The Onset

Years active:






Band Members:

Andy Brice (Guitar)
Pete Walker
Nirmal Pheasant
Nigel Chappell
Trevor Jones
(Guitar) also known as Quincie or Wyn


Formed by a group of  friends with a common interest in music. In the great rock and roll tradition enthusiasm initially outshined musical ability. Trevor and Andy could play some guitar and pulled in some friends who had similarly rudimentary skills to form what would become The Onset.

While Looe was a bustling town, with a big transient beatnik (later morphing into hippy) crowd it had very few of its own beat bands, with The Onset being the first. The band started out playing mainly soul standards ( In The Midnight Hour, etc. and non- chart stuff such as Tommy James’s “Hanky Panky”), often learnt from standing at the front of the stage as other bands played, making mental notes where fingers were being placed on the fretboard. Lyrics were guessed at and were at least partly correct!

Despite these humble beginnings Andy was something of a budding songwriter and The Onset were soon introducing a few of their own songs in alongside covers. At the time of course this was something of a rarity, with very few other local bands doing the same. If they were writing their own material it was only being heard at home, with bands generally sticking to playing the ‘hits of the day’ live to crowd expecting to hear songs they knew and could dance to.

The Onset considered themselves slightly left field, which was both reflected in their songwriting and also their choice of non-chart covers, which included US garage band staple “I’m not Your Stepping Stone” (originally a Monkees B side) as well as lesser known songs such as “Little Red Riding Hood” by Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs. There was also an unhealthy interest in the Who (“The Kids are Alright”) and the Kinks (“Where Have All the Good Times Gone?”). While the band were hearing the new underground songs on Radio Luxemburg they were also picking up American Forces Radio, which helped in selecting lesser known US songs for their live set. Many of these songs also followed the simple three chord “Louie Louie” style and were of course relatively easy to play!

The band started out playing the Blue Shark Club in Looe, initially during the intervals. At the time Nirmal's father was running the club, which helped secure them slots. They would store their equipment under the stage at the club and played their first 'gig' there, performing Midnight Hour and Green Onions.

They would do their three song repertiore, which included Knock on Wood and Midnight Hour, in between bands. Soon however they would become house band at the venue.

While they were not the most musically talented of the local groups,  rather than being ridiculed (much!) for the spotty early/mid teen oiks they were,  they received a great deal of support from many local bands, who would lend equipment and support to this enthusiastic teen combo.

The Onset developed their chops a bit and started to play around the South-East Cornwall area. One memorable gig was a support slot to  the Mike Cotton Sound (a hot London club act) on one of their trips to the Blue Shark Club. They also played at Plymouth NAAFI a couple of times on the notorious “pay night” when various factions of Britain’s armed services and their NATO colleagues would hone their combat skills on each other.

A lot of these gigs were secured through Nirmal's fathers Blue Shark contacts and the agencies who booked bands at the club. Bernard Bunn handled a lot of the Plymouth bands at the time and would secure them the NAAFI gig in Plymouth.

In 1968 Nigel, Peter and Trevor went to study at Camborne Tech, returning to Looe only at weekends. This effectively put an end to to things and the band went their separate ways.

Andy would form a short lived band called Abstract Truth with Nirmal and Rob Scott. Nigel, Peter and Trevor would form Constable Zippo’s Electric Commode Band. Trevor had a reputation for being an outrageous front man (taking over most of the singing when Pete left) and the band became quite well known (some say notorious) throughout Cornwall.

Abstract Truth rehearsing at the Blue Shark Club. Usual bass player Rob Scott was replaced here by John Marvin. Rob was a keen photographer and likley taking the photographs, swapping roles with John!

Nigel would relocate to London, initially with a band called Flying Fortress, which included former members of Westcountry bands The Mood and Patchwork Quilt. He became a session musician,and at one point, joined  pub rockers Charlie and The Wideboys (a Cornwall –based band active on the London circuit), releasing an LP and receiving some national recognition. After keeping some distinguished musical company (for instance, he was Graham Bond’s bass player of choice when he visited the South West) he would work for Queen, and later for Sting, in an administrative rather than musical capacity.

Andy would relocate to Wales were he continues to play and write songs. He was at one time bassist and songwriter with Zipper, who were signed to Virgin Records and had a minor hit in the late 1970’s with “The Life of Riley”.

Andy (Middle, with beard) performing with Zipper

Andy is still playing and his latest project can be found here - http://www.myspace.com/grannysinthemoshpit


After Abstract Truth split in 1969 Nirmal would leave Looe and join a soul outfit called Midnight Confusion, based in Honiton. They were a busy a popular group, but due to a disagreement with manager Brian Roberts Nirmal left to join a Torquay based band called Ulysses, playing coves of the likes of Cream, Rolling Stones, Spencer Davis and Jimi Hendrix.

Ulysses - Rick Pralitz guitar and Nirmal

After Uyssess Nirmal would form Atlas. On their first gig at Torquay Town Hall they played on the side stage were mobbed by young Swedish girls from the local language college! They were managed by Jim Robinson who used to play in The Hunters. Jim had a lot of faith in the band, buying them a van and a new PA system. They would secure gigs through Lionel Digby's agency in Torquay.

Atlas first line-up. Left to right Howard Brooking (Lead Guitar), Des (Flute), Nirmal (Drums), Rick Campbell (Bass). Not in the picture Richard Thorne (Tenor Sax). 

First newspaper write up

Atlas as three piece

Atlas - Des (Flute), Nirmal (Drums), Rick (Bass) and Howard (Lead Guitar). Shortlived line-up. Des would dissapear and nobody knew where! Rick Pralitz ex Ulysses came in on lead guitar. Richard Thorne (Sax) had commitments with Midnight Confession and couldn’t make the gigs.

Another later line-up of the band included Rick Pralitz (Lead Guitar), Dave Shaw (Bass), Nirmal (Drums), Ron Jones (Lead Vocals), Rita Powner (Vocals) and Lynn Morris (Vocals). Both Lionel Rigby and manger Jim Robinson where excited about this line-up but unfortauntely the band would soon call it a day.

After Atlas Nirmal joined a Newton Abbot band called Lay, playing soft rock. The band were Lynn Moriss (Vocals), Roger (Bass), Mick (Keyboards) and John Pilkington (Lead Guitar). They recorded a single for a London producer and ITV's Look West programme featured footage of them recording in the studio in Torquay.

After this band Nirmal, Lynn and John moved to London and joined a band formed by ex-Atlas bass player Rick Cambell. The band split due to musical differences and after a couple of months John, Nirmal and Lynn relocated to Penzance.

The trio struggled to find competent musicians to form a new group with so they went out as a three piece (minus a bass player!) called Owl's Rattle, named after a sign they had spotted on a late night journey back from London. One notable gig they played was supporting Stackridge at the Winter Gardens. After this band disbanded the trio moved to Liskeard and Launceton. John and Nirmal tried out with a few Plymouth bands before joining a well-known local outfit, Blue Blood. John Peel showed some interest in the band and they changed their name to Dockyard.

Dockyard -left to right; Frank Hancock (Lead Guitar), John Pilkington (Bass), Dave Smith (Vocals) and Nirmal Pheasant (Drums)

The band recorded at West of England studios in Torquay, paid for by John Peel. The plan was to sign to Peel's Danelion Records, but they were told by his partner who worked for Electra that the label was in financial traouble and that they should look elsewhere, but use John Peel's name as reference.

Through a management company that had connections with Dart Records they secured a potential label and release, but Dave felt that they would get a better deal elsewhere. The band split soon afterwards with no record released.

After Dockyard Nirmal left Cornwall for the Midlands, playing with several bands in Stok-on-Trent before joining Chico with Darrel Wilked (Lead Guitar) and Carl Nevin (Bass). Chico were a blues rock band which played a wide variety gigs such as colleges, universities, clubs, pubs and social clubs. They had gigs seven nights a week and two residences in Stoke and Hanley.

They supported some major bands such as Medicine Head, Suzie Quatro, Cockney Rebel, Stray and Climax Blues Band who used to borrow their PA on occasions.


The band did some support work for Lyndsey Moore, touring and recording with him.

The band was approached by a Midlands management company and agency with an offer to form Hedgehoppers Anonymous with some of the original members. They became Hedgehoppers Anonymous. Decca became interested in the band and they made new recodings of 'Good News Week' and 'Baby Baby'. They were popular on the cabaret circuit and played sixties package tours alongside The Fortunes, Love Affair, Billy J Kramer, Merseybeats, The Foundations, Geno Washington, etc.

After Hedgehoppers Anonymous Darrel Wilkes and Nirmal formed Emergency, band based in Wolverhampton. Playing their own material

After Emergency Nirmal and Darrel Wilkes decided to reform Atlas. The new line-up consisted of Darrel Wilkes (Lead Guitar), Nirmal Pheasant (Drums) and Paul Greenwood (Bass).

Atlas. L-R; Paul Greenwood (bass), Nirmal Pheasant (drums) and Darrel Wilkes (lead guitar)


Atlas LP on Emerging Records

After the three piece line up, Nirmal increased the size of the band incorporating brass and female vocals.

Atlas. L-R; Steve Edwards (trumpet & fluegal horn and Cornett), Martin Stalley (tenor Sax), Paul Greenwood (bass), Chris Springthorpe (Lead guitar). Front Lynn Morris and Nirmal Pheasant.

Atlas second line-up

Atlas. L-R; Martin Stalely (tenor), Steve Edwards (trumpet), Nirmal Pheasant (drums), Paul Greenwood (bass) and Chris Springthorpe (lead guitar)

Granville. A spin off from Emergency from left to right Chris Sprinthorpe (bass), Nirmal Pheasant (drums), Lynn Morris (vocals) and Darrel Wilkes (lead guitar).

After Atlas Nirmal joined a folk rock group from Derby called No Right Turn. They recorded and released an LP prior to Nirmal joining, but later later pressings included Nirmal's name on the sleeve. The band played lots of festivals and made some recordings with Fairpoit Convention's Dave Pegg.



After leaving No Right Turn Nirmal joined Neil Stones and Paul Hirst’s Resolution, where he was joined by Chris Springthorpe lead guitarits from the last Atlas line up.

Nirmal playing with Paul Hirst’s Resolution

He would then join Blues Underground

And then Free Creek, a band that spent more time in the studio than any of the previous bands he played with. Pete Coolidge played bass in this group.


Still active on the drums, Nirmal continues to enoy and play music .


Links to other bands:

Nigel and Trevor played with Constable Zippo's Electric Commode Band

Nigel played with Motherchild, Flying Fortress and Charlie and the Wide Boys

Did you play in this band? If so please get in touch!