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.

A good manager is someone who knows when to say ‘no’, and really cares about the artists’ personal well-being.

Cliff Cooper – Founder & CEO

I’d heard about this massive talent in the North East called John Miles. I went to see him play live and his show was amazing, I just knew that he was going to be very successful. I also knew that he would need to come down to London to record. I spoke with John and his manager and eventually we agreed a deal where I would buy John’s management contract.

Forty years later, I still manage John, and he is a good friend. John is a unique artist and continues to perform all over Europe, where he has a big following and plays to packed-out venues. John has played with just about everybody in the music business from Tina Turner to Jimmy Page, from Joe Cocker to Andrea Bocelli, to name but a few. He’s one of these gifted musicians who can play anything. He’s a great guitarist, pianist, vocalist, songwriter… and golfer. His hit ‘Slow Down’ reached Number 2 in the American charts and the epic ‘Music [was my first love]’ charted in every country in the Western Hemisphere, often reaching Number 1.

John Miles in the Orange Studios recording the first Orange Records single ‘I Want To Live’, 1969

In 1971, I signed Eddie Kidd, the motorcycle stunt rider. He was a great looking guy and fearless when riding his motorbike. He became a household name and I signed him to star in the full-length feature film, Riding High. Eddie also had a great modeling career and featured in the famous Levi’s 501 TV commercial. I was devastated when I heard in 1996 – 3 years after I stopped managing him – that he had a terrible accident which left him unable do stunts again.

Eddie Kidd Levi 501 Advert

I also managed the band Smokie, Nigel Benjamin [ex-Mott The Hoople] together with his band English Assassin, Cock Sparrer, The Realistics (from the U.S.) and The Little Roosters. We went on to sign many of the Orange artists to major record labels.

Cock Sparra

English Assassin

The Little Roosters

The Realistics

Smokie

Orange Hire was created to provide the PA and backline for larger venues and the big outdoor summer festivals such as Reading and the Isle of Wight. The fleet of Mercedes 405D vans were converted into state-of-the-art hire vehicles. They were radio-equipped and had full amp repair facilities fitted.

A workshop on wheels. Orange had a fleet of these Mercedes vans.

Colin Northfield and Alan Radcliffe were the roadies for Orange at the time and they were interviewed in the London Evening Standard describing the kind of things they dealt with. It’s a hard life eh?

Evening Standard 1970

Orange Hire at the Munich Olympics

Cliff Cooper – Founder & CEO

In early 1971, we formed a company in Germany – Orange GMBH [GMBH is the German equivalent of ‘Ltd’ in England] – and opened an office in Frankfurt near the Hauptbahnhof main railway station. We secured a customs-free warehouse and then utilised this company as a springboard to boost our sales in Europe. This led to signing a deal to provide PA equipment for music at the Olympic Games in the Munich Stadium. That was a fantastic opportunity and the publicity led to greatly increased business for us throughout Europe.

Mixing Desk in the Olympic Stadium Munich

Sport, 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, A general view of the Opening Ceremony in the Olympic Stadium (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)

Cliff Cooper – Founder & CEO

We started to build the Orange Studio in the basement at 3 New Compton Street in the summer of 1968. I worked with Brian Hatt, a good friend of mine and an excellent studio technician. Brian Hatt was also a good producer and musician, and played in the band Candy Choir. That summer we both burned the midnight oil for several months building the studio and preparing equipment. In those days, every jack socket and loom had to be hand-cut, stripped, wired and soldered – which seemed to take forever! I can remember doubting whether it would ever get finished, or indeed, work at all. Luckily, it did, and we opened the studio for business that same summer. The studio, with its ex-IBC 24-channel mixing desk worked very well.

In those pre-digital times, every module in the desk had four preamp valves – and if you’ve got twenty-four modules in the desk, that is a lot of valves… One effect of this valve situation is that the heat they generated kept us warm in the winter, but very hot in the summer. Valves also wear out, especially as they are often working 24/7, and so the studio’s equipment required ongoing monitoring and maintenance. A good engineer could hear any slight sound differences between each channel, and would become acutely aware of any loss in sound quality between the desk’s modules.

From left: Brian Hatt, Roger Jeffrey, Cliff Cooper. Haydn Bendal.

We employed a very gifted designer, Roger Jeffrey, who maintained the equipment and went on to design our Amity 24-track tape machines. I invested in an AG440 Ampex 4-track, which was a state-of-the-art professional tape recorder. With this and the stereo Ampex, we were able to bounce tracks. Our sound engineering had really moved forward and we attracted many famous names including Brian Wilson, Stevie Wonder, Robin Gibb, Mickie Most, John Miles, Paul Anka and lots of heavy metal bands. Our basement studio had a great vibe – it was very large and, as nobody lived or worked on either side, volume wasn’t an issue. Most bands preferred to come in for night sessions.

Brian Hatt, Orange Studios’ engineer with Carl Wilson of The Beach Boys

Hot Chocolate recorded one of their early hits ‘Love Is Life’ at the Orange Studio with their producer, Mickie Most. Many of our own studio engineers went on to become world-class producers and engineers. The Orange Studio is where Steve Churchyard learned his craft from Brian Hatt. We gave Steve his first job as a trainee engineer when he was eighteen, and he stayed with us for three years, before landing a job at Sir George Martin’s legendary AIR studios. Currently Steve lives in LA and has worked with just about everybody – world-class artists such as The Eagles, The Darkness, George Michael, and Sheryl Crow.

Orange raises industry safety standards

Cliff Cooper – Founder & CEO

Orange Quality Seal

The AMII Association of Musical Instrument Industries [which no longer exists and is not to be confused with the MIA, Music Industry Association which is doing a great job for the music industry] was formed to promote music and musical product manufacturers in the UK.

For four consecutive years, the AMII turned down Orange’s application to join, but they always refused to give us a reason for this. It would really infuriate me because, of course, many of our competitors were AMII members and were being given an unfair advantage. For instance, members were eligible to receive exclusive grants from the Government’s Board of Trade scheme: grants which would pay half of the cost of exhibition space at international trade shows such as the renowned ones held at Frankfurt and Chicago. And, of course, it was exasperating because we were more than qualified to be in the Association – we were exporting over half a million pounds worth of equipment a year, and representing British innovation throughout the world… and I came of good report. I felt so strongly about the matter, that I actually wrote a letter to the Prime Minister, Edward Heath.

I became yet more frustrated when they introduced the AMII Seal of Approval, which in my view was ethically wrong. They didn’t even bother to set up a department to test equipment before issuing the seal. If you were a member then your products automatically got the AMII Seal of Approval, no matter how badly designed or dangerous they were. As such, I decided to introduce the ‘Orange Gold Seal of Approval’ to draw attention to the rigorous testing we did. I remember we launched the Seal with one of our humorous comic-strip adverts in the trade press – the ad took a swipe at the AMII. It read: ‘Who wants one of their stickers with its smelly glue on the back of their amp? The Orange Gold Seal is the true mark of a quality-built and tested amplifier.’ I knew that they wouldn’t sue.

The AMII Seal of Approval

AMII continued refusing us and other up and coming companies without reason. We decided to get together and form a rival organisation known as IMD [Independent Music Dealers]. In 1972 we held our first trade exhibition to coincide with The London Music Trade Fair which was a similar AMII event. We called the exhibition ‘The London Music Show’, and it proved to be a great success.

Music Week September 1972

Soon afterwards, I received a call from a board member of the AMII asking for a meeting. We met and talked and I was invited to join. I accepted on the condition that they would allow the other companies who had unsuccessfully applied to join. We did it!