The Orb / Three Decades, “30 Things”

I`ve ended up back at Dave`s. I don`t know where his mum and dad are, but the front room`s full of long-haired geezers, skinning up. 

I`m off my fucking nut. Tripping. Holding court on a purple ohm, while the rest of them have only done an E. Dave`s got his girlfriend from Poly with him. Jackie and Anna have brought the Pompey boys. Jackie, Croydon`s Kylie look-i-like-i, is in love with the tall one, Loz. I actually got a lift here with Anna and her new boyfriend. I can`t remember his name, but keep calling him “Leo”, `cos he looks like the cowardly lion from The Wizard Of Oz. He doesn’t seem to mind, but she`s giving me daggers. 

We`ve been to an all-dayer at The Downham Tavern. Raving to a mixture of House and Pop music. Someone`s telling me a convoluted story about a paedophile and Phil Collins` In The Air Tonight. I can`t hold on to what`s being said for long enough to work out, or care, if it makes any sense. In fact, it`s become a kind of hum. 

The one Dance record that Dave seems to own is The Orb`s A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld, which is playing. Non-stop. I`m just turning it over, and over. 

Dave disappears upstairs, and I notice that it`s only me that`s not in a couple. Talking to myself, while they`re all necking. Then everyone makes their excuses and I`m left on my own, with The Orb. 

New Age chimes. Fairlight choirs. Crashing surf and babbling brooks. Chopper rotors. Cross-fader cut-ups. Cut-ins. The music sounds like four, or five, tunes playing at once. My brain following one, then another. Like jumping between moving trains. Echo. Beatless infinity. The sound of pins dropping amplified to the size of industrial noise. Alarm clocks ringing. Cocks crowing. Peaks increasing in frequency. I close my eyes and I`m standing on cliff. Staring out to sea. The white ones at Dover? Or Jimmy about to drive Ace`s scooter off Beachy Head? I try to focus on the sleeve. Spend an eternity reading the credits. 

“Ambient House for the E generation.”

Shouts to The KLF, Mr. Weatherall, and Mi-Price Records, which is just down the road. 

Why is six scared of seven?

Who is Mr. X?

2019 sees thirty years of The Orb. They are celebrating in typically “Weird And Unconventional” stylee, by releasing “30 Things” during the course of the next twelve months. Acetates, cassettes, dusted off DATs, and test pressings. Faxes, flyers, posters, pub signs, and set-lists. Ephemera and memorabilia. Treasure collected by Alex Paterson on the band`s continuing journey. 

Orb Set List

My path has intersected with Dr. P / Mr. X a number of times, in the last three decades. First as a fan, wasted at Land Of Oz. Then as interviewer and interviewee. Straight man and joker (smoker). To my ears there have been two Orbs. MK I, paying homage to their love of Reggae and Dub (“South London`s natural music”). Bass is the place. MK II, more in thrall to Kosmische and Techno. I`ve heard Alex play sets of Punk and Kingston 45s to “VIPs” at Primal Scream gigs. Led Zeppelin to kids who only knew The Beastie Boys. I`ve heard him play the purest Detroit, warming up for Andrew at Sabresonic. 

Personally, I preferred The Orb MK I. Where a surreal sense of humour belied their anti-establishment / squat party roots. Taking their cues from Mikey Dread, and peppering grooves, and pastoral prettiness, with stolen dialogue and subverted themes. Head-fucks designed to encourage Second Summer Of Love-opened minds to not take things at face value. To question everything. Writing something to accompany 2013`s History Of The Future compilation, I called The Orb, “the Sex Pistols in a flotation tank”. Reviewing 2016`s COW: Chill Out World, I wrote if Ambient is a beach holiday, then The Orb are “the sand in your sun block”. 

In 2018, you could probably submit a Ph.D thesis based around the samples The Orb used. But then, perhaps only a fool would try to list them. 

The Bee Gees, birdsong, and brass farts. James Brown`s Funky Drummer, Charles Bukowski, and Burning Spear. Donald Byrd, car wrecks, Cape Canaveral, and Wendy Carlos. Celestial angels, and classical strings. Comedy skits, and Conspiracy theories. Quentin Crisp, Miles Davis, and Deee-Lite. Junior Delgado, Depeche Mode, and Delia Derbyshire. Reginald Dixon, and roaring elephants. Flash Gordon, and Flava Flav. Flying cymbals, galloping horses, and Grace Jones. Jim Jones, gunfights, Steve Hillage, and Jimmy Bo Horne. Hudson and Landry. Gene Kelly. Gregorian chant. Keys to space travel, Martin Luther King, and Kraftwerk. Ricky Lee Jones, Mike Leigh`s Naked, and Life Of Brian. Mad Professor, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and Main Source. The Master Musicians Of Jajouka, Malcolm McLaren, and self-help meditation tapes. Pat Metheny, Misty In Roots, and Marilyn Monroe. Ennio Morricone, news broadcasts, and Nancy Noise on the 1s and 2s. Ken Nordine, occult codes, and outboard motors. Augustus Pablo, Paris, Texas, and pedal steel whale song. Lee Scratch Perry, Prince Far I, and Steve Reich. The Revolutionaries` La Bamba. Minnie Riperton, Rockers Revenge, and Rockmaster Scott. Demis Roussos, Run-DMC, runways and rocket launches. Seaside Wurlitzers, Scientist, and the Sex Pistols. Skimming stones, and Leroy Smart. Jimmy Smith, sonar blips, and The SOS Band. Richard Strauss` Blue Danube. Yma Sumac, telephones, and Tangerine Dream. Phan Kim Thanh, Tower Of Power, and thigh bone trumpets. Tranquility Base, Tubby`s Hi-Fi, and thunderstorms. Wah Wah and Wicker Men. Colin Wilson, and Bill Withers. 

All juxtaposed amongst the phased parameters of sound. Turned inside out for Sci-Fi Steppers. A sonic swampland of rainforest rituals. Centre stage beneath the big top at a Fourth World fun fair. 

Coupled to “30 Things” is a “Greatest Hits Tour”, which starts this week:

11th Oct – Cardiff – Tramshed Tickets

12th Oct – Bristol – Swx Tickets

13th Oct – Newcastle – Tickets

15th Oct – Paisley – Spree Festival Tickets

18th Oct – Liverpool – Invisible Wind Factory Tickets

19th Oct – Brighton – Concorde 2 Tickets

20th Oct – Sheffield – Academy 2 Tickets

The best place for updates is The Orb`s Facebook page. 

Below are a few Orb favourites from the last thirty years…


The Orb – A Huge Ever Growing….

The Orb – Backside Of The Moon

Erasure – Ship Of Fools

The Orb – Perpetual Dawn

The Orb – Little Fluffy Clouds (Pal Joey Mix)

David A Stewart & Candy Dulfer – Lily Was Here

Sun Electric – O Locco

Electrotete – I Love You

The KLF – 3AM Eternal






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