19 August 2005

Come and get your punk in woolworths

Current listening: Patrik Fitzgerald - all the years of trying

punk died the day Patrik Fitzgerald signed to Polydor, someone once wrote in a letter to the nme. it might be true, might not be true. i wasn’t there, so i woudn’t really know. all i know about Patrik Fitzgerald is the little bits of information from his sleeve notes and the rare mentions he gets on websites. he never gets included in any punk retrospectives or written about in any of the glossy articles that appear every time another tenuous punk anniversary comes around. he doesn’t seem to feature in the official punk new wave story. so i don’t really know how famous or successful he was. sometimes there’s a passing mention of his first single, ‘Safety Pin Stuck in my Heart’, released on the record shop turned label Small Wonder. but apart from that it’s a bit quiet. all i really know is what Patrik Fitzgerald meant to me when i first discovered his records.

i was fourteen and it was a saturday afternoon and my friend was working in a record shop in aylesbury. i was just hanging around being annoying probably. i didn’t have much money on me, but i was determined to go home with a record of some description. so i was flicking through the cheap bins where everything was two pounds or under and everything in there was rubbish. a few copies of No Parlez, a bit of Modern Romance, the usual. and then i came to a copy of Grubby Stories, Patrik Fitzgerald’s 1979 debut album for Polydor. the cover was enough for me to turn the record over to check out the song titles. i used to buy a lot of records just because i liked the song titles, but Grubby Stories was the only one that ever lived up to the promise that those titles held. on the cover of the album Patrik is wearing a pair of sandals with yellow socks and bright red trousers and he’s reading a copy of the daily star and sitting in an arm chair. yes. and then when i read the song titles i was pretty sure that this was going to be something pretty special. with song titles like ‘All My Friends Are Dead Now’,’As Ugly As You’ and ‘Little Fishes’ how could it be anything else. so i took it over to the counter and asked my friend to put it on. and for once it lived up to the cover. it sounded fantastic. he was angry like a punk but instead of having a full band backing him up, it was just him. strumming the crap out of an acoustic guitar. his lyrics were fantastic too. there was a clumsy anger to his words and voice. you could tell he was angry but you couldn’t be sure he knew why or what to do about it. he seemed to be angry about everything and nothing. and most of the time just angry at himself. banging his head against a brick wall. a bit like that little girl i saw the other week kicking the shit out of a tree on sports day. he sounded small and lost. and that appealed to me. the language he used was sometimes a little bit cute, like on ‘Little Fishes’, but it always had a sour edge. i bought the record and it became one of my favourites. it was funny and sad and angry and shy and in a funny way a bit hopeful. over the next few months i found all his other albums, and all the early singles that came out on Small Wonder. and i don’t think i ever paid more than a pound for any of them. songs like ‘All the Years of Trying’ and ‘Trendy’ and ‘Irrelevant Battles’. i loved them all.

funny. i’m not really sure why i’m rambling on about this now. it’s just that i put on the compilation album that came out on Anagram the other afternoon, and i guess i’d forgotten how much of an influence Patrik Fitzgerald was on me. and i realised i’d never really spoken about him or mentioned him in interviews so i thought it was time i did. i think you can really hear his influence in the words for the boy least likely to. especially in songs like ‘Monsters’ and ‘I See Spiders When I Close My Eyes’. and maybe i didn’t realise it before.

i don’t really know what Patrik Fitzgerald is up to these days. the last record he released, Pillow Tension, came out over ten years ago i think. and i never managed to find a copy of it because it was only released in Greece. i heard another rumour that he had gone back to the home recording style of his early records and recorded another album with just him and an acoustic guitar, released as a cdr a few years ago. but i’ve never found it and i don’t know much more about it. apart from that it might have been called ‘Room Service’. not much more to say really. the best way to finish this quite random post is probably with the words of Patrik himself, from the inner sleeve of the very best of compilation. he sums up the songs by saying “the recordings remain true to me, even when i don’t. this is what they are; the voice of a small, insecure, somewhat lost person, living in a small, insecure, somewhat lost country.”

can’t think why i like him so much x

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