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The Orange Amplifier Story

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ORANGE 1968 LONDON ENGLAND

In 1968, CEO Cliff Cooper, an electronics student and keen musician, borrowed £50 to start a musical instrument shop and recording studio in London’s West End. Against the backdrop of one of the city’s most vibrant districts, the shop was decorated with psychedelic script and painted a bright shade of orange which gave the company its name.

Even in those early days the shop was awash with stars. Famous musicians such as John Lennon, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Eric Clapton, Paul Kossoff, Marc Bolan, Peter Green and many others were all visitors to the store, whilst Brian Wilson, Robin Gibb, Mickie Most, John Miles and Stevie Wonder cut records in the basement.

As the shop grew, many distributors refused to supply the new business, Orange began designing products which quickly established a reputation for their innovation, superior quality and distinctive sound.

Initially made in low numbers and finished in our now legendary livery, the company went into full scale manufacturing in 1973 to satisfy the overwhelming demand. It was around this time the classic ‘Pics Only’ styling was developed, using hieroglyphic icons to explain the controls – characters that still proudly adorn our amplifiers today.

BRITISH MADE AMPLIFIERS

Since the classic “Pic Only” amplifier through to the modern day Rockerverb, Orange has built amplifiers in Britain to the same high quality standards.

The companies first amplifiers were built in Huddersfield using Matamp as the sub-contractor, as demand for the Orange amplifiers rapidly increased they were unable to keep up.

In the early 70’s production moved to Short Gardens in London, this quickly became too small and a new factory was needed. Mick Dines explains how the move to Bexleyheath occured:

“In 1973, as we looked to move from Short’s Gardens, we found a place near James How Industries in Upland Road, Bexleyheath in Kent. James How was our UK distributor at the time, and the firm also manufactured Rotosound strings. During one of our visits to buy strings, we saw a ‘For Sale’ sign on a factory premises just two buildings along. We viewed the place and decided to buy it. There, we began a proper production line, and we employed local people in Bexleyheath to assemble the amplifiers – the output being about one amp per worker a day.

There was plenty of storage space which meant we could buy cardboard packaging in bulk and store it. Back in Short’s Gardens, we used to build one cabinet at a time, put it in its cardboard box and then start on another one. Now we could have twenty or thirty cabinets lined up on long benches that could all have speakers fitted and wired in sequence. We had the electronic workshop at the front of the building and the cabinet-making and finished packaged goods ready for delivery at the back. It was also, of course, useful having our UK distributor just three doors down the road. Bexleyheath marked the start of a different scale of operation for Orange. When we had a shipment going out to our American distributor, we would have a forty-foot container delivered to us at the end of the day. Most of our staff would work through the night to finish the production and then load it.”