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Last Updated: Monday, 18 February 2008, 00:57 GMT
Defining the sound of young Scotland
By Stuart Nicolson
BBC Scotland news website reporter

Postcard sleeve
Postcard was founded by Alan Horne in 1979
Set up in a dingy flat in Glasgow's west end by a 19-year-old student in the final days of punk, it released just 13 records before folding two years later.

But the slogan of legendary label Postcard Records, The Sound of Young Scotland, came to represent the nation's cultural rebirth.

And its obscure releases by Orange Juice and Josef K continue to inspire modern-day acts such as Franz Ferdinand and Belle and Sebastian.

The inside story of Postcard Records and its legacy will be told in a new BBC Four television documentary, Caledonia Dreamin', on 22 February.


Postcard was founded by Alan Horne in 1979 as a vehicle to release records by Orange Juice.

Horne was convinced Orange Juice, formed by school friends at Bearsden Academy and fronted by the charismatic Edywn Collins, were destined for greatness.

They were camp, literate and witty - and the complete antithesis of what was popular among the city's punk-loving music fans at the time.

Horne decided the band should shun the traditional route of moving to London in search of a record deal and instead release records themselves in the DIY spirit of punk.

Alan Horne
We had about 400 between us and we got a record by Orange Juice pressed and took it round the shops in the back of a car
Alan Horne
Postcard Records founder

The band's debut single Falling and Laughing, released on Postcard in 1980, received immediate critical acclaim from the London-based music press despite only 1,000 copies being pressed.

Further records by Orange Juice, Josef K, The Go Betweens and Aztec Camera quickly followed, each featuring the Sound of Young Scotland slogan and a sleeve covered in images of Tartan kitsch.

Speaking a few years later, Horne said: "We were all very enthusiastic and very naive and we rushed right into the middle of it all before we knew anything. We had never seen the inside of a record company before.

"In those days it was impossible to get A&R people up from London. We had about 400 between us and we got a record by Orange Juice pressed and took it round the shops in the back of a car."

Pop gold rush

Horne's small flat in West Princes Street became the epicentre of a new and fiercely independent Glasgow music scene.

Music journalist Billy Sloan remembered: "Horne just loved being this kind of Andy Warhol figure with his retinue of beautiful people hanging around him sneering at everybody and just being totally dismissive of every other band not just in Scotland but across the world."

As the hype from the fashionable music press grew, major record labels were desperate not to miss out on the great Glasgow pop gold rush, and despatched armies of talent-spotters to the city.

BBC Scotland presenter Stuart Cosgrove said: "I was working for the NME in London in the early 80s and you began to sense a new kind of resonance in Glasgow that pointed to Glasgow itself going through fundamental transformation.

"I think up until then Glasgow had the reputation as Britain's official hard man city but you began to see these bands emerge who were clean, they were fey, they seemed like nice boys."

Among their biggest fans was a teenage Justin Currie, the future lead singer of Del Amitri, who admitted: "If you saw Edwyn Collins from the top of the bus it was like seeing Elvis. I had 'I love Edwyn' written on my school bag in 4th year."

orange juice
Postcard was formed to release the records of Orange Juice

Postcard soon became victims of their own success as they struggled to compete with the major record labels who were signing up anyone in Glasgow with a guitar and a tartan shirt, often regardless of talent.

The charts were soon full of Postcard-inspired Scottish acts whose watered-down commercial sound was dubbed "diluted Orange Juice" by Collins.

Among them was Clare Grogan of Altered Images, who recalled: "As soon as we realised EMI and Columbia were interested in us there was no way we were going to go to Postcard.

"We were going to sell out, we were going to sell our souls and be on Top of the Pops in a year, and that's what happened."

Postcard folded in 1981, when Horne was headhunted by London Records. Even Orange Juice signed for a major label as the big companies wrestled back control of the music industry from the bedroom-based upstarts.

The late 80s and early 90s were dominated by the slick, radio-friendly 'Scottish blue-eyed soul' of bands such as Hue and Cry, Deacon Blue and Del Amitri.

'DIY ethos'

But now a new generation of Scottish musicians has rediscovered and embraced the independent Postcard aesthetic.

Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand said: "I must have been about 19 and I was in Paddy's Market and I found two Orange Juice singles, two Postcard singles, in one of the wee record shops round the back.

"They seemed really expensive at the time because the guy wanted 1 each for them. He said they were something special. I thought I'm going to take a chance on them and buy them.

"They were amazing. I remember taking them home and going 'why did no one tell me about this stuff before?'

"It did have an influence on us certainly, not just in terms of sound but in terms of attitude."

Gerry Love of Teenage Fanclub added: "It was the whole DIY ethos, the fact that you didn't have to go to London and that Glasgow was strong enough to represent itself."

While for Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian: "The spirit of Postcard affected everything that we did. We wanted to be the sons of Postcard."

Caledonia Dreamin' will be broadcast on BBC 4 at 2100 BST on 22 February.

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