The Sunday Papers

The Origins of Orange

By Andy Perrin | December 01, 2017

Riff City Sunday Papers Vol.1 No.17

The story of Orange Amps began when Clifford Cooper began with a modest bank balance to open a shop. Not just any shop, the Orange Shop on London’s New Compton Street. It’s opening day, September 2, 1968. The shop sold a modest collection of used gear, mostly amps and guitars. Looking back, Cooper’s business plan had, what seemed like, a critical flaw. In a recent interview with CEO Magazine, Cooper recollected the shop’s origins: "I only had about £50 in those days and I was in a band so I decided to sell off the group’s equipment to help finance and build the studio." When the gear sold quickly, stock became a problem. With little acknowledgement from suppliers of new gear, Cooper decided to create the supply in house. If you can’t buy them, build them.

Cooper huddled a few like-minded engineers around some reams of bright orange tolex. Within a month, the first Orange Amps were born. By early November 1968 Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac was sporting a sound system whose color said it all. With this, Orange won its first mainstage success. The Orange loud-makers proved effective for both guitarists, including a nod from B. B. King in 1969, as well as public announcement systems. These systems served the needs of BBC broadcasting outdoor events as well as gigging musicians and acts who landed on the shores of the UK and needed to gear up for shows on the road.

Over the years, Orange has persisted through eras or rock and roll’s rollercoaster ride. There are literally too many names of iconic players who have stood in front of a wall of blazing oranges. Famed British players such as Jimmy Page and Noel Gallagher bookending that history are a true testament to the staying power of these unmistakable tube amps whose glowing innards matched their bright exterior. Across the pond and more recently Orange are the go-to amp of choice for rock players of a new generation, such as Scott Holiday of Rival Sons.

Among their heritage of combos, heads, and cabs Orange has made their mark in a number of historic and recent gear innovations. Take, for example, the 2006 launch of the Tiny Terror to which we owe the lunchbox amp craze. Be it their break into the pedal market or launch of amps with internal stereo capabilities, Orange has been a gear maker to watch at NAMM shows as of late. No matter what they bring to Nashville for the annual show and shine, there are three things that never change about the lineup. (1) It’s got to have that classic, familiar, UK feel. (2) It’s got to be forward thinking. (3) It’s got to be orange.

While the complete Orange story includes many other episodes and actors, I hope this brief burst of rock and roll’s favorite citrus makes for a great #RiffCitySunday.