by Carl Halling
Chapter Three of "Tales from the Halling Valley"
|Patrick Halling: A Musical Voyage
As the sixties gave way to the '70s, Mickie Most entered the second phase of his glittering Pop career, although he was briefly involved with highly successful Hard Rock band the Jeff Beck Group which had been formed in early 1967. Beck had signed a personal management contract with Most who apparently wanted to turn him into a solo star, even though his backing band included one Rod Stewart on lead vocals. The Jeff Beck Group having failed to produce any hit singles, Most's business partner Peter Grant eventually took over their management, arranging a six week tour of the US in early '68. They went on to take America by storm, anticipating the success of another Grant-led band, Led Zeppelin.
While Grant went on to Rock mega-glory with Zep, Mickie set about turning RAK - which they'd founded together in 1969 - into one the key Pop record labels of the '70s and home to several classic Glam, Pop and Teenybop acts such as the soulful Hot Chocolate and former Detroit rocker Suzi Quatro - with whom Pat worked on several occasions with Mickie at the helm - as well as Mud, Arrows, Kenny, Smokie and Racey.
Talking about Pop, in the early 1970s, John Cameron became an unlikely member of a successful Pop act himself as part of CCS, a band he put together with Mickie for RAK, and featuring the Blues guitarist Alexis Korner as band leader, but with Danish musician Peter Thorup doing most of the vocals.
Alexis Korner has been called the Founding Father of British Blues, and with good reason because possibly more than anyone he was the incubator of the '60s Blues Boom which was one of the great cornerstones of the entire Rock movement. Some of the bands who were swept to stardom in its wake went on to be part of the celebrated British Invasion of the US charts which could be said to have transformed the American cultural landscape.
Born in Paris of Austrian and Greek ancestry, Korner began his musical career in 1949 as a member of Chris Barber's Jazz Band, but his love of the then lesser known music of the Blues led to his forming the band Blues Incorporated in 1961 with singer Long John Baldry, harmonica player Cyril Davies, guitarist Jack Bruce, saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith and drummer Charlie Watts.
The list of musicians who were drawn to Korner's regular Rythym and Blues night at the Ealing Jazz Club in the early '60s included future members of the Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Brian Jones, as well as Rod "The Mod" Stewart, and spectacularly handsome Oxford undergraduate Paul Jones. Paul had apparently been Brian Jones' first choice as vocalist for his band the Rollin' Stones, which he put together in 1962 with piano player Ian Stewart from Cheam in Surrey who'd been recruited from an ad in Jazz News, but he turned him down, only to resurface at a later date as front man for another Blues-based band which achieved mainstream Pop success, Manfred Mann.
A mere nine years after their formation, with poor Brian Jones no longer living, the Stones started work on the album which is widely considered to be their masterpiece, "Exile on Main Street". These first sessions took place in the basement of the Villa Nellcôte, a 19th century mansion on the waterfront of Villefranche-sur-Mer in France's Cote d'Azur, which had been leased to Keith Richards in the summer of '71, although several tracks had already been recorded at West London's Olympic Studios, as well as at Mick Jagger's country estate, Stargroves near Newbury in Berkshire. Much has been written of the ultra-decadence surrounding the "Exile" sessions, which saw various icons of the counterculture passing through Nellcote as if there to bestow their blessings on the proceedings. They could be said to be the quintessence of the Rock and Roll lifestyle following a mere decade of Rock culture, which had yet already altered Western society as a whole almost beyond recognition. However, blame for this transformation can't in all good conscience be laid exclusively at the feet of Rock. That would be absurd.
It seems pretty clear to me that the cultural revolution of the 1960s didn't just appear out of nowhere, and that tendencies inimical to the Judaeo-Christian moral fabric of our civilisation can be traced at least as far back as the Enlightenment of the 16th and 17th Centuries, which could be said to be the starting point of the Modern Age. Much of the groundwork had already been done in other words, and that's especially true of the two immediate post-war decades, in which the Existentialists and the Beats became international icons of revolt, with lesser groups like the Lettrists of Paris acting as scandal-sowing forerunners of the '60s Situationists...Britain's first major youth cult surfaced in the shape of the Edwardians who later became known as Teddy Boys or Teds...a cinema of youthful discontent flourished as never before creating a desire among many young people to be identified as wild ones and rebels without a cause...and Rock and Roll - perhaps already jaded as an art form by 1972...the year the Stones' "Exile on Main Street" finally saw the light of day - took over the world, with Elvis Presley as its first true superstar.
That same year saw Pat work on an infinitely more humble musical project, Richard Harris' "Slides" which, while a success on the Billboard charts at the time has since been sadly overlooked, although it was released on CD with another Harris album "My Boy" in 2005, receiving very high ratings from Amazon reviewers both in Britain and the US.
A year later, Pat worked on the first of two pictures helmed by the great Fred Zinnemann, whom he was kind enough to introduce me to - and on the set of "Julia" (1979) unless I'm mistaken - and he was utterly enchanting. This was "The Day of the Jackal", based on the novel by Frederick Forsyth, and with music this time by Georges Delerue, whom I also met with Pat. Although not a commercial success, it's now seen as a classic British thriller in the tradition of Carol Reed's "The Third Man", and Edward Fox's mesmerising performance as the elegant ruthless Jackal helped turn him into a major star.
Patrick Halling: A Musical Voyage 3
By the start of the 1970s, for a teenager like myself and many of my friends, Rock and Roll music had divided into two categories. One we knew as Commercial, a word we tended to spit out like some kind of curse, the other, Underground, or some other term reflective of its shadowy exclusivity. While the former was effectively pure Pop, whose domain was the Hit Parade or Pop charts weekly featured on the British TV program Top of the Pops, the latter consisted of groups who made music largely for the growing album market...and there were those Rock acts such as Led Zeppelin who never graced the singles chart despite earning fortunes through concerts and album sales. Within album Rock many strains co-existed as I recall, including Hard or Heavy Rock, Soft Rock of the type of Joni Mitchell and Crosby, Stills and Nash, and the Art or Progressive Rock pioneered by the Beatles, Frank Zappa, Pink Floyd, the Doors and others.
Despite himself Pat was part of it from the outset, notably through his association with the Beatles, who by '67 were at the forefront of the Rock revolution, having arguably left much of their Pop career behind them once they'd retired from touring, although their Rock was ever replete with beautiful Pop melodies.
However, it was Jethro Tull, a British band that achieved both commercial and critical success on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond, that marked the height of his relationship with the new Art Rock phenomenon. Working with front man - as well as singer, flautist and composer - Ian Anderson, and conductor, arranger and keyboard player David Palmer, Pat served as leader for two Tull albums, which is to say, “Warchild” from 1974, and “Minstrel in the Gallery” from a year later, both recognised today as undisputed masterpieces of the Progressive genre.
During the Prog Rock boom which was at its height from about 1969 to 1975, Pat played on several albums which while not successful in the mould of best sellers by Tull, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Yes and others, have nonetheless received fresh critical acclaim through the internet, some of this verging on the adulatory.
They include “Definitely What” (1968) by Brian Auger and the Trinity, “Cosmic Wheels” (1973) by Donovan, “Beginnings” (1975) by Yes guitarist Steve Howe, "Octoberon" by Symphonic Rock pioneers Barclay James Harvest, and two by Gordon Giltrap, “Visionary” from '76 and “Perilous Journey” from the following year. Giltrap, I feel safe in asserting, is one of the most outlandishly gifted guitarists -acoustic or otherwise - in the history of recorded music.
For composer-producer-arranger-conductor Johnny Harris, who has worked in various capacities with some of the greatest names in entertainment of the last half century including Michael Jackson, Sammy Davis Jnr., Barbra Streisand, Liza Minnelli, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Johnny Mathis and Tom Jones, Pat led the strings on “All To Bring You Morning” (1973), his second solo album, which featured no less than three one-time members of Prog Rock legends Yes, namely the aforesaid Steve Howe, vocalist/composer Jon Anderson, and drummer Alan White, who just happened to be recording next door at the time as Johnny and friends and were great admirers of his work. It achieved a CD release in 2008.
For his very close friend Derek Wadsworth he played on “Metropolitan Man” (1974) by Alan Price, the former keyboardist for British Invasion band the Animals. They scored an international mega-hit in 1964 with their version of the traditional Folk song "The House of the Rising Sun" produced by Mickie Most, who masterminded the first two years of their career, during which they became Pop sensations in the US almost on a par with the Beatles and the Stones. Alan Price left in 1965 to form his own Alan Price Set, which, with songs such as the classic “House that Jack Built” from '67, combined musical virtuosity with lashings of commercial appeal, a gift that was one of the hallmarks of classic sixties Pop, but which had perhaps declined somewhat by the turn of the ultimate Pop decade.
In the early '70s though, the Glam-Glitter genre took off in Britain, taking the Pop charts by storm in the process. Among those artists who became superstars through Glam, a heterogeneous mixture of Pop and Rock whose purveyors flaunted an outrageous androgynous image were Marc Bolan, David Bowie, Rod Stewart and Elton John, all of whom had been striving for Rock and Roll success for years.
Bolan is widely credited with inventing Glam, although it had been foreshadowed in the '60s by the Stones and others, but its true pioneer was arguably Little Richard, known today as the Reverend Richard Penniman.
Among the first generation of Rock stars he was the most overtly androgynous, although it's been said he took much of his image from a little known Rock shouter named Esquerita, who was believed to have been even wilder than Richard....if that were at all possible. A product of the southern Bible Belt like Richard, Esquerita died young at only 49 years old from an AIDS-related illness after a life of relative obscurity.
As a child Richard had attended Pentecostal churches in his native Georgia, and seriously considered becoming a preacher of the Gospel; but it was also in these churches that he developed the musical gifts that were to lead to his ultimately embracing the music which he has gone on record as declaring to be incompatible with the Christian life. In fact, few Rock stars have been quite so vocal in their denunciation of the spiritual dangers of Rock music as Little Richard Penniman. For a time, however, he was the most outrageous of the early Rock idols, and many of Rock's most dynamic performers - Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart and David Bowie among them - have cited him as a seminal influence.
The Glam Rock era of 1971-'73 was to some extent a revival of the sartorial flashiness - and musical simplicity - of early Rock and Roll...and one which swept a host of gifted young musicians who'd been striving for major success since the early 1960s to fresh levels of stardom in the UK and elsewhere. Yet, despite the Pop star status they enjoyed in the UK, several of these were viewed as serious album artists as well as TV idols, among them Rod Stewart, David Bowie and Elton John, and significantly all three remain international Rock icons to this day. On the other hand, other Glam acts were viewed largely as singles bands during a golden age for the British Pop charts...and one that seriously advantaged a certain East End boy of part Irish Traveller extraction by the name of David Cook.
As David Essex, he became a star on the fringes of Glam, not through Rock nor teeny bop Pop, but largely through acting both onstage and in the movies. It was his own song, "Rock On" a massive hit on both sides of the Atlantic in 1974 that really put him on the map as a major heart throb...together with the '73 movie "That'll be the Day", directed by Claude Watham, in which he plays a young tearaway in a bleak pre-Beatles Britain who yearns for Rock and Roll stardom, and ultimately leaves his young family to pursue it. In the follow-up, "Stardust" (1974) - also the name of Essex's third British hit single - he achieves his dream...but ends up living as a wasted recluse in a vast castle in Spain.
Both "Rock On" and "Stardust" were produced by New Yorker Jeff Wayne. Pat worked with him not just on "Rock On", but his own “Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds” which has achieved classic status since its release in 1978.
Towards the middle of the '70s, Soul music, a popular genre which had evolved out of Gospel and R&B birthed a mutation known as Disco, one of whose hallmarks was the liberal use of strings often played in a staccato style. In consequence, Pat was involved in several major Disco projects, including the band "Love and Kisses" formed by Alec R Costandinos, which produced three albums between 1977 and '79. While these have been obscured by Giorgio Moroder's groundbreaking work with Donna Summer, they were massively successful at the time, yielding several US hit singles and helping to define the Disco sound. Both Pat and Costandinos had earlier worked with another French Disco pioneer Jean-Marc Cerrone on his hit album, "Love in C Minor" from 1976.
Pat played on several other Costandinos records, including an acknowledged Disco masterpiece "Romeo and Juliet" (1978) which unlike many of the classic works of the Disco era was not flagrantly risqué in the lyrical department, which for a Christian such as myself can only be a good thing.
He also worked on the album “Limelight Disco Symphony” (1978) by Melophonia which was a Disco tribute produced by Franck Pourcel and Alain Boublil to Sir Charles Chaplin, who'd died on Christmas Day '77. Some years previously, Pat had worked with him on sessions which involved some of his classic films being set to new musical arrangements, and he'd introduced me to him, and he was charming; in fact it was one of the most memorable events of my life.
Boublil went on to write the libretto for the musical "Les Miserables" with composer Claude Schonberg, and it was John Cameron who arranged it for them. Pat was involved with the London production of "Les Miz" for many years as the leader of the orchestra, one of several highlights of a theatrical career which has involved his working with such legends as Ella Fitzgerald, Perry Como, Tony Bennett, Tiny Tim, Barry Manilow and Boy George of Culture Club, and touring with Tom Jones, Barrie White and others. But it's his participation in Bing Crosby's final tour of London in September 1977 that is perhaps the most memorable of all. In that same month, Bing, his family, and his close friend Rosemary Clooney began a concert tour of England that included two weeks at the London Palladium. He recorded an album "Seasons", and a TV Christmas special with David Bowie and Twiggy in the UK. His duet with Bowie on "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy" was listed in Britain's TV Guide as one of the 25 most memorable musical moments of 20th Century television. After the tour Pat actually managed to wangle an autograph from Bing during a last recording session at Maida Vale studios. Der Bingle had initially objected to Pat helping himself to a piece of his sheet music, before relenting with the words, "he seems like a good man", and autographing the music into the bargain. He died some days afterwards on October 14th, following a round of 18 holes of golf near Madrid where he and his Spanish golfing partner had just defeated their opponents, towards the end of a year which had seen the deaths of a string of cultural giants including - in addition to Bing - Charlie Chaplin, Groucho Marx, Joan Crawford, Maria Callas and Elvis Presley.
Speaking of John Cameron...he was one of the men responsible for a rare classic of British Soul, "Central Heating" (1978) by London-based Funk outfit Heatwave. John served as producer on the sessions, with Pat as his concermaster, while the songs were mainly written by keyboardist Rod Temperton. Temperton was the white Englishman who went on to write several of the most memorable numbers from the best-selling long player in musical history, Michael Jackson's "Thriller" from 1982, which was produced by Quincy Jones, as well as for Quincy's own album "The Dude", for Patti Austin, George Benson, Anita Baker and others. Three Heatwave songs, all written by Temperton and produced by Cameron were millions sellers in the US, these being "Boogie Nights", "The Groove Line" and the lovely ballad, "Always and Forever", sung straight from the heart by tragic former US serviceman Johnny Wilder Jr, who had one of Soul's greatest and most underrated voices.
At the end of the '70s, Pat played what was possibly his most memorable ever solo for a television program and that was for the stunning opening and closing theme to BBC’s “Life on Earth” (1979), composed by Edward Williams and conducted by Marcus Dods. This 13-part documentary series by British naturalist David Attenborough - whom I met very briefly at a social function with his wife in the late 1970s, most probably ’79 - is widely considered to be one of the greatest ever made; but for some people- and as a Christian I include myself among them- it was controversial, given its foundation in the Theory of Evolution.
Patrick Halling: A Musical Voyage 4
The '80s was a difficult decade for session musicians like Pat as the synthesizer started making stronger inroads than had previously been the case into the world of recorded music, and that's especially true of the so-called New Pop that arose in Britain in the wake of Punk. Several New Pop acts took part in the so-called Second British Invasion, which saw British bands dominating the American Pop charts to a degree unknown since the first one led by the Beatles. This was significantly due to a demand on the part of the newly launched MTV music channel for colourful videos of which there was a shortage in the US at the time, and it enabled several - largely synth-driven - British bands such as the Human League, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, Culture Club and Eurythmics to score massive transatlantic hits.
Despite the inexorable rise of electronic Pop, Pat's career proceeded apace during the '80s. In 1980, he worked once again for his close friend John Cameron, this time on "The Mirror Crack'd" based on the Agatha Christie novel, with music by John C., and featuring a roll call of Hollywood legends including Elisabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, Tony Curtis, and Kim Novak, with Angela Lansbury as Miss Marple. Pat even had a small non-speaking cameo in the movie as a World War II bandleader, a walk-on admittedly but a featured one. He worked with John Cameron again on a further star-studded Christie movie, "Evil Under the Sun". Both were helmed by Bond director Guy Hamilton, and produced by John Brabourne, and Richard Goodwin, who became a friend of Pat's, and they were to work together several more times in the '80s and '90s.
For Richard’s wife writer/director Christine Edzard, he was the violin soloist for “Biddy” (1983), working again with Christine - with Richard producing - on “Little Dorrit" (1988), based on the Dickens novel, and “The Fool” (1990), which was written by Christine with Oliver Stockman. All three movies were scored by French composer Michel Sanvoisin. Incidentally on “Little Dorrit”, based on the novel by Charles Dickens, Pat is credited either as soloist or song performer, duty he shared with his beloved friend, Catalan cellist Francisco Gabarro, known as Gabby, as well as the celebrated clarinettist Jack Brymer.
For Beatles legend Paul McCartney he led the orchestra for the soundtrack to the movie “Give My Regards to Broad Street” (1984), which sold well, including as it did reworked versions of six Beatles classics including "Eleanor Rigby", although the film itself performed poorly at the Box Office. Since '84, its reputation has barely improved, although on the US and British versions of Amazon it benefits from a good deal of affection on the part of everyday net users, a testament to the enormous good will MacCartney continues to generate on a worldwide basis.
Three years later, he worked with another Pop superstar of Irish ancestry, Enya Brennan - although unlike Macca she was actually born on the Emerald Isle - on "To Go Beyond II", final track of the highly successful “Enya” album to be precise. The album was later remastered and renamed “The Celts”, for use by the BBC for the 1992 TV series of the same name.
Other television projects on which Pat worked in the '80s include “Hold that Dream” (1986) based on the novel by Barbara Taylor Bradford, with original score by longtime friend Barrie Guard, “Tears in the Rain” (1988), from a novel by Pamela Wallace, with music again by Guard, and “The Darling Buds of May” (1992-1993), based on the novel by HE Bates, and with music by Pip Burley and Guard.
In 1989, he worked with a yet another Rock legend, Pete Townsend, serving as leader on the concept album "The Iron Man - The Musical", based on the novel by Ted Hughes. Townsend was of course the guiding spirit of the Who, whose contribution to the so-called British Invasion of the US by English bands, led by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, was little short of earth-shaking...as even more than the Stones they provided the basis for much of the Hard and Heavy Rock to follow. Interestingly, Pete's father Jazz saxophonist Cliff Townsend had been a colleague of Pat's during their time together on the BBC 1 program Parkinson, named after British chat show master Michael Parkinson.
In 1990, he appeared on John Williams’ album “The Guitar is the Song”, having earlier worked with the great Classical guitarist on “John Williams plays Patrick Gowers and Scarlatti” (1972), and specifically on Gowers’ “Chamber Concerto for Guitar”, as well as “Portrait of John Williams” (1982), on which he served as leader of the String Orchestra for Vivaldi’s Concerto in D major, and “Cavatina” by Stanley Myers, known by many as the theme to “The Deerhunter”.
Moving into the so-called Noughties...between 2000 and 2002, Pat played violin for Nuages, a band specialising in Swing, Vocal Jazz and Classic Easy Listening formed by his good friend Barrie Guard, and featuring myself on vocals. We laid down a series of superb demos - beautifully arranged by Barrie - at his home studio in the outer suburbs of London, and even went so far as to record a pilot radio show but to no avail. We gigged sporadically for about a year and a half, and response to our music was polite at best, until a final concert at the 2002 Shelton Arts Festival brought us into contact with the kind of intimate cultured audience we perhaps should have been aiming for all along...and we all but brought the house down. Sadly though, for a variety of reasons Nuages dispersed soon afterwards.
On a brighter note, there's a fascinating tale attached to singer-songwriter John Dawson Read for whom Pat served as leader on his two '70s albums, “A Friend of Mine is Going Blind” (1975) and “Read On” (1976). Sometime around 2005, fellow singer-songwriter Michael Johnson included an MP3 of Read singing the title track of his first album, “A Friend of Mine” on his website, and many Read fans began communicating through the site in consequence. His subsequent re-entry into the music world after nearly thirty years of relative - although not complete - inactivity, resulted in a third album, “Now…Where were we?” being released that same year.
Until quite recently, Pat served as leader - under the headship of conductor and composer Ronnie Hazelhurst - for the BBC comedy series that is the longest running in television history, Roy Clarke's "Last of the Summer Wine". Working alongside Pat on the series was harmonica maestro Jim Hughes, whose playing it is that makes Ronnie's gently pastoral theme tune so distinctive. With Jim's help, Pat began work on an album of popular song standards - featuring myself on vocals - some time in the mid Noughties, possibly 2006. Eventually given the title “A Taste of Summer Wine” thanks to the generosity of Ronnie Hazelhurst, it's credited to James Hughes Carl Halling with the London Swingtette, the latter consisting of, in addition to Pat's own Quartet Pro Musica, Judd Procter on guitar, Manfred Mann founder member Dave Richmond, and John Sutton, on bass, and John Dean and Sebastian Guard on drums. The album was engineered by sound recordist Tony Philpot, and Keith Grant - formerly of West London's legendary Olympic Studios - and finally released in 2007. Olympic became one of the great recording centres of British Hard Rock after it had been bought by Keith and Cliff Barnes in 1966, with the Stones, the Who, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Queen all recording there, as well as the Beatles, The Small Faces, Procul Harum, Traffic, Hawkwind and others.
Other recent projects of Pat's have included the world premiere of the string quartet “A Poet’s Calendar” by long-time friend Derek Wadsworth, which took place at the Riverhouse Barn studio in Walton on Thames, Surrey, on the 10th March 2007, with Pat leading his own revived Quartet Pro Musica, and the first live performances of Quartets 1 and 2 by Jazz drummer and composer Tony Kinsey. As things stand, Pat plays in two quartets, the previously mentioned Pro Musica, and the Leonardo, formed in 1993.
Despite having worked as a professional musician for more than half a century, Pat is still a force within the music industry, and has recently spoken on television and elsewhere on his work with the Beatles. He also paints now under the quaint monicker of Clancy, the middle name he once rejected. Furthermore, he's still winning up to two races every Sunday for his local sailing club. There seems to be no end to the man's almost preternatural energy and force of will. Although there's no hard and fast evidence that Pat has Scandinavian blood, research related to the Norwegians who emigrated to the American Midwest - and particularly Minnesota -from about the mid-19th Century onwards, reveals that one of the characteristics of the inhabitants of the Halling Valley known as Hallings and speaking a dialect known as Halling is firmness “in thoughts and beliefs”, so that he would “rather break than bend”. This in the words of the Norwegian-American writer Syver Swenson Rodning, who in 1917 took first prize in an essay set by a man called Hallingen called “A Halling is a Halling wherever he is”. The Hallings themselves settled primarily in Spring Grove, Minnesota, with traces of their subculture surviving into the 1930s. Perhaps then, alone among the three children born to Phyllis Mary Halling, Patrick is a true Halling with roots deep in the Hallingdal in Norway's Buskerud County where the Halling Valley River lies.