Little Fluffy Clouds

Album: The Orb's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld (1990)
Charted: 10

Songfacts®:

  • The Orb is a British ambient house group founded by British musician Dr. Alex Paterson and KLF member Jimmy Cauty. After Cauty left in 1990, Paterson assumed lead role. The group achieved six Top 20 hits in the UK in the mid 1990s and helped popularize the Chill Out music genre.
  • This ambient pop song was a collaboration with Killing Joke's Martin "Youth" Glover, who later teamed up with Paul McCartney on the former Beatle's Fireman project, (check out "Don't Stop Running").
  • This was originally released in 1990 as a single on the Big Life independent record label. After several re-releases the song finally peaked at #10 in the UK in 1993.
  • Lyrically, the song is centered around clips of an interview with Rickie Lee Jones, who talks dreamily of the fluffy clouds in the Texan skies of her childhood. The conversation comes from a CD that was distributed to record stores and media outlets to promote her 1989 album Flying Cowboys. Jones later said in interviews that the odd nasal tonality of her voice was the result of a heavy cold. Also incorporated is a guitar figure from American minimalist composer Steve Reich's "Electric Counterpoint," as recorded by Pat Metheny, and a harmonica sample from Ennio Morricone's "The Man With The Harmonica" from the soundtrack of the 1968 spaghetti Western Once Upon a Time in the West.

    Speaking with The Guardian, Youth explained how he came across the audio for the Rickie Lee Jones and Steve Reich samples. "A fan who worked in a record shop in Birmingham sent me a tape with a note saying it would be perfect for the Orb. On one side, Pat Metheny was playing Steve Reich's 'Electric Counterpoint.' On the other was an interview with Rickie Lee Jones. Someone asked her: 'So what were the skies like when you were young?' and she launched into a trippy monologue about stars and clouds. I sampled it and put it over a basic pulse. That was the start of 'Little Fluffy Clouds.'"
  • Rickie Lee Jones was not pleased when she heard her voice sampled on this track; she and Big Life settled out of court with her for an undisclosed sum.

Comments: 2

  • Matt from Omaha, NeThe identity of the man interviewing Rickie Lee Jones is not known. It isn't Levar Burton.
  • Valo from Moscow, Russia FederationAll these three samples were taken by The Orb without permission. But all of the artists liked the track a lot (especially Rickly Lee and Steve Reich) so they decided not to sue
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