It lasted barely 18 months, releasing only a dozen discs by four groups. But Postcard Records, the self-styled “Sound Of Young Scotland”, would become one of the most influential indie labels of all time. Founded in 1979 by student dropout Alan Horne and songwriter Edwyn Collins (pictured), it was run, as legend has it, “from the sock drawer” of a flat at 185 West Princes Street, Glasgow, launching the careers of Orange Juice, Aztec Camera and cult heroes Josef K. Its riotous history has now been told for the first time in a new book by Q writer Simon Goddard, Simply Thrilled – The Preposterous Story Of Postcard Records. Here, Simon picks his ten favourite tracks which shaped that story.
Orange Juice - Falling And Laughing "The recording quality of the first Postcard record left a lot to be desired - it was made in a couple of hours in the small Scottish town of Strathaven in a studio at the back of a shop selling kilts. But even here, its romance is irrepressible. Bear in mind it was still only December 1979 when Edwyn Collins cooed “only my dreams satisfy the real need of my heart” over exquisitely forlorn guitar pluckings. Falling And Laughing remains indie’s “year zero”."
Orange Juice - Blue Boy "Edwyn wrote this tribute to Buzzcocks’ singer Pete Shelley in 1977, performing a jerky prototype with his first “punk” (of sorts) band The Nu-Sonics. Three years later, in the hands of Orange Juice it became this joyous Jacobite charge across pop’s then-rigid north/south divide, the record which finally brought them national attention. The label’s logo may have been a drumming kitten but this was a lion’s roar. Hereon, Postcard Records could not be ignored."
Josef K - It’s Kinda Funny "1980 was the year of the syndrum, providing the cardiac “Boom! Boom!” of jumpsuited Scot Kelly Marie’s September number one Feels Like I’m In Love. Two months later, Josef K released It’s Kinda Funny, sounding like the Sunday morning syndrum comedown to Miss Marie’s Saturday night, thudding to an altogether heavier heartbeat. Among the most beautiful, and underrated, Postcard records and written, says Josef K singer Paul Haig, in all of ten minutes."
The Go-Betweens - I Need Two Heads "The story of how The Go-Betweens, all the way from Brisbane, Australia, ended up recording their third single for a label run from a sock drawer in Glasgow is an elaborate yarn involving Austin Maxis, marijuana and an X-ray of film director Nic Roeg’s knee. But out of their brief dalliance with Postcard came this lyrically-intriguing memento of singer Robert Forster’s first impressions of London. As he explained: I needed two heads to take it all in."
Orange Juice - Poor Old Soul "The ultimate Postcard record in as much as a) it defines Orange Juice’s mandate to explode the unstoppable disco of Chic against the immovable art of The Velvet Underground, and b) its subject – “the harlequin, the rogue” – is Edwyn’s mischievous dig at friend and label co-founder Alan Horne. The result, Poor Old Soul, is so perfect they released two versions as respective A and B sides - but for this author, Part 2 has the edge if only by a Postcard kitten’s whisker."
NB I Need Two Heads and Just Like Gold are currently unavailable
Josef K - Sorry For Laughing "Postcard myth has it that Edinburgh’s Josef K were the gloomy shadow to Orange Juice’s white light. Sorry For Laughing dispels this, its Talking-Heads-go-rhumba rhythm irresistible, its words both hysterical and courageous, the tale of two handicapped lovers mocking each other’s disabilities. Fascinating fact: the single version of the song was recorded in the same Belgian studio used to voice over the original Tin Tin cartoons."
Aztec Camera - Just Like Gold "You won’t find this, nor any of Aztec Camera’s four Postcard recordings, on iTunes or Spotify. That’s because Roddy Frame is the prince of purists who, even today, still believes in the romance of the original 45rpm single, resisting all requests to reissue on CD. But the aptly named Just Like Gold is a vinyl treasure well worth seeking. That Frame was 16 years-old when he recorded it still beggars belief. The “Mozart of indie” incarnate."
Josef K - Chance Meeting "For many, the greatest Postcard single thanks to its epic arrangement which aims for the splendour of Phil Spector despite having only a basic arsenal including autoharp and a 13 year-old trumpet player (“wee” brother of Josef K guitarist Malcolm Ross). Even today, Chance Meeting remains an inspiring example of how to make a pop symphony on a shoestring and, arguably, Josef K’s finest three minutes on record."
Orange Juice - Wan Light "Postcard burned so bright yet so brief it never had time to release this scheduled Orange Juice single, later an album track on their 1982 Polydor debut You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever. Written and sung by guitarist James Kirk (who drafted the lyrics on the back of a postcard of Lord Byron), it would have been the label’s perfect swansong, a delirious mix of soul, chivalry and dreamy philosophy. Is this what life is all about?"
Laurie Anderson - O Superman "As an epilogue to the preposterous story of Postcard Records, a Postcard that could have been. It speaks volumes for the far-sighted vision of boss Alan Horne that he came close to licensing this eight-minute avant-garde oddity, destined to reach number 2 in October 1981, sadly losing out to Warners. All the more poignant that Anderson went on to become the wife of Postcard godhead, Lou Reed."
Simply Thrilled – The Preposterous Story of Postcard Records by Simon Goddard is published by Ebury Press, Eburypublishing.co.uk.