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!

A new idea to improve after-sales service

Cliff Cooper – Founder & CEO

Orange amplifiers were issued with a log book before leaving the factory

The Orange log book was essentially a guarantee card and a service record which showed the age of the amplifier, its history and maintenance record. In those days, by law, every car had to have a log book which showed details of the car maker, number-plate, engine size, year of manufacture and change of owner.

I thought it would be a good idea to have a log book for our amplifiers. When an amplifier was purchased from a shop, the buyer would receive his log book and send it back to our head office to register the guarantee and have it stamped [shown opposite]. We in turn would notify our sales reps that an amplifier had been sold in that particular shop. Should a problem have occurred with the amp or it had needed a service, change of valves etc, the customer would take his amplifier along with his log book to an Orange service centre. The work done would be registered in the log book, duly stamped, signed and dated.

Orange Log Book

If somebody was looking to buy a second-hand Orange, they could see the history of the amplifier and would know that genuine replacement parts had been used. This also made it more difficult to sell a stolen or modified amplifier. The log book was a big success in those days and gave us a lot of good publicity. Sometimes an amplifier would change hands several times and come back to us for stamping.

The original Orange Voice of the World stamp

The Original Orange Stamp

 

Cliff Cooper – Founder & CEO

When Stevie Wonder played his legendary Rainbow Theatre concert, he was using Orange gear – and so was Suzi Quatro, who did a great support slot for him. That night I discovered the lengths to which rival amplifier manufacturers would go in their attempts to discredit the reputation of our amplifiers.

Suzi Quatro

After Suzi’s set, Stevie Wonder and his band went on stage. As he turned up the volume on his amplifier in the very first number it went dead! My heart started pounding and I immediately rushed out onto the stage with a spare amp that we’d taken with us. We’d brought one simply because it was such an important high-profile gig for us, that we couldn’t afford to take any risks. I immediately plugged in the spare amp and Stevie carried on – I thanked God that it was all put right so quickly. Throughout the gig I just couldn’t believe that one of our tested, reliable amps had blown simply because Stevie had turned up the volume. After the gig, I asked one of our roadies to go onstage and check out what had gone wrong.

What he discovered was that somebody had deliberately changed the fuse in the mains power plug from a 13 amp to a 1 amp. As the volume was turned up the amp drew more current and blew the fuse. I was amazed later on to discover that this was quite a common dirty trick played by rival manufacturers on each other. Up until that point, I was unaware that this kind of thing happened. Later on, I found out that the culprit was a roadie who worked for another amplifier company. Learning of this really made me feel sick. I have never wished any other amp company any harm, not then – not ever.

After the show, I went backstage to see Stevie who was in his dressing-room. I was so nervous, not least because there were a lot of people there. Stevie called me over and whispered, “What was the problem with the amp Cliff?” At the time, I was unaware about the fuse situation, so I just told him I didn’t know.

“Thanks for sorting it quickly,” he whispered back. To hear Stevie softly say these words was very reassuring, and it proved what a gentleman he is. He could easily have humiliated me in front of the whole room – and I know a few big names who would have done exactly that… but not Stevie Wonder.”

Stevie Wonder: Genius and Gentleman

Cliff Cooper – Founder & CEO

I believe that when the Customs & Excise inspectors paid us a visit at the Orange Shop, it was a set-up arranged by spiteful competitors. The shop was doing really well, even though the big distributors would not supply us. The demand for second-hand guitars was such that their sale price often exceeded the cost of new ones. This really annoyed those shops selling new instruments, and I think they resorted to ‘dirty tricks’.

The Customs & Excise swoop happened so suddenly we hadn’t a clue what was going on – they literally just charged into the shop. They demanded to see proof that import duty had been paid on every second-hand US-made guitar in the shop.

We always took the precaution of having a legal form completed for each ‘buy in’ which showed proof of purchase, previous ownership and the seller’s identification… but it was impossible for us to prove that import duty had been paid on these used guitars. I contacted the UK distributors, and they denied keeping a record of serial numbers which I did not believe. These serial numbers would have helped us to track the guitars and prove duty had been paid.

The Customs officers placed all our paperwork into black sacks, tied them up, affixed a lead seal and took them away. Looking back on the incident, their heavy-handedness was so out of order it was almost comical – it was more like a drugs bust! Everything about the Orange Shop was completely above board, but even so, we almost had to close the shop indefinitely. They just seized every US-made guitar and amplifier in the shop, which was about 95% of our entire stock.

Some months later, the Customs people put the guitars up for sale by tender. I was able to buy back some of my guitars and they purposely let me buy them at a low price. I knew the reason they did this was because one of the Customs officers from the Tender department told me this swoop should never have happened and it was the result of a letter from one of our distributors.. and I think I know who it was. Despite this setback, we were helped immensely by our loyal and understanding staff who agreed to work at half of their salary for a month. We were therefore able to keep the shop going, and I soon had enough money to repay them in full.”

John Bates – Orange Shop Manager with Receptionist Dawn

Veronica Waters – Cliff’s PA at the Orange Shop and manager of the second Orange Shop takes up the Customs swoop story:

They came in and put padlocks on all of the doors and literally took over the place. They had John Bates, the manager [pictured above], in a small office and were badgering him like mad. They’d got it into their heads that we’d done something extremely fraudulent. So there was poor old John, completely innocent but being grilled like a criminal. I kept on going in and offering cups of tea and coffee just to try and break the tension. I remember how, later on, some of the other music shop-owners were giving us knowing looks about what had happened. They’d all had it so easy for so long – privately agreeing in a cartel not to cut prices. The Orange Shop always had a really great atmosphere. People came from far and wide to see the Orange Shop and just hang out.

Veronica Waters

Orange Shop Front

Dennis Sinnott. Head of Orange Publishing, St. Louis, Missouri, USA

I heard a lot about Orange in the early 1970s when I was Head of Copyright at EMI. The first impression for me was seeing this amazing 100 watt Orange amplifier, which was selling in the Orange shop for an unbelievably low price – I think it was about £35. And all the kids were going crazy… they were lining up the whole length of New Compton Street. I remember walking along Charing Cross Road and seeing this psychedelic shop, and its front was this really bright orange colour. I was just fascinated and I thought to myself “God, this is all so new and different…” I also remember seeing this young guy there, who I later found out was Cliff Cooper.”

Melody Maker Cutting 1970

 

Sales day at Orange

 

In the late afternoon of September 17th 1970, Eric Clapton was walking around London’s West End and dropped by the Orange Shop. That evening he was going to a Sly and The Family Stone concert at the Lyceum on the Strand, where he had arranged to meet up with Jimi Hendrix. The next day – September 18th – the music world was stunned by the news that Jimi Hendrix had been found dead in a West London basement flat.

Delaney Bramlett with Eric Clapton – ‘Delaney & Bonnie and Friends’ UK tour 1969

“The night that Jimi died, I was supposed to meet him at the Lyceum to see Sly Stone play. And I brought with me a left-handed Stratocaster. I’d just found it – I think I bought it at Orange Music. I’d never seen one before and I was going to give it to him. The next day – whack – he was gone and I was left with that left-handed Stratocaster.”  Extract from a 1970s television interview with Eric Clapton.

Jimi Hendrix’s last concert. Sept 6th 1970. Isle of Fehmarn, Germany

Lefty Strat

Ade Emsley – Technical Director

The TH30 replaced the Rocker 30 and is also available as a 1×12 combo.

TH30 Head

With the TH30 we took the old Clean Channel from the original Rockerverb and re-voiced it slightly for the EL84s used in this. We also took the RV lead channel – which is four stage – and have married it with the Shape control of Channel B on the Thunderverb. We wanted as few control knobs as possible, that do as much as possible on a channel switching amp. It’s also got the half-power 2 tubes, full-power 4 tubes option that the Dual Terror has.

TH30 Combo