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…

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.

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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01. Radio Friendly – 02. Old Friend

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01. Radio Friendly
S.Rhatigan/J.F Morrison © 1997

suzanne-golden-50_02

Where to start? This has been an issue for me for ever, it seems. Which song to open a live set, an album, a demo. The nagging worry that if the 1st song doesn’t grab the attention straight away, within the the 1st 30 seconds, some would argue even less 20..15…10 it’s doomed. I’ve witnessed demos and albums being chucked away based on the 1st 4 bars! So for me it’s quite a challenge to decide which song should be the 1st of the 50….

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