PattoRoll ’em Smoke ’em Put Another Line Out
Released 1972 on Island Records
Reviewed by Valve, 27/10/2004ce
As the seventies got underway in London, hippiedom was casting off its kaftans and sandals and donning an altogether scuzzier uniform. Sure there was that Jesus bloke - banging his gongs and tootling his flutes down the front at every gig you went to, although even he admitted to his own slice of dirty realism, working as a toilet cleaner for Camden Council until ‘the straights’ were ready for the second coming - HE still wore bells on his toes, but for the rest of us the three-day-week look was desert boots, crushed velvet loon pants, stripey rugby shirts with the collar ripped off and tweedy jumble sale sports jackets (Wahey!). We tucked our hair behind our ears (like Dave Gilmour), popped mandys and downed light and bitter. The suedeheads and smoothies called us freaks, thinking it was an insult, and if somebody plugged an electric guitar into an amplifier, within the area defined by the circuit diagram of the London Underground, we’d be there. Magic Michael, The Pink Fairies and Hawkwind doing a benefit for International Times? Get in. Help Yourself and Ducks Deluxe at the art school dance? I think so. Man and Patto in a little college bar off the Finchley Road! C’MON!
Patto were a wondrous live band combining genius musicianship, fully recognised by the muso cognoscente of the day, with a penchant for irreverence that had them performing their acappella version of “Strangers in the Fucking Night” in 5/4 time, the extra beat in the bar to accommodate the expletive in every line. “...exchanging fucking glances, Wonderin’ in the fucking night, What were the fucking chances...” and including twisting competitions and dwarf choruses in their phun packed stage act. Patto were seriously funny but, more importantly, seriously SERIOUSLY good musicians and this twin aspected vibe was perfectly captured on ‘Roll ’em Smoke ’em Put Another Line Out’, their third studio album, self produced with help from Muff Winwood and Richard Digby Smith.
On the big old laminated cardboard cover, below the groups name lettered in the organic funky Hobo typeface, a warm redlight drenched photo shows the Pattos cranking it up live, left to right: Clive Griffiths, well sprung high slung bass and beard. John Halsey, drums and most amusing fellow - Can do the Jaki Leibezeit funky drummer thing and plenty big John Bonham/Simon Kirke bombast. Mike Patto, gangling across the spotlight tambourine aloft, all throaty vocals and libido. And lurking in the shadows stage right with Dennis the Menace jumper, dirty sneakers and left handed white 1967 custom Gibson SG, Ollie Halsall, about whom it has been said: “Ollie may not have been the best guitarist in the world, but he was certainly among the top two", which is probably an underestimation.
There is a view (not mine) that whilst with their first two albums for Vertigo, ‘Patto’ and ‘Hold Your Fire’, the band had been - on to something - with this, their Island debut they had been merely - on something - so it’s maybe apt that the first side opens woozily, a cheesy sci-fi ham intoning “S-o-u-n-ds from the i-n-s-i-d-e” before the door gets kicked in with a drugs bust: “OK, two of you round the back”, “It’s the fuzz!” introducing FLAT FOOTED WOMAN, Mike’s song of love for an arresting police constable. “I’ve got nothing but fear for the Big Heat. I’ve got nothing but love for your flat feet.” The Roll ’em Smoke ’em big soul sound is established here with battering drums, urging bass and insistent organ behind Mike’s blues shouting and Ollie’s beautifully clear, flurrying, rolling and tumbling piano. (Typically recalcitrant - Ollie, one fret away from total number one axe hero status, elects to play piano on fifty percent of this record).
SINGING THE BLUES ON REDS has Mike recounting the relentlessness of gigging (Patto did a European tour supporting Ten Years After and went to America and Australia with Joe Cocker as well as a handful of dates in Germany with The Faces - Can you imagine?) and John, Clive and Ollie locking into a one-drop funk-stop sex machine groove that just won’t quit... until it does and the whole thang breaks and heralded by chiming guitar chords we go somewhere else completely - “Bring me the keys to the City... Stick with me holy roadie and I’ll show you the world” before crashing back in, mashing it all up and if you go with them on this track you can almost make out the man with the licking stick himself urging “Get up uh, Get on up”. Hit it and quit! Perfect.
John Halsey can contain himself no longer on MUMMY and comes over all unnecessary with an adult nursery song that begins with him calling for his mother ’cos he’s scared of the dark and ends with her losing the leather underwear and sticking her tongue down his throat. Can I just say at this point that this is NOT a comedy album. No-siree-bob! Do not file alongside Python/Bonzos/Albertos. OK so they don’t take themselves too seriously. Whadya want, The Mahavishnu bleeding Orchestra?
A shouted caution (John again?) introduces the final track on side one: “WHATEVER YOU DO!...DON’T MAKE IT SOUND!...LIKE SERGIO MENDES!” and after someone’s made a half hearted attempt at a count in, Ollie picks his moment and lets loose a graunching guitar intro and a massive punkrock riff that both predates AND obliterates the James Williamson Stooges and Steve Jones Sex Pistols. On LOUD GREEN SONG (Yep, We’re there,) Ollie Halsall picks up the gauntlet thrown down by Jeff Beck and proceeds to slap every other guitarist in the whole wired world around the face with it. Hard! Again and again and again! While Mike Patto bares his chest and gets suitably megalomaniacal with the lyrical, something about messing around in Mesopotamia and flying his jet plane round the sun, the rhythm section get their heads down and barge the whole raging thing along, just about managing to hang on to Ollie who’s skidazzling away on a flight of extreme fretboarding frenzy. This is raw power filthy dirty rock ’n’ roll that you would not want to get in the way of, and - even having said that - I still have a suspicion that this was intended as some grand piss-take of Led Zeps heavy heavy monster sound. Whatever, Signor Mendes never sued for plagiarism.
Side Two opens with B. Bumble/Jerry Lee pianoFORTE and rollicks along with an ebbing and flowing melody as, supported by la-la-la-la falsetto backing, an increasingly agitated Mike moans his tale of sexual frustration on the self-explanotarily titled TURN TURTLE. “Don’t ever let me catch you lyin’ on yer back, or messin’ with your nightie on.” “You never lose your grip. You’re always in command. I’m telling you I’m losing control.” The rest of the band feel his pain and Ollie and John end up stroppilly seeing who can hit the keys/skins hardest. Mike Patto’s a great soul singer like Stevie Marriot, Chris Farlow or Roger Chapman even, are great soul singers, and he has a warmth, a really personable way with a lyric where he draws you into the character of a song. And the songs on here are songs you WANT to hear. I GOT RHYTHM is a fantastic song, Randy Newmanesque in the way Patto takes the role of insulter and insultee: “Grandfather A-Fri-Can, Big Lips, Heap Suntan.” “I got rhythm, Yeah yeah yeah. Why d’ya call me names?” and, namechecking Joe Louis, Jesse Owens, Paul Robeson and James Brown, challenges the lazy patronising racism that limits black achievement to athleticism and musicianship. A critic at the time of this record’s release wrote of bassist Clive Griffiths playing with a power and funkiness more akin to “our black brothers’’ and Mike singing “like a spade”. So there you go. This track has a sassy, bluesy vocal and Ollie’s lovely fluid guitar soloing (being an ex jazz viber his scales are more Coltrane than Hendrix) suspended over a snappy snaggy groove.
The Pattos lift Elvis’s spoken interuption to Milkcow Blues Boogie to launch Ollie’s song PETER ABRAHAM: “OK fellas, This thing don’t move. Let’s get r-e-a-l, r-e-a-l goin’ for a change”. And going they get with a stop start arrangement that has a whole heap of changes in pace and rhythm and style while Ollie relates the tale of a world traveller and the petty jealousies of those less fortunate left back home. Winds up with a doowopshowaddywaddy...wopshowaddywaddy chorus and a typically inventive bit of guitar and vocal improvisation by Halsall upon which whatever-he-plays-he-sings. Pushy, edgy, brilliant.
Right, 5 minutes of tape left, What have you got? A sea shanty? Why not?
I’ve been listening to this record for over 30 years and it still feels fresh. Warm jazzbluesfunksoulrockin’ with a big stoned grin. There’s no embarrassing lyrical mysticism or leaden boogie on here and po-faced it aint. Just a lovely bunch of blokes having a gas (Think The Faces kicking a ball around on Top of the Pops or The Fairies DOING IT! on the back of a truck down Portobello Road), so like I say, 30 years and counting for me. Now it’s your turn.
Footnote: Mike Patto died from lymphatic leukemia in 1979, Ollie from a heart attack resulting from heroin use in 1992 and in between John and Clive were involved in a road accident that left Clive “like one of Dr. Who’s daleks” (Johns words) and no memory of his glorious musical past, and the Admiral John Halsey himself walking with a limp... and a parrot on his shoulder.