cooper – Founder & CEO

Orange Records was launched when I realised that a lot of very talented musicians were coming to the Orange Studios to record demos, but were finding it difficult to secure a record deal. These musicians were making good music and had a professional attitude, yet they were being turned down. More and more of them asked me if I could help them to get a foot in the door, so I decided to start the Orange record label.

An early advertisement to celebrate the launch of the Orange label

I negotiated a pressing and distribution deal with Pye Records for the UK. Soon afterwards, we signed licensing deals for territories around the world.

We designed a record label using the ‘Voice Of The World’ logo and produced a stylish full-colour sleeve. Later, in the early 1970s, when Flower Power was running out of steam, we decided to change the label’s logo, instead opting for a black background with gold lettering.

Full Colour Orange Sleeve

I signed John Miles, who was with a band called The Influence, and it was this group that provided our first release on November 7th, 1969 titled ‘I Want To Live’. The single didn’t make the top ten, but we sold a lot of copies and this launched John’s career. At the same time, we also released a duo called Contrast , which featured Roger and Christine Jeffrey. ‘Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye’ was their first single.

A more mature look for Orange Records

To promote the records we engaged ‘pluggers’ to encourage airplay, and I have to admit I was one of them. This gave me an insight to record promotion and networking, and I made lots of good friends in the business. It was a tough business, though, and the promotion side was very expensive. Most releases sold very well and they received good reviews in the music press. The label became well respected in the music industry. Even now we get lots of requests to re-release those early records. Top DJ, Emperor Rosko, still calls, asking me to bring out the entire Orange Records back catalogue… probably one day I will.