The Orange Bicycle was an English psychedelic pop-rock band that released five 1967–68 singles on Columbia (EMI), including the cult classics “Hyacinth Threads” and “Jenskadajka.” In 1969–70, they made four singles and a self-titled album on Parlophone, followed by a 1971 single on Regal Zonophone. Their recordings have since been gathered on retrospective comps, including the 2010 double-CD Lets Take a Trip On an Orange Bicycle (The Anthology).
Members: John Bachini (bass), Wil Malone (drums, keyboards, vocals), Robb Scales (vocals), Gary Hooper (guitar, 1967-?), Kevin Currie (drums, ?-1971), Bernie Lee (guitar, ?-1971)
Robb Storme and The Whispers
Orange Bicycle was an outgrowth of Luton beat group Robb Storme & The Whispers, which cut five singles and an EP between on Decca, Picadilly, and Pye during the early-to-mid 1960s.
They formed in 1959 as a skiffle group in Crouch End, North London. As rock ‘n’ roll took hold in the UK, they became Robb Storme & The Whispers. Early bassist Lewis Collins went into acting and found fame as Brodie in the ITV crime-action drama The Professionals.
Singer Storme (real name Robert Scales) signed to Decca, which issued his October 1960 debut single: “One Thousand Nine Hundred and When,” a crooner ballad with staccato guitar; backed with “I Don’t Need Your Love Anymore,” a light, perky number male-female backing vocals.
In January 1961, Storm released his second single: “Music,” an uptempo croon with twangy guitar and female backing vocals; backed with “Five Minutes More.”
Robb Storme & The Whispers made their proper debut with the June 1961 Decca single “Near You,” a rumbling uptempo with Shadows-like guitar licks; backed with the ballad “Lonely Town,” their first song co-credited to keyboardist Will Malone. In September, they cut their second a-side: “Earth Angel” a mid-tempo Dion-like croon-pop number (not The Penguins hit); backed with the Storme solo track “Transistor Sister,” an uptempo cut with accordion.
In December 1961, Robb Storme & The Whispers released Wheels, which includes the last two a-sides and three new tracks: “Bye Bye Blues,” “Hand Me Down My Walking Cane,” and “Wheels,” a moderate croon number with plucked, ‘clicking’ guitar and light female vocalise. Storme’s final Decca release was the February 1962 single “Pretty Hair and Angel Eyes” (b/w “A Mile of Broken Hearts”).
Storme resurfaced on Pye with the March 1963 single “Sixteen Years Ago Tonight” (b/w “Surprise Surprise”). In July, The Whispers resumed with the Piccadilly a-side “Happens Ev’ryday,” backed with the solo Storme track “Surprise, Surprise.”
In January 1964, Robb Storme & The Whispers released their second Piccadilly: a beat remake of the 1958 hit “To Know Her Is To Love Her,” a song Phil Spector wrote and recorded with his vocal trio The Teddy Bears. Malone wrote the b-side, “Bu-Bop-A-Lu-Bop-A-Lie,” a brassy uptempo blend of R&B and doo-wop. That year, they became the first British rock act to tour Poland, where they appeared with Helen Shapiro.
In March 1965, Robb Storme & The Whispers released the Pye single “Love Is Strange,” a Bo Diddley-penned 1956 hit for Mickey & Sylvia; backed with the Malone original “Shy Girl,” an uptempo harmony number with punchy sax and staccato guitar.
Robb Storme & The Whispers moved to Columbia for their two final singles. In November 1965, they released “Where Is My Girl,” a beat-harmony number with a driving piano–tambourine pattern. The b-side, “Double Oh Seven,” is a medium-slow number with flowing, airy vocalise and a (“Peter Gunn”-like) guitar break with oozing sax. Malone wrote the a-side, which Who guitarist Pete Townshend reviewed for Melody Maker. (He later noted the similar cadence between that song and the Who’s 1966 single “Substitute”).
In August 1966, the renamed Robb Storme Group released “Here Today,” an uptempo harmony-pop cover of the Pet Sounds song, co-written by Tony Asher and Beach Boy Brian Wilson. The b-side, “But Cry,” is a medium-uptempo number with jangly guitar, Motown rhythmic properties, and paradoxically sad lyrics spice with marimba breaks.
As psychedelia took hold, the band changed its name to Orange Bicycle. Malone became their chief writer and Storme went by the name R.J. Scales.
In France, “Hyacinth Threads” and “Amy Peate” appeared on an EP with two otherwise unissued songs: “Competition” and “Dropping Out.”
“Competition” is a song by Leeds session drummer Dougie Wright and (later Apollo 100) guitarist Vic Flick.
“Dropping Out” is a co-write between Malone and associate Des John Cox.
“Early Pearly Morning”
On February 16, 1968, Orange Bicycle released their third single, “Early Pearly Morning” backed with “Go With Goldie,” both Malone originals.
“Jenskadajka” is a song by Des John Cox and Douglas Hodson, co-writer of the 1965 Dave Berry side “Now” (later covered by Patricia Paay). “Jenskadajka” was subsequently recorded by German schlager singer Rex Gildo and French chanson singer Szabo.
On the side, Malone composed and arranged Funnysad Music, an experimental novelty record self-recorded as the Wilson Malone Voiceband with engineer Terry Brown, who later produced Canadian rock acts (Klaatu, Max Webster, Rush, Wanka). Funnysad is one of the earliest releases on Morgan, a label established in 1968 by Morgan Studios co-founders Barry Morgan and Monty Babson.
“Sing This All Together”
On October 4, 1968, Orange Bicycle released “Sing This All Together,” a Rolling Stones cover backed with “Trip on an Orange Bicycle,” a Cox–Malone co-write.
“Sing This All Together” is a Jagger–Richards song that opens the Stones’ 1967 psychedelic album Their Satanic Majesties Request.
“Sing This All Together” was the fifth and final Columbia single by Orange Bicycle, who moved to Parlophone for their next five releases.
“Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You”
Dylan’s “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” appears on his 1969 release Nashville Skyline.
This was their first of four singles on Parlophone. From here onward, Orange Bicycle used soundman Jonathan Peel (not the BBC Radio One DJ), who produced this single in succession with 1969 sides by Mayfield’s Mule and Ipsissimus (their cover of the Sharon Tandy / Les Fleur des Lys soul-psych rocker “Hold On”).
“Carry That Weight / You Never Give Me Your Money”
On October 10, 1969, Orange Bicycle released “Carry That Weight / You Never Give Me Your Money,” part of The Beatles side-two medley on Abbey Road. The b-side is an uncredited track with the ironic title “Want to ‘B’ Side.”
Meanwhile, Malone collaborated with engineers Mike Bobak (Steamhammer, Little Free Rock, Red Dirt) and Andy Johns (Blodwyn Pig, Traffic, Jimi Hendrix Experience) on Motherlight, an eight-song (27-minute) psychedelic rock album under the name Bobak, Jons, Malone. It was one of three albums (between titles by The Academy and Pussy) issued on the original run of Morgan Town Blue, Morgan’s sister imprint that later restarted as an archival label.
“Take Me to the Pilot”
“Take Me to the Pilot” is a song by Elton John and Bernie Taupin that appears on John’s self-titled second album, released in April 1970.
In June 1970, Orange Bicycle released their self-titled album on Parlophone. It contains their pre-released Elton cover (“Take Me To The Pilot”) and earlier Dylan cover (“Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You”), plus two further Elton covers (“Lady Samantha,” “Country Comforts”), two John Dove songs (“Make It Rain,” “Jelly On the Bread”), two Malone originals (“The Sweet Thing Is,” “Hallelujah Moon”).
Orange Bicycle also includes a song by Denny Laine (“Say You Don’t Mind”) and one by session musicians Alan Hawkshaw and Ray Cameron (“Come Tomorrow Morning”). The penultimate track, “Back,” is John Bachini’s sole writing contribution to the band.
“Lady Samantha” is a John–Taupin song from Elton’s 1969 debut album Empty Sky.
“Country Comforts” is a John–Taupin song from Elton’s 1970 third album Tumbleweed Connection.
“The Sweet Thing Is” is a song Denny Laine issued as a 1967 solo Deram a-side shortly after his exit from the Moody Blues. In 1971, Ex-Zombies singer Colin Blunstone covered it on his debut solo album One Year. His version reached No. 15 on the UK singles chart.
“Make It Rain”
“Say You Don’t Mind”
“Jelly On the Bread”
“Come Tomorrow Morning”
Orange Bicycle features visuals by the fledgling post-psych design firm Hipgnosis. Peel produced the album in succession with 1970 titles by Gravy Train, The Greatest Show On Earth, Panama Limited, and Toe Fat.
Parlophone lifted “Jelly On the Bread” as the album’s third a-side, backed with “Make It Rain.” In 1972, Mexican label Capitol Pops issued Orange Bicycle with different cover art.
On January 8, 1971, Orange Bicycle released the non-album Regal Zonophone a-side “Goodbye Stranger,” their fourth John Dove song, backed with the Elton cover “Country Comforts,” culled from the Parlophone album. This was their tenth and final single.
In 1988, archivists Morgan Blue Town issued Let’s Take a Trip On an Orange Bicycle, a sixteen song collection/ It contains their Columbia a- and b-sides (barring the “Early Pearly” single) and the French EP rarities, plus covers of The Byrds (“Renaissance Fair”), Leonard Cohen (“So Long Marrianne”), two unearthed Malone originals (“L.A.,” “Sister Sharon”), and two tracks of mystery origin (“Soft Winds,” “Box 49”).
In 2001, archivists Edsel Records issued Hyacinth Threads – The Morgan Blue Town Recordings, a two-CD set with thirty-three tracks, including four unique titles: “Madam La Mar,” “Carpet Man,” “So Long Marianne,” and “Here Come the Bumbles.”
In 2010, Morgan Blue issued Lets Take a Trip On an Orange Bicycle (The Anthology), a two-CD set with forty tracks. The first disc contains the a- and b-sides of their ten singles. The second disc contains the balance of Orange Bicycle, the French EP rarities, the six songs unearthed on the 1988 comp, an alternate version of “Jenskadajka” and six unearthed tracks: “It’s All Very Strange,” “Rainy Jane,” “Drink Your Whiskey,” “Donna,” “Isn’t It Nice,” and “A Nice Day For Monks.”
Beyond Orange Bicycle
Wil Malone released a 1970 solo acoustic folk album on Fontana. He also teamed with Clif Wade and members of The Smoke and Red Dirt in the folk-rock supergroup Fickle Pickle, which cut the 1970 album Sinful Skinful for the Dutch Explosion label.
Malone worked as a writer, producer, and arranger for the next two decades with credits on albums by Black Sabbath, Gerry Rafferty, Aviator, Iron Maiden, Rick Wakeman, Depeche Mode, and numerous other artists. In 1977, he handled orchestral arrangements on the Passport Records all-star release Intergalactic Touring Band.
Drummer Kevin Currie joined Supertramp for their 1971 second album Indelibly Stamped. In 1977, he played on John Cale‘s Animal Justice EP and joined the jump-blues comedy act Burlesque for their eponymous second album.
- “Hyacinth Threads” / “Amy Peate” (1967)
- “Laura’s Garden” / “Lavender Girl” (1967)
- “Early Pearly Morning” / “Go With Goldie” (1968)
- “Jenskadajka” / “Nicely” (1968)
- “Sing This All Together” / “Trip on an Orange Bicycle” (1968)
- “Carry That Weight” / “You Never Give Me Your Money” / “Want to B Side” (1969)
- “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here” / “Last Cloud Home” (1969)
- Orange Bicycle (1970)
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