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"Carl Bircher Tapes" 1965

In 1965 an early incarnation of the Onyx (Mike Black-Borow, Tony Priest, Steve Cotton, Dick Bland and Chris Cotterell), then still billing themselves as The Onyx Set, were starting to build up quite a reputation as a live band within the South West. They had yet to make any recordings and were keen to lay some tracks down on tape.

Steve's dad Vic was a big driving force behind the band and was keen for them to succeed. He'd been sent a demo for the band to record. From where this came has been lost in time, but presumably it was from a record company who wished to see if the band fitting the bill.

The band needed somewhere to record the track and Vic knew just the place. During his day job he picked up chickens from slaughter from a farm just outside of Wadebridge, near the Royal Cornwall Showground.

Once in a while the sheds were cleared and cleaned out, and during one such occasion Vic grabbed the opportunity to make use of the space. The son of the farm owner was Carl Bircher. Carl had some basic audio kit and had previously recorded Rick & The Hayseeds running through a few songs in Wadebridge Cinema.

With no chicken's in sight the band set up and ran through a few stage numbers, along with one track from the demo's they felt best suited their style, a song called "I Don't Need That Kind O'Lovin".

Despite being recorded with only an amp, two speaks and two mikes (one for vocals, one for the band), the sound was reasonably good. This was help partly by the good acoustics of the building and the wood chippings laid on the floor ready for the next set of birds.

Acetates were pressed up at Wadebridge Sound Studios (who also pressed up disks by Rick & The Hayseeds and Roger Taylor's band The Reaction) and sent back to where they came, however nothing ever came of this session.

Each band member could chose which songs they would like pressed up for their own use and purchased their own copies. Some more flush band members splashed out for a couple of acetates.

Each acetate contained unique tracks, so there are several variations in existence. Labels are bright prink (a colour which doesn't scan very well and appears white).

Thankfully the original tape still exists. Here's the full tracklist, along with some snippets.
In The Midnight Hour
I'll Go Crazy
I Don't Need That Kind O'Lovin
Little B
Hang On Sloopy
Everybody's Talking About My Baby
It's My Life
Good News Week
Act Naturally
Autumn Leaves
Everybody Love's A Lover

BBC Transcription disk
Not officially released, Onyx featured on volume 265 of the BBC's Top of The Pops LP series. For more on the BBC recordings click here

Unreleased tracks

During the late 60s/early 70s Bob Potter's studio was often jokingly referred to as "Mytchett Motown". Whoever was kicking around at the time of a session would be roped in to lay down some instrumentation. As a result recordings could often feature members of the Onyx, Wishful Thinking, Embers, or whoever else happened to be around at the time. There is most likely hundreds of tracks featuring all, or some, of the Onyx, the majority of which remain unreleased. Notes were not taken, so it's now long forgotten as to who played on what....One known tracks in The Embers "Old and Gray", which featured The Onyx on backing and still remains unreleased.

Demo tracks would often end up at the studio, one of which was a reggae number called "Play Thing", the composer of which is long forgotten. Encouraged by Dave West, and with Alan Hodge on vocals, the band quickly learned a reggae rhythm and laid down the track. To say the band were not a fan of the recording is something of an understatement, and the track (thankfully) remains tucked away in the vaults. Also unreleased is a track called Taffeta Rose, an upbeat pop tune, not written by the band this was possibly another demo track recorded by the band. There also exists a demo version of Our House, minus strings (but with Mellotron). This version is (in my opinion) superior to the released version, with a much warmer sound. A demo version of Next Stop Is Mine also exists, again minus strings, but complete with "Audio Oscillator" instead!

Although I have been unable to confirm it I believe their are acetates or tapes in existence of at least two unreleased Onyx tracks, "All Fall Down" and "Ice". Both tracks were written by the Flett/Fletcher team and recorded by the band but have yet to resurface.