Those two cornerstones of Scottish pop, RODDY FRAME and EDWYN COLLINS, have teamed up to play this year’s Fringe. With Frame, still under the banner of Aztec Camera, diversifying and becoming a staple of Radio One, and Collins maturing into a songwriter of staying power and undeniable ability, Paul W. Hullah considers the legacy of Postcard, the maverick Glasgow indie where they cut their teeth. Opposite, Postcard supremo Alan Horne speaks out, a decade after the event.
dwyn Collins and Roddy Frame have been ‘best friends‘ now for over a decade. Without doubt, two of Scotland’s most influential singer-songwriters, their bands — Orange Juice and Aztec Camera respectively— were the two Glasgow acts to release music in the early 80s on the now legendary independent label, Postcard Records. And this month, they both return to Scotland to perform individually and (on the last night) together in the capital.
Born in East Kilbride, Frame formed Aztec Camera in 1980 and, four major-selling albums on, the band remain one of Scotland’s most acclaimed pop exports. Now two LPs into a critically-lauded solo career, Collins (who hails from Edinburgh but ﬂed to Glasgow in his early teens) first found notoriety whilst a schoolboy, singing in the Nu-Sonics, a band only a name-change away from eternal cult status as Orange Juice. Though other acts also appeared on Postcard — Edinburgh‘s ? Josef K and Australia’s Go Betweens — it was Collins’ and Frame’s visionary approaches to the pop-model which jointly i defined the unforgettable charm and l precocity of the Glasgow label.
Postcard Records was born in Glasgow. 1980. The label’s first operational base was the wardrobe of Andy Warhol lookalike and would-be teenage rock Svengali, Alan Horne. A hard-talking Glaswegian with an i ear for fresh pop and an eye for a dicey business venture, Horne, then seventeen. put up half the money (£200) for the first ever Postcard release, Orange J uice’s ‘Falling And Laughing’ EP. The other £200, plus the label’s famous pussycat logo, came from Collins himself.
Undeterred by fraud investigations from the Maryhill Social Security Department. Home poured the minimal profits back into the label. ‘Falling And Laughing’, and the OJ follow-up, ‘Blueboy’ (written about The Buzzcocks’ Pete Shelley), set the precedent for the highly original Postcard sound —
L technically wobblv. but full of breezy
humour and chiming semi-acoustic guitar phrases. The two singles (which now change hands for upwards of £75 each) were described with hindsight by DJ/journalist Alan Campbell in 1985 as ‘without doubt two of the most crucial releases as regards the development of Scottish pop music’. The Postcard archetype became the nestling of witty lyrics in loose musical settings, offering a riotously likeable air ofshameless vulnerability.
Enter Aztec Camera. Their plangent, dallying melodies and unusual structures extended the radical avenue opened up by OJ’s unfettered pop meanderings. Only sixteen when he signed to Postcard. Roddy Frame wore a fringed suede jacket and acquired the daft nickname The Boy Wonder. l-lis lyrics were as offbeat as Collins’ — less flippantly quirky, more wistful. but equally vulnerable. Aztec Camera released two majestic singles on Postcard (‘Just Like Gold’ and ‘Mattress Of Wire’) but. like OJ, who signed to Polydor in 1981 to secure the release oftheir debut LP You Can 't Hide Your Love Forever, Frame and co had to leave Home’s tutelage for a bigger organisation (Rough Trade, and later EMI) when funds to record their first album, High Land Hard Rain, were urgently required. Aztec Camera went on to international chart success and continue to exist. basically as a solo Roddy Frame vehicle. Orange Juice achieved a Top Ten hit in 1983 with ‘Rip It Up’, then promptly— due to limp record company promotion — became ‘spoilt brats’ and disbanded at the Brixton Academy in January 1985. Whatever became of its children, however, the Postcard spirit lives on, something that both Frame and Collins are eager to acknowledge.
‘I’m continually amazed at how world-wide a phenomenon the “cult”, if you like, of Postcard has become,’ says Collins. ‘There are Postcard fans in Japan who bring import copies ofour old singles to gigs there. It’s quite gratifying. and also a bit surprising. It would be understandable at a Scottish
level; nothing has happened on an underground level in Scotland since. Nowadays, with the exception ofTeenage Fan Club and a few others, most new groups seem to aim straight for the mainstream.‘
‘Absolutely,’ Frame agrees. ‘Everywhere you tour, people are asking you to sign their Postcard singles. And quite often it’s kids who are fifteen years old. The great thing about Postcard was the feeling of musical affinity. I was sixteen when I met Edwyn and I’d never come across anyone before who was using the same kind ofchords as us. who was into that kind of radically melodic thing.’
Collins: ‘Postcard was the first time there’s been anything specifically Scottish. the first bona fide underground musical movement in Scotland. But quite why it should have this international appeal is beyond me. lt ; must have been pretty good!’
‘It was good. Apart from the naive production. I think it still stands up.’ offers Frame by way of explanation. ‘We didn’t i know how to make records, but we were arrogant enough to think that we could. Glasgow had this reputation for bringing out the hard-man rocker— Alex Harvey.
Frankie Miller and so on. Orange Juice and us were trying to fight against that by being fairly fey and sort of whimsical. Often. I suppose, we were deliberately and openly
20 The List 9- 15 August 1991