Having left The Fall, Bramah teamed up with keyboardist Una Baines, also an ex-Fall member, guitarist Rick Goldstraw (also ex-Fall), bassist Steve Toyne and drummer Ian Rogers (AKA Joe Kin). John Cooper Clarke suggested the name 'The Blessed Orchids' but according to Bramah, Goldstraw mis-remembered it as 'The Blue Orchids' and the name stuck.
The band signed to Rough Trade Records and in November 1980 they released their debut single, a double A-side, "The Flood"/"Disney Boys". After this release Steve Toyne left the band and Rick Goldstraw took over the bass playing duties. In February 1981 they released their second single "Work".
"Work" was much liked by the late John Peel who played it regularly after its release. The band's music came to the attention of Echo & the Bunnymen, who subsequently invited Blue Orchids to be the support act for their 1981 UK tour. Alastair "Baz" Murphy was recruited to play keyboards on the tour due to an illness suffered by Baines.
Also after the release of "Work", the Blue Orchids recorded the first of their Peel Sessions for John Peel's BBC Radio 1 programme.
Phillip Toby Toman, an ex-member of The Durutti Column, joined on drums when Ian Rogers left the group after the Echo & the Bunnymen tour (he later went on to play for Primal Scream under the name Toby Tomanov). This new line-up recorded a debut album called The Greatest Hit (Money Mountain), which went on to sell 10,000 copies.
The group toured with Nico, serving as both backing group and support act. Goldstraw decided to continue touring with Nico, so a new bassist, Mark Hellyer, was recruited as replacement. During the time the band were working with Nico, Steve Garvey (formerly with Buzzcocks, The Teardrops and Bok Bok, then with Motivation), also played bass with them, shortly before migrating to the United States.
The group's next record was the Agents of Change EP in 1982. After parting company with Rough Trade at the end of the year, the group split up, with Baines joining The Fates.
Bramah and Baines briefly returned in 1985 with the single "Sleepy Town" and then split up again. Bramah then formed a new group with ex-Fall drummer Karl Burns called Thirst. They only released one record, the Riding the Times EP, in 1987.
In 1989, Bramah briefly returned to The Fall and appeared on the Extricate album. The reunion with Mark E. Smith was never going to last, and Bramah was sacked from the group whilst on a tour of Australia in 1990.
In 1991, Bramah returned with a new incarnation of Blue Orchids which featured ex-Smiths guitarist Craig Gannon on guitar, Martin Hennin on bass and Dick Harrison on drums. Their first release was a single called "Diamond Age", followed in 1991 by a compilation album called A View from the City. In 1992 they released the Secret City EP and a second album was recorded in 1993, but would remain unreleased for ten years. Bramah decided to split the group again in 1995.
In 2002, a compilation album called A Darker Bloom was released on the Cherry Red label. This release had sleeve notes written by Bramah's former colleague in The Fall, BBC DJ Marc Riley who said of them: ″Think Tom Verlaine guesting with The Doors ... one of the most engaging and intriguing bands of the 80s″
2003 saw the group reissue three albums on the LTM label. The shelved album from 1993 was finally released with the title The Sleeper. Released almost simultaneously was a compilation album called From Severe to Serene, which featured the group's two Peel Sessions, live tracks and the contents of the Riding the Times EP. At the end of the year the group's debut album The Greatest Hit (Money Mountain) was finally given a long overdue CD release.
In 2004, LTM also released a brand new Blue Orchids album called Mystic Bud. It contained a cover version of Sugar, Sugar by The Archies alongside nine Bramah originals. Founder member Rick Goldstraw returned for the mini-album Slum-Cavern-Jest! in 2005. This release featured a cover of the Fred Neil song "Green Rocky Road".
In January 2008, Martin Bramah released his debut solo album The Battle of Twisted Heel.
December 2008 saw the formation of Bramah's new group Factory Star, featuring Tim Lyons and Brian Benson (from The Sandells). They were replaced in April 2009 by fellow ex-Fall members Steve Hanley on bass, Paul Hanley on drums and John Paul Moran (aka Hop Man Jr) of Gnod and Rapid Pig on keyboards. The line-up of Factory Star as of June 2010 was Martin Bramah, Hop Man Jr, Chris Dutton (bass) and Tom Tom Lewis (drums). In January 2012, ex-The Passage man Joe Mckechnie replaced Lewis on drums.
September 2012 saw the return of Blue Orchids, with gigs in Liverpool, Manchester and London. The line-up consisted of the Factory Star members Martin Bramah, John Paul Moran, Chris Dutton and Joe McKechnie, with the addition of Ann Matthews (Fflaps/Ectogram) on guitar/vocals. In January 2013 Chris Connolly, formerly of V2 and Ed Banger and long-serving The Glitter Band member, joined on drums. In 2015 Vince Hunt of A Witness and Inca Babies replaced Chris Dutton on bass and the band returned to regular live appearances.
In 2016 Blue Orchids released a new album The Once and Future Thing, a retrospective compilation of the Rough Trade years called Awefull, with artwork from celebrated artists Aleksandar Mladenović and Aleksandra Keković Mladenović, plus Bramah's own long-lost solo album The Battle of Twisted Heel on the label Tiny Global Productions, re-shaped the line-up and began a period of touring and recording new songs. This includes a track for the Stewart Lee-compiled tribute to Birmingham cult band The Nightingales. The band continue to tour and record through 2016.
Blue Orchids have been critically acclaimed by some notable music writers. The NME's Barney Hoskyns said of them "There is an economy of love and yearning in every chord, vocal or instrumental that breaks from the aching heart of the Blue Orchids' sound" while the writer Paul Morley, reviewing their second single "Work" said "They rave but they are not mad."
Chart placings shown are from the UK Indie Chart.The Greatest Hit (Money Mountain) (LP, Rough Trade, 1982) (no. 5) - CD reissued, LTM, 2003, appending all Rough Trade non-lp tracks, plus an unrelated live track by Nico.)
The Sleeper (CD, LTM, 2003 - contains a "missing" 90s album and tracks from contemporaneous singles.)
Mystic Bud (CD, 2004 - largely a Martin Bramah solo effort, though credited to Blue Orchids.)
Slum-Cavern-Jest! (CDEP, Blind Eye, 2005 - privately pressed EP, now mostly available as part of "The Battle Of Twisted Heel" and credited to Martin Bramah.)
The Battle Of Twisted Heel (LP / CD, Tiny Global Productions, 2016 - credited to Martin Bramah, legitimate reissue of a privately-pressed recording.)
The Once And Future Thing (LP / CD, Tiny Global Productions, 2016.)
A View From The City (CD, Playtime, 1992 - an incomplete selection of tracks from the Rough Trade era.)
A Darker Bloom (CD, Cherry Red, 2002 - an incomplete selection of tracks from the Rough Trade era, with a few later singles appended.)
From Severe To Serene (CD, LTM, 2003) - the complete Peel sessions, Thirst's 12" EP recorded for Rough Trade and various live tracks.)
Awefull (LP, Tiny Global Productions, 2016 - the complete Rough Trade singles, plus rarities.)
Blue Orchids Bomb Manchester! / Bomb Hamburg! (2xCD, Tiny Global Productions, 2016 - two complete live shows, from 1981 and 1985 respectively.)
"The Flood" / "Disney Boys" (7", Rough Trade, 1980, no. 36)
"Work" / "The House That Faded Out" (7", Rough Trade, 1980, no. 21)
"Agents Of Change EP" (12" EP, Rough Trade, 1982, no. 12)
"Sleepy Town" / "Thirst" (12" EP, Racket Records, 1985, no. 22)
"Riding The Times EP" (by Thirst) (12" EP, Rough Trade, 1987)
"Diamond Age" / "Moth" (12" 45, As/Is, 1991)
"Secret City EP" (CDEP, Authentic Records, 1992)
January 18, 1982 The Venue London
October 4, 1982 Stakladen Aarhus, Denmark
October 5, 1982 Saltagertet Copenhagen, Denmark
October 6, 1982 Saltagertet Roskilde, Denmark
October 8, 1982 Kamraspalatset Stockholm, Sweden
December 5, 1982 Cologne Germany
December 12, 1982 Paris France