Tag Archives: Small Wonder Records


Frazier front
Typical! (7″ mix) / String // Storm (Live Mix) / Typical! (Live mix) (Virgin Records 10″ single, 1989)

I think of paper and I think of string, I think of everything the postman brings. I think of nothing when you think like this, I think of crosses that we mean as kisses.



Some of the best things in my life have happened to me through the mail,


sometimes in life it’s what’s on the other side is better.



I like small details. Like the fact that the band name logo on the cover in the square at the top, and then the seven separate letters and exclamation point below it are in spot gloss, shiny against the matte sheen of the card, and which are also repeated on the back.

I like the fact that Frazier Chorus songs sing of small things too. It’s an undervalued thematic constant. This is important stuff.

The b-side to the band’s second single on Virgin Records is a small wonder, even more so that they made it themselves away from the bigger budget and record company bluster of the hopeful chart pop song. It wasn’t of course, that elusive chart pop hit. They never had one and yet still it resonates with me.

String is about anticipating something good in the post, as they call it in England, the very idea of which has been a significant part of my life. I found my new life in the USA through the post, beginning over thirty years ago, and then again this next life I live now through the very same thing. My whole day can be dashed if I come home from work and twist my key to open an empty mail-box.

Tim Freeman understands this too. He’s a romantic like me. He’s also the singer and songwriter in Frazier Chorus, a band who were once so unpopular and lacking in credibility that even Nigel Blackwell, leader of the magnificent folk-indie outfit Half Man Half Biscuit, had a pop at them in one of his band’s songs; “Inspired by no one, other groups bore us”, he sang. “How can you say we sound like Frazier Chorus?”

I met Tim Freeman once, one night in a venue in Manchester called The Boardwalk, notable for being the place that Oasis used to rehearse in before they got famous. Like most significant locations in my past it isn’t there anymore.

On this one night I’d bought a ticket to the one and only time I saw them live and was excited to see Tim standing in a small circle of admirers after the show. I’d bought the three singles they’d released from their debut album Sue, and was determined to speak to him as he was on Virgin Records, the same label as my band at the time.

(I didn’t want to tell him that I’d got his band’s first album for free from the record company. I wasn’t sure he’d like that very much.)

I politely stuck out my hand and said to him that I was in a band on the same record label. Intrigued, he said; “Oh yeah? What band is that then?” I told him the name of my band – a name I still struggle to tell anyone about even to this day because it’s so stupid – and he says; “Oh, right.” Pause. “I’ve heard of you.”

Well, that was me done right there and then.

(I’d had a good idea that my time on the record label was going to be brief. There was just always something in the air that made me feel it wasn’t going to be that special for us, hence the reason why I was so keen to rack up on the free stuff. I’d even called a representative from Virgin who was going to meet us at a showcase in Blackpool and told her to bring along a couple of LP records if she could. She did, and one of those two records was Sue.)

It sounds trite to say it now but I really didn’t care what happened to me in my band after that. Tim Freeman had heard of us. That would do nicely for me, thank you very much.

You lot reading this blog might well not have the slightest idea what Frazier Chorus sounds like, and probably don’t even care. Tim Freeman? Who is he anyway? But I expect the chances are very strong that you’ve watched a version of Tim performed in an excellent UK TV comedy show called The Office.

That’s because Tim’s younger brother, the actor Martin Freeman, based the character of Tim whom he was playing – and I love it that Martin’s character has the same name – on his brother in the show. That wonderfully understated, regular everyday nice chap Tim, quiet and lovable, who had a seismic skill at knowing the exact point to glance ever so briefly at the camera, and henceforth won all of our hearts, was based on his elder brother, the almost pop star.

There’s a great UK genealogy documentary series called Who Do You Think You Are that recently featured Martin in season six, searching for his paternal grandfather. I watched the show on You Tube and was thrilled to catch a brief glimpse of Tim in it. (I hope that Martin insisted he could be in there.) Tim had very much gone to ground after three Frazier Chorus albums, and I had no idea where he was or what he was doing.

He’d probably retreated back into normal life; making a cup of tea, or falling asleep on the sofa with the TV on, or sitting at the window watching cars pass by, maybe standing at a bus stop and shivering in the cold, all of which are featured in Frazier Chorus songs.

Like Tim’s Virgin Records label-mate Colin Moulding from the mighty XTC, who would have been recording Oranges and Lemons and Nonsuch as Frazier Chorus were working on their two albums for the same label, Colin too sang of the simplicity and joy of normal everyday life, like sitting and waiting for the postman to call.

If you think you might want to know Tim better, or to see if he even looks like his younger and more famous brother, you can squint at my scan up there because that’s Tim in shadow behind the letter ‘C’ on the cover; hiding from the spotlight and barely noticeable, shrinking back into nothingness again.

He’s a wonderfully underrated songwriter is Tim Freeman, and you could do a lot worse than to hear him.

You could start with String.

It’s such a sweet and quiet place to begin.

The Paranoid Ward

The Paranoid Ward (Small Wonder Records 12", 1978)
Babysitter / Irrelevant Battles / Cruellest Crime / The Paranoid Ward / The Bingo Crowd (Instrumental) // Life at the Top / Ragged Generation for Real / Live Out my Stars / George (Small Wonder Records 12″ EP, 1978)

Who needs to sleep, I play pinball ’til three in the night. Ain’t got a job, ain’t got a home, but I like the lifestyle. I listen to Bowie, I ride with him out through the stars. I live out my heroes, try to touch them, I live out my stars.



Another classic find, purchased a few years after I had first heard it, from Vinyl Exchange in Manchester, the price sticker here peeled carefully from its cover and affixed to the inside paper sleeve.

The 12″ single was not a common format in the seventies, and so to find this used for a respectable one-pound-ninety-nine pence after being reduced four times, well, I was pleased. My younger brother had this originally on a 7″ single when it first came out, long lost now, from back when he had more money than me and would introduce me to new acts on an almost weekly basis.

This could have been the first time I’d heard Patrik Fitzgerald. He wouldn’t have been played on daytime radio, and none of my heavy rock loving school friends would have known about him. This impressive introduction – eight songs on my brother’s 7″ single, there are nine on my 12″ copy – being something of a revelation to me too.

The first being how the world of music had suddenly opened up to reveal much more of itself than had existed previously in my small-town world, and secondly it was just how varied one could still be within the newly established punk rock year-zero code of musical restriction.

NB: The impact that the Sex Pistols’ offensive verbal farrago on the BBC’s The Today Show one evening in December of 1976 had on the tender ears of the nation has been widely and somewhat excessively documented elsewhere. An inebriated presenter Bill Grundy goaded the band and received a stream of expletives in response. The next morning the newspapers had the story splashed across their front covers; The Filth and the Fury being my favourite headline from The Daily Mirror newspaper that my dad would read every day.

Here’s how it might have been for me at that time.

My dad was not a particularly communicative man, and would leave most of that difficult dealing with children later becoming teenagers stuff to my overworked mum. Consequently when taking his sweet time to read his daily newspaper he would not want to be disturbed at all. Mum later informed me that he was quite dyslexic, which would explain why it could take him anything up to four or five hours to peruse his Daily Mirror, and he would also somehow want to read everything that was in it.

I was fifteen years old and in that restless phase between two stages of life, and likely to have been hoping for something incendiary to come along and shake up the mundanity. It seemed as though the Sex Pistols would be it, if only I could have read, seen, or heard anything of them to help make up my mind. There’s also a distinct chance that had I read the cover story on the paper that day I would not have fully grasped what all of the fuss was about anyway.

This was because The Today Show was a regional arts-based programme available in the London area only, and I lived in the North of England where our equivalent was called Look North. To have faced a void of nothingness regarding the Pistols one day, and then to suddenly have them all over front covers the next was a very curious and now confusing thing. Now, if only my dad would hurry up and finish reading the paper I might find out what the fuss is all about!

Fast forward to 1978 and the music world has now fully opened up to me. From an era pre-Pistols where I wasn’t even particularly aware of any small and affordable 7″ single records being available that weren’t what was in the charts at that time, to suddenly find so much choice in such different styles, pressed on different coloured plastics too, and with images of all kinds of excitement printed on their picture sleeves. Well, this was a revelation to me and I couldn’t get enough of it.

Patrik Fitzgerald was signed to the tiny London independent label Small Wonder Records – home to The Cure’s debut single Killing An Arab amongst many others. The label heard Patrik for the first time via a cassette tape recording he made in his bedroom, freezing cold, and yelling his songs via acoustic guitar into a condenser microphone on his cassette player. I know this because four of those demo recordings make up the second side of the 12″ of The Paranoid Ward I have here, which was his second release for the label.

To have journeyed from a time when I naively thought that you had to attend a record company in some castle somewhere – I was pretty naive at the time, kids – then to suddenly find that you could mail them a cassette tape of your songs and from it one day make a record, well, this was a music future I could very much relate to.

On this second record Patrik veers from acoustic guitar pop songs with witty lyrics, to a home organ instrumental, to a tiny spoken recitation over a hum drone, and a further side of almost folk-like songs featuring his wonderfully lyrical turn of phrase. Try to get to hear it if you can, or any other of his earlier singles. They’re very good indeed and to be so bold with his switching between styles less than a year after the punk explosion speaks volumes about his confidence in himself.

But there are two specific and very trivial things about this fine record that I would like to share with you today;

One is regarding the lyric I quoted up there, where Patrik talks about listening to David Bowie. It is a minor bugbear of mine as an avid reader of the music press to constantly learn of pop stars I admire having in the seventies listened to a diet of nothing but David Bowie, Roxy Music, Iggy Pop, Kraftwerk, or The Velvet Underground, and typically only those five acts in one variation or another.

These people in bands that I admire are often just a couple of years older than me, sometimes even younger. How come they weren’t listening to Slade or The Sweet, Alvin Stardust or Mud like the rest of us? Methinks that some artists have what I term ‘selective memory loss’.

They wouldn’t want to be thought of in stupid loon pants doing a dance called ‘The Bump’ or squeezing spots into a wall mirror surrounded by pictures of David Cassidy. Oh no, it was all decadence round our way, mate. You couldn’t move for arch glam icons tripping over each other in our record collections…

The second concerns my favourite team sport of rugby league. A very good friend of mine sends DVD-R copies of rugby matches that he records from the UK TV channel Sky Sports, and I keep up with games in that way, through my all-regions DVD player. It’s hard enough living in America to find anyone with even an interest in rugby league – if they like the sport at all it’s usually rugby union that they prefer, which is a slightly different game – and not their preferred premier league soccer.

So when the customer meets me at the counter of my day job and learns that I’m from England they typically ask me what my favourite team is. When I say Widnes Vikings – my local hometown rugby team – they look confused, expecting me to say one of the three teams they prefer from the premier league; those being Arsenal, Chelsea, or Manchester United. Almost always one of those three and rarely another.

So it’s with some joy in my heart to find a song that actually mentions rugby in it at all. Are there any others? Do you know of any others because I don’t and haven’t Googled it yet.

I shall leave you today with this wonderful and hilarious recitation by Patrik, from the title track to The Paranoid Ward.

Until such time, my friends.



The Paranoid Ward.

The room was quiet, the brains buzzed in all directions, but more quietly.

The old man and his friend watched TV, it was a rugby match.

The men gathered in for the scrummage, heads down.

The old man shook his friends arm urgently and whispered, nodding toward the rugby players;


They’re talking about me.