35 The Further In We Go

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

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34. Suicide Song

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

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33. Big Stick

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…

 

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32. Me me me me me…..

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

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