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Peter 'Ollie' Halsall
March 14, 1949, Southport, England. ~ May 29 1992, Madrid, Spain

Peter "Ollie" 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 lickster.

Ollie Halsall
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!

Ollie Halsall

PLECTRUM
from "Why Are We Sleeping" magazine

Ollie 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 players.)
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.


[above] BOXER, Chris Stainton - Keyboards, Keith Ellis - Bass, Ollie Halsall - Guitar, Keyboard, Tony Newman - Drums, Mike Patto - Vocals,

SHORT BIOGRAPHY

Peter "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
above ~ Kevin Ayers & Ollie Halsall

He 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 & Chris

DISCOGRAPHY
(first appeared in the Kevin Ayers fanzine 'Why Are We Sleeping' #9)

PART I: There's a Moose on the Loose!
From Swinging London through the Hippy trail to the end of the progressive era

TIMEBOX
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 embryonic Patto.
PATTO
Patto (a.k.a. Anarchy) 1970
Hold Me Back
San Antone
Money Bag
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)
Bad News
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
Sausages
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 of Halsall).
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 HALSALL/ROBERT FRIPP
Ollie & the Blue Trafs 1972
This legendary album is almost certainly lost forever, although Halsall mentioned it 16 years later.

PART 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

TEMPEST
Living in Fear (CD) 1973 including:-
Paperback Writer
Waiting For a Miracle
Turn Around
One of the finest heavy rock albums ever made.
Utterly 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 synthesiser.
BOXER
Below the Belt 1975
Shooting Star
More Than Meets the Eye
Don t Wait/All the Time in the World (45)
Bloodletting 1975
Hey Bulldog
Halsall & 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.

PART 3: And Now for Something Completely Different!
Bonzo and Python discover Ollie and invite him to the party:

SCAFFOLD
Fresh Liver 1973
Sold Out 1973
GRIMMS
Rockin' Duck 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
NEIL INNES
How Sweet To Be An Idiot 1973
Momma Bee
Recycled Vinyl Blues (CD) (includes most of Idiot) 1994
Fluff on the Needle
Off the Record 1978 (OH contribution unclear)
THE RUTLES (NEIL INNES)
Meet the Rutles 1978
All You Need is Cash (V) 1978
I Must Be in Love
Briefly 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).
VIVIAN STANSHALL
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 not apparent.

Ollie on tour with Joe Cocker 1971
above Ollie on US tour with Joe Cocker ~ 1971

PART 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

MICHAEL D'ALBUQUERQUE
We May Be Cattle But We've All Got Names 1973
Dribble Dribble
Sweet Mirth
Stalking the Sleeper 1976
Say What You Want

ANDY ROBERTS
And the Great Stampede 1973
Speedwell

STEVE YORK'S CAMELO PARDALIS
Manor Live 1973
Hey God

TERRY STAMP
Fatsticks 1975
Itchy Feet

DUFFY POWER
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

MORGAN FISHER
Miniatures 1980
A brief and tedious contribution to one of the strangest albums of all time.

PETULA CLARK
Downtown 1968

MAYNARD WILLIAMS
Ten Songs 1973

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR
Soundtrack 1973

DAVID KUBINEC
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.

PART 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 see.
In 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.

JOHN OTWAY
It s a Pain
Frightened and Scared
John's finest album until the 1995 Premature Adulation.
JOHN OTWAY/OLLIE HALSALL
Way & HAL (T) (studio demos) 1979
Natasha
The 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 .
OLLIE HALSALL
Lovers Leaping (T) (studio demos) 1979
Back Against the Wall
Travelling Show
Lovers Leaping
Airplane Food
Included 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.

PART 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:

MAJABAND
Introducing Police Hits (!) 1983

RONNI URINI
(actually Austrian) Sailship (45) 1983

MANZANITA
Mal de Amores 1984

REY LUI
Un Nudo en la Garganta 1988
Velocidad 1990

THE FAVORITOS
10,000 Revoluciones 1989

RADIO FUTURA
De un Dais en Llamas 1985
Veneno en la Piel 1989

DESPERADOS
Tan Alto Como Nos Dejen 1990

CIENFUEGOS
Besos 1991

CORCABODO Y LOS CHATARREROS
Tormento de Tormento 1991
Suceso (45) 1991

CALLEJONES
Al Pie del Canon 1991

HOMBRES 6
Historia del Bikini 1992

RAMONCIN
Corta 1992

DISTRITO 14
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.

CINEMASPOP
Cinemaspop 1983
Sigan a Esa Rubia (45) 1983
Sal Gorda (film soundtrack) 1983
La Naranja Mecanica
(A Clockwork Orange) 1984
Afghanistan
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.

Ollie Halsall

PART 7: Ayers on a G String
You all know these but here goes anyway:

KEVIN AYERS
Confessions of Doctor Dream (CD) 1974
Didn t Feel Lonely
Just the one track but clearly the start of a partnership made in Heaven.

KEVIN AYERS/JOHN CALE/ NICO/ ENO June 1 1974
(Rainbow Theatre) (CD)
May I
Shouting in a Bucket Blues
Perversely 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
Toujours la Voyage
Sweet Deceiver
Yes We Have No Mananas (CD) 1976
Help Me
Blue
I have long regarded these two together as amongst Kevin s finest achievements. Apart from some superb guitar, Ollie also provides most of the Deceiver bass parts.
Rainbow Takeaway (CD) 1978
That's What You Get Babe (CD) 1980
Idiots
Super Salesman
Diamond Jack & the Queen of Pain 1983
Deia Vu 1984 (OH bass only)
As Close As You Think (CD) 1986
Never My Baby
Budget Tours (Africa)
Too Old to Die Young ( with the riff later ressurected on Another Rolling Stone.)
Ollie 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
Another Rolling Stone
Am I Really Marcel
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
Ghost Train
It's 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.

PART 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:
JOHN CALE
BBC Old Grey Whistle Test (V) 1985
Dying on the Vine
Europe (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.

KEVIN AYERS/OLLIE HALSALL/ JOHN CALE/ANDY SUMMERS/ZANNA GREGMAR
Musical Express (V) 3.12.81
(Spanish Banana Bootleg CD)
Didn t Feel Lonely
Africa
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).
KEVIN AYERS (T)
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 and performance:
Hurricanes, New York 24.4.80
Supersalesman
Prins van Oranje, Venlo
(Sweet Dreamer Bootleg CD) 6.4.82
Shouting in a Bucket Blues
Supersalesman
Rotterdam 1.3.88
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 climax.
Aachen 3.3.88
Shouting in a Bucket Blues
Amsterdam 3.4.92
May I
Goodnight Irene
Rennes 9.4.92
(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 Experience!
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 Johnny?
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


above:'Patto' John Hasley-drums, Clive Griffiths-bass,
Ollie Halsall-guitar/keyboard & Mike Patto-vocals.
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WARTS & ALL
Although 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 BBC2’s 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

REVIEW - 33 years on you can experience the Pattos live as nature intended. This superbly packaged 11-track CD has been lovingly restored from drummer John Halsey’s 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. Ollie’s guitar work is absolutely astounding throughout.
(The solo on ‘Let it Rock’ alone is worth the admission price!)
Warts 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 UK’s finest-ever rock bands.
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The 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 brand.
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MINIATURES
Morgan Fisher, 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.
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Ollie Halsall

VISIT THE OLLIE HALSALL WEBSITE

WARTS & ALL CD INFO

CRAZY PIG ~ HIS MUSIC

MINIATURES LP/CD