40. Rent a Wreck

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S.Rhatigan/J.F Morrison © 1998

Brought my girl to La La Land at the weekend.  I love musicals.  Our record collection growing up at home, before my sister started buying Zeppelin and Bob Dylan, mainly consisted of original cast recordings of classic musicals: Oklahoma, South Pacific, Hello Dolly, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita and on and on.  I knew every song and staged them in the sitting room most miserable Sunday afternoons between mass and lunch and the Riordans. Over and over I washed that man right out of my hair.

I dreamed of being a superstar like Barbara Streisand.  I remember hearing about Barbara’s troubled love life and thinking to myself that I too would make whatever sacrifice was necessary to achieve my dream even if it meant a life of loneliness and heartbreak.  I had the feeling that it would be unlikely you could have the good fortune to be talented and successful and also happy.  So I would forgo happiness if that’s what it took. I set about pursuing my dreams with gusto. I had few inhibitions and even fewer scruples. When I fell on my ass, which I did, repeatedly, I would retreat to my dreams regroup and start again.  Nothing much has changed.

City of stars

In the course of my search for the Holy Grail I was naturally drawn to LA and like so many wannabes before me and since, I had a stab at making the crucial connections in Hollywood.  I had meetings with agents and music supervisors, songwriters and producers.  One memorable lunch at Chateau Marmont with legendary arranger and producer Jack Nitzsche, became quite surreal when I realised he had no interest in working with me. He had only come to lunch to vent his anger and heartbreak following the demise of his relationship with Buffy Saint Marie who was a friend of my A&R person Kate Hyman.

Another memorable meeting I had with Kate in LA was with Don Was.  Kate had worked with Was Not Was back in the day and he was top of my producer wish list, since before I had even met Kate. He had heard the demos and he was interested.  We had our meeting at his house on Mulholland Drive, if I’m not mistaken he lived next door to Jack Nicholson.  Anyhow superstar names like that were being dropped all the time, you became quite blasé about it after a while.  I played Don a few songs on the piano and we had the chats. I told him how I had dreamed of making my album for years and how it sounded in my head, earthy and dark, shot through with light and humour. There was a definite chemistry. I felt it. I’m quite sure Don’s wife felt it too when she arrived home. Suffice to say I didn’t feel the love from her as much!  We parted that day with hugs and kisses and Don saying “I’m going to make this record”.  I remember Kate and I driving into the LA sunset with me screaming at the top of my voice… “Did you hear that Kate?  Did you hear what he said?”  “Yes” she said “He’s going to make your record”.

And I believed 100% that that would happen even as the weeks passed and Kate’s calls were unanswered I still believed it was destined to be.  But in LA dreams are made and unmade over and over.  I think the energy of all those dreams combusting is what powers the place.  Eventually we heard from Don’s management. Don was committed to other bigger projects, ones much more likely to succeed, or words to that effect and that was the end of that.

On another occasion while on holiday with my then boyfriend, we hired a car to do the famous drive from Malibu to Laurel Canyon.  As we were cruising through the canyons top down, Soul to Soul’s big hit of the day, ‘Keep On Moving’ on the radio, a spliff on the go, we realised we were running low on gas.  I think it was me who had the bright idea that to conserve fuel we should cut the engine and freewheel down the hill.  I closed my eyes blissed out from the weed and the music and the warm sun on my face when suddenly the engine roared into life, the brakes screeched and we came to a halt.  When I opened my eyes I could only see space in front of the car, no road no barrier nothing.  I looked at Craig. He was ashen faced. He had done as I suggested and turned off the ignition, only to discover he couldn’t steer or stop the car. We were a split second from rolling over the edge of the canyon to certain death.

And so a number of years later I wrote the story down in a song ‘Rent A Wreck’.  It captures the dystopia my life was back then, dark rumbling bass and soporific vocals. I guess it’s a kind of lo-fi example of that sound I had tried to describe to Don Was.  A sound I’m still dreaming of today.

It occurs to me that if I had the chance to write a musical about LA it would be a much darker affair than LA LA Land, which I absolutely loved btw.  I especially loved the bitter-sweet ending and the perfectly nuanced performances from both lead characters.  They fulfilled their dreams, but at a cost…

‘Oh to have come so far just to die in a rented car’

PS: Spot the deliberate mistake in the lyric.  All mistakes are deliberate right?

Suzanne Rhatigan: Vocals, guitar, piano, drums
John F Morrison: Bass

39. Julianne

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39. Julianne…
S.Rhatigan/J.F Morrison © 1996

Where did that go? Last post… No 38, November 2015… I believe I signed off saying, I’ll fill you in on the finale soon, but unfortunately promises like ‘soon’ and ‘I must do that’ are symptomatic of a chronic condition that I’m currently battling.

M.A.D (Middle Age Disease) (def) A progressive malaise leading to worrisome creeping indifference, reduced sensation of urgency and complete loss of sense of time. Days become decades, decades, days. Not confined to the actual middle aged, it can afflict anyone at any time. Worryingly it is quite infectious, though perhaps unsurprisingly, M.A.D is not transmitted sexually. Treatment: Frequent kicks up the arse, if you can be arsed.

Now where was I…

Finale no 1

In fairness Chris and Bryce stayed till the end of our disastrous gig and tried to put a positive spin on it but over the following days and weeks enthusiasm was waning, calls not readily returned, meetings cancelled. Then suddenly a meeting hastily convened on a Friday evening. Bryn, John and I headed off with our hopes high, we thought we were going to go through figures and deal options etc etc but it became sickeningly apparent from the joyless greeting in the pub “no rounds, have to head off soon”, that this was not going the way of celebration!

They didn’t waste time and I guess they tried to soften it a bit with the ‘it’s not you it’s us’ line. Courtyard were renegotiating their own deal with Parlaphone and that was dragging on and they didn’t want to hold us back etc etc. I probably didn’t quite get what they were saying, it didn’t sink in “Well we can keep working on our new material sharpen up our live set, sure no problem” I suggested. Then it was a little more like, ‘actually it is kind of you, and not us’

Our lack of consistency. BOOM. Flashes of brilliance obscured by frequent and random collapses of form. BOOM. Refusal/inability to adapt to commercial requirements and standards of production and performance…. SPLAT. “Ah now hang on” I said “if we had the funds, technical assistance, a guiding hand, all that could be sorted out surely”. I didn’t give up, I refused/was unable to adapt to our new status, till in the end I think it was left at, ‘we can still be friends’, which as we all know means nothing.

We were reeling, the Courtyard deal was gone and the industry interest generated by their interest had evaporated. Months passed. We kept our 12 Bar nights going and we wrote fury infused self loathing pop and tortured ballads of loss and loss, most of which are probably best never heard, when out of the blue the phone rang.

Finale no 2

Would we like to open for Radiohead in Dublin a secret warm up gig for their OK Computer tour? Like to? Er yes! So we scrambled our dole money together to pay for the flights and we borrowed some gear from friends in Dublin and we headed off. This could be our
chance to turn things around.
live-waterrats-96x300pxl

“You’ve got 30 minutes, you go over we pull the plug”, the stage manager informed us and a moment later I was standing at last, centre stage at the Olympia, a life long dream. The heaving throng of Radioheads stared up expectantly.

Julianne’, probably the pinnacle of my self disgust distilled into 3 minutes of punk pop. Score. Genuine spontaneous audience buzz. Quick guitar change to retune and on with borrowed second guitar.

No time to fart around, into the 2nd song only…. guitar dead. Fiddle with leads, nothing, check pedals nothing. Minutes pass. The audience buzz is more impatient now. I call out to my friend Tom who was helping out with roadie stuff, to get back with my guitar. No response. “Tom” I call again trying to make light of it, “TOM” I roar more urgently. “Jaysis Tom, pull the finger out” a radiohead heckles from the stalls.

Laughter resolves to loud talking as I plead with the Radiohead crew standing in the wings for help, to no avail. At last Tom emerges, red faced and breathless. Turned out he had been refused permission to retune in the wings and had climbed 2 or 3 flights of stairs to the dressing room thinking he had a couple of songs to sort it out. Bottom line, 15 of our 30 minutes and that beautiful fleeting moment of triumph had been stolen from right under our noses.

We had time for one more song, which we executed proficiently and in a timely fashion. We climbed the stairs to our dressing room and sat in heavy silence, drinking our ‘rider’ (1/2 dozen warm beers), when a slightly down cast Bryce stuck his head around the door. “Well another typical Rhatigan gig” he said without irony. “Thanks for asking us anyway” I managed. He shrugged, “Don’t thank me, it was Thom’s idea”.

Finale no 3

A year or so later I found myself hob knobbing at some industry awards function or other in some Mayfair hotel or other when I bumped into Chris Hufford and entourage. He greeted me with open arms “Suzanne, how are you?” “Yeah great” I proffered, upon which he turned to his party and introduced me with the exuberance of a man plainly under the influence. ”Everyone this is Suzanne Rhatigan” a clumsy arm flung around my shoulders. “Suzanne is one of the most talented people I know. She should be a big star, but…” he said wistfully, “if it wasn’t for her”… He’s wagging a finger at me now… “she would be a huge star”.

I laughed it off and tried to wriggle free from his embrace. “Yeah” he repeated, “if it wasn’t for her…” his grip tightened, “see it’s in her eyes”, his eyes swam into mine, “it’s in your eyes”, he half whispered. “No problem” I said “I’ll close my eyes”. Which I did. “It’s no good, it’s no good,” he wailed. “It’s in your eyebrows”.

Well really, what the fuck can you do with that? I smiled, sort of, and prised myself away, comforted somewhat when I realised most of the others, who were at least as jarred as him, had resumed their conversations barely having noticed or heard.

But I heard.

I know I’m not alone among my human cousins when I focus on my failings and failures in life. I either don’t hear or see the compliments and small victories or I take too little joy in them, preferring to indulge in self-scorn. Proving to my self that I’m not the loser, I’m so ready to think I am, has been grist to my mill for too long. Hell even this blog moniker ’50 Greatest Misses’ is testament to that.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that surviving a career comprising one set back after another calamitous mistake should be celebrated. I find the situation funny, most of the time. I hold no bitterness toward the many people, professionals and friends who’ve played a part in some of these blogs, quite the contrary. Even the most humiliating and regretful moments in my life I treasure. They’re my stories and good or bad, I do love to tell a story.

Suzanne Rhatigan Vocals, Guitar…
John Morrison Bass…
Bryn Burrows Drums…

PS: ‘Julianne’ is on the ‘Big stick’ mini album, which is available for download on Bandcamp

PPS: Our valiant friend Tom Greenwood (of pull the finger out) died a few months after the gig. He was a lovely and talented man. Gone but not forgotten.

PPPS: I am currently in remission from M.A.D and hard at work in my studio on a new record. No really!

You don’t believe me? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjaYCIq5z3A

38. Coming To Get You (Elephant Song)

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38. Coming To Get You (Elephant Song)

S.Rhatigan/J.F Morrison © 1999

Tonight was perfection. Everything slotted effortlessly into place. A lock through a bolt a foot in a sock a spontaneous symbiotic moment in time. And yet… I’d planned it all my life…

Do things just happen or do we make things happen?

coming-to-get-you_1983_300pxl

Coming to get you 1983 Photographer Gerry Boyd

For years I’ve tried to make things happen with my music: I’ve hung out, I’ve schmoozed I’ve stuck my neck out, sucked my stomach in, played the game! In the mid eighties when I moved to London age 21 I was totally fearless, armed with my demo tape I literally banged on doors. I was like a hunter, ready to seize my moment at every opportunity. I would turn up at recording studios and eye up my prey…

The Receptionist. The most important person in the building. I’d ask her to listen to my demo. I knew even then how important the follow up is and it held no fear for me. I would call by regularly, hopefully during a quiet moment, get to chatting, leave another demo, eventually the phone would ring. I was in. Some of my most lucrative jobs as a session singer came directly through my relationship with the studio receptionist…

It’s simple really, in this business you need an advocate, that person who says to the others… ‘you should listen to this’. It’s very hard to be heard above the clamour of ‘wanna be’ when it’s just you saying you’re great… I’ve been very fortunate at times in my career to have just such people on my side. Many doors opened, many opportunities gifted. Yet as you might expect, plenty of opportunities missed due to bad luck or bad judgement!

Most of the connections I’ve made through the years have been engineered to one degree or another; a favour pulled for a chance to be seen or heard, a good support slot, a demo passed along etc etc. But by the mid nineties having done all the big record deal, big flop stuff with Imago, I was starting to feel like I was running out of second chances. It was getting harder to connect to new people who could respond to the music without knowing the history! Putting in those follow up calls was getting harder and harder too, but with the Late Developer album we really believed we had something special. There was nothing for it, we would have to go hunting or at least make the follow up call!

Case Study….

Coming To Get You 1999 Photographer Gina Birch

Late Developer had been released in early ’96 on Org Records and despite an initial buzz around the record by summer it started to fall away. We lacked resources for the kind of promotion and support we really needed. We needed an advocate, a manager. I remember John and I sitting in my flat trying to figure a way forward… lets think of one manager we would really love to have. We thought of bands at the top of their game and one immediately sprung to mind. Radiohead. So we decided to approach Chris Hufford and Bryce Edge of Courtyard Productions who looked after Radiohead and Supergrass at the time, aim high eh! We popped a copy of the album in the post.

That was as far as it went and like so many demos and flyers we had sent around previously we might never have followed up. However this was part of our strategy. We decided, that fateful Monday, that unlike all those other occasions, this time we would follow up. So a week later we sat together and I made the call.

Much to my surprise Chris answered the phone. I nervously explained who I was. “Sorry to hassle you”, I said “but I just want to know if you got the CD we sent? The bands name is Rhatigan, the album is Late Developer.” I said nothing else. There was a brief silence and he said “yes, I think I saw that lying around here somewhere”. “Good” I said, “that’s all I wanted to know. I hope you get a chance to listen to it, I won’t be calling back. Thanks, bye.” I hung up. I don’t think I threw up at that point but it was damn close. We switched off the phone and got on with recording or something when an hour or so later the answerphone clicked in and we heard Chris leaving a message. Following my bizarre phone call, they decided to dig out the album and put it on and yep, they liked it. They liked it a lot actually.

Things moved along quite smartly, we met up, they came to a few gigs, gave us time in their studio to demo some new material. Everything was going swimmingly. They talked about signing us to their production company and releasing us through Parlaphone just one last piece of the puzzle, we were to set up a gig, to which they would bring the relevant players and bish bosh bang… Deal!

Now ‘Rhatigan’ was ready for this, buoyed in our confidence with our new found advocates and having gigged regularly and practiced our asses off, we were tight as the proverbial knot… so when an opportunity to step into a cancellation slot at the Monarch in Camden came up, we didn’t hesitate to grab it. We rustled up an audience at short notice and a couple of days later our game changing gig was upon us.

That morning I awoke excited and confident until I noticed a soreness on the side of my nose, a pimple but not a pimple, nothing a bit of make up wouldn’t cover. I headed off for a swim. I was determined today was going to be perfect. By midmorning the pimple was more like an open sore and a bit, weepy, I was starting to feel a wee bit anxious….

When you look back over events and the way things pan out you see more clearly the opportunities you had along the way to alter the course you were on, but of course you don’t see those opportunities at the time. So when Bryce called me that afternoon with the guest list and asked me how I was, I jokingly described my disintegrating nose, to which he immediately suggested canceling and I said…“Cancel, that’s a bit extreme. Nah we’ll go for it, a bit more makeup it’ll be grand”.

By five o clock the seeping sore had spread in a crescent shape around my right nostril and formed a thick scab. Despite my efforts with makeup the best look I could achieve was a bulbous crusty protrusion a blind man on a galloping horse couldn’t miss. My nerves were gone. My judgement was clearly impaired. I decided, in my hysterical state, that the best option was to surgically remove the scab with my trusty Stanley knife, then quickly douse the open wound with powder and slap some makeup on, which I did, ignoring the searing pain, so determined I was, to make this gig work. But even before I left the house 10 minutes later the prosthetic had slid off and new yellow and green septic puss was crystallizing around my nose, growing exponentially! So, ever the pro, I brought the blade with me and performed the procedure again in the toilets at the pub minutes before I went on stage…

No matter how well prepared you are, shit just happens.

Despite my best efforts to ensure the best possible outcome for this make or break performance, self mutilation being just one, I had also, last minute, decided to change the strings on my guitar, to try and at least reduce the chance of string breakage, a regular occurrence due to the ferocity with which I assaulted the guitar. In fact we were constantly beset by technical mishaps at gigs and I wanted to do the best I could to avoid the gremlins tonight. However, I hadn’t allowed enough time for the new strings to settle…

I’m on stage, I’m not feeling great, there’s no turning back. I peek out from behind my hair, long enough back then thankfully, to partially cover the horrific car crash that is my nose, and I can see the room filling. Some familiar faces near the front and the silhouette of industry turn out shuffling around the other half of the room eying each other up. The tension is palpable there’s a lot at stake…

It’s the moment of truth, nerves shattered, festering sore to the fore, I launch myself at the opening chords of the 1st song… but far from the solid confident guitar intro we had rehearsed endlessly, a discordant clang, rings around the room. I look and sound like a demented zombie as I grapple to get my guitar in tune, half blinded by my hair, which by now is stuck to the septic oozing on my nose. John and Bryn play on heroically as I randomly squawk and screech my way through the first 2 tunes. It’s all over the place, a complete mess.

Our loyal rent a crowd cheer furiously, urging us on, their enthusiasm simply not commensurate with the appalling shambles they’re listening to. Then half way through the 3rd song something clicks… Fuck it… The rest of the set we’re on fire, but it’s too late. In that same moment I see the back of the room dissolve. The guest list has heard enough. They don’t wait for the moment when the challenger gets up from the floor and wins the championship fight with a knockout blow. It’s over. Our one shot… in the foot.

I’d like to comfort you and myself by telling you that particular debacle was a one off in my show case/gig history, but alas it’s not, there were more, many more, not quite so gruesome perhaps, but none the less disastrous! I won’t lie and tell you I bounced back from those setbacks even more determined and thick skinned. No. But, bounce back we did. We were bowed but not broken on that occasion for sure, but much more music was to come from Rhatigan as the band changed and expanded over the following few years. Fact is in life sometimes, you stick your neck out you get your face slapped, it’s how you come back that matters.

Coming to get you 2015 Photo Cait Fahey

Coming to get you 2015 Photo Cait Fahey

Still, the compulsion to sing and write and make music and to try to find an audience for that music pushes me out the door and into the bars and barber shops of Dublin on piss awful winter/summer days and nights to play. It’s a win win situation really. First, it makes me feel good, (I can’t stress the importance of this enough). Second I get to play my music and hear other music, and maybe one time, one person might hear something they like and that person might make a difference!

We wrote Coming To Get You aka (Elephant song) a few years after ‘nosegate’ by then Paul had replaced Bryn on drums and an ever evolving horn and string section were occasionally thrown head long into the fray. I love Paul’s shuffling drums, John’s brilliantly simple bass from which the song was written, and Jacqui’s Elephant trombone. This was one of those recordings I’ve always felt slightly frustrated by though. Like most of our output it was recorded on 8 track in Cushy Studios, my basement flat in London, and it felt to me like the track was constrained too much by the confines and of my living room, surrounded as we were by irate neighbours… So I recently updated the original recording with some more horns, guitars, BV’s and drums, and I’m quite pleased with the results, yeah quite pleased. I definitely sound like I’m up for the hunt, maybe be it’s time to go a hunting again!

Suzanne Rhatigan vocals guitar keyboards
John Morrison Bass
Paul Murphy drums
Jacqui Grace Trombone

PS: That wasn’t quite the end of the story with Courtyard, I’ll fill you in on the ‘finale’ soon!

PPS:  I get to try it all again on Friday night November 27th when I play an opening set for the wonderful Dr Millar upstairs at Whelans in Dublin onstage 8:45pm X

37. Teacher

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37. Teacher

S.Rhatigan/ J F Morrison ©2000

I have a lot to learn, some lessons though I seem to have to keep learning, like when to speak up and when to shut up… still haven’t mastered that one despite the many great teachers I’ve been fortunate enough to have had. I think some people just cannot be taught and I’m one, however that too is something I’m starting to learn how to do, in my dotage!

south-audley-st_derek-ridges

Photo Derek Ridgers

Autodidactic, apparently that’s me.  It’s not that I don’t want to learn, I just don’t always want to be taught. I’m impatient, I want to know everything without all the hassle of learning, listening and observing.  I want to discover for my self and I certainly don’t want to give anyone else the credit for my achievements, or in fairness my failures.

For example one of my best teachers is my man, Manfred, or ‘Poor Manfred’ as he’s affectionately known near and far.  When we first met I was computer illiterate. It was 1996 and I was still splicing and gluing and photocopying and posting flyers and updates to my mailing list about gigs etc using a label maker and my old typewriter, which was missing a few letters.  It was all very lo-fi-diy, that was what I was into.  So when my new boyfriend, a software engineer no less, offered to set me up with a pc and printer and the ‘internet’ of all things, I was understandably, or not, extremely resistant.  I think he was visiting me from Germany every few weeks for a year or more, watching on flummoxed by my refusal to embrace the technology that he knew would eventually change my world, along with everyone else’s. I finally caved in and agreed to be helped.

Little did he know what he was letting himself in for.  Within 20 minutes of setting the PC up  I wanted to design my own website, market my gigs, record my band, animate videos and I wanted to do it now. By myself! Patiently he talked me through the frustrating basics those first steps everyone needs to learn, usually by being taught.  Unless of course you want to use a manual or help function, which I certainly never would!  A lot of swearing, gnashing of teeth, hair pulling and tears would be endured before I finally got going and that wasn’t just ‘Poor Manfred’.  But get going I did and a very wide range of skills I learned along the way, however they were always with a particular task in mind, a means to an end.  Like the Cushy Productions website.

Today, to set up a basic site like that would be a doddle. You plug into a template like WordPress and hey presto you have a website.  There were no plugins like that back then.  So Manfred set me up with an Adobe Pagemill html programme and I tortured a simple but quite well functioning website and blog out of it.  I frequently ran into brick walls and would think nothing of calling Manfred at all hours of the day and night, wailing furiously about how stupid the bloody machine was that it didn’t know what I was thinking and seemed to go out of it’s way to sabotage my vision at every turn.  With monumental calm he would talk me down from the precipice of madness and pick through my previous hours labour methodically, explaining as only a German software engineer can, where I went wrong, and maybe suggest an alternative route, only to be told to keep his bloody suggestions to himself and off I would streak headlong into the next brick wall and again and again and again and still to this day God help him!

But the Cushy web site actually worked and we developed a very nifty email marketing template which still works and the site has good original content and I’m very proud of it.  I could have perhaps invested some time in a formal course in web design and web marketing and capitalised on all that experience, possibly carved out a solid career from it, but for me that was never what it was about.  I wanted to make music and this was simply a tool to help me get my music heard. The whole learning thing was just something that had to be endured.

I guess the teacher/pupil relationship is hard for me because of my em, ‘control’ issues.  I had a rough ride in school, what with my short attention span, repeated insubordination, combined with the rather embarrassing belief that anything I had to say no matter how inane was more interesting than anything anyone else had to say, particularly during maths!  If I had/have one weakness however, it was/is flattery.  Unbeknown to most of my hapless teachers they probably would have enjoyed my complete submission had any of them ever said anything nice about me to me.  I would have done anything to please, anything but stay quiet and learn that is.

But really at the bottom of it all, we all want to feel special, like we’re a bit more special than everyone else, right? And who better to make us feel special than our teachers. It’s an awesome responsibility and one that should never be abused of course.  Teachers have all the power. Or do they?

Teacher the song was inspired by a tabloid story at the time about a young teacher who had run off with his 15 year old pupil to France. There was a terrible bru ha ha with tabloid hacks swarming all over the small village where they were holed up. I was struck at the time by how willing and complicit the young woman appeared in the editorial as compared with the almost naivety of the older teacher.  I remember thinking I could have been that girl, so I wrote a little story about how that balance of power between teacher and pupil might swing with certain personality types involved, and this is the result. I certainly could have been the girl in the song too, yep that could’ve been me alright!

So this recording was one of the latter day Rhatigan ‘unfinished’ masters.  I transferred it from 8 track 1/4 ins tape the other day with the intention of recording the missing vocal in the middle and doing a few overdubs.  But it turns out my recently repaired Fostex R8 is running a bit slow and the track is a little flat of concert pitch. with the result the new parts I tried sounded unpleasantly sharp.  In fact barring some minor lyric changes and backing vocals it is as it was back at the dawn of the new millennium.  I really like this song and I’m so pleased to finally ‘finish’ it, though of course it isn’t quite right, not really finished….

Christ will I never learn?

PS: I’m rushing this blog to get it uploaded before I fly to London to celebrate my friend Gina Birch’s birthday.  Gina was one of my favourite ‘teachers’. We met while she was gigging with The Hangovers in the mid nineties.  We became friends and she came and recorded a few songs at Cushy and played at the Cushy nights at the 12 Bar Club in London.  She is an inspiration to so many musicians, artists, friends…  Not just for her punk pedigree, being a member of seminal punk band The Raincoats but also as a video director.  Her work is very unique and every one she has worked with has leaned a lot!

PPS: The photo was taken by photographer Derek Ridgers, whose portraits of London club life over the last 30 years are wonderful and can be seen in his 2012 book London Youth.  The photo was shot in a mansion on South Audley St in Mayfair where another wonderful friend Debs Hinkinson was living at the time.  Another great teacher, Debs throws the most wonderful dinner parties and I was always delighted to be asked along as her commis chef.   Thanks guys xxx

Suzanne Rhatigan vocals guitar keyboards
John Morrison Bass
Paul Murphy drums

 

36. The Most Expensive Record

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S Rhatigan/ C Charles © 1993

Today the future looks bright, so I’m able to look back, without feeling bogged down in the past and I’m able to remember with more fondness than regret, the adventures and mishaps of my life till now and the joy of re-acquaintance with old friends.

I’ve been very slow with this latest blog  for many reasons, among them my on going efforts to move forward with new music and the feeling that perhaps all this reminiscing is counter productive. Nostalgia is big though, it’s everywhere. Retro this, vintage that, particularly music. I heard a Hawkwind track on the Marc Reilly show on BBC 6 music the other day and thought it was the next breakthrough alternative band, I should really know about…

The bands and songwriters I’m seeing around Dublin are happy to seamlessly weave their interpretations of classic and obscure covers into their own original songs both live and on record, to the point where unless you’re a musicologist you wouldn’t know where one ends and the other begins…

Last night was a case in point. I headed into Whelans to play a few tunes for John Byrne’s Song Cycle night, I particularly wanted to try out a new song but the lyric was frustratingly unfinished… The standard was high as usual but unfortunately the noisy bar made it difficult for the players. Nonetheless through the noise I heard some gorgeous tunes from Kevin O’Rourke, front man with Massachusetts based alt folk band Lo Fine. Among his own fine songs he slipped in a cover of Blondie’s Dreaming. All atmosphere and melancholy, nothing like the original which I love, but something else, something quite fresh surprisingly. While listening to Kevin I even managed to get a good working lyric finished, so I succeeded in playing my new song, which bucked my spirits up considerably.

Then I headed down to another great Dublin institution, The Stags Head, to a new Monday night session upstairs, ‘De Grand Old Oprey’, hosted by two wonderful musicians Tony Mc Loughlin of Dublin band The Young Folk and singer songwriter Niall Thomas, who has one of the most appealing voices I’ve heard recently. Together they turn their hand to a range of songs, mostly covers, across a vareiety of genres but in their own very appealing lounge, alt country style. They usually have one main guest, on this occasion a chance to hear Kevin O’Rourke again and his Blondie cover. Tony and Niall accompany the guests, and there are contributions from other musicians hanging out, so I had the pleasure of chipping in a tune too. As a result this morning I feel renewed and motivated to move forward with my new music, but also to put another story from the past out there, finally…

This shot from the THWL artwork predates pantigate but serves as an omen of what was to come!

This shot from the THWL artwork predates pantigate but serves as an omen of what was to come!

I want to upload The Most Expensive Record now, because I hope that will really put an end to it…

The song is quite ‘old school’ in its composition and arrangement, if not exactly retro. It’s funny, most tunes are timeless but arrangements and particularly lyrics can betray an old song masquerading as a new one. The lyric of this monster is a good example, referencing MTV as the ultra important outlet for music and video, that it was, back in the 80’s and ninety’s. TMER is a parody, chronicling, sort of, the madness and mad money spent making and promoting To Hell With Love. This song and a number of other tunes were demos for what should have been the follow up album, which of course never happened. We had just finished a European tour and things were looking up…ish. We had great support from RCA/ BMG around continental Europe particularly in Netherlands and Germany, but weeks later, shortly after these recording sessions I was dropped from the label and my band, recruited during my time in New York were let go. It was over.

It wasn’t all bad you know! I did have some great times in NY, particularly playing live with the band. My right and left hand man, guitarist Matt Backer and I, held auditions in New York for the touring band and we really fell on our feet. Jack Daley is a world class bass player. He lives and breathes his instrument. He plays in a kind of groove induced trance, the heavier the better. He was the bottom and we built up from there. Jack brought drummer Julius Klepacz in and together they were a great rhythm section. Julius, aka ‘The Count’ a larger than life hilarious and sometimes terrifying mix of wild cat and pussy cat. You wouldn’t want to rub him up the wrong way, but when you did, you just let him cough up his fur ball and he was soon purring away happily again. Piano virtuoso George Laks was the baby, a wonderful sensitive beautiful man, just starting out on his career, but with an old soul. After a while we added violinist Deni Bonet. Deni was and still is one of life’s optimists. When the shit came down as it often did, Deni would stay positive. We travelled in the states, Europe and Australia together and we had some laughs, many laughs.

SO, in between I was wheeling around in a maelstrom of marketing mayhem that was the set up for THWL. Meetings were endless and it seemed that any suggestion of ways to get my name out there was up for discussion. All parties had their say and one idea after another thrown into the mix with quite spectacularly disastrous result. There was the whole ‘I Hate Suzanne Rhatigan’ campaign for example.

Only a few pics of the stickers in action survive

It started innocently enough. I sat down with my good friend, writer Neville Farmer. to work on a biography and as we chatted a pattern seemed to form. One unfortunate life event leading to another, one failed demo/band after another. I was a bad girl. A bad girl in school, bad girl at the office bad bad bad. This all sounded like a fun, harmless way of setting me up, you know, the tough rock chic turns out to be not so bad after all. Ok, not such a good idea either and not particularly original, but it was sort of true. However a few sessions around the table at Imago with press and promotion, chairman and VPs, artiste, management and entourage and before you know it the full blown ‘I hate Suzanne Rhatigan’ campaign was in production.

car-sticker-300Thousands of speech bubble stickers with snappy slogans like “Suzanne Rhatigan stole my boyfriend” Suzanne Rhatigan ate my lunch” and on. Yeah how much $5000, sure ca-ching! How about mail them to every radio station, retailer, journalist etc in the US along with the record and some merchandising. Sure! T shirts are boring so how about a few thousand Teddy bears with “Suzanne Rhatigan is a Bitch” T shirts on instead? Yeah, ca-ching. And take out ads in all the music/trade papers, with famous characters on, I don’t know, how about Ghandi with a “Suzanne Rhatigan stole my laundry” speech bubble, yeah that’s funny, isn’t it? yeah. why not. Wait how about, a ticker tape on Times Square every 10 minutes for a week running up to the album release “TO HELL WITH SUZANNE RHATIGAN” etc etc etc $$$ ???? CA-CHING.

Well if a setup like that isn’t going to kill off a record I don’t know what is. As the campaign started heating up I was sick inside. It started sinking in how completely shit it all was. How mortifying. And now to make matters worse I would have to endure hours of interviews and questions, about why everyone hates me so much. What do I do? Explain that no, I’m not really so awful it’s all just a publicity thing wink wink? Or do I live down to my reputation, tell press and radio one or two ‘stories’ about my unfortunate life and act a bit stripy now and again, a bit ‘Prima Donnaish’ so they might believe the hype? And then do what? Play the record? Write about it? Unlikely… Well amazingly thanks to the efforts of one of the best Press Officers in New York, Sandy Sowatka, quite a few people did write about the record and even said quite nice things. But no amount of press is enough to generate the kind of sales Imago needed to break even on this thing, so more drastic measures were necessary!

Money must be spent. And fair play to Terry Ellis he spent money alright. 1st we needed to introduce THWL to the retailers. Very important back in the day when people ‘bought’ records in ‘record shops’, or Walmart and Woolworths or wherever. So… the record company bought a prime slot at the NAMM convention that year, one of the US Music Industry’s most important events. I had 6 minutes to wow the 10,000 strong audience with some songs from THWL kind of mashed together. The band rehearsed the edited songs for several days and boredom had well and truly set in. Matt had taken to playing the last few bars of his guitar solo ala Hendrix, guitar thrust behind his head and out of devilment, while he was in full flow I deftly undid his belt and his jeans slid to the floor. Oh how we laughed particularly Matt who thankfully had reasonably well fitting and clean underwear on that day.

And that should be the end of that little anecdote, but no. Out of this this harmless japery the idea that we should repeat the pantymime during our costly 6 minutes was now on the table for discussion and it kind of snowballed. Here’s where I want to set the record straight. I did not want to do the, unbuckle the belt trick at all and I said so. More than once!

But the hilarity of it all and the ‘potential’, of such a stunt, in a convention situation like this, where every record company in the land was pushing their new product for that year at the retailers, to get everyone talking, about  ‘Suzanne Rhatigan’, the same Suzanne Rhatigan of “Is A Bitch Fame”, and her album, was just too irresistible for the label, the pressure was on… So when my good friend Matt in his easy going ‘let’s do it for the Gipper’ kind of way said he didn’t mind, I acquiesced.

Well we turned up at the convention centre all suited and booted as you might expect and headed on to the stage of the enormous convention centre, with giant screens all around the arena for any delegates unfortunate enough not to have front row seats and we launched into our truncated show. All was going well and the moment of truth was almost upon us… Again I wish to remind you I did NOT want to follow through with the stunt so I left the decision to Matt. We agreed if he put the guitar behind his head then I could assume he was up for it, if not fine. So I glanced at Matt as the moment drew near and he winked, threw the guitar behind his head and walked, guitar hero like into the spotlight. That’s when everything kind of became a bit weird. It was like the stage was made of foam and the moment had a strange slow softness about it. I reached out for Matt’s belt, flipped the buckle open (I’m good at that) and….

Nothing happened…

New jeans!

The bastards were standing up alone and not budging. So thinking on my knees, because for some reason I had dropped to them, I decided to give the jeans a tug.

Nothing…

The last few notes of the solo were ringing round the room when in a last ditch attempt I gave them a yank and low the reinforced steel jeans and brand new red silk boxer shorts gave way, and Matt, his manhood and me on my knees gaping mouth open in horror were broadcast around the convention on giant screens. So no one and I mean no one could miss it.

Matt was needless to say extremely embarrassed and I was horrified. The record company on the other hand were over the moon. A small price to pay, dignity, for the promotion we got. Everyone knew who Suzanne Rhatigan was that day. Thankfully Matt being the professional he is and the friend and ally I was so in need of, recovered himself and though I’m sure he would rather not think about it, he’s pretty much over it now, though I’m not sure I am!

While having a long overdue chat with the man himself recently about ‘Pantigate’ and my plans to write about it, Matt gave me his blessing. “On the plus side” he said “I haven’t had the naked on stage dream since!”

I love you Matt Backer hope we hang out together again soon.

PS: I promise not to pull your pants down!

PPS: I did transfer this recording from 24 track and remixed it. I tried to re do the vocal as I remember struggling to sing through laryngitis that day and I hear it in every note. However I couldn’t improve it. Some things are better left in the past…

Vocals Suzanne Rhatigan
Guitar Matt Backer
Piano George Laks
Bass Jack Daley
Drums Julius Klepacz
Violin Deni Bonet
Backing Vocals Suzanne Matt and Deni

35 The Further In We Go

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35. The Further In We Go

S Rhatigan

I’ve no one else to blame really. I think back to me circa 1991-1993 I can see why it didn’t really work out. I’m ok with it now but I was all over the place then…

It was a long time coming, my 1st record deal. Having sung backing vocals on so many hit records for other artists and served my time as the support act, I was starting to think I would always be the bridesmaid and never the bride! Until that fateful day my friend Neville Farmer asked me to put him + 1 on the guest list for a gig I was playing at the Borderline in London. After my set he came bounding over with his friend Kate Hyman.

Kate is a force of nature, she has as much if not more charisma than the many artists and bands she has signed and nurtured over the years. She was so different from any A&R (mostly) men I had encountered in London and I was blown away. She was full of energy and unbridled enthusiasm telling me I reminded her of an old school friend who was always in trouble. We hit it off straight away and happily for me she had just taken the job as head of A&R at a brand new American label and she was determined to sign me up despite the fact that I had been either overlooked or turned down flat by most major labels in the UK. She had a vision for me and for Imago and that was that.

The Imago Recording Company, to give it its full title, was based in New York and so was I for the duration. I should have been thrilled about that, the opportunity to live all expenses paid in NYC is quite something, but alas instead of embracing the whole experience, I was mired in anxiety. I felt a bit of a sham really, there I was hobnobbing with the crème de la crème of hip NY musicians and producers and I was overwhelmed. I wasn’t able to join in the banter with the lads, chuck around cool references. I couldn’t name the nose flute player on every obscure alternative release since 1962 and such. I hadn’t heard of half the records and bands that I apparently should have known. I wasn’t able to communicate in their language use references they could understand and instead of holding my hands up and letting go of the reins I held tight to my vision, which I couldn’t properly articulate. I bluffed my way through the recording sessions believing that if I let on I didn’t know what I was doing, which of course I didn’t, it would be a disaster, which if you think of it in terms of – the record cost quarter of a million to make and recouped a miniscule fraction of that- it probably was!

To Hell With Love was a mish mash of styles and influences. Alternative rock attitude coming from producer Fred Maher (Lou Reed, Scritti Polotti) and the musicians he brought in Mathew Sweet, Drew Vogleman and Robert Quine, along side legendary funk master Bernie Worrell and my old friends from London guitarist Matt Backer and drummer Martyn Barker who contributed a r& b element. Then of course me with my mainly pop background dragging everything into the centre and over singing in way I hardly recognise today.

I know I know, I’m probably committing a cardinal sin now confessing that I didn’t really think the record worked, even then. I certainly don’t wish to alienate or offend the people who worked on To Hell With Love or those who bought and enjoyed it, in fact it is as a result of some recent correspondence I’ve had from people around the world who want to get hold of copies to replace lost ones, that prompted me to give it another listen and upload this song.

The Further In We Go is without a doubt my favourite song on the album. It’s a straight ahead R&B ballad. No harm there. I still love the feel of the track and the dry vocal sound which I still favour, also some very expensive but rather nice string arrangements. Yeah I think it holds up pretty well.

You know, despite the many terrible decisions I made professionally and personally at that time, my only real regret is that I should have been having the time of my life, and instead I spent most of my time crying into answerphones thousands of miles away. I was pretending to be someone I wasn’t to impress people who were pretty much indifferent to me and I was trying too hard, and ultimately failing so hard to make the record I had dreamed of making for so long. Thing is, if I had it all to do again would it be any different?

still-further-in-we-go_300pixel

Ok, searching for a pic to upload for this tune I found this, a still taken from the 1st Video shoot to promote the song. Yes the 1st! Some crazy decisions were made, mostly by me and stupid money spent after stupid money. The 1st video was a typically ludicrous over ambitious idea (I had) of doing a mock time lapse ageing process from childhood to old age complete with full prosthetic makeup. This shot was one of the few in the video where I looked like myself. Well I say looked like myself I mean an expensively coiffed and made up version of myself. The haircut cost $500 alone! The rest of the video I look ridiculous. Thankfully I don’t have a copy of it to show you!

I assume the generally unflattering 1st video prompted the making of a second which also proved overly ambitious relying on my bad acting skills to carry off a pretty weak narrative, (my idea again!) performed directly to camera ala Peep Show, though more than a decade earlier and not funny! Cringe… No copies to hand of that either thankfully. Do let me know if you have any, before you put them in a bin and set fire to them. X

Suzanne Rhatigan Vocals
Mathew Sweet Bass
Matt Backer Guitar
Martyn Barker Drums
Howie Wyeth Hammond organ
Biti and Suzanne Backing Vocal

34. Suicide Song

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Post 12 Bar Blues…

I have a lot to thank the 12 Bar Club for and particularly the clubs promoter Andy Lowe whose commitment to great music and talent underpinned the club and it’s community for the best part of 20 years. However it was Phil Ryan who booked me to play for the 1st time on the opening night of the newly reinvented club, formerly folk venue The Forge. The history of the club on Denmark Street ‘Tin Pan Alley’ bang in the heart of the west end of London is the stuff of legend. It’s a story I feel privileged to have been a part of with my Cushy Productions night.

It was also Phil who offered me the chance to run my own night at the club once a month as a residency for me and my band, allowing us to experiment with new material and showcase other bands we liked for more than 8 years. There was a succession of promoters after Phil moved on who stuck by us; Madge, Richard, Allan, and of course Andy.

12-bar-bandx300pxlI should also thank the various owners of the club, who on more than 1 occasion had their backs to the wall to keep the place afloat. In particular, Andy Preston and Lars Erickson who set up the club with a very well stocked vodka bar as I recall which went down very nicely with the many musicians and West End revellers who hung out there till dawn. Unfortunately the business model,  resulted in them giving away more of the vodka than they sold and was fundamentally flawed. That and the battles with Camden Council over the licence meant the club had to run as a private members club. It was a farce really. Just in case the club was spot checked, everyone entering had to ‘join’ the club, fill out an application and be given a membership card. It was a royal pain in the ass. but eventually during Carlo’s tenure, the licence was sorted and the club, as a bone fide music venue, really started to take off.

Rhatigan the band grew up and evolved on those Thursday nights. The residency gave us the chance to try new songs and ideas and since it felt like a home from home, we had a very relaxed approach to our sets. Sometimes a bit too relaxed! We probably played some of our best gigs on that tiny stage but unfortunately probably also played some of our worst!

12-bar_02x300pxlMy over riding memories of the Cushy nights were the people who came and supported us. Karen, Scott, Mark… ok I’m not going to mention every single person but there was a hard core group that kept us going, no doubt about it. And of course the many wonderful bands and solo artists who kept the Cushy nights vibrant and exciting. If you hit the link to the Cushy Productions website you can browse through the monthly blog I uploaded and emailed out at the time to promote the night. It covers the period from Christmas 2002 back to Christmas 2000 though I’m sure the blog and email outs go back a good few years prior to 2000 but they appear to have disappeared from the site. Hardly surprising since it hasn’t been maintained in 12 years and was a very DIY website to begin with,  Before I, belatedly, embraced technology the promotion for the night was all done by hand. Hours splicing and pasting flyers and posters and fortunes spent on stamps. Jesus when I think of it! Actually thinking about it makes me very happy. Those were definitely some of the best years of my life.

So now it’s gone. Along with so many Tin Pan Alley institutions. Music shops, publishers bars and clubs all gone in the name of ‘progress’. Why is heritage, particularly the legacy of the great live music venues and the music they promote and nourish so underappreciated so cheaply thrown away. Maybe it’s always been that way or maybe it’s just another symptom of the disease attacking the fundamental status of music and musicians. Are we a dying breed destined to become extinct, to be replaced by what?

No I don’t believe it. It will not happen. As long as a single human voice can express itself through music live in a room for other humans to listen to then live music will play on. Keep going to live gigs there are so many great bands and artists to see and hear. It’s time for the next generation of promoters and musicians to carry the baton, to stand up for the venues. To find new venues. It’s time to tap into that far too long undervalued resource of real music played by real people. I for one fully intend to play on regardless….

I’ve been wracking my brains trying to think of a tune to upload in honour of the 12 Bar and for some bizarre reason one song keeps popping up…

34. Suicide Song

S.Rhatigan/ J F Morrison ©1998

I can’t believe I’m uploading this. I can’t believe I wrote the song in truth and yet here it is. Suicide Song was our last song of the night on the Cushy nights at the 12 Bar. It was the last one after the last encore had been extracted from the last die hard regulars at 2 or 3 in the morning. I briefly toyed with the idea of releasing it on an EP with Stabbed and Till the Morning Comes under the Death EP title, but that one really never got off the drawing board unlike the others which you could say sort of fell off the drawing board onto the floor.

WARNING Do not try this at home.

Suzanne Rhatigan Vocals, Guitar synth…

John Morrison Bass…

Paul Murphy Drums…

 

PS the picture accompanying this post is one of my favourite Rhatigan photos at the 12 bar taken by Sarah Light. It is Bryn playing drums in the picture though not on the track. Unfortunately I have no photos of Paul playing with us at the 12 Bar or anywhere. If anyone has any please let me know xxxx

 

http://www.cushyproductions.com/html/gigs.htm

33. Big Stick

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33. Big Stick
S.Rhatigan/ J F Morrison ©1998

When do the bullied become the bullies?  At what point do you decide to turn the tables take control and choose to hit back, not walk away.

big-stick-front-grey_300x300pxlBig stick is a meditation on power and abuse.  It’s not difficult for me to tap into the vein of hurt and anger running through my life.  I don’t think anyone lives such a charmed existence they’ve never suffered at the hands of another to one degree or another. I’m lucky to have music and song writing to escape to and exorcise my demons through, and I quite enjoy letting my imagination explore any possible outcomes.  It is possible to dwell in the dark corners of fantasy without actually acting on those fantasies.  Well it works for me!

I wrote the lyric to Big Stick at a time when it felt like control of my life was slipping away.  Rhatigan had come perilously close to breaking through with Late Developer, and we had some great tunes in the bag ready to follow up but after too many knock backs Bryn our drummer decided to call it a day.  It was a major blow and it took several months to find anyone to replace him so unique and important a player he was/is.  We had to let go of that influence and personality and embrace something new.  Derry man Paul Murphy was eventually lured in and his style and personality were so different that the whole sound of the band shifted away from the explosive tight punk energy of Late Developer to the looser rolling groove that is Big Stick

During this period between drummers John and I thought about recording other bands at Cushy.  Darren Hayman was a song writer we had shared a bill with a few times in indie clubs around London.  I loved his blend of witty poignant tales of Christian girls and Grammar school boys and their comings and goings which he was quite preoccupied with at the time.  Anyway Hefner began to come together following a few early sessions recording with us at Cushy with John playing bass and Antony Harding on drums although I think I played drums on a few tunes having taken up the habit while trying to fill the void left by Bryn. Darren soon asked John to play a few gigs which as I recall took some effort on my part to persuade John to do.  I didn’t see the harm.  I simply didn’t consider the real possibility that Hefner’s star would rise so quickly and demand so much of John’s time.

In fact Big Stick was written by John and me with me playing drums, hence the whole ‘big stick’ thing.  John’s pulsing bass line was easy for me to accompany with a loose bump splat vaguely trip hop beat.  I played the song a handful of times solo on drums which was great fun, well fun for me.

I remember a couple of occasions playing Big Stick on drums with mixed results though.  The first time was during a tribute gig for a songwriter friend called Tom Greenwood who had died suddenly, and I was approached by the actor Tim Roth who happened to be in the club.  He was buzzing about the song saying it would be perfect in a movie he was directing at the time called The War Zone.  I duly sent a CD to the address he provided me with, but alas in the great tradition of the 50 Greatest Misses I heard nothing back.

Another unfortunate Big Stick moment occurred on a Cushy night which I ran at the 12 Bar Club.  I was doing a late set solo after the other bands had played and I decided to try Big Stick using the kit belonging to one of the other bands which had been left onstage.  The band in question were a rather over hyped indie 4 piece out of Manchester called Salako whom I had booked to headline.  Anyhow there I am bump splatting away, concentrating hard, eyes shut, pouring my heart and soul into the moment when the lead singer decided he wanted to head back up north, straightaway.  Well the little prick began dismantling the kit mid song which I was oblivious to at first as I was concentrating so hard and I hadn’t noticed the floor tom and a few cymbals had been removed until shouts and jeers from the audience shook me from my reverie. Ever the pro I kept going regardless and I got to end without belting him with my big sticks, but I was pissed off big time.  In the resulting kerfuffle between the band and my loyal Cushy regulars no one but me noticed the scally slipping out to the toilet so I followed behind.  I stood outside the men’s room for a moment and without consciously realizing it I knew what I had to do. In I went firmly shutting the door behind me.  Imagine the surprise on his spotty little face when he saw me approaching him as he tried stuffing his dick midstream back into his pants.  I can assure you I gave him a good tongue lashing at very close quarters. I can still smell the little creep.  Sweet as!

I’ve wanted to upload Big Stick the album for a while but never felt the time was right don’t ask me why I do now.  It’s the whole letting go thing.  Letting go of pain and disappointment letting go of power.  Letting go, not giving in.

www.suzannerhatigan.bandcamp.com

Suzanne Rhatigan Vocals, Guitar…

John Morrison Bass…

Paul Murphy Drums…

 

32. Me me me me me…..

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32. Me me me me me…
S.Rhatigan/ J F Morrison ©2000

suzanne-golden-50_02So, I’m finally ensconced in my new studio and it’s bliss. My own space dedicated to music and it’s not in my living room or bedroom but an actual studio, my studio the space I’ve dreamed of having my whole music life and that’s a good long while! No excuse now not to get on with it. NO EXCUSES. Oh Shit!

Now I have the space but will I ever again have the time? Being a “Singer Songwriter” is a completely selfish past time if, as is usually the case, the songs you write are for your own ears pretty much and are more a vehicle to express your angst, stories and emotions than a career per say. Sure you hope your songs will be heard by others, will resonate will connect will allow you to describe your time spent as an “occupation” even, but let’s face it what are the odds?

A songwriter on the other hand who sits down and coolly write a tune to pitch to an artist or publisher or account manager can more reasonably describe that work as a “job” even if the returns on the writers time are even less than the singer songwriters. I don’t know which camp I fit into. I’ve had small successes in both and I’m quite comfortable with both. My aim as a song writer is to imbue a subject with genuine emotion while as a singer songwriter it is to engage the listener without being too self-indulgent. It’s a fine line.

Either way song writing, writing or art of any kind takes time and head space. Total immersion is the ideal but that’s pretty much impossible with school going kids pulling at you every which way. I guess a happy medium can be achieved though, particularly now I have my own studio… Did I mention that I have my own studio? And it has lockable doors! How lovely it would be to pin this blog to a brand new recording of one of my new songs but I think I’ll stick to my blog theme and use one of my 50 misses instead. The obvious choice is Me..

Back in the year 2000BC (before children) I was able to completely involve myself in music, song writing and recording. I didn’t have to answer to anyone boyfriends friends family anyone. I was perfectly happy with that and if anyone had a problem with it well they knew where they could go. Then along came this guy who changed all that. He wasn’t pushy, quite the opposite, he did everything to facilitate me, but the more our relationship went on the more I realised I was losing a grip on my splendid isolation not to mention my ovaries. In a panic I did everything I could to repel him including writing Me. If there was ever a clear message to back off this was it, but instead he simply consistently argued that in his opinion ridding himself of me was not a good plan and so I thought fuck you then you’re stuck with me!

This recording of Me was the 3rd track I recorded with Antony Harding and Jack Hayter during the Radio Friendly/Old Friend sessions which are tracks 1&2 of the Fifty.. In fact Ant recorded the song himself for a compilation album check it out . http://audioantihero.bandcamp.com/track/me-rhatigan-cover So I guess it sort of makes it a pretty good balance between the self-indulgent all about me singer songwriter while having a sentiment which may not be lost on everyone. I hope so. Let me know what you think. PS ‘It always has and always will be about me me me me me me me me me…’

Suzanne Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica Wurlitzer…
John Morrison Bass…
Antony Harding Drums…
Jack Hayter lap Steel

31 The Life

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31. The Life
S.Rhatigan/ J F Morrison © 2014

Here and now – the only certainty. The past is tainted by selective memory, viewed through distorted lens. The future unpredictable, non-existent. Ironically when life slows to a virtual stop and all the simple actions and tasks taken for granted are void, it is then you really start living. I’ve experienced this recently, vicariously through my brother in law who is recovering in hospital after a serious injury. He is happy! Happy to be alive. Happy to gaze into my sister’s eyes. Happy to know how well loved he is. He is living just for the moment. Every small mercy a miracle, every tiny treat a luxury beyond measure. To witness his intense pleasure eating a chocolate digestive biscuit is a joy to behold and just a little obscene!

It should be easy to write about something as simple as appreciating the life we have but it isn’t. It’s so much easier to yearn for something better, for more. It is the blight of the singer songwriter; self pity, regret, pain, angst. So much easier to plunge into darker troubled water than to float on a sea of serenity.seppi-thumbs-up-2014

Aside from the difficulty I’ve had in the intervening months since the accident finding and justifying the time, I have always taken for granted, to immerse myself in writing and recording, I’ve been plagued with the urge to write something uplifting and positive which put me right off! It’s just not in my nature I can assure you. I can imagine all the good stuff alright, but somehow I am compelled to darken my brighter thoughts with shade, to cool the heat with a little icy foreboding. So I failed. But then I remembered a song I wrote a couple of years ago, which I pitched for a commercial. It had to be positive, life affirming and much to my surprise I grew to quite like it, probably because it was rejected and ended up like a little abandoned puppy along with so many of my other songs.

When I moved back to Ireland, John and I tried to keep writing sending ideas back and forth online, but we were so used to writing in a room together that this new way never quite worked out.  John began to get more into soundscapes and electronica and all I could focus on with a young family running wild around the place, was playing acoustic guitar and harmonica in between domestic chores. When I decided to try to pitch something for that commercial I turned to some of John’s electronic loops for inspiration. I really like the esoteric pads and bleeps of Johns sample on ‘The Life’ blended with the acoustic guitar, Wurlitzer and harmonica, and the lovely rolling bodhran played by the extremely talented Pauline Burke.

Pauline is one of the musicians I recently befriended at a pub session here in Dublin. Trad sessions are ubiquitous in Ireland, the culture of musicians just coming together and playing music together is alive and well and is quite unique in the world. It is not exclusively traditional music though. In any number of pubs on any night of the week there are sessions, some folk, some pop or blues, some original tunes some classic covers. It really isn’t important what the style or ‘genre’. Its just people getting together playing the music they love around a table and singing their hearts out. Living for the moment. What could be simpler?

Suzanne Rhatigan Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica, Wurlitzer…
John Morrison Loops and pads…
Pauline Burke Bodrhan…

Intro voice over Seppi Baumeister (my boy)

PS: I read somewhere recently that Barbra Streisand was doing a duets album? I can really hear her singing this and also I think it would work really well as a duet. Anyone know how to get the tune to her or whomever? Aim high eh!