Disc December 25, 1971

Royal Command performances

By David Hughes

PATTO (left to right): John Halsey, Mike Patto, Clive Griffiths and Olly HaIsaII

MIKE PATTO and his friends like to be known as the last of the raving bands – and they may well be right. Meeting them for the first time they put on an insane mask just to prove their point. But get under that and you find a good talking band, hard-working and with many a tale to tell.

Their second LP, "Hold Your Fire" is just on release and that’s the first tale, and a rather dispirited one.

"We’ve had so much trouble with that album," says Mike who with Olly (eyebrows) Halsall, makes up the talking half of the band. "The first pressing was faulty, the second pressing was faulty and now that it’s on release nobody can find it.

"We played a gig up North last week and the promoter went out to buy copies to sell in the hall. He found four – four copies and he reckons he could have sold 200!"

Patto used to be the Timebox in days of old (four years ago) and played debs parties and the Jimmy Young Show. Then they realised what a blind alley they were being driven up, called it quits, changed their name to that of their lead singer and vanished into oblivion.

"We even carried on playing the Jimmy Young Show as the Timebox just to get the £40 cheque. As Patto we were only earning about £5 or £10 a gig.

"Originally the idea was not to mention anywhere that we were Timebox, but the net result of that was that we hardly got any bookings.

"We were really sick to the teeth with Timebox, although musically the group did have a certain reputation. We were being given all these extraordinary gigs to do that were just not us; we were being forced to play music that wasn’t us and we were rushed into a really diabolical LP which, thankfully never got released.

"So one day we just decided it was time to change. We changed management, agency and record label."

Since then it’s been a long struggle for recognition, but apart from losing their organist – "he could not cope with us and we could not cope with him" – the group remains exactly the same.

"The first real problem came with making the first Patto album. We were all so unnerved by our experiences as Timebox with the producer saying "Mike, could you not sing a bit like Edmund Hockridge on this track" that it took us a long time to rebuild our confidence.

"Luckily Muff Winwood managed to convince us of his integrity; we recorded at Island and the sound was just great. Since then the gigs have really started going well, and I think we’ve reached the first division musically."

Several of the tracks on this new LP are very strong stuff lyrically with words that really strike home.

"I think it’s very healthy to say something in your songs," says Mike. "It’s good to get out of the normal frame of mind and think about things.

"We actually haven’t written for a long time now, simply because we’ve had too much live work. We’ve got some really nice close things happening in clubs these days and work about five nights every week here and on the Continent. Of course it would be nice to earn a bit more and perhaps go to America, but we’re not dissatisfied. I’m doing something now and I can’t envisage the time when I’m not doing it."

And then of course there are the debs balls, or rather the Royal Commands, two of which are firmly embedded in their brains, hearts and everywhere else!

One was at Critchley House, home of the Guinness brewing family, the other at the home of Christopher Soames, British Ambassador in Paris.

"They were both totally amazing gigs. On both occasions we had to camouflage the equipment behind potted plants and bushes, and both times we were a riot !

"One had Princess Anne and the other Princess Margaret and there were all the top brass, people like Princess Alexandra and Rose Kennedy and all the other ambassadors. They called us ‘a beatnik band from England’ and thought we were great, although on both occasions we were stoned out of our heads.

"One of the gigs we nearly got busted and wrote a song about it, ‘See You At The Dance."

Ah yes, join Patto and see life on the other side of the fence.


Article kindly provided by Phil McCarthy.


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