ollie halsall

Ollie Halsall took up drums at age 13, and then moved to London to be a vibes player at age 16 before taking up guitar a few years later. In this shot, Halsall performs at the Roundhouse in London in 1975.
Photo by Andrea Pennessi.

The rise and fall of one of the most original guitar players to emerge from the 1960s British Invasion.

In mid-’60s Europe, if you were hip and dug music, swinging London was the place to be. The Beatles were there, as were the Stones, the Who, the Small Faces, the Kinks, and every other great British band of the day. The British blues boom was flourishing, too—Eric Clapton and Peter Green, the Yardbirds, Alexis Korner, John Mayall. Chas Chandler brought Jimi Hendrix to London to launch his career. Youth, money, fashion, style, music, art—the stars aligned, forces converged, and London was the epicenter of cool.

But London had its outliers, too. Timebox, a small band with a minor hit, was playing the clubs. They were known for their live shows, which were manic, unpredictable, and nothing like their radio-friendly singles. Their guitarist, Ollie Halsall, was emerging as London’s guitarists’ guitarist. He was different. He played faster. His note choices were unusual. His phrasing was unique. He was fearless, reckless, impulsive, hysterical, and listening to him was an adventure. The people who saw those shows still recall them with awe.

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