The girls met at Stoke Park Grammar School for Girls, in the eastern
suburbs of Coventry, where they were friends in the same class.
Their teachers were elderly, tweedy and stuffy, and the uniform
regulations were very strict - the elephant motif on the blazer
badge was an obvious target for teasing by pupils from other schools.
Apparently, Val Jones was adept at backcombing her hair and pinning
her regulation scarlet beret to the back of her head with grips!
In an interview with Coventry Radio DJ Pete Chambers in his book
Godiva Rocks, Georgina explains that the trio evolved from
break-time gatherings of girls to sing the latest pop songs. Our
subjects were the most consistent of these conclaves and often went
dancing together on Saturday afternoons at the Locarno Ballroom
in the central precinct, and later at the Orchid Ballroom in Primrose
Hill Street. One day, having gone alone for once, Pam horrified
the others by announcing she had entered them all into a talent
contest at the Orchid, "for a laugh". They won
the competition, singing Motown and Spector songs, and shared the
prize money - one pound.
"We didn't really study music seriously, although Val was
a very good pianist," recalled Pam. "Harmony singing
was just something we did naturally. We weren't an actual group
before the talent competition - in fact, when I told Val and George
that I'd entered us they asked me what on earth we were going to
do!" Although entered, they didn't have a name for the
billing. "Larry made that up at the time, just to fill the
'Larry' being Larry Page, then manager of the Orchid Ballroom, who
had only been in the city for six months. Formerly a pop singer
himself, he would go on to achieve greater fame, notably as manager
of the Kinks. His choice of name for the threesome was obvious,
given the venue - and a good one for a girl group. Thus, the Orchids
Contracted to Decca and assigned in the studio to producer Shel
Talmy, their first appearance on vinyl was as backing vocalists
for "School Is In" by Johnny B. Great and the Goodmen.
Great, real name John Goodison, was another Larry Page discovery
from Coventry. Georgina does not recall any other backing work by
Their own debut quickly followed, but not before Georgina had had
her front teeth straightened, having had them knocked askew by a
flying hockey stick a few days before the session. "Gonna Make
Him Mine" was an exuberant and upbeat offering with a sound
that was a blend of UK beat and US girl group. Returning the favour,
Johnny Goodison and his group provided the backing. A Shel Talmy
song, "Stay At Home", was on the flip. Sadly, the record
received little airplay, although the girls were heard, but not
seen, on Ready Steady Go! when the record backed dancer Patrick
Kerr's demonstration of the Hitch-Hiker.
The trio's schoolgirl status was relentlessly exploited. For their
first publicity pics they were required to wear school uniform,
much to their mortification. "It was Larry's idea to play
up the schoolgirl angle. We absolutely hated wearing schooly things,
and boy did we complain!" recalled Pam. "We always
had to play up the image, so we had to wear school uniform whenever
we made personal appearances. We hated that," agrees Georgina.
Val confirms that they were really into jazz and soul and certainly
didn't want the schoolgirl tag.
School attire notwithstanding, the Orchids had an image all their
own. Georgina, the acknowledged leader, standing slightly taller
in spectacles with upswept frames, and Pam and Val in mod bobs,
adding their youthful vocals with unbridled enthusiasm. Although
George usually took the lead when one was required, on other tracks
they sang in unison. And when they did, all three voices blended
perfectly, their skilful harmonies belying their inexperience. The
Orchids had a vivacity on record to match their youth and nowhere
was it more evident than on their follow-up.
LOVE HIT ME
"'And now for a record from those three little girls from
Coventry - the Orchids,' said the disc jockey on the radio. And
the little dark-haired girl in the back of my car bounced up and
down excitedly. 'That's me!' she cried. She was 14-year-old Pamela
Jarman, the baby of the singing trio, and this was the first time
she had heard their new record 'Love Hit Me' on the radio."
So reported the Coventry Standard journalist in December
1963 on the release of the group's arresting second record.
"Love Hit Me" went for the full Spector treatment, leading
to a "Britain's answer to the Crystals" tag. This
time they appeared on Ready Steady Go! in person to promote
its release, and the colour picture shown nearby originates from
that performance. Their costumes might not have been school uniforms,
but as far as the girls were concerned, they weren't much better.
"They were like clown outfits," bemoans Georgina.
"We were mortified that we had to appear in those dresses,
especially on a programme like Ready Steady Go! where everyone was
wearing the latest mod gear! Everyone wanted to look like Sandie
Shaw." Val recalls that they were so angry about the dresses
that they threatened to refuse to perform - presenter Cathy McGowan
had to persuade them to go on.
The record was also played on the BBC's Juke Box Jury, with
the girls concealed high up in the audience. Not just any Juke
Box Jury, but the 7th December 1963 show, on which the Beatles
comprised the jury! Pam remembered this well: "The programme
was recorded at the Empire Theatre in Liverpool and the Beatles
played a concert to the audience after the show. Only Paul voted
our record a hit, and the audience let out a big 'Aaaahhh!' when
we stood up! We weren't at all bothered, just really excited!"
Val recalls, "After we stood up when the Beatles voted our
record a miss I remember John shouting, 'I'll buy a hundred!' He
was always my favourite!"
"Love Hit Me" was their only record to get a fair amount
of airtime, and a few further TV appearances resulted on the back
of it. One was on the children's show Five O'clock Club.
Mike D'Abo's first group, A Band Of Angels, was also on the bill
and there was a running gag between them and the Orchids that they
couldn't stand each other. As D'Abo loudly complained to hostess
Muriel Young, "They're nothing but a bunch of schoolgirls!"
the girls brushed past him to the mikes, casting nonchalantly disdainful
Despite the attention that "Love Hit Me" attracted, it
didn't become a hit. It was, however, the only one of the group's
records to boast a picture sleeve, but only in continental Europe.
Not that the girls would have approved, as it showed them in regulation
school uniform, holding ice-lollies!
More disappointment followed; the group was booked to do a long
engagement at Great Yarmouth, but this fell through because Pam
was still only 14, which would have contravened employment laws.
Although only five weeks short of her 15th birthday, Larry Page
was unable to persuade the authorities to let them appear. The local
newspaper reported that the news was withheld from the girls, as
it would have upset them during their exams.
A Ray Davies song, "I've Got That Feeling", completed
their trio of 45s as the Orchids. This time the sound was less Spectorish
and more in the style of their first record. The flip side, "Larry",
with Pam singing lead, was reputedly chosen in recognition of their
mentor. However, it was an American song written by the "Bobby's
Girl" duo, Hoffman and Klein, and Canadian girl group the Allen
Sisters also released the number as a single in North America. The
Allen Sisters' flip-side, Hoffman-Klein's "Never On Saturday",
was also recorded by the Orchids, but never issued.
That wasn't the only Orchids recording that remained in the can.
As Pam remembered: "There are some wonderful tracks hiding
somewhere. We did a fantastic session with Bert Berns, and one with
Andrew Loog Oldham too. But somehow the tracks disappeared. Politics,
Georgina recalls: "I do have hand written sheet music for
three songs that we recorded but were never released: 'Never On
Saturday', 'Kiss My Kisses Goodbye' and 'Jenny Let Him Go'. I also
have hand written sheet music for 'Larry' and 'Don't Make Me Mad'.
These were usually sent to us a couple of weeks before we were booked
for a recording session so we could learn the song and work out
There was a further Orchids release that never saw the light of
day in Britain. "Oo-Chang-A-Lang" - more Spectorish girl-group
heaven and very catchy - was issued, but inexplicably only in America.
On the label, the girls were dubbed the Blue Orchids, to avoid confusion
with sundry other Orchids in the USA.
JUST FOR YOU
As well as their TV appearances, the group popped up in glorious
technicolor in the 1964 pop movie Just For You singing "Mr.
Scrooge", sporting schooly gear and performing around a brazier
in a studio snow scene. Johnny B. Great also appeared in the film,
which was effectively a series of what would later be called pop
videos, loosely linked by a feeble story line. An American version
of the movie, renamed Disk-o-Tek Holiday, added several US
acts to the line-up, including girl group greats the Chiffons.
The Orchids also appeared in a comic-strip story in an issue of
Judy, the popular girls' weekly. The writer, Pat Watson,
interviewed the group. "I remember her interviewing us and
asking the usual things," recalls Georgina, "'Who's
your favourite singer? What's your favourite hobby? Any funny anecdotes?'
It was basically a mini-bio of our discovery and 'rise to fame'."
How did their recording career affect their lives, and how did their
friends at school react to the recording stars in their midst? Georgina
recalls little reaction: "We were just Georgina, Val and
Pam. Sure, they were interested in who we had met over the weekends.
Sometimes reporters would ring up to come over and take a few pictures,
but it didn't affect our lives that much."
Nor does it appear to have affected their studies, although it coincided
with their GCE exams. Contemporary newspapers reported the receipt
of prizes for art and said that they had good school reports: "Pamela's
was fairly good, though it did say she should pay more attention.
Pamela protested that it said that every year! Valerie's was also
quite good but according to Mrs Jones, it could have been better.
But as Valerie protested, 'She always says that every year!' Georgina
is the most serious of the three and a calming influence on the
others. Her school report was very good. 'Better than last year,'
beamed her mother, 'This singing business has really done her good.
It has brought her out. She used to be very shy, but now she has
lost all that. That is the only way this has affected her.' 'I am
in rather a daze about the whole thing,' said red-haired Georgina,
'None of us have yet realized what has hit us. At the moment it
is great fun. But none of us take it seriously. We realize it could
fade away very quickly, but we are just having a good time while
it lasts.' They would all like to be pop singers, but if they can't
be that then Georgina would like to be a commercial artist. Her
drawing and painting are very good and she has had a painting exhibited
in the Herbert Art Gallery." Val also exhibited there,
and Georgina's alternative career plans would eventually prove to
The reporter added: "From what I could gather, being the
Orchids meant very little to these three little girls from Stoke
Park Grammar School. They are just three intelligent, unsophisticated
girls. They still come back from school with their hair untidy and
their ties askew. And they are quite unimpressed with their own
achievements. They look upon the whole thing as one big joke. 'It's
all a laugh really,' giggled Pamela. 'But you must get a lot more
pocket money now with all those royalties,' I said innocently. 'You're
joking,' Valerie rounded on me indignantly, 'We don't see any of
it. It is all put in a bank for us. All we get is our five shillings
a week pittance. And it is not enough. We would like to be Mods,
but we are Mids 'cause we can't afford the clothes!' Her mother
laughed, 'It's a good thing that you don't get the money, otherwise
I can see where it would go, records and clothes!'"
Then in 1965, they were finally allowed a change of image and the
group was relaunched as the Exceptions. The school gear finally
banished and looking like the fully-fledged Mods they had always
longed to be - Georgie even ditched her specs - they cut an Ivy
League song, Carter-Lewis' wonderfully bluesy "What More Do
You Want". But a newspaper reported that they were less than
enamoured with this choice: "The Orchids - er, sorry, Exceptions
- prefer two other numbers, one they wrote themselves and the other
an old Miracles' number." Indeed, the real gem of this
release lay on the flipside and it was the "one they wrote
themselves" - "Soldier Boy". This was an accomplished,
soulful girl-group ballad written by Georgina and so American-sounding
that many collectors have for years assumed the track to be by a
black Stateside girl group - certainly one of the best British records
of its type and probably much more commercial than the official
"When we were in London one time for something or other,
we happened to mention to Larry that I had written a song,"
Georgina recalls. "He had us sing it for him. We stood in
the Kassner office surrounded by executives and sang them the song
a cappella. I can remember standing in front of this big wooden
desk feeling very nervous and shy. Needless to say, I guess they
liked it. I don't recall the timeline from then to when we recorded
it and, no, I had no say in the arrangement or production and wouldn't
have had a clue anyway."
This great record, like the others before it, got little airplay
and negligible publicity. Sadly, it proved to be the girls' final
release. It was the only song Georgina wrote. Around this time,
the group "fizzled out." With no hits, Decca appeared
uninterested in renewing their contract. None of the girls pursued
musical careers thereafter; they would go on to achieve success
in other arts and in teaching.
Reminiscences of the recording sessions and life on the road are
understandably hazy, but Georgina has a few recollections: "Then,
being teenagers, we were only really interested in having fun and
thinking about ourselves! I do recall that Bert Berns had a right-hand
man, Mike Leander, and somewhere in the recesses of my memory something
tells me that Bert was not always well and Mike helped him out.
A guitarist called Big Jim Sullivan played on at least one of our
"We did a show in Oxford where we shared the bill with Gerry
and the Pacemakers. I remember Gerry a little the worse for drink
running around backstage in his underwear! Sounds Incorporated were
our backing group for the performance. They were great, as they
had no clue what our songs were - we had no sheet music - but they
just picked it up at the short rehearsal. We met the Hollies on
one RSG! appearance and after the show Graham Nash gave us a lift
back to Coventry as he was on his way to Birmingham. He was very
"We went to Andrew Oldham's flat once and met the father
of the Wilson brothers of the Beach Boys. He gave me a copy of a
U.S.-only release album, but I lost it over the years. While we
were there, Marianne Faithfull turned up at the door. My one memory
of her was that she had a stain on the front of her blouse. Isn't
that awful of me!
"If we met any of the songwriters, we probably didn't take
much notice. We were sent sheet music to learn, or demo discs maybe.
Or sometimes if we were in London, we would go to a rehearsal room
somewhere, or to the offices of Kassner Music in Denmark Street
and someone would play a number for us on the piano and sing it
so we could get an idea. I remember us performing my song at Kassner
Music for the bigwigs and then I guess someone transcribed the music
from our performance.
"Unfortunately being typical teenagers we weren't really
interested in anyone who wasn't 'famous' in our estimation. That
meant pop stars and TV stars. We lost out on appreciating all of
the talented and creative people we came into contact with, who
worked in the background."
Another recollection was of sitting in on a Kinks recording session
and tapping ashtrays in time with the music. The recording engineer
liked it so much he included it in the recording, but unfortunately
no-one remembers which track this was!
It transpires that the track the Orchids cut with Bert Berns was
one of his own songs, "Just Like Mine", recorded in October
'63. The session also featured Harry Stoneham, Jimmy Page and probably
Clem Cattini, who each achieved fame with the Michael Parkinson
TV Show, Led Zeppelin and the Tornados, respectively. That track
must be worth a release, surely? When asked about the group's
unreleased Andrew Loog Oldham session, Pam clearly remembered the
three of them riding through London in the back of his limo, giggling
as they slid along the plush leather upholstery each time they turned
a corner! She said one song they cut was entitled "Society
Girl", the Rag Dolls number. One can't help but speculate how
much, if any, of his ersatz Spector treatment Oldham gave it. The
original was, of course, an answer to the Four Seasons' classic
hit "Rag Doll", and a Bob Crewe production. Unfortunately,
Universal Music are unable to locate tapes for any of the Orchids'
unreleased recordings. If anyone out there has a demo or acetate,
we'd love to hear from you! The other unissued songs that Georgina
recalls recording are listed in the accompanying discography.
The Orchids have never quite been forgotten, due to a combination
of factors: their image, their sound, their association with Talmy,
Page, Berns, Oldham et al, and their standing as a rare example
of a true British teenage girl group. They command almost cult status
amongst enthusiasts of the girl group sound and "Oo-Chang-A-Lang",
"Soldier Boy" and "Love Hit Me" remain three
of the most sought-after records of the genre on both sides of the
Atlantic. There has been a steady stream of reissued tracks, especially
in recent years and the group periodically receives retrospective
In 1985, the Coventry Evening Telegraph published a letter
from Georgina seeking contact with the other members. Pat Watson,
who had written the cartoon piece for Judy, got in touch
and sent her a copy of it. More significantly, in the late 1990s,
the girls received further belated attention when writer Debbie
Horsfield got in touch with all three Orchids for background info
in connection with a TV drama series she was writing. The series
was called Sex, Chips and Rock & Roll. She had intended
it to be about a girl-group, but upon realising that all the successful
female outfits were American, changed her mind. "I wanted
to write a drama about what was happening in Britain,"
she told the Telegraph. "In the end I decided to write about
a boy band and not a girl band." However, this was not
before she had been inspired by the Orchids' story, having met Georgina
in London. "They were only about 15 or 16 and I just found
the whole thing fascinating. They were just ordinary girls, but
suddenly their lives changed overnight."
Georgina recalls being contacted by Debbie's research assistant
two years before the program went out: "My best friend and
I arranged to meet Debbie in London. We went for lunch and she interviewed
me. She also looked at my scrapbook and took it to a copy shop to
get the whole thing photocopied. We met later in Trafalgar Square
so she could return it." Debbie's initial appeal for contact
information in the paper led to the Orchids getting front page billing
and a double spread, with several quotes from Val, who summed up
the Orchids' career thus: "I do think we made good music
and Georgina had a super voice, but it happened so quickly for us
and by the time we were 18, it was all over."
An edition of the BBC Midlands programme Inside Out was to
be dedicated to the Orchids in 2004, and both Georgina and Pam were
contacted, as were the authors of this article. A reunion was even
mooted, but the series editor blocked the project at the last minute.
We suggest you address your letters of complaint to him/her. Georgina
was, however, interviewed by Pete Chambers for the Pop Into The
Past feature on Bob Brolly's BBC West Midlands show. "Gonna
Make Him Mine" and "Soldier Boy" were played, with
the latter causing quite an on-air stir.
Perhaps things may have been different for the Orchids if
If their records had received the airplay they deserved
they hadn't had to perform in school uniform
If the Beatles
had been more generous on Juke Box Jury
Boy" had been an A-side
If the unissued tracks had been
In adulthood and with their incarnation as the Orchids/Exceptions
far behind them, the three women achieved success in their chosen
career paths. Pam went on to become the head teacher of a school
in Scotland. Valerie has taught and lectured in art and design at
schools and universities and is now a full-time artist. And Georgina
relocated to Vancouver, where she is an artist and designer, but
still sings occasionally, mostly in a choir.
Coventry's Orchid Ballroom in Primrose Hill Street became the Tic-Tock
Club and is now the Colosseum Club. The Locarno Ballroom is now
the city's Central Library, where much of the research for this
article was carried out. Stoke Park is now a co-educational comprehensive
school and college, mostly still housed in the distinctive 1930s
buildings in which the group first met.
Georgina sums it all up: "We made very little money, if
any, from any of our appearances or record sales. I remember getting
the odd cheque or postal order for a few pounds but no great amount.
We have never received any residuals from any of the later reissues
and I didn't even know about them until a fan contacted me through
Friends Reunited a few years ago. I informed Val who also didn't
know. We had no idea that there was such an active interest in the
Orchids. We were around for such a short time and weren't even a
one hit wonder. We had no say in what we recorded or what appearances
we made. We just did as we were told. We would have preferred singing
more Motown type songs, which we were really into at the time. I
recall we did have a 'discussion' with Larry Page once about doing
something more bluesy or soulful, but he said he knew what was best!
We didn't have a say in anything. But we enjoyed it - having fun,
meeting famous people. It was an adventure. We went along for the