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Opal Butterfly

Opal Butterfly (OB) was born out of Cardboard Heaven (CH) in 1967, with Simon King (aged 17) forming OB and asking his old band member Robbie Milne (20, previously in a local Didcot band with Arthur Brown) to join on lead guitar, along with Allan Love (20, vocals), Richard Bardey (20, bass) and Tommy Doherty (20, guitar). Tommy: "The name about when I was looking at a butterfly on my wall in a case, but Butterfly by itself was a bit dull, so we thought of something more colourful".

Before signing with CBS, the band did two demo tracks (covers) at a studio in London, "I had too much to dream last night" and "Wind up toys". From a music paper of the time:

In fact, these young men were participating in an exercise new to the pop world. They were commuting to a rehearsal room to spend their whole day practising and composing. They have spent a solid six months doing just this every day. Not once have they made a public appearance. The aim, I am told, has been to create an original and unusual stage act - "A fresh musical experience".

Their first official recording was "Beautiful Beige/Speak Up", released in 1968, described in the press as a "crisp debut" and an "amiable slice of harmony pop psychedelia". From the beginning, OB were managed by Geoff Hibberd and Bernard Cochrane, represented by Starlight Artistes and publicity was handled by Brian Longley.

OB's second single was a cover of the Who's "Mary Anne with the shaky hand", with the rather famous "My Gration Or?", clocking in at a whopping 7 minutes, 27 seconds. "Mary Anne..." was described in the press as "opting for a more energetic and grandiose approach than the Who's own rendition".

OB toured throughout 1969 and 1970, playing around 90 minute sets - typical set list

In 1969, Tommy and Simon got together to pursue other projects outside of OB, while Robbie alone kept the OB name with replacement musicians, namely Ray Owen (vocals, also of Moon and Juicy Lucy), Davy O'List (guitar), XX (bass) and Mike Burchett (drums).

In a bizarre twist, in turned out that Tommy and Simon were also using the OB name, for their project, and so, after briefly 'discussing' the issue, Robbie wound up joining The New Look Soul Band (later to become Fine China, featuring a very young Michael Barrymore).

With the new OB line-up, briefly including Lemmy (guitar, also later of Hawkwind and Motorhead, of course) and then Ray Major (guitar), and Tommy changing to bass, OB recorded a third single, "Groupie Girl/The Gigging Song" on Polydor (cover image) and also appeared in the B movie "Groupie Girl". (Lemmy had been kicked out of the band before the single and film, by the way, to be eventually replaced by Trev Thoms). In addition to drumming on quite a bit of the music, Simon King appeared as an 'actor' in the film, although he only had one line to say, here captured for posterity (4880k) in glorious DVD quality video 8-)

Around 1970, the last incarnation of OB finally split up and went their separate ways, with Simon going on to Hawkwind of course, after an introduction from Lemmy.

Footnote: Robbie played with Fine China until they split in 1971.