Tempest

The first band that Ollie joined after Patto was Jon Hiseman's Tempest.  The original lineup began in late 1972 and included Paul Williams (vocals, percussion), Allan Holdsworth (guitar, violin), Mark Clarke (bass, vocals, piano), and Jon Hiseman (drums).  In June of 1973, just one day after Ollie joined the band, they recorded a 55-minute live show for the BBC.  With two great guitarists, this lineup of the band had a lot of potential, but Allan and Paul left the band soon after Ollie joined.  

The band continued touring as a three-piece.  In October and November, they recorded the album "Living In Fear" at AIR studios in London.  The album is an impressive heavy rock LP.  It was engineered by Geoff Emerick, best known for engineering the majority of the Beatles recordings.  Ollie wrote or co-wrote half the album: "Funeral Empire", "Waiting For A Miracle", the title track, and "Yeah Yeah Yeah".   There's lots of great guitar from Ollie, particularly on "Turn Around", "Living in Fear",  "Dance To My Tune", and the cover of the Beatles' "Paperback Writer".  Ollie starting experimenting some with synthesizers on the album and live in concert but later said that he didnít like them at all.  The album was released on the Bronze label in February of 1974, and the band did a 30-minute live BBC show that same month to promote it.  


To the right is the promotional sticker for the "Living in Fear" album.  Click to see a larger image.

 

To the right is a Japanese single for "Paperback Writer" and "Waiting For A Miracle".  Click to see a larger image.

Unlike when circumstances forced him into the role with Timebox, he was ready to take on the challenge of being a lead vocalist in Tempest.  Sadly, Tempest was Ollie's last touring band in which he acted as a primary lead vocalist.  He did sing on some later projects, but by the early 1980's, Ollie's voice, as John Halsey puts it, was completely knackered.  It had become quiet and raspy and too weak for Ollie to effectively be a lead singer.

Ollie, Mark, and Jon found themselves wanting to move the band in different directions, so a split was inevitable.  Ollie wasn't very interested in the heavy metal and instrumental-based style that Mark and Jon were opting for.  He was "always more interested in singing and songs, and writing, than instrumental things..."  Ollie felt restricted.  The band called it quits in the Spring of 1974.

Tempest Articles and Interviews
Photos:  Rare Fin Costello Tempest Photographs

The "Living In Fear" recording sessions got Ollie involved with a singer/songwriter that Ollie would end up being musical partners with for much of the rest of his life:  Kevin Ayers.

Kevin Ayers and the Soporifics

Ollie knew of and had an appreciation of Kevin Ayers' music years before he became a part of it.  Kevin used to play on the same bill with Patto at the Roundhouse in London.  The ad to the right is for the May 21, 1972 Roundhouse show.

Kevin Ayers was recording his Dr. Dream album at AIR studios at the same time as Tempest was recording "Living In Fear".  Kevin needed a guitarist to play a solo and Ollie proceeded to put a fiery solo down on "Didn't Feel Lonely Till I Thought of You".  It was just the one track, but Kevin called on Ollie months later to join Kevin's touring band, The Soporifics.  They did a tour of England and then the June 1, 1974 concert at the Rainbow in London with Eno, Cale, and Nico, which was  commemorated with an album titled simply "June 1, 1974".

Based on interviews, Kevin's scene seems to be exactly what Ollie needed at the time.  Coming out of the restrictedness in Tempest, Ollie enjoyed playing relatively simple music and being able to just play guitar while someone else handled the vocals and the spotlight.  As he said in a interview for the New Musical Express, "I love playing alongside Kevin. Itís a very naive type of music. Itís terribly simple but itís totally creative and free."  In a July interview with Melody Maker, Ollie said that in terms of his satisfaction with playing in Kevin's band, he "could really live with this forever."
         

Exclusive photos of Ollie live with Kevin Ayers and the Soporifics in Hyde Park, London, 1974.  Taken by Marty Zucker.

           
Article:  Melody Maker, 7-13-74
   "Halsall:  I'm very humble"
    
Article:  NME, 11-16-74
   "Ollie Halsall, On Doing Your Own Thing"
           
Article:  NME, 12-7-74
   "Ayers and graces"
       
Article:  Melody Maker, 1-18-75
  "Stones' shopping list"

     
Ollie "Haircut" was heavily involved in the sessions for Kevin's "Sweet Deceiver" LP, which was released in March of 1975.  He co-produced the album with Kevin and performs on every track on guitar, bass, mandolin, or backing vocals.  Ollie's playing on "Toujours La Voyage" is simply beautiful, and "Observations" has Ollie at his raunchy, absurd best.  

Kevin's recent albums, "Bananamour" and "Confessions of Dr. Dream", were increasingly well received by the critics and fans.  Unfortunately that trend did not continue with "Sweet Deceiver".  The Soporifics (of ever-changing personnel) hit the road for a European tour, which resulted in a disillusioned Kevin running off to the South of France to retire for a while.

That final tour must have left a bad impression on Ollie as well.  Apparently, the showman and the rocker in Ollie was beginning to get tired of the laid-back sideman role.  As he said in a 1976 interview with Trouser Press,  " It was pretty frustrating playing with him because I had to hold back so much of the time -- I was just doodling about."  On the tour, Ollie said he wasn't able to let go and get a bit crazy until the final number, "Stranger In Blue Suede Shoes", where he would basically torture his guitar, swinging it around on the end of a rope.

Boxer and the Patto Reunion

In May of 1975, Mike, Ollie Halsall, Clive Griffiths, and John Halsey reunited to do several reunion gigs in London as Patto, the first being at Dingwalls on May 15.  In July, they played at the Torrington.  They were benefit shows for the family of one of their roadmen named Eric Swain, who was murdered in Pakistan by robbers.  The gigs were a great success.  At the Torrington gig, they packed the place and many fans had to settle for listening from outside.

Ollie and drummer Tony Newman (Sounds Inc., Jeff Beck Group, et al.) tried various things after they, as Tony put it, "got the sack from Kevin Ayers", including doing some music for a porn film before they decided to put together a straight-ahead rock band.  For the vocalist, they decided to call on Mike Patto, who was working for Nigel Thomas' GoodEar record company as a promotions man.  Circa July of 1975, Mike agreed to join Boxer, and the Patto/Halsall songwriting partnership was reunited.  They got Keith Ellis (Van Der Graaf Generator, Juicy Lucy, Spooky Tooth, et al.) to play bass.

Boxer's debut album for the Virgin label was titled "Below the Belt".  It was produced by Richard Digby-Smith, who was an engineer on a couple of the Patto LPs.  As they intended, it was a straight-ahead rock album, which focused more on songwriting than extended solos.  Ollie's guitar shines through on "California Calling", "More Than Meets The Eye",  "Gonna Work Out Fine", and "Save Me", on which Ollie sings along with his guitar.  Unfortunately, the album seems to be remembered most for the naked model on its cover and not the music.
     

They recorded a great second album, "Bloodletting", in 1976, but it was not released for some reason until 1979.  Conspicuously absent, however, are writing credits for Ollie.  All originals were credited solely to Mike Patto.  Arguably a better sounding album than their first, it features great songs throughout.  Standout tracks for Ollie are "Dinah-Low",  "Hey Bulldog", and the live "Teachers", which includes an unaccompanied solo towards the end. 
      
Article:  Beat Instrumental, April 1976
  "Player of the Month Ollie Halsall"

     
While Ollie was busy with Boxer, he managed to play on nearly all of Kevin's "Yes, We Have No Mananas" album, which was released June of 1976.  The album is generally considered to be one of Kevin's finest.  Ollie plays brilliantly on "Blue".  "Help Me" and "Star" are also strong tracks for Ollie.

Supposedly, Ollie quit Boxer in late 1976.  No reasons have been given why, but my guess is that it was a combination of clashing egos, less than anticipated success, and debt.  The band also ended up losing their instruments, including Ollie's guitars.  The hearsay is that the band was so in debt with Nigel Thomas, their manager, that he withheld their equipment.  As late as 1981, Ollie still didn't own his own electric guitar.  Nigel's company was liquidated, and Ollie's guitars were probably auctioned off.  Nobody seems to know where Ollie's custom Gibson SG is today.

More information on Boxer can be found in the Boxer section of this web site.

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