The Ollie Halsall Archive
Ayers on a G string
IN ASSOCIATION WITH
Market Square Records
Kevin Ayers
albums

 

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© Ian Carpenter

© Roy Wood

© Marvin Siau

 

Uncut magazine
November 2008

"Ollie Halsall is one of the most under-rated guitarist in the world - he played the shit out of people like Clapton and Jeff Beck. He was really adaptable and could go from the gentlest song. really listen to the song, not just like a guitar player, but sensitive to a piec of music. But he could also be as had a rocker as anyone.

My favourite Ollie quote is: "There are only two people I'd play free for: that's you and Randy Newman." It was an enduring collaboration: It was love at first solo.

At the time, I had a nice big house in Mallorca, and he and his girlfriend [Zanna Gregmar] moved in - and we did a lot of work in and around Spain. We'd started collaborating and writing songs. It was like the musical equivalent of having a partner.

I don't want to give everything away, really, but he started working with Spanish bands, as I didn't have enough going on, and they were paying him loads. And he hated it, and he fell into bad ways . . . and died of it. It was a massive loss of a friend and a great talent."

Kevin Ayers
Uncut magazine, December 2008


Exceprt from Stylus Magazine interview by Mike Atkinson

Mike Anderson: It was round about this time that Ollie Halsall came onto the scene. He then stayed with you, as your closest musical associate, for the next eighteen years. At a time when an awful lot of collaborators were constantly coming and going, what was it about Ollie that led to the two of you sticking together for so long?

Kevin Ayers: [long pause] Gosh, that’s a really hard one. I think it was just instant empathy. I met him while I was in the studio doing Dr. Dream; I think he was working with members of Colosseum at the time. I needed a guitar solo for “Didn’t Feel Lonely Till I Thought of You.” I opened the door, and there was this guy walking along with a white Gibson. I said, “Do you fancy doing a guitar solo?” Sure, he said… and then came in and did this stunning solo, after listening to it just once. That was it. That was love, you know?

MA: Ollie worked with you closely on the next album, Sweet Deceiver [1975]. This is a problematic one. I listened to it again this week and absolutely loved it—I had forgotten what a good album it was—and I really do think that it’s one of your most underrated albums.

KA: Well, thank you for saying that. [emphatically] Thank you very much for saying that.

MA: Still Life with Guitar came out in 1992. Shortly after its release, Ollie Halsall tragically died—and then you didn’t release another album of original new material for fifteen years. It’s very tempting to draw certain conclusions from that.

KA: Well, you’ve got it, yeah. [pause] I mean, you’ve answered… it’s a rhetorical question.

MA: OK. Well, I could delve further, but I kind of don’t want to.

KA: No, I don’t think you should.

Full interview

 

 

The Confessions of Doctor Dream 1973

Dr Dream album cover

Didn't feel Lonely


June 1 1974 Rainbow Theatre, London

June 1 1974 album cover

May I
Shouting In A Bucket Blues
Stranger In Blue Suede Shoes
Everybody's Sometime . . .
Two Goes Into Four

With John Cale, Nico & Brian Eno. Until 1998, 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). Andy Summers plays lead guitar on this version of Everybody's Sometime.


The BBC Sessions 1970-1976

BBC Sessions  album cover BBC Sessions  album cover 2

Another Whimsical Song
Lady Rachel
Stop This Train
Didn't Feel Lonely
Stranger in Blue Shoes
BBC radio sessions 1975

Previously issued as First Show in the Appearance Business, 1988


Sweet Deceiver 1975

Sweet Deciever album cover

Observations
[Guru Banana]
[City Waltz]
Toujours la Voyage
Sweet Deceiver
[Diminished But Not Finished]
[Circular Letter]
[Once Upon an Ocean]
[Farewell Again]

[Tracks in brackets include OH only on bass, acoustic, vibes or vocals]

Elton John piano on Guru Banana & Tojours la Voyage


Yes We Have No Mananas 1976

Mananas album cover

Star
Mr. Cool

The Owl
Love's Gonna Turn You Round
Help Me
Ballad Of Mr Snake
Everyone Knows The Song
Blue

Mr Cool features Ollie's only known use of wah pedal! I have long regarded these two albums (Sweet Deceiver & Yes We Have No Mananas) as amongst Kevin's finest achievements. Apart from some superb guitar, Ollie also provides most of the Deceiver bass parts.


Too Old to Die Young 1998

Too Old to Die Young album cover

Didn't Feel Lonely
Observations
Stranger in Blue Suede Shoes
Farewell Again

BBC radio sessions 1975 with Zoot Money keyboards.


Rainbow Takeaway 1978

Rainbow Takeaway album cover

Blaming It All On Love
Ballad Of A Salesman
View from the Mountain
Rainbow Takeaway
Waltz For You
Beware of the Dog
Strange Song
Goodnight Goodnight
Hat Song


'Starvin' Marvin Siau

That's What You Get, Babe 1980

That's What You Get album cover

That's What You Get
Where Do I Go From Here
[You Never Outrun Your Heart]
Given And Taken
Idiots
Super Salesman
[Money, Money, Money]
Miss Hanaga
I'm So Tired
Where Do The Stars End

[Tracks in brackets include OH only on bass or vocals]


[Percussion (film soundtrack) 1983]

[Howling Man]
Unavailable


Deià Vu 1984

Deia Vue album cover

Champagne and Valium]
[Thank God For A Sense Of Humour]
[Take It Easy]
[Stop Playing With My Heart]
My Speeding Heart
[Lay Lady Lay]
[Stop Playing With My Heart]
[Be Aware Of The Dog]

OH plays guitar on only My Speeding Heart but appears to play bass on everything else


As Close As You Think 1986

As Close as You Think album cover As Close as You Think album cover

The riff on Too Old to Die Young (in fact another version of Champagne & Valium) was later ressurected on Another Rolling Stone from Falling Up.

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. Indeed, Never My Baby is, to all intents and purposes, a Halsall solo performance


Falling Up 1988

Falling Up album cover

Saturday Night
Flying Start
The Best We Have
Another Rolling Stone
Do You Believe
That's What We Did
Night Fighters
Am I Really Marcel?

Marcel features quite possibly the most elusive solo of Ollie's entire 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 1992
Extended version 2002

Still Life With Guitar album cover Still Life With Guitar album cover

Ghost Train
I Don't Depend On You
Don't Blame Them

It's getting very near the end and if Ollie's composition Ghost Train 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.

Ollie plays just acoustic on Ghost Train and Don't Blame Them and vibes on I Don't Depend on You.

Details

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Buy Stiil Life With Guitar CD NOW!

Diamond Jack & the Queen of Pain 1983

Diamond Jack album cover

Madame Butterfly
Lay Lady Lay
Who's Still Crazy
You Keep Me Hangin' On
You Are A Big Girl
Steppin' Out
My Speeding Heart
Howling Man
Give A Little Bit
Champagne And Valium


DIAMOND JACK AND THE QUEEN OF PAIN

I still remember quite clearly the first encounter with Julian Ruiz at the Audiofilm studio in Madrid. Juan de La Cierva- Kevin's manager, a wonderful gentle and very generous man who kept us all on retainers during this time, Kevin, Ollie and I arrived in a group into the rather big control room where most of the music was recorded.

The studio room itself was huge carpet clad and free from any natural resonance, rather sterile as was the chilly atmosphere… A few months earlier we had all been in New York to record some demos for CBS. It had been a fantastic experience recording in the historical building on Manhattan where Screen Gems once had had its offices and studio.. where people like Carole King and Neil Sedaka once had been composing/recording some of their most famous stuff, like the Tapestry album and Oh Carole… in small rooms next to each other.

The producer was a most wonderful being, a big jovial warm man with a great sense of humour with the utmost respect for everybody's musical and personal integrity- Bert de Coteaux who had worked with a lot of giants in American music history. We all loved him instantly. The rooms were big and open and resonant and there was very little carpet in sight. We were all positively amazed to see that here the drums were recorded in a wooden room with plenty of natural echo...not a carpet in sight.

The drum sound was fabulous. The recordings were wonderful. Everybody had a say in the process and the atmosphere was warm and creative, we shared lots of laughs and every morning Bert would greet me and Ollie with new names like Oh here comes Beauty and the Beast, Grim and Gorgeous and so on haha. The musicians were some of the top session guys in New York and they were all very friendly and interested in especially Kevin and Ollie and when the time came for Ollie to record his solos all the other musicians stayed behind to listen and spontaneously broke out in applause after some of Ollie's takes and musical jokes… Bert also showed great appreciation for my and Ollie's back up vocals and I think they were recorded in a way that framed Kevin's voice harmoniously.

The whole time in New York was wonderful, filled with much good food which was always very important in Kevin's world and also in Juan's, music, many meetings with various musicians and it was with a considerable amount of disappointment we had to return to Spain when nobody wanted to pick up the possible album project… Juan de La Cierva, Kevin, Ollie and I arrived in a group into the rather big control room where most of the music was recorded.

The studio room itself was huge and rather sterile… It was a very strange experience because the atmosphere in the room was instantaneously encompassing … Julian Ruiz in his own little domain with his private crew of obedient musicians ready to bow to his every need… Julian had here created a commercial "hit-factory" where the same musicians were used for every project.

The chill reached out to us…as Ollie and I were to learn later, Julian was a "One-Eyed Man in the Kingdom of the Blind". A sports journalist who had decided to become a music producer and I understand he returned back to sports journalism some years later. He was mastering the art of sterile music making, cloning successful songs from the British charts at the time and turning it into hits on the Spanish radio… We felt like invaders into a dictator's private territory… It was to take quite some time for the atmosphere to thaw. Julian introduced himself and the musicians, Javier De Juan Drums, Manolo Aguilar Base, Joakin Montoya Keyboards and Carlos Garcia Vasos who was a captain in the Spanish Army on Guitar and together with Joakin formed the very successful top ten techno act Azul y Negro.

They were all very skilled session players, which Ollie and I later were to form friendships with as we during the following two years were pulled in on several of Julian's recording projects always laced with disrespectful undertones and Julian and I constantly fought verbally like dog and cat as I refused to take his chauvinistic approach to me. It quickly became very obvious to us that he had no need nor respect for either of us as far as our musical abilities were concerned since we weren't sounding "Moderno" one of Julians favourite adjectives .

He proudly started playing the already recorded tracks for us and we were all quite shocked as these arrangements didn't seem to have very much to do with the songs we had been playing and we all instantly hated what we heard… "Look what they've done to my song Ma" – Kevin sang later that day when we left the studio. Kevin tried in his humble way to suggest a few "humanizations" of the tracks, but they all fell on stony ground… In Julian's (later nicknamed Dracula by me and Ollie, since he sucked the life out of all he touched) opinion we were nothing but a bunch of hippies and he'd rather not have had us there at all…

He reluctantly allowed Ollie to play some guitar but it was quite clear he'd rather have used Carlos as he had no understanding at first for Ollie's original style but as the work progressed the other musicians started to show admiration for him and gradually Dracula defrosted a little bit. Kevin limited his visits to the studio to what was absolutely necessary. Kevin was reluctantly allowed to sing on what now was Julian's project as opposed to Kevin's Original music. It felt as if there were no longer any place for Kevin's voice in all this synthetic sterility, it seemed like an unsuccessful attempt at merging two completely different worlds. I too was allowed to sing, but not to touch any piano… Julian could only appreciate the obvious instantly commercial sound and "poo-pooed" most true artistic expression… Nobody had envisaged this result Juan and Kevin had after our return from New York visited a night club and heard a "modern" Spanish band playing and Kevin had expressed to Julian that maybe some of his songs could work well with some of that treatment, and that's when Julian was (regrettably) contacted.

I have never owned a copy of this album and I don't believe any of us ever did as this whole experience sadly left us with a rather bitter aftertaste, knowing how interesting it could have been if we had been allowed some or any input.

Zanna Gregmar 2014

Ayers on a G string

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