Richard Lane's Liner Notes from
|"PATTO were a truly great band so commented just one
admirer in a 1990 article in Record Collector magazine.
This statement is not open to debate - period!
Sadly however, the great promoter in the sky cannot be accused of blessing the Pattos with good fortune.
Despite a legendary reputation for giving value for money gigs, neither the hard work, excellent musicianship, or indeed these two outstanding albums you now own, were enough to propel the Pattos into the big-time. It is good then that we may add humour to their list of attributes.
PATTO the performers to loon by, (an angle used to market them) were:
MIKE "DUCKS IN FLIGHT’ PATTO - vocals
The humour that was always part of their stage act is not readily discernable on either albums here, but the superb playing, coupled with vocals from Mike, one of the all-time greats, is testimony to just how damn good they were! We can also begin to understand why a typical gig would have more than it’s fair share of professional musicians in the audience - who mostly stood open-mouthed at the sound coming from Ollie’s white 1967 custom Gibson SG.
PATTO signed to VERTIGO under the eye of Muff Winwood in 1970, rising from the ashes of TIMEBOX, a ‘60’s outfit that were darlings of the BBC, appearing on shows such as ‘Noise At Nine", "Stuart Henry On Sunday", and "Jimmy Young"!
Apart from the fantastically titled song, "Walking Through The Streets Of My Mind’ (1967), there was little from TIMEBOX to hint at the blistering jazz-fused (psychedelic?) workouts that greeted the listener on lowering the needle on Patto’s first VERTIGO offering. Simply entitled ‘PATTO", the challenging material within, what is best described as an interesting sleeve, complimented the wirley and hypnotic VERTIGO logo perfectly. But despite critical acclaim for the fine musicianship, cutting lyrics, progressive time and key changes, sales were poor - only selling a total of 5000 copies.
This is surprising as at this early stage it was clear that this was a band that paid little attention to cliched rock etiquette. From the opening of "The Man", to the super-fast liquidity of Ollie’s playing on "Money Bag", and the not to be over looked tasteful use of vibes, PATTO demonstrated they had an edge.
Thankfully this was picked up on by the more adventurously attuned DJs at the BBC, who pulled the lads into the studio to do 8 cracking sessions between 1970 and ‘73. The first being broadcast by Alan Black on 17.4.70. Tragically only 2 of these sessions survive on tape today - so look after those off-air recordings!
Meanwhile, the patto’s continued to floor audiences with their storming sets, risque humour and just plain high-jinks.
Their spirits and commitment undaunted by the poor sales of the first album, they were soon back in the studio working on what was to be "Hold Your Fire". The band threw themselves into this project, to the extent of designing the elaborate and now highly collectable Consequences-style sleeve, copies of which command in excess of £150. Unfortunately the band’s original artwork (hand drawn cut-out figures) was not used by legendary sleeve designer, Roger Dean, as he apparently lost the scrap book, put together lovingly by the Patto’s whilst on the road - they were just a tad hacked-off!
"Hold Your Fire" was in the shops by December 1971. To this day, it defies belief that such an album can be so little, if ever, referred to in the history of British rock. What this album conveyed, and still does to this day, is that we had the finest and most innovative guitar player this country has produced - bar none. No apologies are offered for quoting the following from the opening of a rare tribute, published in Guitarist magazine just after Ollie’s death:
"In the overall scheme of things, there are two albums which anyone who imagines they can play guitar should hear. One is Are You Experienced, the other is Hold Your Fire by Patto", So penned Barry Monks in 1992. Simply listen!
It was with such an album in the can that PATTO embarked on a hectic tour with TEN YEARS AFTER.
Prior to leaving for this tour of europe, Ollie and John found time to enter Island Studios with Gary Window (sax / sopranino!), Harry Miller (bass) and Max Von Schmaks (violin), under the name of THE BLUE TRAFFS - so named after the not-to-be-recommended practice of igniting flatulent emissions!! The 4 long pieces produced from this partnership, were to appear on a new label to be known as Heavenly Music - but they were never committed to vinyl and it is doubtful if the tapes survive.
The Patto’s tour as support to TEN YEARS AFTER went down very well, with Ollie’s playing so impressing Alvin Lee that he took to recording all their sets on a Revox. He also chose to travel in the Patto’s tour bus in preference to his own - as John Halsey wryly observed: "I think he hoped a bit of Ollie’s gift would rub off
Back down to earth in England, the Patto’s were straight back into the studio, but not before being signed up for a US and Australasian tour. The result was "Roll Em Smoke Em, Put Another Line Out". This was their first album on the Island label, and sadly their last that would be released. This album was an altogether different beast, and found the Patto’s "living a little" - their humour well to the fore.
Many critics rated this offering as their poorest, soliciting such comments as "a bunch of the silliest songs this side of Alpha Centauri!" - but to the Patto’s, it was their best product to date. It seems a good point to observe that in all fairness, none of the Patto’s discs do justice to their live performance, but this album came closest. This aside, the album did treat us to a piece, entitled "Loud Green Song". This must rate as the most intense (structured) fretboard assault committed to disc. This gem, coupled with an example on "Peter Abraham" of Ollie’s masterly and unique ability to play anything he could sing (think about that), will send any would-be fretboard wizard scurrying to the woodshed!
Finally, their lack of success at reaching the next step to wider acceptance, and the poor sales of their latest album, signified the beginning of the end for the band.
Whilst all four looners re-entered the studio and laid down 10 tracks for a 4th album in 1973, the magic and fun had gone. This also coincided with Mike’s desire to write and perform more of his own, less cynical, songs. This is more than understandable as Mike had a great voice that should have made him a star in his own right, he also believed greater success as a band, would be achieved with more approachable / commercial songs. But, for whatever reason, Ollie wasn’t playing ball - his contribution on all but his own material lacking the guilt-edged touch that was Ollie. When confronted with this - Ollie quit.
The 4th album, already entitled "Monkeys Bum", was shelved. Whilst Muff Winwood was said to have been brutally frank, he did have a point. PATTO were simply DICK & THE FIREMEN without Ollie. The industry was changing - it was time to forget it - move on!
Apart from a brief reunion to perform a benefit gig for an ex-roadie who was shot and killed in Pakistan, the band that, to this day are regarded with such affection, were history.
Other notable members to have appeared with PATTO at various times were Bernie Holland (guitar) and Dave Brooks (tenor sax). Both were short lived affairs, with Dave’s departure being particularly telling as Halsey recalls. "We were in the studio one day and Ollie was running us through time changes - they were quite complex. Well, Dave just unhooked his sax, threw it in the corner and barked at Ollie, I’m a musician, not a F……mathematician!!"
How best then to remember the Patto’s? Probably, as they were at their last ever gig. The queue stretched for quarter of a mile from the Torrington’s door, and those locked out listened in the street as the Patto’s rocked as tightly as they had ever done. Halsey and Griffiths laying the footings that could support Canary Wharf, Mike’s vocals gravely and appropriate as ever, with Halsall's SG and valves ballooning into the night air. A farewell indeed!
After the split, Mike went on to play with SPOOKY TOOTH, whilst Ollie joined TEMPEST. The highlight of this venture being a BBC In Concert where Ollie joins Alan Holdsworth for a dual at dawn! Clive played with Alexis Korner’s CCS, and John worked with GRIMMS, Joan Armatrading, Lou Reed, and many others, before joining up with Ollie again to get involved with Neil Innes and Eric Idle’s RUTLES project. Mike and Ollie later became colleagues again to form BOXER. Their first Virgin album being banned until the rear cover artwork was amended to cover Ms Marianne’s intricate bits!
Tragically at about this time, Mike was diagnosed as suffering from lymphatic leukemia, and a after a brave fight he died on 4 March 1979, in great pain. The world is a lesser place for his passing. Mike was an excellent singer/songwriter, played fine piano and had a wonderful roguish sense of humour.
Ollie continued to be in great demand as a session musician, but before he put down roots in the village of Deia. Spain, he, John Halsey and Clive Griffiths toured Europe with Kevin Ayres. This came to very little, as whilst Ollie was into the "Ayres" scene in a big way, John and Clive were not over impressed.
Back home, Clive joined Joe Browns outfit, whilst John set up a profitable business from the door-to-door selling of fish! Eventually John also joined Joe’s outfit and for a while, found himself at Lowerstoft fish market 2 hours after returning home from a gig.
It was on the way home from one of these gigs that tragedy struck the Patto’s again. One moment John was asleep in the passenger seat, the next, he and Clive were in intensive care. The driver of an on-coming vehicle had fallen asleep at the wheel, and hit them head-on. John suffered terrible injuries and although he now walks with a parrot on his shoulder, is much recovered! Poor clive was still unconscious 6 weeks later, and sadly is now paralysed down one side. He is also unable to remember the Patto’s - one is lost for words.
Ollie continued to play as a session man for many artists, but is probably best known for his lengthy career as Kevin Ayers’ unassuming side-man. A role that continued until a month before his tragic death from a heroin overdose. Yet another wonderful talent of intense luminosity, lost to that giant, ever looming snuffer, that is such an addiction. The 29th May 1992 was a sad day for music indeed.
Much more could, and one day will be written about Ollie’s great talent, but for now I feel it only appropriate that the final word should go to "Admiral" Halsey:
"They were amazing days and PATTO were an amazing band with an amazing musician in Ollie. He was a one-off. How can the BBC do "England’s Greatest Guitarists" special (as they have done recently) and leave him out? Still, there you go..."
R. Lane 1995
Previously Unreleased Material
After some 20 hours of listening to PATTO quarter inch tape, (oh what a tiresome chore!) I was about to grudgingly agree with Muff Winwood’s recollection that there were no unused titles from the VERTIGO sessions.
Then came a burst of percussion from a tape allowed to run on. This had my attention!
The next 15 minutes were fairly tense ones, for whilst the Patto’s showed no signs of running out of steam, there was no reason why the tape might not fall silent at any moment! Why you may ask? Simply that "Hanging Rope" was not credited to this spool of tape, or come to that, any other! Well, here it is, a bit rough around the edges (especially the right hand channel), but un-cut. No attempts from me to analyse the piece, except to observe that I was immediately reminded of Larry Coryell’s Philips recording "Bare Foot Boy" in places. I was also forcibly reminded of which end of a drum stick the Admiral preferred to employ!
Nothing quite so dramatic to report with regard to the remaining 3 bonus tracks.
Although recorded over a part-erased tape, this alternative version of "Air Raid Shelter" is justified, if for no other reason, than the unusual clarity and upfront presentation of Ollie’s Gibson in the mix - one can "hear" the space around the performance.
"Beat The Drum" finds Halsey in particularly fine form with Ollie’s vibes proving to be a useful ambassador for this neglected instrument.
Despite a rough mix, and some slight break-up on peak levels, "Bad News" captures the band in great form. Here’s a track that cries out to have been released as a single. Mike’s vocals are spot on, and Ollie’s solo refreshes parts of the spine that other guitarists fail to!
Please remember that these 4 tracks were basically demo takes and were not "finished". However, I do believe their inclusion is justified and are very much a BONUS!
Richard Lane 17:02:95
My thanks to: John Halsey, Muff Winwood, Ray Staff (Whitfield Street Studios), Brett (Island Archives) and Angela.
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