Circus  June, 1972


Patto Smothers Its Past

by Janis Schacht

Once upon a time in the distant past (1967), a group calling itself Timebox was playing the London club circuit. At a time when every other band was freaking itself and everyone around them, this groupís fan club was telling devotees to "get ticking with the Timebox" while spreading bits of news such as: "Mike has incredibly freaky hair . . . frug . . . John has twelve pairs of pink underpants Ďcause he washed them with a red t-shirt and the dye ran . . . groove . . . Mike thinks Superman is a gas . . . Mike and John are human dust bins . . . Olly looks incredibly like Paul McCartney . . . Mike used to sing with the Bo Street Runners . . . Mike won cups for tap-dancing when he was four . . . gas."

Patto: Rebirth is painful for a group that once teased fan clubs with the color of its under pants.

Tricks and treats: Mike Patto (vocals), Peter "Olly" Halsall (vibes, guitar, vocals), Clive Griffiths (bass), John Halsey (drums) and Chris Holmes (organ) were playing jazz rock Ė mixing "Paperback Writer" and "Misty," incorporating vibes with hard-rock guitar, playing better than most other bands around at the time. Even then Peter Halsall had the reputation of being one of the most unusual and one of the finest guitarists ever.

One spring night, the tenth anniversary of Londonís Marquee Club, Timebox and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown jammed till midnight, quite an event in a club that usually sends its clientele packing home at eleven oíclock. Mike Patto climbed onto Arthurís shoulders and they burst into a raucous version of "Lucille;" in the corner Halsall played unreal guitar; it was an evening not easily forgotten by the four hundred people who packed the smoke-filled hall Ė the same hall that had witnessed debut London performances by Ten Years After, The Who and the Rolling Stones.

Timebox made five or six singles together Ė all jewels. One was released here and was an unusually fine cover version of the Four Seasons "Beggin" (Deram). It was good enough to find its way onto New York DJ Scott Muniís English hour . . . Sunday after Sunday WNEW-FM played it, long after the song had faded from the London limelight. Then Timebox disappeared. Mike Patto and Peter Halsall resurfaced for a fleeting moment as a part of the rock extravaganza Centipede, with Keith Tippett, Julie Driscoll, and forty or fifty other rock names.

The Timebox trauma: Early last year Patto emerged, and except for the disappearance of organist Chris Holmes the lineup was identical to the old Timebox. The sound, however, was something else. "We were really sick to the teeth with Timebox," Mike Patto admits, "although the group had a certain reputation. So, one day we decided it was time to change. We changed management, booking agency and record label.

"The real problem came when we were making the first Patto album," Mike continued. "We were all so unnerved by our experience as Timebox that it took us time to rebuild our confidence." Their first album Patto (Vertigo) was loud, undisciplined and quite a come-down, though the band was pleased with it. It was really just a reaction against the tight, commercial Timebox sound. Produced by Stevie Winwoodís brother, Muff Winwood, the newly released second album, Hold Your Fire (Vertigo), is so far superior to the first one that it cancels out the debut album completely. No longer is Patto pushing aside their jazz roots, or their sensitive and distinctive use of the vibraphone.

Mike Pattoís voice conjures up a picture of something like Georgie Fame singing the Rod Stewart Song Book. Pattoís vocals lodge comfortably between the fuzzy jazz tones of Fame and the Facesí sandpaper-coarse hard-rock.

The trip from the sixties:

I had taken to wearing sandals and Iíd given up watching TV
I was rolling up grass in the American flag and I was sick from snorting "C"
I blew my mind out on a trip one night and I ran all the way back to town
. . .

Iíve been beaten and busted and Iíve wound up on my own
But thereís nothing left that buzzes me so Iím returning home.
          "Hold Your Fire"

Itís been a long time since Timebox were singing "Begginí" and "Lucy In The Sky," though they still play the Marquee Club occasionally.

"Honesty is scaring me," Mike Patto admits. "Iíve found myself sitting down on my own with an ugly face and writing. And Iíve picked it up the next day and gone, Christ, whatís that? But thatís honesty! Iím writing things I bloody well mean. Itís a new phase and I know it. And Patto are starting a new phase. A bloody good one."

Me Iíve felt your anger
Me Iíve felt your scorn
Me I donít know nothing
Me Iíve just been born
          "You, You Point Your Finger"

Nitpicking:  Cancels out the debut album completely?!  Actually, the vibes were used more prominently on their debut LP -- only one track of "Hold Your Fire" features them.



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