19. Granola

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19. Granola
S.Rhatigan/J.F Morrison © 1997

thwl-front-cover_300pxl“Who is your audience Suzanne?”  Terry asked impatiently. He had been listening to demos for my 2nd album.  That familiar sick feeling rose from the pit of my stomach. Shit what do I say, I felt like the kid who was out the day they did algebra and somehow never quite understood what x was from that point on.  “I’ll tell you who it’s not” he said “it’s not college kids, it’s blue collar workers, it’s ‘Granola’ and until you accept that, you’re wasting your time”.  He dropped me from the label the following week.

2014 where to begin… New year, same old same old.  Here I am wrestling again with my choice of song dilemma.  I’ve battled this demon my whole career, my entire life.  Define who you are, what genre which direction, which gang.  Everyone around me always seems so certain of what they’re into, this is what I like, these are my choices, the places I go to, these are the people I mix with etc etc.  I can’t make those choices.  When it comes to music at any rate, I like elements of almost everything.

Growing up there was very little music in our house;  a few sound tracks, musicals; South Pacific, Mary Poppins, a few crooners; Andy Williams, Eartha Kitt, Barbara Streisand, a bit of light classical; Strauss, and religious stuff, choirs and hymns etc.  Eventually a few folkies were added to the mix when my sister started buying records; Bread, Neil Young John Martin, Janis Ian and of course we loved a bit of ROCK; Thin Lizzy, Led Zeppelin, Status Quo…  I was always singing along with these records imagining myself on stage in the Hollywood bowl or Top of the Pops.  Every lunch hour in school I made the dash home it took exactly 10 mins from desk to door.  I grabbed a sandwich, 5 mins, sang along with Barbara, Janis, Aretha, whomever, 30 mins, applied TCP to my spots and performed other ablutions, 5mins, cycled back to school 10 mins = x.

I realised more and more that I could sing and I loved it of course, maybe mostly because it was something I was good at.  My motivation to listen to music was to make music.  I don’t think I listen to music as a ‘fan’ even now.  If something I hear strikes a chord with me I tend to immediately want to work on my own music. For example when I hear something I like on the radio, I might drift off and pick up my guitar or sit at the piano and get caught up in whatever I’m working on.  I forget altogether what it was that I’d heard and liked.

I do become obsessive about some artists though.  In my teens I went through my Barbra phase into my Aretha total immersion years, which segued into my Mary Margaret O Hara compulsion. By then I was writing and I was a working session singer with pop impresario Pete Waterman among others, so it was hardly surprising that most of my output was ‘Pop’ with a capital P.

I wasn’t altogether confident in myself as a solo writer so I began to co-write.  I mostly contributed melody and lyrics, and as the co-writers varied in style and background, unsurprisingly so did my song writing.  Some ballads of course, a few dance pop tunes, a little bit of funk, some blues, country, and of course ROCK.  You get the picture or maybe that was the problem you didn’t get the picture. In fairness the picture was a bit confusing.  Imagine how screwed up it became when during secondment in New York I was exposed to alternative and lofi.  All of a sudden my obsession was Guided by Voices and Pavement, Breeders.

I’ve never understood the snobbery associated with certain genres.  Depending on who you spoke to or in my case worked with you had and still have, to be very careful not to upset anyone.  Your Indie Rockers for example held Stock Aitken and Waterman in complete disdain.  SAW believed 100% in the quality and integrity of their commercial pop music and thought musos and folkies and punks etc were at best deluded.

Maybe all this goes some way to explain why my 1st album To Hell with Love was a collision of all those influences, but without, as with really great albums, coming together to form one voice.  I was trying too hard to please all the people all the time.  While promoting the album I gained a good insight into how radio worked though.  In the early 90’s radio in the US and increasingly around the world was undergoing an invasion.  The invaders? ‘Consultants’; shady corporate marketing types who had segregated music and radio into rigid formats.  Top 40, R&B, Urban, Country, AOR, MOR etc etc.  But what if your music is kind of souly, poppy, punky?  A little bit country even?  Where do you go then?  Answer:  In the bin.

Terry Ellis at Imago had definitely had enough when I had it in mind to do the same again for the follow up to To Hell With Love, except this time to record in a kitchen on an 8 track with only 7 working tracks! Sean Worrall at Org records on the other hand had no such problems and right or wrong, good or bad the punk funk folk and noise out burst that was ‘Late Developer’ became THWL’s successor…..

If commercial success is the only kind of success, then maybe Terry was right and I have been wasting my time, however I think success is making the music I love.  One thing for sure, writing songs that communicate my thoughts feelings and desires, while also entertaining the people who listen to them, whether they be in the tens or tens of thousands, whether they’re blue collar white collar dog collar or no collar is certainly not a waste of time.

So there.  Put that on your cereal of choice and eat it!

PS:  A rather belated thanks to Terry Ellis and everyone involved with To Hell With Love for giving it a real shot, sorry it didn’t work out! Xs

PPS: Granola was not on THWL!

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

18. Spinner Of Years

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18. Spinner Of Years

S Rhatigan/ C Charles © 1993

After…
Well it’s all over.  No need to ask if you’re all set – or how much your turkey weighs?CD-card-back-after_300x300pxl

What will the new year and beyond bring for me, for you?

I have 2 healthy children, a partner and family whom I love and who love me. I have my health, a warm safe home, great friends, and the good fortune to make music.

I’m one of the luckiest people I know.

All the best in 2014.  Live, dream.

17. Time To Put Things Right

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17. Time To Put Things Right
S.Rhatigan © 2013

2015 Update….

Today is so dark even the 1000 Christmas lights I have strewn around my house are struggling to brighten it up! Christmas time is a tricky one; you haemorrhage money on indulgence while being reminded at every turn of those less fortunate. I find it all a bit…, as evinced by my 2013 miss, Time To Put Things Right.

Christmas songs have a very short annual lifetime December 1st to 26th before and after those dates they’re aural poison. Time To Put Things Right has an even shorter life span, because as I’ve discovered people don’t really like ‘I don’t like Christmas songs’, and even the handful of people who do share my sentiments can only stomach the subgenre for the post denial week around 12-21 December, before they too succumb to the force of seasonal goodwill…

Time To Put Things Right is not a charity record BTW should you choose to download the song from Bandcamp or even order a CD (I do have a small number left), all profits will come to me. However I hereby pledge to spend at least some of my projected millions on this selection of fundraising events and music…

I Heart Xmas 2

All I Want For Christmas Is A Goat

Jack and Jill

Ho Ho Ho and a happy Christmas one and all x

“It’s Christmas time, time to put things right Wear your cheesy jumpers, sparkly dresses,Before suicidal shoes”

I’ve finally done it…. It’s been ?? odd years talking about releasing a record and I’ve finally got it together!  Well when I say released, I actually mean, I’ve had a few hundred cd’s made with real artwork and everything!  It’s available now!  Well when I say available, what I mean is, you can download it or buy a CD from http://suzannerhatigan.bandcamp.com/releases or just stream it here.  Ooh er…

FAQ

What’s it like?

Well it’s kind of an acoustic ‘concept’ Christmas single.  2 songs.  One song for Before… ‘Time To Put Things Right’, it mentions Christmas a lot but there are no sleigh bells.  And one for After… ‘Spinner Of Years’ which is an acoustic version of the closing track on my 1st album ‘To Hell With Love’.  It’s probably the only song from that album I will upload to this blog and I thought it summed up the atmosphere of you know, the after Christmas bit.  Hence the concept Before and After.  Deep.

What’s the Point?

There is none.

Except…

I confess I am a bit of a Grinch, I take a little time warming to the whole Christmas blah every year as you will realise when you listen to Time To Put Things Right, the only Christmas song I’ve written.. so far. What’s so bad about Christmas?  Isn’t it all lovely and everything?  Everyone being happy and jolly etc etc.  Christmas is the time when we can cast off the shackles and relax, everyone that is except the mug who has to do all the shopping and cooking and paying and pretending to be happy and jolly etc etc…

There’s no choice really, the pressure mounts from  November 1st around these parts, and is unrelenting till the 25th December.  Following that it’s just debris and disappointment.  Talk about anticlimax.  I guess I hate feeling like a fool, that’s it.  I hate being suckered every year into spending too much money on shit I and my extended family and friends probably don’t want, just because it’s what’s expected.  And we all know you must do what’s expected because if you don’t you’re mean and miserable and a spoil sport.  A Grinch and nobody likes a Grinch.   Makes me feel very foolish indeed and I don’t like that.

It’s not just the materialism, I’m not all together averse to a little splurge from time to time.  It’s the pressure and the expectation.  You see Christmas also coincides with the end of the year, in case you hadn’t noticed and you can’t help looking back and reviewing your achievements or lack of and the count down to the new year is on and once again you have to try to set some goals or else, well wtf, just nothing?

Which brings me back to my rather hastily put together Christmas single…  You see I had promised myself I would make a record this year but it didn’t happen, other things did of course but more of that later.  Rather than beat myself up for failing to reach my goal, I decided to hell with it and in the space of 3 days last week I put the big concept together.  I’m sure if I had a wonderful band at my disposal or an orchestra and producer and studio and manager and agent and and and I could produce fully realised recordings of the material the way I hear it in my head, but in the absence of any of that I decided to press record and I just played the songs the way I do everyday in my kitchen for my kids, just me singing and playing the guitar and harmonica. Concept? you betcha.

Sounds straight forward enough but it’s not..  There’s a reason why very few records comprise so little adornment as a voice guitar and harmonica.  It’s all but impossible to pull it off, I think.  It took exactly 203 takes before I finally felt I had a ‘performance’ with enough going for it to sustain the listener for 3 and 1/2 minutes.  I kind of bottled it a few hours before the manufacturing deadline and called in reinforcements by way of my friends Sonja and Charlie to sing along with the end choruses though. Still I almost backed out altogether till my daughter Billie who is wise beyond her years said ‘please do it mum cos if you don’t you’ll be sad and take it out on us’.  So in an effort to be a better mother and in order to have any chance of a ‘Happy Christmas’ I am going to see it through…

So in the end Christmas is a about letting go and acceptance.  Embrace the season because ignoring it doesn’t work and you’ll probably hate yourself even more if you do!

Suzanne Rhatigan…. Vocals, Harmonica, Guitar.
Sonja Kryzanowski and Charlie Stuart… Backing Vocals

PS Special thanks to my niece Jess Fitzsimons for the photo of her ‘suicidal shoes’ and John Morrison for the ambient shortwave track xx

PPS  Track two Spinner Of Years is coming, After… don’t you know.

See you on the other side, Oh and MERRY CHRISTMAS.

15. Waiting For The One 16. Good With Words

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15. Waiting For The One
S.Rhatigan © 1994

I love collaborating with other songwriters and musicians, when a song writing partnership works it is something very special. But the sense of achievement you get when you write a song alone, lives with you forever.

waiting-for-the-one-300pxlI was a spectacular under achiever academically, there was very little expectation or pressure put on me growing up to aspire to anything even marriage! So there were no objections when I decided to embark on a singing career. Singing was the one thing no one could deny I did well and since I didn’t believe I was clever enough to be a writer singing seemed like a good alternative.

The first person to encourage me to write was Deke O’Brien. I met Deke at a party when I was about 19. When I heard he was a producer and had a record label I think I burst into song there and then. Deke heard something worth working with and he put me in the studio demoing songs with a writer he was developing called Dave Freely. It was the many hours behind a mike in the studio with them that set me up in my career. I remember him advising me to write. “That’s where the money is Suzi” he said. Still it wasn’t for nearly another decade when my session singing career in London was in full flight that I finally started to believe, maybe I could be a writer.

I started relatively late. At 25 or so I bought a piano and took some lessons. I did grade 1 and 2 exams at The Royal College of Music. I remember the day as if it were yesterday, better perhaps! I sat there shaking with fear outside the exam room with half a dozen 7 year olds. I soon began to gain confidence and found myself unable to practice scales without improvising around them and composing my own pieces so I abandoned formal training and kept doodling and noodling till a few songs finally emerged. Still it takes discipline and self confidence in the extreme to fully realise an idea from the initial melody or phrase to something even as lowly as a ‘pop’ song.

By 94, despite having built a repertoire of songs mostly co-written with others, and releasing To Hell With Love, I still wasn’t very confident in my song writing abilities to go it alone too often, until I wrote Waiting For The One. It doesn’t break any boundary musically or new ground lyrically but it is certainly as honest and heartfelt a song as I’d managed thus far and I think it has a lot of credibility for that reason alone. This live Wurlitzer and vocal take is the only performance of the song I can think of, other than occasional drunken attempts in friends homes on out of tune upright pianos…..

Suzanne Rhatigan Vocal and Wurlitzer…

STOP PRESS…

Just having a little online tete a tete following the above upload, with my old friends Jack Daley and Albert Grootonk and this song came up in conversation.  Gives you some idea how difficult  it was going it alone when I was working with a lyricist like Craig, now he really does have a way with words…

16. Good With Words
S Rhatigan/ C Charles © 1993

Good with words was one of a number of songs we demoed in 1993 for my 2nd album for Imago, which of course never happened.  I had been touring for a year with fabulous  musicians from New York where I was living at the time and we were well oiled and ready to go when the plug was pulled.  We would have made a fine record , I think….

Suzanne Rhatigan Vocals
Jack Daley Bass
George Laks Piano
Matt Backer Guitar
Julius Klepacz Drums

PS Always lovely to hear your feedback don’t be shy about commenting here on the blog…

 

12. Stabbed 13. Till The Morning Comes 14. Monkey

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And Halloween is already upon us… so I trawled through the bag of greatest misses to find something suitably ghoulish… I found 3 candidates. They fall neatly into 3 of the main revenge fantasy categories… Victim fantasy, murder fantasy and a personal fav Power!

gimme

12. Stabbed.
S.Rhatigan/J.F Morrison © 1997

This little country/slasher tune was inspired by some pretty extreme revenge/victim fantasies … The kind of fantasy a person might indulge in after they had been royally dumped.  Come on you’ve done it haven’t you?  Imagined you are the ultimate victim, literally killed by the betrayal, rejection whatever?  Haven’t you scripted your own funeral?  No?  You’ve never pictured your ex weeping by the graveside guilt ridden, devastated, while you haunt your old life from beyond?  Come on really?

So it’s just me then… 

Stabbed was a firm favourite in our live set around 97/98 so we put it on the ill fated Big Stick mini Album..  I say ill fated because we didn’t succeed in getting distribution for it so it was only  available at gigs or mail order.   Do you have one of these extremely rare Cdrs?  Not to worry, I will soon upload Big Stick and DIY to Bandcamp for download. JMJ how long have I been promising that!

Suzanne Rhatigan Vocals, guitar, Casio…
John Morrison Bass…
Bryn Burrows Drums…

Or

13. Till The Morning Comes
S.Rhatigan/J.F Morrison © 2000

A murder Ballad

Till The Morning comes is not so much a revenge story as a pre-emptive strike!  In hindsight I can think of a few situations where I should have spotted the trouble coming down the line and made my exit far sooner than I did.  A pre-emptive strike might have been a good course of action in one particular relationship which springs to mind, however I did get an opportunity to get some payback…

An ex of mine had been behaving rather badly while I was away on tour, which I pretty much knew to be the case. When I returned my flat was upside down, said ex told me thieves had broken in and trashed the place, apparently all they took was his video camera and some cash. I didn’t believe a word but could do nothing to disprove it… Some months later when I finally copped on and rid myself of the particular individual, I returned to the house we then shared while he was away to pick up some belongings I had left behind . There sitting on the table was the missing video camera. I couldn’t resist, I had a little look at the video inside.  Perhaps it would be footage of happier times we had apparently had. But no, I was treated to a home-porn-movie, starring the man himself, attempting to retain an erection with a head full of coke, while some woman, couldn’t say for sure if she was professional, was fluffing him up so to speak. In a moment of complete clarity I turned the camera onto myself pressed the record button and laughed leaving a little message something along the lines of, “you sad fucker”… 

It was maybe 5 years later I had a voice mail from the poor chap obviously watching back over his performance, quite perplexed and indignant, to say the least! Alls fair in love. 

Suzanne Rhatigan Vocals, guitar, Casio…
John Morrison Bass, Electro niggles…

and…

14. Monkey
S.Rhatigan/J.F Morrison © 1999

One of my favourite revenge fantasies.  Power.  I’ll show you, when my luck changes when I get my chance I’ll dole out punishment you deserve… In reality of course when that day comes you probably won’t be bothered and maybe that’s the best revenge of all!

We had great fun playing around with John’s old Watkins Copicat at that time, which features on this track.  It was horrendously unreliable, in fairness it was about 30 years old at that time and was held together with gaffer tape and elastic bands.  I was often at Charlie Watkins workshop in deepest South London with pieces of the Copicat which he always managed to repair till the next gig when it would invariably fall apart again.  One memorable visit was with my friends from Electroscope, John Cavanagh and Gayle Brogan, both vintage electronica buffs. John Cavanagh gave us our only BBC Radio One Session on his Rock Show after Late Developer was released, which was how we 1st met and became friends… Anyway, they were chuffed to meet Charlie, for them it was a bit like being a One Direction Fan asked in for tea by Harry or Niall or whoever’s mammy…. Charlie was in his eighties then, still making ground breaking electronic equipment.  His big thing when last I saw him was a midi accordion!!!???

BTW Monkey was released on a fanzine compilation record, can’t find the record don’t remember the name of the fanzine… anyone out there know?

Also Rhatigan and Electroscope released a single on Lissy Records called Unhappy Soul.  Truly a vinyl rarity, have you got it?

Suzanne Rhatigan Vocals, guitar, Casio…
John Morrison Bass…
Paul Murphy Drums…

10. Loser – 11. Wish You Well

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Another bumper double header… Loser and Wish You well were recorded on the same session with the same musicians and particularly given the drama and bombast of the bass trombone, they seem to work together what do you think?suzanne-golden-50_100x100pxl

10. Loser
S.Rhatigan J.F Morrison © 1998

I have a theory… I know there may be indignant responses to this from some of my worthy indie pals but, I think a large number of love songs are rooted not in adolescent longing or unrequited romantic disillusion, but are in fact begging letters to record companies and audiences in the face of artistic/commercial rejection. I know, I’ve got a few, but this is not one of them!

There’s no doubt the repeated let downs I’ve had, and Rhatigan as a band have endured over this period, contributed in no small part to the depth of disgust and anger quite evident in this song. No two ways about it, I was pissed off… Sure I’ve had my heart broken a little by loser boyfriends and friends, but none smarted as much as the almost big breaks that nearly broke me. Let me be clear about this, the ‘losers’ referred to in the song do not include any of the wonderful managers, agents & a&r folk that I did have the good fortune to work with, no I have other songs inspired by those relationships! It’s the bull-shitters and plamassers, the ones who habitually make promises that are not theirs to make.

But ho hum, out of adversity comes… well in my case usually songs…

A big influence on me as a singer and songwriter are great show tunes from classic musicals. I’m a sucker for a torch song or a show stopping life affirming finale, but it’s the great ‘fuck you’ rants I particularly love.. I’m thinking of songs like ‘Don’t Rain On my Parade’ from Funny Girl or ‘I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair’ from South Pacific and it’s in that spirit that Loser was written… It’s a hey you know what, I don’t have to take this shit any more tune….

This lazy rock blast was meat and potatoes to Paul he somehow manages to drum like he’s falling off a cliff, yet he’s solid as the proverbial rock…. The track suited bass trombonist Shane Mills well too, you can really feel the weight of it under the guitar riff.. Boy did it feel great playing this one live…

Suzanne Rhatigan Vocal guitar…
John Morrison….
Paul Murphy Drums…
Shane Mills Bass Trombone…

11. Wish You Well….
S.Rhatigan/J.F Morrison © 1998

Perhaps the only lyric I’ve ever written which has no cynical, sarcastic prickles. Wish You Well was my farewell homage to my great friend and partner John Morrison when he embarked on Hefner’s 1st European tour circa 1998 and I realised that our idyllic song writing afternoons would be no more. We continued to write together but sadly the total immersion days were over…

John, as was customary, arrived around 2pm with his bass and when he was plugged in and seated on his spot on the sofa he immediately started playing this dramatic open A-D against the F-E resolve and I was hooked. Wish You Well wrote itself from that point… The bass trombone was a perfect fit reinforcing the drama of the riff. I would have loved the chance to record the song with an orchestra but it hasn’t happened yet! Still the dark tones of the trombone against the ambience of the guitar and Wurlitzer piano provide a hint of what might have been…

Suzanne Rhatigan Vocals, guitar, Wurlitzer…
John Morrison Bass…
Paul Murphy Drums…
Shane Mills Bass Trombone…

09. Rise and Fall

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09. Rise and Fall
S.Rhatigan © 1995

It was the dawn of a new era for me, coming out of a very dark time.  I had lost my record deal, my home, my boyfriend (though that was probably a good thing) and my best friend.  I was on my uppers, but good friends and family and music kept me going.  Had I not been in that rather precarious position at that time I may never have written the majority of these songs, never met Mark and been introduced to John and subsequently the most exciting time of my life musically and personally, might never have happened…

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08. Don’t

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08. Don’t

S.Rhatigan/J.F Morrison © 1997

I was dropping the young fella to school the other day and got chatting, as you do, to one of thesuzanne-golden-50_100x100pxl dad’s who was looking a little the worse for wear, having been out the night before to see Roger Waters doing ‘The Wall’ and apparently celebrated that fact into the night. Any way I found myself telling him about one of the most embarrassing days of my life!

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06. No Other Blue

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06. No Other Blue

S.Rhatigan/C.Charles circa 1991/92

I cycled through a tropical Dublin city last week to meet my friend Simon for coffee. Way back in the day when I had the dubious credit of background singer ie ‘Ghost Vocalist’ for an ‘Artist’ (apologies for the abundance of ‘ironic’ inverted commas in this article but I can’t think of any other way of telling this story..) produced by the legendary 80s hit makers Stock Aitken and Waterman, I needed the service of a lawyer to look over the ‘contract’ I was offered setting out the terms of re-enumeration for my service and ‘ironically’ my silence! A friend recommended Simon Long and he became a valued counsel and friend helping navigate me to my first publishing deal and beyond. I was a fledgling writer and Simon connected me with many great co-writers with whom I eventually gained enough confidence to call my self a ‘singer songwriter’ and not ‘just a singer’… I was telling him about the blog and my intention to upload 50 songs through out my ‘Golden Jubilee’ year and he reminded me of ‘No Other Blue’…

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