|Time Out December 3-9, 1971
WHO NEEDS A CIRCUS WHEN YOU’VE GOT PATTO?
by Ian Pollock
Whatever happened to Cherry Wainer’s poodle? Who said ‘Life is just a regurgitation of endless tragedy?’ These and other questions remain unanswered by this probing insight into General Custer’s Last Stand. Ian Pollock got a bullet in the head and vividly remembers nothing.
Guttural cries, as in Tarzan swinging through the jungle, were coming from one of the Holland twins standing near the Country Club bar. Or was I just seeing two bars? The ape calls are all in a night’s gig and with the correct promotion accompanied by a Heavy Advertising Campaign, they could become as fashionable as colonels in bras and short pants . The sleeve design on the new album is ours; not really as we wanted it because our drawings were refused for being too filthy. Too many cocks and bollocks’.
Back on stage and Tarzan of the amps was staggering around to the jerking rhythms of ‘Route 66’. Ollie took a solo leaning up against the wall. Close by heads spun off their necks and cracked up on the floor. ‘Fucking insane’, muttered a much-quoted photographer to my left. Drummer John Halsey comes to the front of .the stage. I notice he’s taller standing up. The other Pattos down instruments and take up close harmony positions on the other mike. ‘Doo bee doo bee doo bee doo bee waah... Come my love with me, take me by the hand’. Tears of laughing disbelief streamed from the cracked heads that the Pattos played football with. Terry Dene, your ‘Stairway to Love’ spirals on. ‘Every song for a certain while had the word Rock in it. We listened to a whole pile of Tommy Steele records the other day. Rock With The Cavemen’.
Mike did you ever play down the 2 I's? ‘I sung twice down there with a little guitar. I was very young. Wally Whytton was also down there’. Wally moved on to children’s TV, Mike moved on to The Bo Street Runners and Ready Steady Win. ‘I’m a Bo Street Runner and you can’t catch up with me’. True enough. Timebox found him with The National Youth Jazz Orchestra. Clive Griffiths and Ollie Halsall had come down from Southport. They’ve been playing together for six years. ‘John Halsey joined the group and turned us on to big sounds’. Like ‘Sparkle and The Magic Piano’, ‘Heigh Ho’, ’Nellie the Elephant’. You name it. This boy goes into cafes and puts ‘Back Home’ by the England squad on the juke box.
Some of the other records he played to cover up any words of wisdom that I might want to tape, included Elvis singing ‘My Baby Left Me’, The Mothers of Invention and Stockhausen. Added to this I have some good recordings of tea being stirred, baby’s hiccups, Moroccan drums and a bootleg of a Timebox single ‘Baked Jam Roll In Your Eye’. ‘Our manager at the time thought it was going to be number one all over the world’. The band as a four piece called Patto is 18 months old. Unbelievably Ollie played drums, piano and vibes before playing guitar. ‘It was really rough 18 months ago. We were doing five or ten pound audition gigs with just no bread and families to support. At the time we were slightly angry with nearly every body and with ourselves. We were fooling about with record companies and swallowing silly stories and doing the most diabolical things which we cringe about now. But it didn’t make everybody freak out and say this is the end of the road’. People were telling them things like ‘You ain’t making it boys’ and, ‘Listen you’ve got to do it this way’. ‘In Timebox we really made it on stage. Fucking Ace. We played real good tunes and went down a storm, notably at The Marquee every Tuesday’. The launching pad of so many big names. No matter. Patto always act top of the bill. On a recent German tour the main group were coming to the end of a crescendoing drum bash. The crowd rose to hail the heavy genius with a row of peace signs and a roar of approval. Enter Clive and Ollie stage left, bowing and blowing kisses to the fans.
Apart from congenital idiocy, what had held them back from the big time? I put forward two possible solutions to the dilemma: 1) Lack of a big clock 2) Bad management 3) Failure to stay in a rut and turn up the volume.
‘I never feel that we’ve had one solid forward-looking guy doing the bit, but it’s probably not just down to managers. We are very hard to talk to in that respect. We’re not very patient with them. We were a bit like that for a while, convinced that you’ve got to hang on to what you believe and it’s so easy to be barged off your course. You have the nagging feeling that there should be people manipulating but you’d probably be very anti the way they want to do it, because it’s not really connected with you too much’. Connected? Perhaps I should delve into their hidden psychos. I decided to test their intelligence and offered to sell the key to the Bank of England for £30,000. Quick as a flash Ollie found a piece of paper and wrote out a cheque. Was he taking a gamble that I would never cash it, hoping that when ‘Ollie is God’ gets written on toilet walls, his signature would be worth a fortune? Or was he just foolish? Someone like that couldn’t be trusted. I decided to hang on to the cheque but took the added precaution of scribbling the odd graffiti.
Meanwhile Mike Patto had occasionally gone from ‘Big Hunk of Love’ to Keith Tippett’s Centipede. Obviously a publicity gimmick. Mike put forward a ludicrously unacceptable answer ‘The buzz you get from playing with Centipede is the same sort of buzz, but the difference between the music is incredible’. I searched desperately for a label to pin on him and eventually found one which read ‘This Side Up’. When Bob Fripp vacated one of the Centipede guitar spots, Ollie slipped into it and played the Albert Hall with only one rehearsal. There’s a possibility that a Fripp/Halsall album may soon be undertaken. Incidentally they had to miss a BBC recording session to do that rehearsal and think that they may have been banned as unreliable. Say no more.
With credentials that could be verified by London’s foremost technique collectors, they took themselves down to The Marquee. Ollie let rip on The Ventures ‘Walk Don’t Run’. Switched to vibes under blue and red jazzy lights while Mike did a cabaret take off. Almost saying ‘we know where it comes from’, and then, still on vibes, taking it somewhere else altogether. Between flashes of brilliance they twisted, did mock Townshend leaps and unknowingly demonstrated The Stamp. It was their first live gig with a recently acquired electric piano, following a week’s rehearsal. ‘We’re a bit pissed off with a lot of the stuff we’re doing’, Ollie said. ‘We haven’t written anything for ages because we’ve been too busy. We used to rehearse furiously every week. We used to write loads of material’. They did an album for Decca as Timebox which was never released. It seems the tapes have since been mysteriously burnt but any further explanations are covered up by Ollie screaming. Mike says he does ‘just a little bit of vamping on the piano, Ollie’s the one that really plays’.
Ollie didn’t play that night but you can hear him on the new album, ‘Hold Your Fire’. Anticipating a million seller they have even contrived methods of receiving royalties by including only self-written original songs. This means that to hear ‘Shaking All Over’ and other past blasts you’ll still have to go and see them live. Doubly ingenious. I mentioned that the first album had struck me as a bit of a watered-down version of the real hairy Patto. By that time they were too zonked to reply with physical violence and admitted that it was a bit of a non-production although it was just what they needed at the time after extracating themselves from Decca. What had they done on the new album to give it its stronger sound? ‘We hung mikes about to record the studio resounding and just set up and played. Didn’t alter anything, didn’t put any padding. We did quite a few tracks like that . . . Things get a bit hilarious in the studio. Rolling on the floor or having to run out the door with producer Muff Winwood shouting ’Hollywood Ballyhoo’. Another ace word that they use is ‘ginchy, an old Bert Weedon phrase long forgotten.’ Pick up on it some time grandad.
Mike Patto . . . . . lead vocals/vamping
Dates Sunday 19th, Patto, Centipede and B B Blunder play the Rainbow. A week later they are followed by Chipperfield’s Circus.
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