october 14 2007
by Pol Dodu, february 2005.
Patrik Fitzgerald is not omitted from punk and new wave anthologies. There is always a little slot kept for his first single, "Safety pin suck in my heart", the hymn that he himself subtitled "A love song for punk music". That's good, but that's not enough to represent properly the production of an artist who released many records from 1977 to 1986, and who went on doing so afterwards, albeit more and more confidentially.
Two compilations CD have been released, who together cover most of the 77-86 period, "Safety pin stuck in my heart : the very best of Patrik Fitzgerald" dealing with the first part of his career on Small Wonder and Polydor, "Treasures from the wax museum" following suit for the Red Flame era. But "Treasures" is long out of print, and there is no one anthology covering all of Patrik Fitzgerald's output, up to and including his last album to date, "Room service". This is a gap we are now trying to bridge with this latest addition to our virtual catalogue, "All the years of trying".
Patrik Fitzgerald has his own very particular place in the punk pantheon since, if John Cooper Clarke in Manchester was the punk poet, Patrik Fitzgerald, alone with his acoustic guitar, personified "folk punk". And, as early as his first single, he made a step sideways, not contenting himself with being a punk, but also casting a look without any illusion on the movement ("I don't love you for your graveyard eyes... I don't love you for your professed hate... I just love you for that beat-beat-beat-beat-beating"), exactly as The Television Personalities would do a few months later with "Part time punks". Indeed, it's not a coincidence at all, even if it's been much less often stressed, if Patrik Fitzgerald was, along with the TVPs, one of the major inspirations for Creation Records when it started : he played several times at The Living Room in 1983, there was a two page article about him in the second issue of the Communication Blur fanzine, and he is featured as guest guitarist on the very first single of the label, "73 in 83" by The Legend!. By the way, Everett True (The Legend! himself) has published a piece about him on the Domino Records weebsite, but it doesn't seem to be online anymore (Though I still found it in the Google cache...). It is not the only cross reference point between The TVP's and Patrik Fitzgerald : Daniel Treacy's love songs and those with a social commentary that are not drowned in satire or sixties pastiche are maybe those that come closest in spirit to Patrik Fitzgerald's.
It's the record shop turned label Small Wonder (who also gave us "Killing an arab" by The Cure") who gave Patrik Fitzgeraldhis first chance. He then benefited from Small Wonder's distribution deal with Polydor, and it's thanks to one of the label's marketing ploys, the "20 of another kind volume 2" compilation, that I first heard him, since the A sides of both his 1979 singles were on it, the rather disappointing "All sewn up" and the excellent "Improve myself". The same year, he had also released his first album, "Grubby stories", but I only listened to it two or three years later, when I bought it cheap from "Vinyl demand", a reducep-price record shop that was right in the middle of Soho in London, on Berwick Street I think, maybe where you can now find the porn Astral Cinema ! "Grubby stories" was in the direct lineage of the first three EPs, even if Patrik Fitzgerald was for the first time accompanied by a band on some of the tracks (with the Buzzcocks' John Maher on drums !), maybe to make the sound more saleable !
It probably didn't work, since it's on Final Solution, his management's micro-label, that we find him in 1981, with a five track 12", "Tonight EP", credited to a trio, Patrik Fitzgerald Group (with Colin Peacock on synths and guitar and Lester Broad on saxophone). Of all Fitzgerald's career, it's probably my favourite line-up. This EP is a classic, especially the three songs on tha A side, that all end up on our retrospective : "Mrs & Mrs", "Animal mentality" and the minor existential masterpiece "Tonight" ("Dying slowly, feeling ill / I can't explain the way i feel / People die, and so will I / It could be slow, it could be quick quick slow, and it seems such a waste / God will give you just one taste / Only one sip of his wine / Only one life, cats get nine / Feeling bored, that's no fun / Being out of touch with everyone / Click my fingers, crack my toes / Kick the dog, and break it's nose /I intellectualize it all / To prove my mind's still on the ball (...) But people die, I will soon / And then i won't write any more tunes / And i won't stand here and talk to you / And wonder what the fuck to do tonight"). Sadly, this line-up has only released two more songs, that can be found on two Armegeddon Records compilations dedicated to bands who appeared regularly at London's Moonlight Club between 1979 and 1981. Of these two tunes, "One by one" is excellent, but we have selected the second version of "Breathing's painful", released in 1995.
In 1982, Patrik Fitzgerald is back in full solo mode for "Gifts and telegrams", but with a new sound compared to his early recordings, since the instrumental tracks, nearly all recorded at home, give prominence to Casio-like synths sound and drum machines. Despite the shrill sound of the synthesizer and the carribean blue of the cover art, "Gifts and telegrams" is a very dark album, not enlivened by the cover of "My death" by Jacques Brel ! The island on the Baci-inspired cover art seems to be the island of lost souls one of the track refers to...
The next album , "Drifting towards violence", was released in 1983. It is not credited to a band either, but Fitzgerald is indeed accompanied throughout the record. As a whole, It's probably my favourite of his albums, being a little less dark as the previous one, maybe the perfect balance between the social comment songs of the beginnings and the heavy self questioning of "Tonight" and "Gifts and telegrams". "Domestication" seems to be one of his recurring subjects of concern, growing in importance as time goes by. The song with this title and the one that gives its title to the album are both successes ("Dear mother, dear father, can you answer some questions / They're stealing my friends like they broke all my toys / taking my freedom, crushing my hope / I asked for some string and they gave me some rope / And now I'm drifting toward violence / Dear mother, dear father, can you answer some questions / I've tried to find freedom and I've tried to find truth / But I cannot see reason, I cannot see logic / And I cannot break away from the turmoil of my youth / And now I'm drifting toward violence").
I started attending Creation's Living Room too late to catch Patrik Fitzgerald's concerts there. It is onlu on march 29th 1984 that I finally attended one of his concerts, at The Green Man, a pub in the south-east of London, lost on one of the branches of the District line, the one in green on the tube maps. On the same bill were John K. White's U.V. Pøp and Anne Clark, with whom Patrik Fitzgerald has collaborated and toured a lot, though she herself has been more commercially successful... I have scant precise memories of Patrik Fitzgerald's performance that night. I remember that Anne Clark used some pre-recorded tapes on a Revox and projected slides. As for Patrik Fitzgerald, what's certain is that he wasn't with the "Drifting..." band. I seem to remember that he performed alone, but it's impossible for me to state whether he played with his acoustic guitar, backing tapes or both ! What's nearly sure is that it was a rather disappointing concert, with some not-so-assured singing (it seems this was rather customary for Patrik Fitzgerald, if the Everett True article is to be believed). Anyway, it was difficult for me to fully appreciate the music, since the pub was far from the tube station, and I had three different tube trains to catch to be able to come back to my remote suburb on the opposite side of town, so I spent a good deal of the evening trying to determine at which time I was to rush out of the pub running not to miss the last tube !!
Record wise, Patrik Fitzgerald reappeard in 1986, with a band, on the "Tunisian twist" album, which was rather well distributed, and which provoked a feature in the NME, in which Patrik explained that he has been working in hotel and restaurants, in France and also at the Houses of Parliament. Some say that he tried to "go commercial" with this record : that sounds really far-fetched, but I still find this record really disappointing, with the exception of the splendid eastern-sounding title-track, "Tunisian twist".
You could say that Patrik Fitzgerald's career stopped after "Tunisian twist" : no more regular tours to my knowledge, no pieces in the music press. But he hasn't stopped playing music altogether, since some sporadic releases can be spotted over the next twenty years, that we have been able to track down thanks to the internet. First, a 1986 concert video was released in 1995, but we haven't been able to watch it. It's probably from the "Tunisian twist" tour. Also in 1995, a new Patrik Fitzgerald Group album was released !! "Pillow tension" came out on CD, but on a tiny Greek label from Thessalonica, so you can imagine how hard it can be to get a copy of it ! The musicians are more or less the same as on "Drifting" and "Tunisian twist", and the negative points too. We could do without the drums, for instance. There are two great achievements on this record, though, the new version of "Breathing's painful" and another eastern sounding song, "The moon in the gutter", a cover of a song by Israelian artist Yehuda Poliker.
More recently (there's an invalid internet address on the cover), but I don't know exactly when as there is no date on the record, Patrik Fitzgerald came back to his first love, with "Room service", recorded live at home, completly solo with his acoustic guitar. It was released as a CD-R on a tiny label linked to a British fanzine (The label website is no more, but you can still get in touch with Paul Stapleton, of the band Pog, who seems to run this label). Apart from a Kinks cover, it's a pleasure to have the opprtunity to listen to new Patrik Fitzgerald songs in this century, sounding the same as those he recorded in 1978, with the same guitar playing, the same voice, the same themes. If he had not practised these genres even before they had been made popular, "Room service" could be considered as his lo-fi or anti-folk album. The song "Room service" is more than certainly very autobiographical !
It is no coincidence if we've decided to title this retrospective "All the years of trying". In this "Grubby stories" song, with a "career" only a few months old then, Patrik Fitzgerald described very precisely the fate of these "cult" artists, many of which are among our favourites, who produce a very personal body of work without selling many many records or being very popular. If this compilation can enlarge the circle of those who appreciate him, then its job will be done...
JC Brouchard, February 2005
This is what
[my records] are ; the voice of a small, insecure, somewhat lost person, living
in a small, insecure, somewhat lost country.
(Patrik Fitzgerald, 1994, "Safety pin stuck in my heart : The very best of..." CD liner notes)
|SMALL 4||Safety pin stuck in my heart||1977||7" EP||Small Wonder||Patrik Fitzgerald|
|SMALL 6||Backstreet boys||1978||7" EP||Small Wonder||Patrik Fitzgerald|
|WEENY 1||The paranoid ward||1978||7" & 12" EP||Small Wonder||Patrik Fitzgerald|
|Polydor 2383 533||Grubby stories||1979||12" album||Small Wonder / Polydor||Patrik Fitzgerald|
|Polydor 2059 091||All sewn up / Hammersmith Odeons||1979||7" single||Small Wonder / Polydor||Patrik Fitzgerald|
|Polydor 2059 135||Improve myself / My new family / The bingo crowd||1979||7" single||Small Wonder / Polydor||Patrik Fitzgerald|
|FS EP 001||Tonight EP||1981||12" EP||Final Solution||Patrik Fitzgerald Group|
|AHPF 1||Without sex / Pop star pop star||7" single||Ellie Jay||Josef Garret|
|MOON 1||"Breathing's painful" sur la compilation "Moonlight radio"||1981||12" album track||Armageddon||Patrik Fitzgerald Group|
|MOON 2||"One by one" sur la compilation "Fear and fantasy"||1982||12" album track||Armageddon||Patrik Fitzgerald Group|
|Short story / Personal loss, disque souple inclus dans le fanzine "Riot stories"||7" single||Riot Stories||Anne Clarke & Patrik Fitzgerald|
|RF 708||Personal loss / Straight boy||1982||7" single||Red Flame||Patrik Fitzgerald|
|RF 8||Gifts and telegrams||1982||12" album||Red Flame||Patrik Fitzgerald|
|"Tonight" et "Island of lost souls" dans le documentaire "Rough cut and ready dubbed"||1982||DVD||ILC|
|HIM 009||Drifting towards violence||1983||12" album||Red Flame / Himalaya||Patrik Fitzgerald|
|RF 48||Tunisian twist||1986||12" album||Red Flame||Patrik Fitzgerald + 3|
|DELT LP 3||"Toros" sur la compilation "Abuse"||1989||12" album track||Deltic||Anne Clarke & Patrik Fitzgerald|
|RF CD7||Treasures from the wax museum (compilation comprenant aussi des inédits)||1993||CD album||Red Flame||Patrik Fitzgerald|
|CD PUNK 31||Safety pin stuck in my heart : The very best of Patrik Fitzgerald (compilation comprenant aussi des inédits)||1994||CD album||Anagram||Patrik Fitzgerald|
|IKON 35||Boardwalk (Live, Manchester, 1986)||1995||Vidéo album||Ikon||Patrik Fitzgerald|
|LZD 012||Pillow tension||1995||CD album||Lazy Dog||Patrik Fitzgerald Group|
|BASE03||Room service||>1995||CD album||Beat Bedsit||Patrik Fitzgerald|
|Floating population||2006||CD album||Patrik Fitzgerald|
|Dark side of the room||2006||CD album||Patrik Fitzgerald & Pog|
|BACH1/BEAG1CGR004||Spirit of revolution||2007||7" single||Crispin Glover||Patrik Fitzgerald & Attila the Stockbroker|
The sources for this discography
include notably the one published on the PunkNet77
site and this
one, as well as the one included in the booklet of the "Safety
pin stuck in my heart : The very best of..." CD.
Read the piece on Patrik Fitzgerald by Jeremy Chester in Communication Blur # 2, 1983 : page 1 - page 2.
Among the bands who have covered Patrik Fitzgerald are, Chumbawamba, The Wonder Stuff, The Bartlebees and Charta 77 (who have all covered "Safety pin stuck in my heart"), Rausch ("Irrelevant battles" under the title "They"), Pog and Manic Mind Circus ("Little fishes").