26. Orange Juice – Moscow / Moscow Olympics

/ Falling and laughing, Postcard, 1980

An instrumental B side – in fact two for the price of one – proving that the sound of young Scotland was one of unbridled joy: it is difficult to think of anything more infectiously happy than this instrumental, apart from your other favourite OJ tune.  The single anticipated the 1980 Olympics, being released in February of that year.  Moscow’s Games were as politically fraught as Beijing’s, with the United States opting for a Cold War boycott over the Soviet Union’s Afghanistan occupation, a boycott reciprocated at Los Angeles in 1984 when the Russians stayed away.

I don’t suppose it got used in 1980 as a backing track for gold-medal winning highlights, but I’d wager if there is another Moscow Games this century, some smart cookie with responsibility for picking the music will dig ‘Moscow’ out.  Unfettered by political concerns, the gold-medal winning quartet of Edwyn Collins, James Kirk, Steven Daly and David McClymont captured not only the emerging sound of their native land but also the spirit of the Olympics – the sauntering swagger of Usain Bolt, the drilled-to-effortlessness brilliance of so many Chinese athletes, and those repeated moments of victory when the British cycling team’s pumped-up pedal power was transformed into joyous relief.  Or in Moscow 1980 terms, the excitement and surprise of the middle-distance duelling between Coe and Ovett, and Scotsman Allan Wells winning the 100 metres.

You might suppose those are Muscovite inflections in James Kirk’s tune, but in fact, as the notes for Domino’s 2005 issue of The Glasgow School reveal, the guitar line was collared from the horn hook of an unnamed and ‘ultra-rare’ reggae 12”.  It manages to sound brassy without there being any brass on it.  The second take is theoretically a dub version, but actually sounds like an error-strewn live recording complete with whoops and exclamations of ‘Moscow!’  Here, if you wish to blame them for it, are the roots that the ‘shambling’ bands of the mid-eighties fed on.  Yes, an early Orange Juice song always teeters on the edge of chaos, but its overall feel is taut, finely balanced, intent on its goal.  They knew what they were doing, like a gymnast on the beam, although I’m guessing Edwyn and his team-mates didn’t train quite as hard.

The notes also suggest that this was Orange Juice’s attempt ‘to honour the 1960s tradition of the disposable B-side.’  In this regard, the quartet obviously failed miserably, because here I am nearly 30 years later still listening to it.

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2 Responses to 26. Orange Juice – Moscow / Moscow Olympics

  1. Kevin P says:

    If I remember rightly Manucured Noise also had a Moscow Olympics b-side out at the same time (logically enough). Great minds think alike. Or perhaps there was a certain romance about those Games?

  2. Having bought the ‘Northern stories’ compilation not so long ago, I should have been alive to that. Just reminded myself what it sounds like and it has a good Pigbag-go-Russsian-dancing instrumental groove going for it. It’s nice to suppose that history might repeat itself and a couple of ultra-cool Russian groups will pen hymns to the London 2012 Olympics – assuming the country can overcome what appears to be its rather dodgy taste in pop music by then.

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