New Musical Express  January 8, 1972

By Roy Carr



MIKE PATTO is amongst the last of a fast dying breed. An arch-looner, who with a smile, a song and a maniacal leer, tears hell-for-leather along the thin line that separates sanity from insanity.

Looning may well be an entertaining preoccupation -- for many it helps to detract from a limited amount of talent -- but the fact remains, Patto the singer and Patto the band that carries his name, have at this moment in time, an abundance of creative energy.

If the lip-service paid to them from within the confines of the music business were sufficient, then Patto (singular and plural) would be giving the proverbial elbow to more established purveyors of electric rock. As it it, and as it has always been, Joe Public are calling the shots and the result is a most unanimous thumbs up.

On the surface, it would appear that both on and off the stage Patto (Mike) plays everything strictly for laughs when he skits such songs as "Stairway Of Love" or chooses to evaluate the band’s present position with straight off-the-top-of-head statements like: "No longer are we that ten quid-a-night audition group…we now take home all of eleven quid-a-week, but that’s only in case the taxman’s reading this."

At times he seems to cocoon himself in the same kind of impregnable shield favoured by the likes of Jimmy Savile, but knowing Patto on more than just a casual basis, I can state with conviction that beneath his most warm and aimiable exterior, he not only cares a great deal about the validity of his music, but he is also totally aware of the instability of his chosen profession.

Patto is a veteran. Having campaigned under such banners as the Timebox, Tarzan, Little Nesbit & the Boothog Pallify Five Hatfield & the Nuts, then after one gig as Dick & the Firemen, it was decided that it would be make or break as Patto.

"Lots of people say we are on the verge of making it, but they said that when we had Timebox going," Patto begins in one of his rare moments of sobriety. "They are saying the very same things that they used to say about the Faces a year ago. That’s ace (a word which he frequently employs to emphasise a point) but we’re not masochistic whereby we would flog on regardless without making it.

"The worst thing that any band can do in our position is to start pricing yourself out of those venues where you have built up a following, for you only lose contact.

"It’s important for bands like this one, when after a gig people come up to you and say that you gave them a thrill. Not ‘Hey Man – it was a gas,’ those are the people you must be wary of, but those who take the time to discuss the songs and how we perform them."

When one is faced with the problem of actually interviewing Patto, one doesn’t apply the usual techniques, but is forced to a hard and fast line in interrogation. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work. For at any time, the "star" is liable to spring to his feet, leap about to the music emitting from the stereo and shout at any innocent intruder entering the room: "Be off with you...we’re doing a play."

Then without pausing for a breath, this craggy faced extrovert threatens: "When I eventually overthrow Tom Jones, I won’t go in for silk suits and Hollywood or even Las Vegas night clubs. I’m just going to sit at my piano and the kids in the village will all snigger and talk about me.

"Everyday I’ll buy expensive sweets for the children, much to the annoyance of their parents, but being a good wholesome young Catholic lad, it’ll just be sweeties."

It was only then with supreme effort upon my part and a plea of "Let’s talk about the band, Mike," that I managed to curtail this endless stream of verbal eccentricity.

"Ace," he muttered with a knowing twinkle in his spacey eyes.

"Yeah…the band…Ace," was his reiteration.

"Ummmmmh…right," he continued as with a sudden flourish he pulled his waistcoat together tightly across the front of his chest, grinned, burst into laughter, checked himself and at a rapid pace informed me, "I want this band to be a human to hear boobs and burps on our records. You can dig listening to a cat trying for a note and not just quite making it...yeah.

"The physical thing is that when you’re up their on stage turning yourself on, you tend to open your ears to what’s happening all around you.

"The audience burbling…you can hear that better, and consequently the looning becomes far more acceptable and the liberties taken.

"This all helps to break down the intense inhibitions of both band and audiences…Ace. I can tell you that it knackers everybody but at the end you’re grabbing energy from the audience.

"But then, I feel that the audience can cop so many feelings from the band. By that I mean, as a member of the group I can hear things that each member has been working on...I’m up there with them and therefore I know what they’re moving towards.

"Sometimes it takes months, but then you hear that change, things tick round a little better, like when Olly (Halsall) lurches into the intro of a song and wham! it’s all there."

If there’s one co-operative motto that all the members adhere to it’s "Never Do The Obvious."

Patto explains: "In fact we got criticised on numerous occasions for not doing the obvious. If there’s a four bar break in a number, we’ll do one in say 5/4 or what ever we feel will make a sudden yet effective contrast.

"It’s just the same when we feature various individuals. Take Olly’s tunes, he doesn’t fill them with fashionable rip-offs from other people’s material neither are his guitar solos in the current fashionable trend. Olly is an individual, and I feel that a great deal of our success hasn’t been because of my visual antics out front...though I suppose they help," he adds as a tongue-in-cheek aside. "But because of Olly’s great songs"

At a time when so many groups appear to be suffering from tired blood and display as much originality as a Rank Xerox, Patto is conscious of the work of his contemporaries but avoids over-listening to new albums. His reasoning is logical: "Well, I think that sub-consciously you can quite easily fall into the traps of re-working some of their ideas and I don’t want to do that, even though I have a great respect for some of the things certain groups are doing. I mean, I dig to hear it all, but I’m desperately trying to be myself. Take the Beatles, it’s a gas to hear all their solo albums, but the way things are today it would only be a fool who would dare to step into their things."



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