t’s the cautionary tale of a feisty punk
entrepreneur who was very nearly
swallowed whole by the mercenary multi-
nationals in London, before proving
himself so much of an irritant that they
vomited him up in disgust. Older, wiser and more than a little bedraggled. Alan Horne ended up back in Glasgow, where he’s once more doing what he does best, putting out his mates’ idiosyncratic. left-field pop albums on the still wilfully amateurish Postcard. And in passing, bitching gloriously about the failings and pretensions of the music biz.
For anyone under 24, or sadly unversed in the history of great Scottish pop, Postcard Records, in a halcyon eighteen months or so between late 1979 and May l981, released some of the most sublime singles ever made in Scotland, or anywhere else for that matter. Edwyn Collins’s Orange Juice were the label’s mainstay and raison d’etre and their four Postcard singles (‘Falling And Laughing’, ‘Blue Boy’. ‘Simply Thrilled Honey’ and ‘Poor Old Soul’) were bona fide abrasive guitar-pop classics, records which spawned countless indie loser imitators well into the next decade. Aztec Camera never bettered their Postcard debut ‘Just Like Gold’, and Home even found time to release the first British single by melancholic Brisbanites The Go-Betweens (later, of course, to find fame as World’s Greatest Critic’s Faves). All this and more (Josef K) was achieved from a dodgy tenement in West Princes Street on an unsteady mixture of speed and alcohol abuse.
‘I’d be totally speeding out of my head,’ Horne recalls. ‘With Edwyn it was the drink. He’s OK now but then he was in constant danger of becoming a drunk. With me it was the speed. I’d be running round cleaning the flat in the middle of the night. completely gone.’
Thirteen years later, Home is on nothing stronger than a burger and black tea in a Glasgow hippy cafe. At 34, he’s wearing shorts, plastic sandals and round specs and still resembles a throwback to the ‘twee’ Orange Juice phase of 1982, but in his own mind at least. he’s still a punk. After all, that’s where it all started . . .
An understandably disenchanted social misfit
‘l’d be totally speeding out of my head, I’d be
running round cleaning the
flat in the middle of the night, completely goneﬂ
from Ayrshire seaside hellhole Saltcoats, at seventeen Horne scorned the temptations of gainful employment in an lCl lab to jaunt around Europe on a Eurorail hippy trail holiday. ‘I bought Sounds in Victoria Station,’ he recalls, ‘and it was the punk rock issue with Johnny Rotten sticking two fingers up. That was in my rucksack for the whole trip.’
Safely back in Scotland with an ideology to back up his disillusionment, Horne headed for Glasgow in happy non-pursuit of a degree in zoology. The student grant went on equipment for his no-hope band (‘Oscar Wild without an E’). acquiring a wardrobe in Paddy’s Market with advice from Edwyn Collins (‘l was preparing for stardom. I was out there buying frilly blue satin shirts. I was very ahead of my time.‘), and the everyday expense of being a punk ligger.
‘Punk as an art form was totally liberating,’ he recalls in the familiar tones of a veteran of the safety pin wars, a man who still fondly thinks back to the night he saw The Slits pissing on stage. ‘We went to Strathclyde Uni to \see The Ramones supported by Talking Heads. Backstage was Debbie Harry who wasn’t well-known at the time unless you were really clued-up about the New York scene. And it struck me that she had a really huge head. It dawned on me that all the big stars have huge heads, larger-than life really. The next night it was the Glasgow Apollo and Television supported by Blondie. After that nothing happened. By the time The Clash came at the end of the year, it was all finished, Sham 69 were in the charts, Stiff had started up, it was no longer about communicating ideas.’
Horne knew punk was dead when the Clash drummer Topper Headon condescendingly threw badges at the lads-who-would-be-Orange- Juice in Central Station. What he’d taken on board though were the essential tenets of punk, art. art, fascism, and art. Postcard was born out of these elements, elitist, exclusive and eclectic.
Around this time, Horne’s mates, arty drunkard Edwyn, arty eccentric James Kirk and belligerent careerist Stephen Daly dropped their spiky group name Nu-Sonics in favour of the distinctly post-modernist, post-punk Orange Juice. For Home it was road to Damascus time.
POOR OLI SOUL
The Alan Horne Story
‘I’ll run through what I did in the 80s, it doesn’t take very long.’ Three hours later, ALAN HORNE has reached 1985, still recounting the litany of deals, scams, double-crosses, ideals and disappointments that made up the decade of greed for the cantankerous genius who founded Postcard Records. Tom Lappin listens in.
‘When they told me they’d changed the name to Orange Juice, I just went “yesss, that’s wild”. You know when these things matter and that had the shock of the new, but it was such a contrary and strange name, so ahead of everything else at the time. They were always fighting and bickering, but I knew that what they were doing was absolutely revolutionary and I don’t mean that lightly. They were so ahead of what was coming out of London at that time in 1978. The only group at that time who made me remotely jealous was The Pop Group. That record they made — Beyond Good And Evil. I remember they came up here and played the OM Union. They’d just got their record company money and had spent it all on this great PA system and equipment. They came on stage in dressing gowns. I remember Steven Daly spitting at them because he was so furiously jealous.’ ,
The label itself was a natural progression. Factory, Zoo, Rough Trade and scores of other cottage industries were showing the way, and Home knew exactly what he wanted to achieve. ‘My concept was do a label for a short time, make something great and then completely destroy it, before it had time to stagnate.’
Which he did. With indie charts crammed with Postcard product, Home let the label drift to an end, disappearing off to London with aspiring pop crooner Paul Quinn and lying low in a Willesden ﬂat. Once the Postcard cash ran out (‘I went to the Cashline after a week in London and found we had £64 left.’), they survived by dipping Edwyn’s pockets for loose change. In the end Horne accepted the inevitable and got a job.
‘lt was Edwyn’s idea to get money out of major record labels. Stupidly I didn’t actually go to the highest bidder. That’s what I intended but it never actually worked out like that. I had to get a job, I needed money. So Edwyn phoned up this guy at London Records, put on my voice, and basically said, “give me money”. So I had an appointment to see this guy the next day at two o’clock. I got all dressed up, hundreds of make- up and terriﬁed the fuck out of them. “How much do you want?” they said. “How much you got?”’
Horne ended up with his own label, Swamplands, and a pretty loose rein. Not that he got carried away. ‘I knew I was just ﬂavour of the month. I’d seen it all before and I didn’t really give a fuck. I certainly didn’t put any great hopes in it.’ He immersed himself into the Tin Pan Alley mentality of early 80s p0p with a typical streak of irony.
10 The List 2-15 July I993