Fifty Greatest Misses

50 of my songs and stories written during and about my 50+ years living, so far...

Disclaimer... The artist (me) wishes to excuse some of the following... the crackle, cackle, buzz and pop, lazy lyrics and piquant pitching, bitching, scandal and slander. Any similarity to anyone alive or dead is occasionally unintentional.


I started out in Dublin in the early 80’s singing.  I wanted to be a singing superstar ala Streisand. I dashed home from school to sing along with Barbra, at full volume, before dousing my pimples in TCP and rushing back to school.

I wanted to be famous, that was that. Pop, Musical Theatre which ever.  Singing was what I was good at, ergo I should become a singer.

After a couple of years popping up to do guest spots for show bands and fronting local Dublin indie/pop bands I was spotted by producer Deke O’Brien.  Deke teamed me with songwriter and sound engineer Dave Freely and we spent many nights and weekends working on Dave’s songs in Alto Studios where I was able to hone my skills as a studio singer.

Deke encouraged me to write, but I didn’t believe I had what it took or that I was clever enough and I was content singing other people’s songs, until I moved to London in the mid 80’s. I soon realised that a singer without a song has far less currency than a singer with a song so I bought myself a piano and set about becoming a songwriter.

I realise this sounds like my approach to singing and songwriting was a bit on the cold and calculating side but I simply didn’t have the skills or courage to dig any deeper into my own life experience and emotional drivers to put my soul and stories out there and I was still very focused on music as a means to fame and fortune and not anything more artistic.

Meanwhile I was making some headway session singing and through an advert in Stage and Television I found myself auditioning for a project underway at PWL, Pete Waterman’s studio and production company.  I wasn’t chosen to front that project, I was too old at 24, but I was asked back as a session singer. My role often crossed the boundary between backing vocals and ‘ghost’ vocals where the session singer provides a bed for the lead singer and then the ‘artist’ sings along.  sometimes the original vocal is mixed out or so far back as to be undetectable and more about tone and texture and sometimes the artist made only a cursory appearance.  If you check some of the songs on my singing page you can try to work out which was which…

How ever working with PWL and particularly having been agreeable to performing ghost vocals, for which I was remunerated btw, I asked that I be included in some of the writing sessions and it was one of those collaborations with producers Phil Harding and Ian Curnow that I achieved my 1st co-writing credit.

I began to cultivate relationships with co-writers and it was those early collaborations that resulted in me signing my 1st publishing deal with Peer Music.

The main focus of my songwriting during those years was to build a catalogue of demos and secure a record deal, however that’s easier said than done! I was rejected by pretty much every major label in London and was on the brink of despair when through my friend and co-writer Neville Farmer I was introduced to Kate Hyman who signed me to the brand new US based Imago Label being set up by former Chrysalis boss Terry Ellis.

By then I was writing and singing much more from the heart and commercial considerations and constrictions were becoming less and less a feature in my work.  My debut album To Hell With Love probably exposes this conflict quite well.  Some songs were still more writing by numbers and some definitely hint at something deeper which came later and is more fully realised on my 2nd album Late Developer and subsequent EP’s Big Stick and DIY some of which are available on Bandcamp.

Below is a link to my blog 50 Greatest Misses which chronicles the stories around some of my songs both co-writes and solo efforts, though most of these songs never featured on a record or any release.

50 Greatest Misses

Growing up, alongside my dreams of superstardom, I also loved writing stories.  I occasionally contemplated Journalism as a third level option, but having spent most of my school years avoiding actual work and study, I never had a hope of achieving the exam results to get a place in college.  There was little or no expectation I would go on to 3rd level at home and no pressure to push myself at all really.  A secretarial course and a husband was the expected roadmap for most non academic girls back then.

It was ironic to discover years later, that both my biological parents were journalists and very good ones at that!

It was when I started the Cushy club nights at the 12 Bar Club in the mid 90’s, promoting mine and other up and coming indie/alternative bands that I put my writing to work.  Every month I prepared a blog, essentially, introducing the bands and any other relevant info, which I emailed to my growing mailing list and uploaded to the Cushy Productions website.

These posts were quite unusual at the time as there were no readymade blog apps or social media sites in existence back then so every month I dug into the source code of the website, which was technically supported and facilitated by my long suffering partner Manfred aka ‘Poor Manfred’ and I programmed the content. I learned by doing and my skills were focused on what I needed. I had no formal training or qualifications, but it worked.

Most importantly the club night put structure into my days.  I had to have two or three bands booked, the promo disseminated and my own band ready, ideally and usually with a new song for my set, done and done by the last Thursday of the month.  It was great having that incentive and my writing improved as I went along.

Cushy Productions

Now I am being asked to consult on scripts for some of the voice over work I do and also write copy and provide content for various media, internet and promotion.

When I moved home and started my family everything took a back seat till I hit the big 5 0 and decided I should tell the stories and air my many unheard songs and so I started the 50 Greatest Misses blog. Initially I hoped it would help me focus on working on regular posts and force me to get some of the pile of unused songs I had accumulated during the Cushy years out there, thus allowing me to make a brand new album, which it did, for a while. But life has a way of interfering with plans and good intentions and after a promising start the blog updates have been further and further apart. I have however meanwhile been writing and recording new music and to those of you who have patiently waited for the longstanding promise of a new record to be delivered, I can only say it is happening and I truly hope I will get it over the line in our lifetime;)




42. Holiday

S.Rhatigan/J.F Morrison © 2021

One of the funnest things about doing this blog has been the opportunity to remix and overdub recordings that weren’t finished at the time of the original sessions, Holiday being a case in point. The original recording is from around 2001 and Dave’s re-mix was 2010. New parts vocal, extra bvs and my remix are straight off the press. Read on to find out more X

Suzanne’s 2021 Mix

David Barratt Mix

The Thrill of the Chill

‘Hey boys and girls would you like to fly out for a week or two?’

Here we are over a year in to our confinement remembering longingly the freedom of travel.  The days when we could just up and go. Cheap airfares enabled us to step out of our real lives into a holiday realm. To hell with the cost to us, to the planet… it was ours for the taking.  Now we’re living through a dystopian nightmare beyond our imaginings, way back then, a whole year ago!

Sunset at the slip April 2021 Photographer Lynn Feeney

On the plus side, here we are discovering the wonders of our own neighbourhoods.  A bit like those dreams where you open a door to a room in your house you had somehow never known existed revealing a palace with great halls and gilded arches.  You just can’t understand why you never opened the door before.  You feel at once excited and kind of stupid.  Where were you all my life?  Right here you fool!

We’re so lucky to live by the sea.  Within a couple of kilometers of our home is a long sandy beach with dunes, wildlife, wind surfers and suffice to say, water.  The beach known as Dollymount, is on Bull Island a massive sand dune formed over the last two centuries, following the building of the North Bull wall in 1821,which stretches out into the Irish Sea.  

The Wooden Bridge
Photographer Blake Hodgkinson

The North and South walls were built, following a nautical survey carried out by the infamous Captain William Bligh, to divert water into the port in order to deepen the channel and allow larger shipping to access Dublin City.  As a result of silting on the north side of the wall our beautiful Island emerged, which until the building of the causeway road on the northern end of the Island, was only accessible since 1907 via the now iconic Wooden Bridge or ‘Brown Bridge’ as we used to call it when we were children.

Our childhood summers were spent wandering through the dunes and swimming at the steps positioned at intervals along the wall marked by distinctive art deco bathing shelters. The bathing shelters and the Kiosk and other shelters along the promenade on the mainland between Fairview and the Bridge, were designed by architect Herbert Sims. These iconic structures identify the seafront at Clontarf.

Swimming is my favourite leisure activity. I regularly swim in the pool near where I live but since my return to Dublin from years living abroad the local swimming spots didn’t really appeal.  

You see, perched as we are at the opening of Dublin Bay, a busy industrial port, which caters to ferries and freight coming and going and all the city crap coming and going, the water is at times, at least in appearance, not very attractive to swim in.  Most of the time the beach proudly flies a blue flag, sometimes however, after heavy rain, the flag comes down and the ‘do not swim’ signs go up.

I have friends who have been swimming in these waters rain, hail, snow and E Coli for years and while I admired them, I couldn’t see the advantage over my clean pool followed by a steam and a warm shower so I passed. This year with the pool being off limits I ventured into the sea. 

A dip at the slip Photographer Lynn Feeney

Throughout last spring and summer I watched the tides and headed on my bike out onto Bull Island to swim.  Some days the weather was just too awful but I noticed not 300 meters away from my front door, at the slip for the local yacht club, there were people swimming.  I decided to give the spot a go.  It’s the same water, but it is 1 minute from my house, why on earth had I never jumped in before.  A few of the days the water cleared and I went snorkeling.  I swam with shoals of small sprat and tickled crabs as they scuttled under rocks. I couldn’t believe it.  All this time I had my own reef right under my nose.

As the winter drew in I figured I would probably not have the tolerance of the cold to continue, but buoyed on by a growing group of friends, seasoned and newbie sea swimmers, I kept going.  I invested in the gear, neoprene boots and gloves and now the thrill of the chill is what I love the most. I can’t tell you how great it feels.  It is so exhilarating.  

I’m not going to lie, there are some days I look out at the mid December gloom or the ferocious February easterly winds and think, I’ll give it a miss today.  Then my phone lights up with a message from one of the swimmers putting out the feelers for a swim buddy, then another and another.  Before long there are different swimmers heading out at different times within the four hour tide window and the FOMO takes over.  

I can’t stop the niggling voice.  Go on, you know you won’t regret it, go on, go on, go on. It’s true, bracing and brutal as it is in the worst of the weather I never regret it.  

I feel so wonderful in the water; it’s like an out of body experience.  The weight of the world is literally lifted from me.  Gravity and the Covid kilos are definitely playing havoc with my joints but in the water all the pain disappears. My mind clears of the conflicts and worries I wrestle with on dry land.  It is meditative, like being in an alpha state.  

I have occasionally experienced alpha state playing music.  That feeling of being fully focused yet completely relaxed.  It is an elusive state certainly. Disengaging thinking from playing is truly difficult.  It takes many many hours of practice to achieve the skill required to let go of conscious control, but when you do… It is sublime.  That’s why I swim.  It’s the only other place where I get even close to that feeling.  

Cold-water swimming offers another element.  The physical discomfort and the sheer effort of the challenge elevate the feel good factor above and beyond.  I feel like a super hero when I climb out of the water. My skin stings, its scarlet tan glows hot, bellying my low body temperature. Often the air temperature in winter is lower than the water and you get that wonderful hot and cold feeling, like Baked Alaska.  

I’m not going to sugar coat it, you need to be prepared, get yourself dry and dressed warmly ASAP, with hot bottles and drinks to return your body to it’s correct temperature. But all that is just logistics. You wriggle out of gloves and boots and swim suits into dry clothes with practiced ease and sit back sipping on your hot tea feeling fantastic.  

I did that, you think, I braced the cold out here on the edge of the island, I took on the freezing tumultuous sea and I came through. Go me.  You can’t buy that feeling.  

It stays with you too. I am floating and buzzed up for hours with energy I forgot I had.  I feel calm and confident and happy.  

All the feelings you wish for on say… a holiday. 

A holiday is really just a mind-set, it’s anywhere anytime, it is escape, whether for a week or an hour, seek it out and enjoy. 

When you really get the holiday effect, it’s like standing still in time.  But even on holiday life is moving on.  The noise just becomes quieter.  Quiet enough for you to tune it out and hear the music.

When John Morrison and I wrote Holiday it was toward the end of our time together.  It was like a holiday when we were working on a new song.  It was escape.  At the time the band was drifting apart and I was spending less and less time making music, as family commitments were pulling me away and John and Paul were also busy with other projects.  I knew the writing was on the wall, but for those brief hours I could pretend everything was going to be alright.  

It’s the same trick we play on ourselves when we head away on holiday.  We fool ourselves that all our problems and challenges have disappeared. We push reality out of our conscious thoughts until the last minute, probably till we pack our bags and head to the airport.

‘Holiday’ has that lazy days feel, it kind of meanders along, drifting, warm content.  Maybe it was bit too sweet, I can’t exactly remember, but something prompted me to send the stems to my old collaborator David Barratt to see if he might take it in another direction and well, he did!  Dave never disappoints.

I have decided to offer both versions of the song because they are so different and I am interested to hear your views.  It is not a competition, I love both versions. I would add, both were produced way before the pandemic however they could be before and after.  

What do you think?

PS:  Dave recently invited me to contribute to his Poetry Corner project.  I loved working on it.  Dave is a fearless producer capable of working in a wide range of styles as reflected in this collection. Here’s my contribution

Suzanne Rhatigan: Vocals guitar harmonica

John F Morrison: Bass and programming

David Barratt: Remix 2010


Feel free to comment here X


41. Only Joking

S.Rhatigan/J.F Morrison © 1995

Anybody out there?

Guess what…

I have been invited to play harmonica at the National concert hall with the I Heart David Bowie band who are playing the David Bowie/ Space Oddity album at a tribute concert in aid of the Laura Lynn children’s hospice next Monday, tomorrow in fact.


The 2nd track on the Space Oddity album is Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed featuring a four and some minute blues harmonica solo and it is quite a challenge!  Don’t get me wrong I’m delighted to be asked and very excited but, oh FUCK!

My love affair with the harmonica began with Larry Adler. He would pop up regularly on our 70’s and 80’s telly playing the most beautiful classical melodies.  I loved Stevie Wonder’s harmonica lines too. He effortlessly picks up the melodies and weaves them in and out of his songs with such skill it is awe inspiring.   

As a child I wanted to play an instrument but several attempts came to nothing and I just gave up. It was much later, when I finally learned to play the guitar and piano and drums a bit I thought why not harmonica.

So taking my cues from the Neil Young, Bob Dylan school of playing which seemed kind of random and straight forward enough I bought myself a brace and a couple of blues harps. Turns out it’s not quite as easy as it seems. 

I was already challenged enough playing guitar and singing so throwing the harmonica in on top lead to some lairy gigs.  Nevertheless undeterred by failure I would slap on the effects pedals to try to fill the holes with feedback and shout into the harmonica to produce any kind of sound.  Sometimes it worked often it didn’t.  Happily on the recording of Only Joking it did.

Fast forward 20 odd years and many hours noodling around on the guitar and harmonica between cooking and cleaning and school runs and and and… I finally felt the sound coming together and I realised the simple unavoidable truth.  If you practice enough you will get better if you don’t you won’t.

Only Joking is sore.  

I was an angry child caught in the gravity of a deeply unhappy marriage.  My father and mother and sister and I orbited around each other in our nice suburban home pretending to the world that it was all ok but it was far from ok. My sister and I were unwitting allies in a cold war.  For most of the time we were the only company we had.

Photo Montage Sara Light

Eventually as we got older, my sister started hanging out with her friends more and more and I was left behind. She was my best friend. I was jealous and lonely. I lashed out at her. I would lure her into play fights persuading her, since she was so much taller than me that she should stay on her knees, which seriously impinged on her ability to defend herself. Then I would explode in violent fury, reigning down on her with punches and kicks until her cries eventually brought one of our parents. I would defend myself with force insisting that she was lying and we were messing, or I was only joking.

Of course eventually my sister copped on that she had a considerable advantage over me if she stayed on her feet.  Her favourite defence was to maul me into the corner by the door jamb and crush me till I couldn’t breathe.  I changed tactics then and adopted more subtle strategies like stealing her vinyl and clothes and makeup and humiliating her in front of boyfriends, that kind of thing.  Not very nice, but I was only joking!   

So, where are we now, going forward as it were?

Well my sister is still my best friend, I don’t assault her anymore btw.  I try to limit as much as I can the legacy of our formative years from infecting the present and my own family. Family and relationships are still informing my songs, even more now I suppose which is ok. At least I can get the stuff off my chest.

Lots of exciting things to come this year. A long over-due visit to New York and I have my new record tantalisingly close to being finished. I will definitely release some music soon and get out and play and let people hear it.  Sure what harm.

Meanwhile back on my head.

PS: Not all the stories in Only Joking are entirely true however… I did kill the canary, but it was an accident. Really.  I arrived home from school and I was alone. Sweetie the 3rd was standing on the floor of the cage propping up his head with his beak, his beady black eyes rolling.  We had lost several birds this way because, due to his tampering with the gas tap, to prevent us from turning the fire up to full, my father had caused the tap to leak and as a result the canaries were dropping like flies.  Anyway I thought I would try to revive the bird so I ran the cold tap over him.  Mistake.  He went into a kind of seizure and was shaking in the sink, so I did what I thought was the right thing and got the hairdryer at him.  Well that did for him. In the end he had a massive heart attack and died in my hands. It was awful.    

PPS: Happy New Year!

Suzanne Rhatigan: Vocal guitar harmonica

John F Morrison: Bass

Bryn Burrows: Drums

Only Joking is song 02 on the Late Developer album available on Bandcamp


40. Rent a Wreck

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

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.

“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?


38. Coming To Get You (Elephant Song)

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 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