Sounds,  October 12, 1974


By Ray Telford


MIKE PATTO: an unlikely prospect
ONCE AGAIN the drawing board is being cleared for the next Spooky Tooth re-launch.

The last Spooky reincarnation recently bit the dust with the arrival back in London of singer Mike Patto, guitar player Mick Jones and the group’s drummer Bryson Graham. Earlier this summer the band took up semi-permanent residence in New York in order to record and tour with the idea that in America the musical atmosphere might be more conducive to their success than in England.

The idea that at the time particularly impressed Patto. For three years previously he’d battled against incredible apathy towards his own group – Patto – who during their time together managed to consolidate a small, hard core following who constantly bemoaned the band’s minority acceptance. Certainly Patto were a unique musical combination.

The music sounded totally British but they still played the blues and when they were playing at their peak the thought of Patto himself becoming part of such a comparatively low key band as Spooky Tooth was unthinkable.

He describes himself as a down to earth sort of bloke even though he sometimes tells some action-packed tales of his life on the road which have turned his head, so to speak, in other directions. That, however, is a whole new ball game.

Twixt the breakup of Patto and his involvement with Spooky Tooth, Mike had been throwing his weight behind the idea for a band which he delightfully dubbed Dick and The Firemen. The nucleus was Patto, Mel Collins, Neil Hubbard, Ian Wallace and Zoot Money, all of them old buddies of Patto’s, and together they had released one single, a tasty reworking of "Sittin' In The Park", the old Billy Stewart hit, which did nothing.

According to Mike it was released with half of Mel Collins’ brass absent, but he believed in the commercial power of the record as a single. The mention of it now draws little more than a doleful shrug from Mike's massive shoulders

Prior to his joining Spooky Tooth, the band had already gone through at least two switches of personnel. The original idea had included the teaming up again of the two original Spooky singers – Gary Wright and Mike Harrison – and with Mike Kellie, also from the original band.

The ensuing clashes of personality, however, grounded them after one trial British and European tour with Harrison splitting to do his own album closely followed by bassist Chrissie Stewart who was offered a gig in America with Henry McCullough and Joe Cocker.

Patto admits that on first sight his becoming Spooky’s lead singer was an unlikely prospect. Within his own setup, he explains that the band had built up and developed their own musical forms through which he was best able to write. The unity which ran through Patto was even reflected in their own exclusive sense of humour which Mike still carries and uses on strangers and acquaintances to a variety of mixed reactions. It was precisely this aspect of his makeup that he says contributed to the latest Spooky breakup.

"The first thing that struck me musically about the band once we got well into gigging and recording in New York was that the rhythm section wasn’t right. It was too plodding and didn’t have the punch that I’d been used to. I mean Kellie’s a good drummer and good luck to him but it was a completely different band from the old Spooky Tooth. In the end Kellie and Keith Ellis, who’d come with us from London, went back home."

The basic difference between the old and new Spooky Tooth of course lies between the widely varying vocal styles shared between Patto, Mike Harrison and Gary Wright. The new album features a much less distinctive than usual Mike Patto and the selection of material too shows the direction to be almost totally opposed to the original Spooky concept.

Talking to Patto it becomes clear that there is no love lost between him and Gary Wright. He accuses Wright of show stealing and spoke of a couple of incidents during the recording of the new album during which Patto is said to have challenged Wright as to his precise role within the band.

"Gary told someone one night after there had been some blow up over something or other that I was uncouth." Patto’s eyes widened in mock surprise before the expression changed into an ear-to-ear grin. "I think really he wanted someone to carry out all his ideas with no questions asked. See I have too much going on in my own head for that and I spoke my mind. I didn’t find out until later that all this shit was going on behind my back."

Presently Gary Wright is still in America picking up the pieces while Patto plans a European tour with a band which will include Mick Jones and Bryson Graham: "They are two guys I really dig to play with", says Patto. There’s a lot of music there and I want to get it out in the open, get it across and push it to the punters." RAY TELFORD.


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