In September 1971 Eugene Carnan entered a UK -wide competition for "Best New Band" run by the famous Melody Maker magazine. The competition took place in regional venues all over the UK and the South Wales heat was held in a Club in Caerphilly - a town famous for it's ancient Castle, it's Cheese and later to be the home of the Manic Street Preachers.
Each band was asked to play 3 numbers. We decided to perform our own compositions rather than covers and so we played : "I Found Out", "Blues Thing" and '"Mountain". We took care in the choice of songs to balance the pace and feel to try to capture the essence of a Eugene Carnan live gig in a 12 minute slot. We had even written 'Blues Thing' especially to play at this competition because we hadn't up to then had any original slow numbers.
When the results of the heat were announced we were very disappointed not to have been selected to go though to the final. However, as we were packing up we were approached by a guy who introduced himself as Wayne Williams and said he had a small recording studio and he was interested in recording us. Wayne's offer was to record a demo of the band for free then he said he would try to get some record companies interested. If he did we could discuss terms then. Of course our initial reaction was sceptical and wary because there were so many stories of bands getting ripped off.
However, what made us change our mind was that Wayne mentioned that he was backed by a gentleman called Major Arthur Kenny. This name meant nothing to the other band members but it did to me. Major Kenny was the musical director of The Cory Band, one of the UK's top league brass bands, which was based in the Rhondda . My father played cornet in Cory Band for many years and I had also played a number of sessions with the band and had been a member of the Cory junior band. Because of this connection we agreed to go along with Waynes suggestion. However, it was many months later that Wayne contacted us again and we went over to his studio in Risca, Monmouth on Sunday 26th March and the following Friday 31st March which was Good Friday and Bank holiday.
These few weeks in March were one of the busiest ever for the band. I have an accounts book that shows we had gigs in Teorchy on both the 24th and 25th and in Crumlin on the 30th March. Wayne's studio was in a converted stand-alone garage set away from any houses. Inside a small control room had been built in one corner and the rest of the space was the recording area. The walls were covered with cardboard egg boxes - a popular do-it-yourself form of sound proofing. Wayne's recording equipment consisted of a Sony Stereo 2-track tape recorder and a small mixer.
The band set up and we had a two microphone to record the guitars - one for each amplifier and there were 3 mics for the drum kit - for the kick, snare and an overhead mic. Very simply we played the tracks live – exactly as we did in gigs with Adrian signing along as well but without microphone so that Wayne could recorded the instruments on one channel without any vocals. Then Adrian would 'overdub' the vocals onto the second track. Of course with this equipment there could be no post-production editing or effects added afterwards. So what you hear is what we really did play and sound like in that place in 1972.
The recordings have all our mistakes, some duff notes, I even hit a microphone while aiming for the hi-hat in one of the songs and you can hear this on the record. You can hear some echo on the vocals – but again this was recorded live using the tape loop echo effect we used for gigs. We recorded 8 tracks during the two days. The missing track was called -"Camburoo" - a song with an African-type drum beat inspired by Osibisa a band we admired at the time. The name was a made-up joke word - sounding to us, part Welsh (Cambrian) and part Africa (Uroo came from Lieutenant Uhura in Star Trek).
After we did the recordings several things happened at the same time. Wayne had a falling-out with Major Kenny and said that he was packing-in the studio. But he offered to give us the tapes. Second, our bass guitarist Mickey Williams started to get very unreliable and eventually decided to leave the band. I met up with Wayne in June 1972 and he gave me a tape reel that he said had all our tracks on it. Unfortunately, one track was missing - and when I contacted him, he said that it has been on another tape reel, but he thought he had recorded over it - so we never did get to hear "Camburoo". Despite the break-up of the band I decided that we should at least get some IP's made for our own collections and also to have the songs available for a new replacement bass guitarist to learn.
With this in mind on 28th July 1972 I went to London by myself on the train and took the tapes to J Eden Studio in Kingston-upon-Thames who offered a tape-to disc service. I found about about them though an advert in the back pages of Melody Maker. At the studio they cut 4 copies of the 7 tracks on the tape direct to Acetate LP.
The process was of course analogue and live - the guy played the tape through and a stylus cut the grooves in the plastic. He did this 4 times to get the 4 discs, stopping to turn the disc over half way though the duplication so we ended up with 4 tracks on one side and 3 on the other. I came back to the Rhondda with the 4 IP's and gave one to each of the band and the other to one of our roadies. Later I was able to make some Cassette copies for friends from my copy, and several years later I loaned the original reel-to-reel tape to my then brother-in-law Colin Benjamin to whom I am grateful for its recent return.
The Eugene Carnan tracks capture the live raw sound of a young band with very limited resources and equipment who played with enthusiasm and passion because they enjoyed what they did. Of course we dreamt of making it big, but really never expected to and so I suppose our fate was that of the many over the few. These were the tracks that got away, that we didn't get to play on The Old Grey Whistle Test' or Top of the Pops'. Now, I hope that almost 40 years later - others will enjoy them and smile.
by Mike Evans, Sheffield , February 2011
1. Confusion - 4:33
2. I Found Out (Llewellyn) - 3:27
3. People In the City - 5:12
4. Black As Night (Llewellyn) - 3:22
5. Blues Thing - 4:07
6. On Your Mind - 4:16
7. Mountain - 5:05
All songs by Llewellyn, Williams, Evans except where indicated
*Adrian Llewellyn - Guitar, Vocals
*Michael Williams - Bass Guitar
*Mike Evans - Drums
the Free Text