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

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!

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…