Stratford E15's one and only small wonder, Patrik Fitzgerald the bard of the East End has been on heavy rotation here for the last 48 hours, so much so that my neighbours are begining to think I've finally gone mad, my children are singing along with the songs and my girlfriend swears he is her all time favorite artist. For me it is always a pleasure to rediscover an artist as has been the case with Patrik Fitzgerald, and listening to his compilation CD "the very best of", on Anagram and his only disc still on catalog, I have had great problems choosing the songs for this post, the reason be quite simple they are all so good.
Patrik native of London's east end had an almost brush with fame when he auditioned for the London Underground, a mythical punk band that never got past the rehearsal stage despite including Mick Jones and Tony James in their ranks. The young Patrik returned to his bedroom and his songwriting with his trusty acoustic, having recorded his songs he decided to try his luck and so why not with the new local record label Small Wonder. Small Wonder doubled as a record shop and as such was a frequent hang out for the young Fitzgerald but such was his shyness that the demo was pushed through the letter box anonymously one night. The result is as they say history, Small Wonder went on to release three of his singles the first of which from 1977 was 'Safety Pin Stuck In My Heart'
, this song alone won him the label of punk poet, indeed Patrik was up their with the other punk generation wordsmiths of note John Cooper Clarke and Linton Kwesi Johnson, interesting to note Patrik was the only one not have a double barreled surname maybe his working class roots. His debut received rave reviews as were his next two as well, making it as prestigious single of the week in NME, and back then single of the week did really mean something. Armed only with his guitar Patrik hit the gig trail and opened for many of the days acts, including the likes of Sham 69 unfortunately for such a liberating movement the followers, punks, were notoriosly narrow minded and often gave him a hard time, but he was not the only one, remember what happened when Suicide opened for the Clash. A second EP 'Backstreet Boys' was to follow in 1978 with the title track displaying a slightly more traditional approach to recording using reverb, though the song that always stuck in my mind from this one was 'Trendy'
which always reminded me of my sister and her friends. His last release for Small Wonder was the EP 'The Paranoid Ward' more or less a demo tape, for your listening pleasure I have chosen 'Irrelevent Battles'
which was recorded with a band. At this time Small Wonder had a distribution deal with Polydor and the label were quick in snapping up Patrik Fitzgerald, to illustrate his importance at the time many people said that his signing with a major was the day punk died, but then again the same was said for the Clash, so we see he was in good company. His time with Polydor led to one LP 'grubby Stories' in 1979, one side acoustic and the other with a full band. The album was pressed in Walthamstow, only a stones throw from Small Wonder, and the workers took offence to the language on the record and refused to manufacture it, does rather make you think of the Sex Pistols, doesn't it? By 1981 he was a free man and with a change in musical direction gave us the excellent 'Tonight EP' on London's Final Solution my own personal fave is the very catchy 'Animal Mentality'
A more mature Patrik Fitzgerald was to resurface on Red Flame records in 1983 for whom he was to deliver three albums, that years 'Gifts and Telegrams', 1984's 'Drifting Towards Violence' and the 1986 'Tunisian Twist' two of these come highly recomended as I owned them on vinyl and I have no doubt that the third was every bit as good. A compilation, 'Treasures From The wax Museum', of these three albums came out in 1993 on CD but has long become a collectors item. Patriks last recorded output would seem to be from 1995, 'Pillow Talk', and was for a Greek label called Lazy Dog. So there you go by now Patrik was disillusioned with things in the UK and took the plunge and moved to New Zealand, a case of their gain is our loss, and as we speak he still resides there.
The good news for music lovers is that Patrik is comming back to Europe for some dates this summer, check out his myspace for more details. I strongly recommend that you don't miss this chance to see him as who knows when he will be coming back? I saw him many times in the late 70's early 80's, my best memory of him on stage was at home town gig for him at Stratford's Livingstone House, where I went along with friends who were non believers, so intense was the gig they came away converted!