Year of Release: 1983
Sometimes a record catches my eye in a record store or ebay which I'm aware already has a bit of a low-level internet buzz about it. By this, I mean that a simple Google search reveals all kinds of questions about its origins or raves on internet forums, but no actual real information.
This is one such (well, I wouldn't have bothered with that opening paragraph if it weren't, not unless I was trying to be all post-modern and clever). I must admit to being aware of its reputation but never having heard a single note of it until the needle hit the groove. It soon became apparent what the fuss was about - this is pristine eighties pop with a distinctly post-punk and psychedelic twist. Strict and even yet somehow quirky beats and synth splashes rub up against smooth guitar riffs, utterly peculiar lyrics (why Julie isn't Julie in the bath is never quite explained) and a faintly uneasy, film noir atmosphere. A subtle chorus also creeps up on you more and more with each play, until the entire thing has infected your brain and won't leave. It's unassuming to begin with, then all-consuming. Only the squeaky synth instrumental section spoils the production values, but I suspect that probably seemed cutting edge when the song was recorded in 1981.
It would seem that Orphan formed in Birmingham at some point around 1978 or 1979, containing members Phill Dunn, Phil Campion, Pete Dunn, Phil Vickers, Keith Jones, Trevor Wigley and Steve Leighton. They had become a solid fixture on the Birmingham gig circuit by the early eighties, and seemed to get themselves attached to the label Swoop, which was run by Lee Sound Studios in Walsall. At least three singles ("RSVPU", "Nervous" and "Love on the Lichfield Line") slipped out on this imprint, but in the manner of most boutique labels run by recording studios, the connection failed to generate any hits for them. It seems as if this track was then licensed to Brilliant Records in 1983 in an attempt to generate a better chance of chart action. Far from being a super major with clout, though, Brilliant was an indie distributed by Spartan, and the deserved outcome of a hit single never materialised. Also, by 1983 there's a chance that the woozy New Wave sounds on display here were starting to feel a bit dated, and had it been released in 1981 when it was actually recorded, the outcome may have been different.
However, we are where we are. The band seems to have packed it in shortly afterwards, and Phill Dunn moved on to become a film director in Singapore, still occasionally recording music with his new psychedelic rock inspired band Roxy Rejects.
Assuming this was Orphan's last release - and I can't find anything to suggest otherwise - it would seem as if they left the music business at least having given it their best shot.
(I originally uploaded this entry in December 2013. Since then, someone has pointed out to me - quite fairly - that the "Julie" in the song is probably a cross-dresser. Lyrical mystery solved.)