The first the world heard of Edwyn Collins was in February 1980 with the release of Falling And Laughing. The debut single by his band, Orange Juice, it was also the first offering from Postcard Records, the independent label Edwyn co-founded with Alan Horne, run from the latter’s sock drawer in a former Red Light district in Glasgow’s West End. As a record, Falling And Laughing was a hopeless cacophony of shrill guitars and an inexplicably loud bass drum pedal. But as a song, it was a sublime celebration of unfulfilled ardour to a tune that aimed to bridge the chasm between The Velvet Underground and Chic. In the age of New Romantics, Edwyn arrived as a Real Romantic, one unafraid to simultaneously embrace "the pleasure with the pain".
After ten more records, including three increasingly inventive Orange Juice singles, Postcard closed its sock drawer in late 1981. It would be another two decades before Edwyn and Horne’s endeavours would be belatedly recognised as a key foundation stone for indie music, particularly in Scotland where Primal Scream, Belle And Sebastian and Franz Ferdinand would all follow, and acknowledge, Orange Juice’s trailblazing example.
In the interim, Edwyn took Orange Juice into the Top 10 with 1983’s Rip It Up, perhaps the epitome of their Velvets/Chic punk-funk hybrid, complete with Buzzcocks-homage guitar solo. Alas, the pleasure of performing the song on Top Of The Pops was neutered by the pain of Legs & Co ripping up tissue paper whilst dancing on an adjoining stage. Jinxed thereafter, Orange Juice would later close their proverbial sock drawer in 1985.
Edwyn immediately embarked on a solo career, though it would be ten years before he found himself back on Top Of The Pops with 1995’s A Girl Like You. Luckily, this time Legs & Co were nowhere to be seen. Better still, the song’s northern soul groove and Isley Brothers guitar frills rewarded Edwyn with a genuine "worldwide smash" and enough royalties to fill a thousand sock drawers. Life, suddenly, was all pleasure.
Fast forward another decade to February 2005, when Edwyn had just finished recording songs for his sixth solo album. Among the rough mixes in the can was a track called One Is A Lonely Number. Exactly 25 years after Falling And Laughing, it saw the Old Romantic still embracing life’s pleasure with its pain: "If life breaks your heart, you needn’t fall apart." Little could he have realised how profoundly prophetic these words would become in the months that followed.
On Sunday, February 20, 2005, Edwyn was admitted to hospital after collapsing at home. He was later diagnosed with having suffered two cerebral haemorrhages and underwent a precarious neurological operation. Incredibly, through a combination of surgical brilliance, the heroic support of his family and his own seemingly invincible will power, Edwyn pulled through. Six months after his stroke, he was back at home. But more phenomenal still was his determination to overcome the physical after-effects hindering his movement and speech so he could return to the studio and finish the album he’d already begun.
The result was Home Again, a testament not only to Edwyn Collins the songwriter, but Edwyn the man and his resolute spirit. "This is hard for me," admits Edwyn. "I’m learning to live again after my stroke. But I am happy and contented also. I’m very pleased with the album and with the songs. I’m getting there and I feel grateful at last."
Finishing Home Again has been a Herculean struggle, but Edwyn’s perseverance has more than paid off. Asked to rate it against his entire body of work, Orange Juice included, Edwyn ponders for a few seconds. "Home Again," he finally says, "it’s perfect. These songs are me. This is who I am."
Since the release of Home Again, Edwyn has continued to renew himself, one step at a time. In November 2007, he took to the stage again, having painstakingly relearned the lyrics to his songs. Our hearts were in our mouths, but of course, he pulled the performance off with aplomb. He has continued to tour ever since, increasing in confidence with each show.
In October 2008, he quite suddenly reconnected with the songwriter inside him, and has since recorded a whole raft of new songs for an album released in 2010 called ‘Losing Sleep.’ He has regained control of his precious studio and is swamped with production work for others, alongside his collaborator of sixteen years, Sebastian Lewsley.
In May 2009, Edwyn was honoured by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors, when he was awarded the Ivor Novello Inspiration Award.
Spring 2010 saw the US release of Losing Sleep. Featuring collaborations with his friends and supporters Franz Ferdinand, The Drums, The Cribs and The Magic Numbers, not to mention Johnny Marr and Roddy Frame, the album has already been hailed by many as the best of his life and is already enjoying success in the UK and Europe. No special pleading required.
Late 2011 and Edwyn takes it back to the beginning. In a changing music business, and in cahoots with well known A&R renegade, James Endeacott, Analogue Enhanced Digital, a true independent label was born. Learning from the Postcard days, AED is handcrafted, hand picked and handpacked and already blossoming.
Edwyn’s eigth solo album, UNDERSTATED, was released on March 25. Before that, a single, DILEMNA. This was on his own label AED Records. Truly independent, small, careful attention to detail. The template hasn’t really changed since he established his first label, Postcard, 30 odd years ago.
Understated was recorded during the course of 2012 with members of his band, all of whom have their own projects on the go, many of which have been recorded at Edwyn’s West Heath Studios, wih himself and Seb Lewsley at the desk. The record reflects this atmosphere of collaboration, friendship, cross-pollination, mutual inspiration that simply defines all that Edwyn’s life, studio, label and music are all about these days.
Edwyn Collins is back.