12 Songs, 55 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Recorded almost entirely alone, Edwyn Collins’ 1994 solo album Gorgeous George might have been considered his folky masterpiece if not for the runaway success of “A Girl Like You,” which dominated '90s radio. While other tunes on Gorgeous George have the same Gothic Motown vibe (“Out of This World,” “Make Me Feel Again," and “I Got It Bad” are all excellent), none has the insistent catchiness of “A Girl Like You.” Lined with spare and poignant acoustic songs like “Low Expectations” and “North of Heaven,” Gorgeous George feels at times like the gentle Glaswegian’s response to Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska. His lopsided baritone had taken on the aged polish of an oak table, giving his lovelorn lyrics a gravitas that hadn't been there when he was a young pop star. Collins played all the instruments himself, except for bass (courtesy Clare Kenny) and drums (handled by none other than former Sex Pistol Paul Cook). Cook also delivers the vibraphone licks on “A Girl Like You,” the most alluring detail in what could be the most alluring song of Collins’ career.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Recorded almost entirely alone, Edwyn Collins’ 1994 solo album Gorgeous George might have been considered his folky masterpiece if not for the runaway success of “A Girl Like You,” which dominated '90s radio. While other tunes on Gorgeous George have the same Gothic Motown vibe (“Out of This World,” “Make Me Feel Again," and “I Got It Bad” are all excellent), none has the insistent catchiness of “A Girl Like You.” Lined with spare and poignant acoustic songs like “Low Expectations” and “North of Heaven,” Gorgeous George feels at times like the gentle Glaswegian’s response to Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska. His lopsided baritone had taken on the aged polish of an oak table, giving his lovelorn lyrics a gravitas that hadn't been there when he was a young pop star. Collins played all the instruments himself, except for bass (courtesy Clare Kenny) and drums (handled by none other than former Sex Pistol Paul Cook). Cook also delivers the vibraphone licks on “A Girl Like You,” the most alluring detail in what could be the most alluring song of Collins’ career.

TITLE TIME

About Edwyn Collins

Best known for his tenure fronting the Scottish pop revivalists Orange Juice as well as his international solo hit "A Girl Like You," singer Edwyn Collins was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1959. In 1976, he formed the Nu-Sonics, who resurfaced three years later as Orange Juice; the leading proponent of the Glasgow neo-pop scene, the band earned a devoted cult following but little commercial success, and by the early '80s Collins was the only remaining founding member. After a self-titled 1984 release failed to chart, Orange Juice disbanded, and Collins was freed from his contract with the group's label, Polydor.

A solo career seemed imminent, but the singer struggled; dogged by a reputation as a stubborn, difficult perfectionist unmoved by prevailing commercial attitudes, Collins found no one willing to offer him a contract, and only after a pair of sold-out London performances did Creation's Alan McGee sign him to the label's Elevation subsidiary in 1986. The singles "Don't Shilly Shally" (produced by Cocteau Twin Robin Guthrie) and "My Beloved Girl" followed, but both failed to chart; in 1987, Elevation folded, and after Collins and McGee had a falling out, the singer was again left without a contract.

Some months later, Collins accepted the opportunity to record at a small German studio run by a group of devoted Orange Juice fans; cut with the aid of producer Dennis Bovell as well as Aztec Camera frontman Roddy Frame, the resulting LP, Hope and Despair, a brooding, ambitious collection spotlighting Collins' smooth, soulful baritone, was eventually picked up by the Demon label and issued in 1989. The album proved quite successful on the independent charts, and soon Collins returned to the studio to record 1990's Spartan Hellbent on Compromise; when the LP failed to repeat its predecessor's good fortune, Demon dropped him from their ranks, and another long sabbatical followed.

After spending much of the decade's first half in the producer's seat, overseeing sessions from artists including longtime pal Paul Quinn, the Rockingbirds, A House, and the Frank and Walters, Collins finally earned another shot as a performer: after signing with the tiny U.K. indie Setanta, he recorded 1994's Gorgeous George, a scathing, shimmering set of retro-pop highlighted by the single "A Girl Like You." Slowly, the song became a massive hit throughout Europe as well as the U.S. and returned Collins to the charts for the first time since the 1983 Orange Juice smash "Rip It Up," finally establishing the longstanding cult hero as something of a household name.

In 2005, Collins was rushed to the hospital after suffering a severe cerebral hemorrhage; he would eventually spend six months recovering from brain surgery. The album that Collins had been recording prior to his illness was mixed after he was discharged from the hospital. Entitled Home Again, it was released on Heavenly Recordings in September 2007. In 2010 Collins released Losing Sleep, his first new collection of songs since his illness. The album featured guest appearances from a wide range of friends and admirers and showed that Collins was well along the road to recovery.

As Collins continued to get stronger, he and James Endeacott, a former A&R man at Rough Trade, formed a new record label, Analogue Enhanced Digital, to release further records by Edwyn and also new artists the duo discovered. He also maintained a regular schedule of playing live shows, and in March of 2013 released a new album for AED, Understated. ~ Jason Ankeny

HOMETOWN
Edinburgh, Scotland
BORN
August 23, 1959

Songs

Albums

Videos

Listeners Also Played