Wadebridge Sound Studio was a relatively short lived recording services operated by Carl Bircher and Patrick Phillips, who played with The Electrons and Rick & The Hayseeds.
Carl was an audio boffin and owned a variety of professional and semi-pro recording equipment, including BASF 10” spool machines. As the beat and rock scene in Cornwall was blossoming they pair noticed that local bands had no where to turn to if they wanted to put out a demo disc to help secure gigs, tout for a record or management deal, etc. So the pair set up Wadebridge Sound Studios, which would offer bands a service that included recording, editing and pressing onto 45s. It was a very small operation, with Carl and Patrick handling the technical side of things and Carl the business.
Carl’s parents own a series of large chicken sheds on their land in Edmonton, just outside of Wadebridge. It was regularly cleaned out and sanitised and laid with new wood chippings ready for the next batch of birds. There was often a short period when the place remained empty, and Carl decided he could put it to some use. The large shed provided excellent acoustics, especially with the new chippings helping to smooth the sound and stop it from becoming a cavernous room that echoed. There was also a small side room that used for the feeding equipment and this served as an excellent control room for his equipment.
Carl knew The Onyx Set who were local to the area and in 1965 they entered the makeshift studio and recorded some of their popular stage numbers. While the set up was fairly crude, with only two mikes for the whole band the results were quite listenable. Very much a cottage industry, Carl would edit and prepare the tapes in bedroom on the farm.
The band were then asked if they would like to purchase a single of their recordings and band members selected which tracks they would like to see on their single. Only a very small number were produced, perhaps only around 10 copies each with slightly different track listings depending on what they had selected. Most of the disks remained with the band, although some were sent away to some of band manager Vic Cotton’s contacts out of the county in a hope to further the bands career.
Wadebridge Sound Studio did not produce the 45s themselves, tapes were prepared and sent to a company in London who specialised in creating demos for bands. Due to the small numbers it wasn’t financially viable to cut a master disk and press up vinyl copies, so all disks were cut onto thick vinyl, rather then pressed in the usual way.
Onyx Set - Everybody's Talking About My Baby
Although the pair set out with the plan of creating a demo disc service for local bands, The Reaction was the only other band to receive this treatment.
There were two Reaction singles produced, the recording of which took place in Wadebridge Cinema. By this stage Carl had acquired more equipment and provided a much more professional set up. There was a pre-arranged session with Johnny Quale on vocals, which resulted in one EP. This session took place over several hours, with the costs being covered by Johnny. The band minus Johnny were also recorded after the main session and this resulted in an additional single, credited solely to The Reaction.
With both The Onyx Set and Reaction singles being pressed in such small quantities, very few copies of both have survived. The Reaction recordings feature Roger Taylor singing Midnight Hour, which would be the first time he appeared on record and is obviously a highly prized item to Queen collectors. I am only aware of three copies of the Onyx single that still exist.
While only two bands made it onto vinyl two other band recordings took place, one being Newquay band Mike and The Messengers recorded at Tall Trees in Newquay and the other being Patrick’s current band, Rick & The Hayseeds. The Hayseeds recording took place at The Blue Lagoon in Newquay. While this was an extremely popular venue it didn’t lend itself well to recording, having fairly poor acoustics. The Hayseeds were also most likely recorded once more in Wadebridge Cinema.
Rick & The Hayseeds - Ticket To Ride (Blue Lagoon, Newquay. 1965)
The duo also branched out into the wedding market, offering couple the opportunity to have their wedding day recorded for prosperity. They would set up in the church, recording the bells, service and general atmosphere of the day, then pressing up an LP for the couple to remember their magical day by. 4 or 5 of these sessions took place, one of his included Patrick’s Hayseeds band mate Graham Burt.
Most of the time the priests were surprisingly receptive to their church being covered in speaker wire and mikes, with the pair hunched down behind the pews monitoring the recordings!
One occasion was particularly eventful however. A farmer was marrying a local girl and just as the service was due to begin the priest keeled over and died. In what seems like a comical farce his body was removed and carried through the church, another priest being drafted in as a replacement. The weather was clam that day, however part way through the ceremony a wild storm briefly hit the area, with lightning and loud cracks of thunder sending the needles into the red and deafening the pair. Strangely when they played it back nothing would appear on the tape! After this auspicious start it was no great surprise to find that the marriage only lasted a few months.
Wadebridge Sound Studio would wind down when Patrick went to Camborne Tech to start a full time apprenticeship. Carl would remain in the St Austell in area until the late 60s when he left the county, his whereabouts are currently unknown.
While the output of Wadebridge Sound Studio was only small they did make some important recordings of the area and provide an insight into the early days of local band members who would go on to much greater things.