Patto: Lust For Glory

Roll ’em, smoke ’em, put an­other reis­sue out... Loony prog out­liers Patto redis­cov­ered


On Son Volt’s cur­rent al­bum,

Notes Of Blue, there is a song ti­tled “Lost Souls” which Jay Far­rar ded­i­cates “to the amaz­ingly tal­ented per­form­ers you meet along the way but never hear from again”. Patto had been and gone long be­fore Far­rar picked up a gui­tar, but in the realm of great lost bands to which his song pays trib­ute, the outré early-’70s quar­tet de­serve a place.

Formed from the ashes of Time­box – best re­mem­bered for their 1968 cover of The Four Sea­sons’ “Beg­gin’” – Patto’s com­bi­na­tion of in­stru­men­tal vir­tu­os­ity, grit­tily soul­ful vo­cals and vault­ing prog am­bi­tion should have been all­con­quer­ing. In Mike Patto they boasted a singer who evoked com­par­i­son with Steve Mar­riott and Paul Rodgers. Left-handed gui­tarist Ol­lie Hal­sall was a bril­liantly ac­com­plished muso who also played un­in­hib­ited free-jazz key­boards. Drum­mer John Halsey was de­scribed by one critic as a cross be­tween Jaki Liebezeit and John Bon­ham, and bassist Clive Grif­fiths was no slouch, ei­ther.

“Pro­gres­sive mu­sic started com­ing in and in­stead of peo­ple in mod out­fits wait­ing to dance, they were sit­ting on the floor wait­ing to be played to,” re­calls Halsey of the group’s mu­ta­tion from 1960s beat group into prog-rock ad­ven­tur­ers, who em­braced the spirt of the times with en­thu­si­as­tic aban­don. “We smoked all the time, took a lot of trips to­gether, what­ever we could get our hands on.” not for noth­ing

was their third LP

ti­tled Roll ’Em Smoke ’Em Put An­other Line Out.

The mu­sic took a dra­matic left turn, too, emerg­ing as a pro­mis­cu­ous hy­brid of jazz, blues, funk and rock with plenty of freeform wig­ging-out on the side. “Ol­lie was try­ing to write stuff that was more avant-garde, and we were get­ting into weird time sig­na­tures,” Halsey re­calls.

Be­tween 1970 and 1973, Patto re­leased three hard-to-cat­e­gorise al­bums on Ver­tigo and Is­land, toured with Joe Cocker, Ten Years Af­ter and Rod Ste­wart & The Faces, and re­ceived sub­stan­tial crit­i­cal ac­claim. But the al­bums failed to sell and when Hal­sall quit, the band broke up. Mike Patto went on to join Spooky Tooth and formed Boxer with Hal­sall, but died of leukaemia in 1979. Hal­sall charted with The Rut­les (as did Halsey) and played with Kevin Ayers be­fore suc­cumb­ing to a drug-in­duced heart at­tack in 1992. Then, while play­ing in Joe Brown’s Bruvvers, Grif­fiths and Halsey were in­volved in a car ac­ci­dent, which robbed the bassist of his mem­ory and left the drum­mer with a per­ma­nent limp. Yet over the years in­ter­est in Patto has steadily re­vived, cul­mi­nat­ing in the 2017 reis­sue of the band’s en­tire back cat­a­logue, in­clud­ing the first of­fi­cial re­lease of Mon­key’s Bum, the group’s “lost” fourth al­bum, shelved by a dis­in­ter­ested la­bel when they broke up in 1973. Why Patto failed to make it re­mains a mys­tery. Some ugly and car­toon­ish al­bum cov­ers didn’t help. Ar­guably, nor did their sense of hu­mour at a time when prog took it­self too se­ri­ously: on­stage they “looned about” with stunts that in­cluded an a cap­pella ver­sion of “Strangers In The night” in 5/4 time with added ex­ple­tives, and a twist­ing com­pe­ti­tion con­ducted to The Ven­tures’ “Walk Don’t Run”. Ul­ti­mately, per­haps they were sim­ply too left­field. “Patto and Ol­lie used to sit in the van say­ing, ‘Why don’t we write some pop songs and see if we can sell them?’” re­calls Halsey, who in later years re­tired to run a pub. “I said, ‘If you can write songs that good, why don’t we fuck­ing record them?’ They both looked as­ton­ished that I’d con­sider do­ing any­thing com­mer­cial. We were so in­tent on try­ing to make ev­ery­thing as weird as pos­si­ble.” Patto, Hold Your Fire, Roll ’Em Smoke ’Em Put An­other Line Out and Mon­key’s Bum are avail­able now on Cherry Red

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