A Phil Brodie Band Tribute
14, 1949, Southport, England. ~ May 29 1992, Madrid, Spain
Halsall was perhaps one of the most underrated guitarists ever. It is
amazing that so few people (especially guitarists) seem to know about
him. His guitar work was so unusual, fast, and fluid that it would leave
you speechless. He could also make his guitar sing or cry given a gentle
tune. If the world made any sense, he would be way up there on the guitar
hero list with Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, etc. But he never really cared
much about being a guitar hero. He was blessed with an incredible gift
for music, and he was a thoughtful musician, not just a flashy guitar
above : Ollie Halsall ~ 1971
Ollie, like Jimi,
played left-handed and used standard models strung upside - down. How
superb a guitarist was Ollie. In the light of the current crop of virtuosi
who receive extensive coverage in the music press it is important to
realise that Ollie actually invented the fluid 4-finger 'hammer-on'
runs taken up by everyone today. He developed this style at Butlins
in 1967 where he was obliged to have the guitar strung high up around
his neck in order to double on vibraphone - his first instrument at
the time. This position dictated 'a classical' approach and enabled
him to achieve extraordinary speed and clarity. Ollie became the most
creative, innovative and sensitive player we shall ever hear - and that
is bar no-one!
"Why Are We Sleeping" magazine
used heavy guage plectrum. The sound was always basically clean and
consistent with no examples of 'scraping' or 'false harmonics' occasioned
by soft or sideways applied plectrum. This seems to endorse the opinion
of Ollie's hero Bert Weedon (yes, really!) who recommends strict parallel
picking. The point, in Ollie's case was, however, to avoid detracting
from the notes themselves. Fundamental to his style was the now common
technique of 'hammering-on' ie. plucking one note fretted by the forefinger
and applying the 2nd, 3rd and even 4th digits to adjacent frets in quick
succession. These phrases can be reversed and compounded to produce
incredibly fluent runs, either within accepted scales or, more often,
complex melodic lines. (There is a difference which eludes many contemporary
This ability (which according to Patto's drummer John Halsey was perfected
through endless hours of late night hotel practice) requires the picked
note to have identical timbre to that of the others - so you can't see
the 'join'. The idea was to mimic the saxaphone and Ollie would actually
'breathe' the lines in order to emulate the feel.
BOXER, Chris Stainton - Keyboards, Keith Ellis - Bass, Ollie Halsall
- Guitar, Keyboard, Tony Newman - Drums, Mike Patto - Vocals,
"Ollie" Halsall was born on March 14, 1949. He grew up in Southport,
England, His nickname Ollie, came from his surname ('alsall, 'ally...).
Ollie at the age of 4 became a fan of Gene Vincent, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley,
Scotty Moore (Elvis' guitarist), The Four Seasons, and Johnny Ray. At the
age of seven, he played around on his sister's guitar. He also played piano
from an early age. The drums, however, was the first instrument that Ollie
took up seriously. He began playing in Southport groups beginning with Pete
and the Pawnees and then The Gunslingers. He started playing semi-professionally
in 1962 when he was 13 with a band called the Music Students Then joined
the band Rhythm & Blues, Incorporated.
In 1965, he left art school at the age of 16 when Clive Griffiths asked
Ollie to come to London to be part of a group called Take 5. But instead
of playing drums, he was to be their vibes player! Which he taught himself
to play, Ollie said in a 1972 Melody Maker interview, "Clive Griffiths,
the bass player, asked me to play vibes, which I'd never played before.
I practiced on strips of paper until I got vibes, then I listened to Milt
Jackson records and copied solos."
1967 the band changed their name to Timebox, The final line-up of Timebox
included Mike Patto (vocals), Ollie Halsall (vibes, guitar, vocals), Clive
Griffiths (bass), Chris Holmes (keyboards), and John Halsey (drums, percussion).
The band switched to the Deram label and released a series of singles. The
most successful was a cover of the Four Seasons' "Beggin'" in
the summer of 1968, which peaked at #38. Ollie sang lead on the first Deram
B-side, "Walking Through the Streets of My Mind". Ollie's first
guitar was a customized Fender Telecaster.
In 1970, the band renamed themselves 'Patto'. Ollie was 21 and within just
3 years had become an amazing guitarist. He had switched to playing a white
Gibson SG Custom, which he loved and played almost exclusively until 1976;
sadly he lost it due to being in debt. Ollie would sometimes do a Keith
Moon impression with his vibes at the end of gigs. One night he got a little
carried away and smashed them beyond repair. The vibes weren't heard again
on later Patto recordings!! Ollie recorded some instrumentals using the
alias of Rusty Strings around this time too. Not happy with Patto's material
Ollie left the band in early 1973 to become a session musician.
By 1973 Ollie was gaining huge respect in the muso world as a guitarist,
and was in big demand. As well sessioning he also joined the band Jon Hiseman's
Tempest. Ollie starting experimenting with synthesizers on the "Living
In Fear" album and live in concerts but later said that he didn't like
them at all. Tempest was the last band Ollie was the main lead singer,his
voice had become raspy and too weak for Ollie to effectively be a lead singer.
Again not happy with the heavy metal and instrumental-based direction Tempest
was heading Ollie left the band.
~ Kevin Ayers & Ollie Halsall
had struck up a life long friendship and working arrangement with Kevin
Ayers after sessioning for him on Kevin's Dr. Dream album at AIR studios,
Ollie joined Kevin's touring band, The Soporifics. In May of 1975, Mike,
Ollie Halsall, Clive Griffiths, and John Halsey reunited to do several reunion
gigs in London as Patto. Ollie & Mike Patto also formed the band Boxer
together with Chris Stainton, Keith Ellis
Tony Newman, but Ollie quit the band in 1976.
1977 Neil Innes asked him to be a Rutle. The Rutles was a Beatles parody
group born out of a sketch on the Rutland Weekend Television show, starring
Neil Innes and Monty Python's Eric Idle. Ollie played guitar and keyboards
on the recordings and provided the vocals (slightly sped-up) of the Paul
character, Dirk McQuickly. Unfortunately Ollie did not get to play Dirk
of the Rutles in the film. The producers wanted Eric Idle to play him. Ollie
instead became Leppo, the fifth Rutle from the Hamburg days.
The pinnacle of this period, however, has to be 'Toujours la Voyage' with
Elton John on piano. Ollie is quite aware of the company he is keeping and
produces what is probably the most sensitive, poignant and complementary
playing of his career. The two solos each glide effortlessly over Kevin's
marvellously inspired chord progression with a real jazz feel that could
not be matched let alone improved.
1980-1981 saw Ollie playing gigs in Sweden with his lady friend and singer,
Zanna Gregmar. Kevin Ayers did a tour with Ollie, John Halsey, and Clive
Griffiths. John, Ollie, and Clive also were involved in sessions for an
album based on the Saturday-morning kids show, Tiswas. The album, called
"Tiswas Presents The Four Bucketeers", contains the last recordings
to feature Ollie, John, and Clive playing together.
Later in 1981, Ollie moved to the island of Majorca where he lived out his
days. Being closer to Kevin meant they could work more together and they
put out 5 albums over the next 11 years. He also kept busy doing music with
Zanna. They did a TV appearance with Kevin, John Cale, and Andy Summers.
Ollie got very involved with many Spanish bands and artists; songwriting,
performing and production work.
In 1991, Ollie made his last appearance on the English stage in the Vivian
Stanshall Dogends concert at the Bloomsbury Theatre. Also on the stage were
John Halsey, Jack Bruce, Rodney Slater, Roger Ruskin Spear, and Pete Brown.
Kevin's "Still Life With Guitar" album & sadly to be Ollie
last album, was released in February 1992. Ollie plays acoustic guitar
on "Don't Blame Them", "Ghost Train", and "M16".
He also played vibes on "I Don't Depend On You". They toured
throughout Europe, and Ollie was reportedly in very fine form, when
suddenly, on May 29, 1992, Ollie died in Madrid from a drug-related
heart attack. He is buried in Majorca where fans have placed a guitar
volume knob on his gravestone.
Above ~ Timebox 1968 Griff, Mike, Ollie, John
appeared in the Kevin Ayers fanzine 'Why Are We Sleeping' #9)
I: There's a Moose on the Loose!
From Swinging London through the Hippy trail to the end of the progressive
Soul Sauce/I Wish I Could Jerk Like My Uncle Cyril (45) 1967
I Will Always Love You/Save Your Love (45) 1967
Move on Up/ ? (45) 1968
The Original Moose on the Loose (omnibus of other Deram singles 1967-1970)
Gone is the Sad Man
More than competent pop sides (if a little reminiscent of The Love Affair
et al) featuring Halsall on vibraphone. B-sides are far more interesting
Patto (a.k.a. Anarchy) 1970
Hold Me Back
Hold Your Fire 1971
See You at the Dance Tonight
Give It All Away
How s Your Father
A Sense of the Absurd (reissue of Patto & Fire plus bonus tracks)
Finally given a free rein by Vertigo, the Pattos crafted quite the finest
jazz-rock (if you like) guitar albums of the period (or any other for that
matter). The reissue is a worthily packaged effort by Richard Lane on Mercury.
Roll 'em Smoke 'em Put Another Line Out 1972
Singing the Blues on Reds
Loud Green Song
Patto's Sgt Pepper. An eccentric and totally OTT affair and, by that token,
nearest to capturing the essence of the group. Typically, Ollie reacted
to his new guitar hero status by playing equalling stunning piano almost
throughout and by devoting most of side 2 to an epic sea shanty on acid!
(Sea Biscuits parts 1 & 2).
Monkey's Bum 1973 (unreleased)
I Need You
Ollie left halfway through but this remains an awesome piece of work. NB:
Avoid the unauthorised Audio Archives CD. The intrepid Richard Lane is working
towards an official reissue. In the meantime trade with the OH Archive tape
which is considerably nearer the original.
BBC radio sessions (T) 1970.72
Live at the Beeb (T) 28.6.71, 2.12.72 & 24.1.73
Singing the Blues on Reds
The excellent quality of the later sessions (regrettably not in concert)
is marred only by Dave Brooks totally incongruous tenor sax (at the invitation
Live at The Piper Club, Viareggio, Italy (T) 1972
Hold Me Back
A bit of a curate's egg this one the selected good part coming the closest
to recreating Patto live.
Live at the Torrington, London (T) July 1975 (reunion)
Includes much of the sheer lunacy that was Patto.
Ollie & the Blue Trafs 1972
This legendary album is almost certainly lost forever, although Halsall
mentioned it 16 years later.
2: The Rock Machine Turns You On.
'The thing I haven't mastered yet is a high energy thing where I can
perform solos and chord work more spontaneously' O.H. 1976
Living in Fear (CD) 1973 including:-
Waiting For a Miracle
One of the finest heavy rock albums ever made.
magnificent guitar set in some excellent songs.
BBC radio transcription disc 5.73 (most of it)
BBC radio (T) 8.73
Live at Nuova, Italy 1973
Live at Frankfurt 1973
The earlier radio show is essentially a guitar duel between Halsall
& Holdsworth. Alan left the band shortly afterwards! The later trio
gigs are splendidly drunken affairs featuring Ollie on lunatic mono
Below the Belt 1975
Than Meets the Eye
t Wait/All the Time in the World (45)
& Patto s final attempt at the big time. A third album, Absolutely,
was made after Ollie s departure. The 1975 BBC radio sessions are neither
wholly live nor worth listening to.
3: And Now for Something Completely Different!
Bonzo and Python discover Ollie and invite him to the party:
Fresh Liver 1973
Sold Out 1973
'They asked me to play like Hendrix. They asked me to play as though
I were a policeman, or a carpet salesman. You can do it because it s
easy to do, but I could never let go OH 1976
How Sweet To Be An Idiot 1973
Recycled Vinyl Blues (CD) (includes most of Idiot) 1994
Fluff on the Needle
Off the Record 1978 (OH contribution unclear)
RUTLES (NEIL INNES)
Meet the Rutles 1978
All You Need is Cash (V) 1978
Must Be in Love
plays Leppo (Stuart Sutcliffe) in the film. What is less widely known
is that apart from providing the wonderful Beatle guitar pastiches,
he also sang Eric Idle s part of Paul (Dirk McQuickley).
Teddy Boys Don't Knit 1981
Dogends concert (T) 1988
Stanshall was a wonderfully eccentric artist and probably a perfect
foil for Ollie. Unfortunately the contribution to either recording is
above Ollie on US tour with Joe Cocker ~ 1971
4: A Heavy Session!
I won't do sessions anymore. It's like being a plumber. They get you
in to patch up a track' O.H. 1976
We May Be Cattle But We've All Got Names 1973
the Sleeper 1976
What You Want
And the Great Stampede 1973
YORK'S CAMELO PARDALIS
Manor Live 1973
Lawdy Miss Clawdy (45) (year?)
Some excellent examples scattered throughout these. Unfortunately, overall,
the material hardly supports Halsall s embellishments. There is also
a DENNY LAINE solo album and some things by BILL LOVEDAY
A brief and tedious contribution to one of the strangest albums of all time.
Ten Songs 1973
Some Things Never Change 1978
Apparently, Ollie was also involved with these but, apart from a primitive
solo with our Pet, I cannot honestly discern his presence.
5: I Did It Otway
I make no excuses for citing John Otway as a genius
and one of the few artistes I would currently get out of bed to go an
1979 Ollie encountered a soul mate in the form of this lunatic busker.
Their low budget tour of the states is the stuff of legend.
It s a Pain
finest album until the 1995 Premature Adulation.
Way & HAL (T) (studio demos) 1979
title derives from the fact that rather inferior versions of these Otway/Halsall
compositions surfaced 3 years later on Otway & BARrett s Way & BAR
album. Ollie contributes guitar, bass, drums & violin to his own production
which is little short of a masterpiece. There remains but one live tape
of this remarkable duo performing in a pub, somewhere .
Lovers Leaping (T) (studio demos) 1979
Against the Wall
this at this point since it owes its very survival to Otway who recorded
two of the tracks Ä Door to Door Daughter & Travelling Show. Reviewed
in depth in WAWS 6 (August 1994) this remains, effectively, Ollie s only
solo effort and an intensely satisfying album.
6: Y Viva Espana!
In 1981 Ollie moved to Spain and, in between his work
with Ayers, found time to produce and play for many Spanish artistes:
Introducing Police Hits (!) 1983
(actually Austrian) Sailship (45) 1983
Mal de Amores 1984
Un Nudo en la Garganta 1988
10,000 Revoluciones 1989
De un Dais en Llamas 1985
Veneno en la Piel 1989
Tan Alto Como Nos Dejen 1990
Y LOS CHATARREROS
Tormento de Tormento 1991
Suceso (45) 1991
Al Pie del Canon 1991
Historia del Bikini 1992
El Cielo Lo Sabe 1992
I am at a loss to find a charitable view of any of these Spanish language
releases, presumably Ollie must have related to some of this. Suffice to
say that I have forced myself to listen to all of it and have no inclination
to do so again. I fear the same probably applies to the ZANNA GREGMAR and
RAYMOND FINN releases which I have yet to hear.
Sigan a Esa Rubia (45) 1983
Sal Gorda (film soundtrack) 1983
La Naranja Mecanica
(A Clockwork Orange) 1984
Whilst the first three offerings could safely reside in the previous category
(bar two vaguely interesting Halsall compositions), the Naranja Mecanica
is a different plate of paella (sorry!). For a start It s in English (which
I m afraid is the language of rock) and apart from a bizarre Wild Thing
features Halsall written and performed material throughout. On the debit
side the music is almost entirely sequenced & synthesised, with very
little guitar. Halsall appeared very enthusiastic about this particular
project describing them as a great band . OK it's techno-pop, but I've not
heard it done better.
7: Ayers on a G String
You all know these but here goes anyway:
Confessions of Doctor Dream (CD) 1974
t Feel Lonely
the one track but clearly the start of a partnership made in Heaven.
AYERS/JOHN CALE/ NICO/ ENO June 1 1974
(Rainbow Theatre) (CD)
in a Bucket Blues
the only official live Ayers/Halsall release - and then only two tracks,
the solo on the former prompting Terry Theise s respected appraisal nearly
3 years later (Guitar, January 1977).
Sweet Deceiver (CD) 1975
We Have No Mananas (CD) 1976
have long regarded these two together as amongst Kevin s finest achievements.
Apart from some superb guitar, Ollie also provides most of the Deceiver
Rainbow Takeaway (CD) 1978
That's What You Get Babe (CD) 1980
Jack & the Queen of Pain 1983
Deia Vu 1984 (OH bass only)
As Close As You Think (CD) 1986
Old to Die Young ( with the riff later ressurected on Another Rolling Stone.)
freaks should take especial note of this remarkable album. The credit Kevin
Ayers featuring Ollie Halsall could almost be reversed such is the balance
of the collaboration.
Falling Up (CD) 1988
I Really Marcel
features quite possibly the most elusive solo of Ollie s career, even remarking
on it himself in a 1988 interview. Quite how he achieved the final note
will remain a mystery.
Still Life With Guitar (CD) 1992
getting very near the end and if this isn t now one of the most poignant
pieces of music you ve ever heard I d like to know what is. What a shame
the live Another Year Goes By chorus came too late for the album version.
8: The Road Goes on Forever
'Playing with someone like Ollie makes the whole tedious
process of going out on the road worthwhile' KA 1974
The spontaneity of live performance almost invariably affords the
opportunity for a musician s most inventive work. The indifference of record
companies has left us with just the June 1 1974 Rainbow concert, so thank
God for the wealth of alternative material:
BBC Old Grey Whistle Test (V) 1985
on the Vine
(T) (V) 1985
Hamburg (T) 24.10.85
Vienna (T) 1985
Some very intense playing here I feel. Ollie was clearly enamoured of the
Welshman. I remain unconvinced.
AYERS/OLLIE HALSALL/ JOHN CALE/ANDY SUMMERS/ZANNA GREGMAR
Musical Express (V) 3.12.81
(Spanish Banana Bootleg CD)
Didn t Feel Lonely
Reviewed in WAWS 2, this is the best footage of Ollie to hand (The worst
being a 1985 Cale gig with the bizarre spectacle of Ollie on bass with
a lesser mortal in the guitar seat).
WAWS 4/5 Trainspotter issue thoroughly chronicles an Ayers/Halsall live
tape catalogue approaching 40 concerts. I have restricted this final
list to a selection of the very best items in terms of both sound quality
Hurricanes, New York 24.4.80
Prins van Oranje, Venlo
(Sweet Dreamer Bootleg CD) 6.4.82
Shouting in a Bucket Blues
Didn t Feel Lonely
The only track of note from this concert. A quite staggering funk version
with an incredibly inventive solo building to a wonderful `chickin pickin
Shouting in a Bucket Blues
(Everything from Animals onwards) A DAT straight off the sound desk
(I wonder how that could have happened!). Especially notable for the
very best May I solo of all acknowledged by Kevin as The Ollie Halsall
The Jazz Galerie, Bonn 22.4.92
Again, basically the whole show but particularly I Don t Depend on You.
I m not ashamed to admit to the odd tear during the final notes of the
solo on this now exquisitely ironic piece. Not as good a sound as Rennes
but my favourite concert overall. By the way, how many of you geetar
players have managed to master the deceptively simple riff in Here Comes
GLR Session 30.4.92
On the afternoon of their final show, at the Shaw Theatre, London, the
Elderly Brothers recorded these delightful acoustic renditions of I
Don t Depend on You & May I.
Discography [above] by Barry Monks August 1996
John Hasley-drums, Clive Griffiths-bass,
Ollie Halsall-guitar/keyboard & Mike Patto-vocals.
Patto toured Britain, Europe, the Far East and the USA, no visual record
of their live shows appears to have been made, let alone survived. Even
appearances on BBC2s Colour Me Pop, The Old Grey Whistle Test
and a French TV special in 1971 have seemingly vanished into the ether.
But I did find this which maybe of interest especially to people of
my home town Sheffield. Our bassist Gerry, Phil and their muso friends
used to flock to the Black Swan to watch and listen to Ollie in action.
Patto live at
The Black Swan, Sheffield 1971
Admiral Records 1999
years on you can experience the Pattos live as nature intended. This
superbly packaged 11-track CD has been lovingly restored from drummer
John Halseys archive with an 8-page colour booklet - including
rare photos and notes by The Admiral himself. It features John, Griff,
Mike & Ollie at their peak, live at one of their favourite venues.
Ollies guitar work is absolutely astounding throughout.
(The solo on Let it Rock alone is worth the admission price!)
and All is available ONLY by mail order (below) and stocks are limited.
So, go on, treat yourself to a real bit of history from one of UKs
finest-ever rock bands.
Ollie Halsall SG
Ollie Halsall fan, guitarist and guitar collecter
Armand Serra after years of searching finally located the famed converted
'67 Gibson SG Custom that Ollie played from 1969 to 1976. Armand has
had it restored to its Halsall-era glory.
As well as his love of guitars and music, Armand Serra is also a designer
and silversmith, Crazy Pig Designs based in London, is Armand's own
former keyboardist with Mott the Hoople conceived and produced this
very unique "Miniatures" album, consisting of 51 tiny one-minute
tracks by Ollie Hassall, Robert Fripp, Gavin Bryars, Michael Nyman,
The Pretenders, XTC, Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Robert Wyatt, The Damned
and many more.
This brilliant, extraordinary album was produced in 1980, and re-issued
on cd in 1994.
THE OLLIE HALSALL WEBSITE
& ALL CD INFO
PIG ~ HIS