Photo: Ali Watson
I spent long hours on sides of stages, eating crisps and trying to sleep in studios not to mention home. Dad lined what would become my bedroom with velvety, soundproofing and egg boxes to record in. Oh and, of course the time he carted a full drum kit over to Abbots cricket field, set it up and played while the cricketers tried to play a match (another story).
"Anyway I still have a love of the taste and smell of dry ice. The last time I saw dad was at the Viv Stanshall gig. We went out afterwards and then he ran for a cab to meet some friends."
Andrea West (née Halsall)
Traveling Show: The Serendipitous & Surreal Six-Stringed Life & Times of Ollie Halsall
This is the nearest thing to a complete book about Ollie and is compiled from a series of articles in issues 29, 30 and 31 of Ugly Things magazine.
© 2009 Mike Stax/Ugly Things No part of this publication may be reproduced without the express written permission of the publisher.
Hey Hey Little Girl
Come On Let's Go
Back Against the Wall
Crazy When I Fall in Love
Door to Door Daughter
You Need a Friend
First Day in New York
Multitrack demos from 1979
This collection of 1979 demos remains, Ollie's only totally solo effort and an intensely satisfying album
Originally released as Caves 2000
OLLIE HALSALL Travelling Show
The original version never had an intro or a guitar sollo - IT HAS NOW! How did this happen? Well the missing bits are simply borrowed from the version he recorded later with John Otway
White Sports Coat/Buttons & Bows
This Wheel's on Fire
Deep in the Heart of Texas
Summer in the City
Can't Help Lovin' That Man
Platters Medley God Only Knows
Perhaps the most bizarre artefact of Ollie's entire career, these multi-track instrumental recordings - clearly n the style of Les Paul - were made in early 1973, around the time of Patto's final, unreleased album, Monkey's Bum.
Ollie had experimented with the layered speeded-up guitar tracks on the song I Need You [from the aforementioned album] and had also used the technique with devastating effect on Singing The Blues on Reds [from Roll 'em, Smoke 'em]. However, the 'Rusty Strings' tracks are a world away from such masterpieces.
Quite why he chose to do them is a mystery. Equally unaccountable is why anyone would want to release them, but RCA did just that in early 1974 with a single coupling the Jerome Kern tune with a Halsall original [which does have some redeeming features].
'Admiral' John Halsey describes these efforts as "Horrible".
For the Rusty Strings project, Muff Winwood said to him, ‘Why don’t you come into the studio and do really straight-ahead stuff like The Shadows and call yourself a different name.’ So he went into the studio, called himself Rusty Strings, and recorded this bloody awful album of lift-music. That was another attempt to make money.”
We are still waiting for a chart entry ;o)
Many thanks to 'Rutling' Ken Thornton of the Patto Fan Site and Duncan Goddard for finding and researching these recordings and, epecially, to Richard Elen, the assistant engineer on the sessions at Island Studios, who had the foresight to make a cassette copy..
The 'flying saucer' on the cover mock-up is the container for a set of the Picato UL77 'Green Pack' guitar strings [which Ollie used] Image coutesy of David Osbiston
Monkey On My Back
Marietta’s Pizzas #1
This One’s For Me
Marietta’s Pizzas #2
Time Is By My Side
We Want Out
Marietta’s Pizzas #3
Seven Days (alternative version)
We Want Out (instrumental version)
This new album of previously unreleased recordings by Ollie Halsall is now available from Market Square Records [MSMCD 145].
The material, which includes nine Halsall originals, dates from a 1980 colaboration with drummer John Halsey and is completed by some very unusual extra recordings.
CD £7.99 plus postge and packing
Halsey & Halsall
Photo: Morgan Fisher
[Illustration only - What might have been]]
The Russian Medical Fan Dance
And He Summoned Up The Tidal Wave
Number Three [instrumental]
With Max Von Shmacks [violin]
Gary Windo [sopranino saxophone]
Harry Miller [bass]
John Halsey [percussion]
+ Keith Tippet [piano] apparently - according to this Spanish Magazine Interview
Robert Fripp [producer]
Max Von Schmax was a total nutcase. I knew him well and avoided him as much as possible, He was classically trained - his father was in the LSO as a viola player and played on many of my sessions. I'm pretty sure his name was Berman. He would headbutt a telephone box on command (usually of Ollie!) He committed suicide (hardly surprisingly!)"
Playing on ‘Ollie and the Blue Trafs’ was a really good moment. It is more avantgarde jazzy than rock’n’roll. I don’t think there is a copy of the album in existence. It is a shame it disappeared – although the masters may still be sitting in Bob Fripp’s vault.
Fripp had been known to refer to Halsall as 'The Guvnor'
Halsall mainly confined his contributions in the sessions to piano."
- In the Court of King Crimson 2019, Sid Smith
Lay Lady Lay
Gimme a Little Bit
Another Time Before
* Highlighted tracks are Halsall solo demos, some of which appeared on Ayers albums. Other tracks are alternative versions of songs from the Kevin Ayers album, Diamond Jack and the Queen of Pain.
The album also includes, four songs by Lady June Cramer and Marvin Siau's origina demo of Another Time Before, which became Another Rolling Stone on the 1988 Kevin Ayers album, Falling Up.
Kevin Ayes' bassist Marcelo Fuentes confirms that, shortly before Ollie's death, he was planning a solo album with Relativity Records
I was in Ollie's company on numerous occasions during the late 70's early 80's when he would pop into the Verulam arms pub in North Watford. He would get up on stage in the old music lounge and jam with the resident duo. Great times.
"At the time he was guitarist for Gary Glitter's backing band and reahearsed in the music lounge for the gigs at Baileys nightclub he use to play the star guitar which he did not like and use to rehearse with harvey and tony leonard who where the only original members left and of course Glitter himself I use to go and watch rehearsals to get experience.
"I was in a band managed by Joe Seabrook who had asked Ollie to give me and the band some guidance. I was only 17 at the time and Ollie would have been 28-29.
"He was a zany but a modest shy character. I remember commenting on his ability as a musician and I say musician because it wasn't just his ability as a guitarist the guy was a multi uinstrumentalist, Drums, keyboard,bass, sax, vibes and of course right and left handed unaltered guitar his comment was I'm just a dude who likes to do what I do.
"We used to have some great jam sessions with Ollie in one of the converted cellars that was our rehearsal studio, with Ollie on drums me on guitar and Nige on bass.
"I would like to verify that whether the guitar was left or right handed Ollie could play either way with no mods or alterations to the guitar simply because it was my right handed 1967 Pro Gold Deluxe Gibson Les Paul that Ollie played and to say I was lost for words was an understatement. A totally unique guy.
"I remember one time I was walking home guitar in hand when a Ford Granada pulls up along side of me. "Jump in, wandering minstrel" said a familar voice. It was Ollie, Tony Leonard & Harvey Ellison driving. They where going back to Ollie's house in Breakspeare Road, Abbotts langley. I was intending to go home, as it was on the way, but ended up back at Ollie's with the guys. We all got a bit out of it but it was great fun. I'll always remember this huge B&W poster of Ollie on the wall in a leopard skin outfit with guitar in hand. Wondered what happened to that. I know his wife and daughters moved in sometime after. Something I guess will never be known.
Gary Sears 2012
The Ollie Halsall Songbook
An online album featuring cover versions of Ollie - or related - songs.
Listen to the latest contributions here
Send us your one!
Thanks to John Altman
Photo: Morgan Fisher
[Illustration only - not a real publication]
THE OLLIE HALSALL INTERVIEW
- Dean Cole
On April 9,1991 I left my New Jersey home to travel to London England at the request of Vivian Stanshall. I had become friends with Vivian several years before through the publication of a Bonzo Dog Band fan club magazine, Doo Dah that my friends and I had started in back in 1985. I had visited Mr Stanshall as well as the other ex Bonzos before, but this time was different. I was actually being summoned . . .
Vivian had called me one night and said he was doing his first live show in many years and asked if I could come over and give him a hand. I wondered just what sort of assistance I could render but said OK anyway.
It was quite a few years ago now but as I recall I didn't have much time to get there and as it turned out I arrived on the day the show started. It was at the Bloomsbury Theater in London and Viv was playing several shows. I forget how many exactly. He had quite a cast of characters to back him up, one of which was Ollie Halsall.
Ollie had come over from his home in Spain and was staying at Viv's place [in East Finchley, North London] as was I. In between shows he was also to go into the studio and add his talents to a new album Viv was working on.
When the shows were over and just before Ollie was about to leave for home we sat down for an interview. It would have appeared in the 6th issue of Doo Dah, had there been one. At the time I knew next to nothing about Ollie except that he played guitar on one of my favorite albums, Neil Innes' How Sweet to be an Idiot. I had also seen his name on several other Bonzo related recordings but other than that as I said, I knew nothing.
As you listen to the interview keep in mind that it was for a Bonzo Dog Band fanzine so the questions mostly revolve around his involvement with Vivian Stanshall, Neil Innes, and The Rutles. The other thing you might notice is that the interview starts rather abruptly - in mid sentence, as a matter of fact. Well it seems that for the first few minutes of the interview I had the pause button on. I deftly recovered from my horror and hit the start button without Ollie noticing.
But most of what he had to say about the Rutles and everything he had to say about working on How Sweet To Be An Idiot was unfortunately lost. But what is left is quite special. Since we had already spent time together and got along quite well, he was very relaxed. I also got the impression he didn't get interviewed very often. I pretty much just asked a few short questions and let him go. So it's more of a conversation than an interview.
Aside from the Bonzo stuff we discussed his leaving England for Spain, his meeting George Harrison, and his work with Kevin Ayers. It's short and sweet and I hope you all enjoy it.
Dean Cole March 2010
Dean Cole talks to Ollie Halsall.
The only known audio interview.
Barry Monks talks about Ollie Halsall to Spencer Leigh. On The Beat. BBC Radio Mersyside 2000
Ollie's wife, Monica, Ollie and daughter Andrea
Monica, Ollie and Andrea. c.1970/71. Photo; Andrea West.
Ollie's trademark sripey jumpers, and the one worn by Monica in the picture above, were all made by Ollie's mum, Olive - the original 'Ollie' - who is pictured below:
Monica and Ollie
Elaine and John Halsey, Monica and Ollie
Photos: John Halsey
Ollie in my flat in Clapham. Keith Rat [Deborah Ellis] and Gary Holton upstairs - dangerous but fun territory! Ollie holding wee Louis Newman (Tony’s second son now a producer and drummer - no surprises there.) Ollie's shirt says ‘All You Need is Cash’ - he was a lovely funny, naughty lad; brilliant as we all know, II first met the lads with Timebox and used to dangerously follow them around on my motorbike - they named me Lady H.
- Helen Braley Newman 2022