Photo: Dennis O'Regan
Early songs were generally short, sarcastic efforts, recorded with just an acoustic guitar and occasional studio effects, with lyrics containing a large amount of social comment. Patrik was soon regarded as an original of his genre, somewhere between a punk-poet and an urban folksinger, and was lauded in some circles as "the new Bob Dylan". After starting out as a busker, he approached David Bowie's original manager, Ken Pitt, requesting his services; Pitt declined but an audition was set up with Noel Gay in 1975 who also turned Patrik down. In 1976 Patrik auditioned, alongside Mick Jones and Tony James for the band London SS, again without success. After a spell acting in a communal theatre group, he drifted towards the developing Punk scene. He was a regular customer at the Small Wonder record shop in London, and when Small Wonder launched a record label Patrik was one of the first to submit a demo - and got a deal, with the new label releasing his first three EPs, the first being 'Safety-Pin Stuck In My Heart', still his best-known work, and one which he subtitles "a love song for punk music". Patrik became a regular performer at London Punk gigs, and supported The Jam on their national tour.
These early recordings attracted interest from Polydor who signed him up to record his first LP, 'Grubby Stories' in 1979, recorded with established punk musicians including Robert Blamire of Penetration and John Maher of The Buzzcocks. The LP contained 17 tracks, 7 of them recorded with these musicians. Two singles were also released by Polydor, either side of the album, and Patrik undertook a tour with a new group of musicians: Colin Peacock (guitar), Charlie Francis (bass) (later to join Toyah), and Rab Fae Beith on drums (later of The Wall). Patrik appeared in the post-punk documentary 'Rough Cut and Ready Dubbed' in 1979/80 contributing the title song 'Island of Lost Souls' and one performance of 'Tonight' with Colin Peacock on keyboards.
After being dropped by Polydor, Patrik continued to play solo acoustic concerts, gradually forsaking the ironic, sarcastic mode for a more deeply-etched, darker formulation. Now unmanaged, Patrik returned again to acoustic solo performance, then releasing a single under the pseudonym Josef Garrett, then, using a borrowed Revox, he began recording a series of backing tapes to use in live performance. These recordings, based partly on the former group's unreleased material, with Patrik playing everything, were released in 1982 by Red Flame as his second album 'Gifts and Telegrams'. At this point, Patrik formed a small group of solo performers, working under the banner, Ghosts of Individuals, and featuring himself, David Harrow, U.V.Pop, Kevin Hewick and Anne Clark (known for her solo albums on Red Flame). The forerunner of
Return in 1986
In 1986 he released 'Tunisian Twist', which introduced a radical change of style towards a more commercial sound. The album features a guitar/bass/drums/keyboards band, with a brass section; its sound is thus much fuller than Patrik's previous work. The lyrics deal with subjects as diverse as terrorism, surrogate birth and trade unionism in the climate of Thatcher's 'economic realism'. While some of the songs are heavy with ironic humour in the manner of Patrik's early days, there remains the biting incisiveness which has always been his hallmark. In that year he also contributed a duo with Anne Clark to the compilation LP 'Abuse - Artists For Animals', dealing with the controversy of bullfights. In the absence of commercial success, Patrik took a job as a waiter at the House Of Commons, before relocating to
1990s and beyond
I first heard Patrik on John Peel’s show singing ‘Safety Pin Stuck In My Heart’, a fantastic piece of punk poetry. I also recall asking for his autograph when he appeared on the Revolver TV programme (ATV 1978) and being a huge source of amusement to the man from Small Wonder records. It’s a great honour to conduct this interview via e-mail (Patrik now lives in
Shelley- Were you musical as a child?
Patrik- I saw The Beatles with my sister and a 'grown up family friend' when I was nine (at Hammersmith). I bought my first record when I was about eight (‘House of the Rising Sun’ by The Animals). My sister, who was three years older than me, bought singles and I was inspired and competed with her. She liked The Beatles, The Herd, The Monkees and I bought The Troggs, Hermans Hermits, The Pacemakers, Cilla Black and The Kinks. Later, she moved to bluebeat, ska, early reggae, motown and I followed. We had a tape recorder and I wrote my first song aged about twelve, a mixture of The Herd and Status Quo. There were booths that you could go into and record a flexi-disc in those days so Pauline (my sister) and I did that.
My cousin played guitar, I got interested in it too and used to show off and impersonate Mick Jagger, Freddie Garrity and just about everybody else. I was very impressed that it got me attention. At about fifteen or so I started playing cheap electric guitars bought on the 'never never'. My family fragmented and I became the embodiment of The Doors ‘When The Music's Over’. Music was my only friend; I was locked into my room with it for most of every day. Semi-musical child, semi-obsessed musical adolescent. This led me to punk really- nowhere else to really go.
Shelley- How did you get involved with the punk scene?
Patrik- I wanted to become involved in music but didn’t meet anybody else who wished to do anything other than play cover versions in working men’s clubs or pubs. I wrote to Ken Pitt (David Bowie's first manager) and auditioned with
Shelley- Any special memories of your first Peel session (I believe there were three)?
Patrik- I met John Peel twice and found him to be a bit aloof, arrogant and disinterested, but I think he was probably just not very good with people and possibly a bit shy. Pete from Small Wonder and I went up to his office to meet him early on and he sat watching a football match on television all the way through our conversation. The second time I had been ditched by Polydor and went to give him a copy of my Josef Garret single. He was reasonably friendly but a bit aloof and literally spared me a couple of minutes. The thing about the Peel sessions was that I sort of expected that he would be there but of course he wasn't. The BBC building in Maida Vale was a real labyrinth, a sprawling mass of corridors, big and small rooms like an old municipal swimming pool. The engineers were ex-rock musicians.
The first two sessions were both acoustic, but my favourite was the third. By this time I had gotten much more used to studios, working with different instruments and I wanted to do my own versions of songs with electric guitar, piano and drumbox. I was really pleased with the third session but it was the last one I did. The thing about Peel was that I don't think he was a fan of either me or my music. Some people went on doing sessions for years, whether they were with big or small labels or none. Mine stopped when I was dropped by Polydor.
Shelley- Did it seem strange when young fans began asking for autographs and showing recognition?
Patrik- I think that is a difficult area to deal with, so called fame. People asking for your autograph all the time can make you believe your own publicity and you become a very difficult person to be around. For a very long time I wasn't really recognised and that was fine but I remember someone saying to me at the time (I think it might have been Pete Stennet at Small Wonder) that I was surrounded by sycophantic ‘yes people’. I think I was, to a large degree, but a lot of those people were also busy stabbing me in the back.
I remember going to a gig at the Music Machine in Camden Town and an aggressive drunken guy giving me a hard time, the eventual gist of his questions being that now that I was famous I could buy as many drugs as I wanted. Basically he was putting himself in my shoes or expecting me to give him some money or drugs or something. I ended up saying "well yes I suppose I could buy as many drugs as I want- if I actually used drugs". That was on the same evening that Paul Weller wanted to punch my lights out because I'd accused him of selling out in a music paper interview.
Shelley- I saw you support the Jam thirty years ago. Care to share any interesting stories relating to this time?
Patrik- I don't remember much about the period. I know that Paul Weller apparently liked my stuff and I was told that he watched my set every night. I didn't have much to do with the Jam though. Weller was on a bit of a short fuse (his Dad was the band's manager and an ex-boxer) and got into a fight with some rugby supporters in
I had a run of playing tours and supports to big groups which provided different degrees of success and experience. Hawkwind (Hawklords) was memorable- I got booed by their young denim clad fans every evening up, down and across the country. The Clash- (Victoria Park Rock Against Racism Festival), I was canned off by racist skinheads or at least skinhead Clash fans- a few darts were aimed as well. I didn't speak to The Clash, or rather they didn't speak to me. Sham 69- I knew Jimmy Pursey and used to speak to him at the Roxy all the time when they started, but his fans didn't take to me. His backstage entourage regarded me as a communist and wanted to kick my head in. I did a few gigs in
Shelley- The ‘Grubby Stories’ LP was toured in 1979. I don’t recall anything about this. Did John Maher (Buzzcocks) drum for you?
Patrik- He was fully committed to, and very busy with The Buzzcocks and was living in
Shelley- Will the LP ever be re-released? My copy was stolen (by accident, I’m sure).
Patrik- I don't think Grubby Stories will ever be re-issued. Polydor wanted to charge 1000 pounds per track to license them, the last I heard. There are 17 tracks on the album.
Shelley-I believe you later worked as a waiter at the House of Commons. Did you meet many interesting people there? Was it tempting to throw food at anyone?
Patrik- I did work as a waiter at the House of Commons, House of Lords and the Mansion House (The Lord Mayor's residence). At the House of Commons I was able to come face to face with people such as Billy Bragg, Attila the Stockbroker, Paul Weller (at the Red Wedge launching). Also Cat Stevens and Salman Rushdie (not together), various TV film and sports celebrities as well as, of course, the politicians and lords themselves. Oh yes and Ian Paisley.
I actually managed to give Douglas Hurd's dinner to somebody else because they had an identical hairstyle. I was working there when Thatcher was overturned, when a rocket went into the back garden at Downing Street (just over the road), when the Sun or Daily Mirror or News of the World sent in an undercover reporter to pose as a waiter, to test security. He started a conversation with an Irish waitress who said, as a joke: "don't tell anybody but I am actually a member of the IRA". The paper printed that as a straight quote. I was also around when Welsh labour politician turned some tables over while drunkenly attacking another person. All of the places I worked had many high security guests and it did occur to me that as a waiter you were allowed to walk around with knives, forks, corkscrews and very hot food. I decided that even Ian Paisley would not be worth me doing any jail time, but it inspired a few lines for songs.
The serving classes
In this mansion below stairs life is afforded just by those who would dare
To drop that poison in their master's wine
Sever his lifeline
Once and for all
Shelley- How did you become acquainted with Paul Stapleton (Beat Bedsit Records/Pog)
Patrik- He came to a gig I did in
Shelley- What took you to
Patrik- My partner Jessica (
Shelley- Any plans to tour overseas again, as in 2006?
Patrik- I don't have any plans to tour at the moment- it's too expensive from here. I should be playing in
Shelley- In the past couple of years I’ve heard people describe you as a folk singer. Does this kind of categorisation worry you?
Patrik- I have always been described as folk punk, punk poet, etc, etc and I suppose it makes things easier for people to get a handle on what you are about. I don't know which category I fit. I think I'm just a singer/ songwriter really in the same way as Jacques Brel, Ray Davies, Randy Newman, Bob Marley, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan or Tom Lehrer but punk is where I started and I like to play acoustic guitar because I enjoy bashing out songs or creating a quiet mood. Folk singers are related to troubadours, they tell stories. There's a bit of that in what I do. Polydor used to ask me what I was. MySpace sticks you in a particular cupboard. A museum would put you in a particular section. Plus ca change plus ca meme. It always changes but it's always the same.
Shelley- You played a gig very recently (last weekend), was this enjoyable? Does Patrik Fitzgerald have a following in N.Z?
Patrik- My gigs in
Shelley- When will the new Dom Shaw (of Rough Cut & Ready Dubbed fame) film be released?
Patrik- Dom Shaw's film of me in concert is due to premiere in
Shelley- What are your future plans?
Patrik- A new CD is being released by Crispin Glover records (
A group called
Thanks so much to Patrik for such an insightful interview. Here’s hoping we might see you play live again one day.
Check out Patrik’s MySpace page- www.myspace.com/patrikfitzgerald
Interview & Backstreet Boys cover pic by Shelley Guild
2006 photo from Nigey B
Patrik in Victoria Park by Dennis O'Regan
Other photo courtesy of Patrik’s MySpace page