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Date Posted: 23:17:21 07/14/09 Tue
Subject: Pretty Suzanne interview
Hello fellow Monks fans
I recently interviewed Gary & Eddie about the resurfaced 'new' recording of Pretty Suzanne which has been released by Red Lounge Records. I've reproduced their illuminating answers below - enjoy!
Please note - my questions were based on the understanding that this version of Pretty Suzanne was recorded in 1967, as claimed here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pretty_Suzanne. However, Eddie says that it was actually recorded in early '66, before Black Monk Time! History is complicated.
As far as I understand it, after Black Monk Time, the Monks recorded two singles that were attempts to crack the pop charts (under pressure from Polydor), and the band split up shortly after these releases. Where did the recording of the recently-released version of 'Pretty Suzanne' fit in this timescale?
Gary: I don't remember exactly when it was done, but in my opinion it is one of the best Monk songs. As far as the record company/s are concerned it "fell through the cracks" and was never properly released until Light In the Attic picked up on it.
Eddie: We recorded Pretty Suzanne before we recorded "Black Monk Time" - maybe early 1966. Polydor listened to it and didn't like it. It was too radical. Therefore we gave up on this song and put it away. In time, we forgot about it. Two years ago, when Martin Christoph of Red Lounge Records sent me an MP3 of the song, I was totally surprised. I do remember that I liked this version, better than the demo song. I also like this type of arrangement better than other monk songs, but too many people were afraid of it - so we toned things down a bit.
Were any other songs recorded at the session that yielded 'Pretty Suzanne'?
Gary: Not that I remember.
Eddie: There might have been one other song, but I'm not sure. It might have ended up being recorded again for Black Monk Time.
'Pretty Suzanne' dates back to at least 1965. What was the original genesis of the song? Was it inspired by anything in particular?
Gary: Originally this song was used as a nightclub "time consumer" and it was an instrumental called Paradox which Dave and I wrote. The Monk managers showed an interest in it and persuaded us to put lyrics to it and push it a bit harder.
Eddie: Yes, it was recorded in 1965, soon after we did the demo tapes. We were looking to improve our sound and it was an experiment taken from an old Torquays instrumental song titled, "Paradox". Without a vocal the first part of the song was fast and the last part of the song was slow - in fact it may have been a walz in 3/4 time, but I'm not sure. Pretty Suzanne came from the slow section of the song. Roger and I experimented with the bass and drum parts to find a new platform. The others found their parts to match and we worked on a simple lyric that initially only repeated the words, "Pretty Suzanne," over and over.
A demo version of 'Pretty Suzanne' was recorded in 1965, and sounds very different from the 'new' 1967 version. Did you continue performing & evolving 'Pretty Suzanne' between 65-67, or was it forgotten about until the '67 session? [Note: I asked this question under the mistaken impression that the recently released version of Pretty Suzanne was recorded in 1967. My mistake.]
Gary: We really didn't play it very much after we became the Monks. It seemed to us at the time that it just wasn't complete or that it didn't have enough energy. We played in Frankfurt on a television show called Beat, Beat, Beat and some of the Manfred Mann people came up to us and said that Pretty Suzanne would be a hit if we put it out. I think that raised our interest enough to make us record it again but by then it was too late as the Monks broke up soon afterward. I'm actually pleased that it didn't get released because the Monks now own that property. Yes!
Eddie: As I mentioned, the song was played as an instrumental, (1964) before we started to experiment with it. At that time it was not in a minimalist (Monk) style. In 1965, we also took a couple of other songs that had been put together by Gary and Dave. "Boys are Boys" was one. We rewrote the song as a group experiment - laying down a "uber-beat" bass and drum platform before finding basic rhythms that would work over it. Every instrument became a rhythm instrument. After the foundation of the song was laid, we wrote simple lyrics - getting rid of too many, sweet lyrics - to make it strong. You can hear the difference between Boys are Boys by the Torquays and Boys are Boys by the Monks. There were one or two more original Torquay song that were done that way, but I can't remember what they were. One of them might have been a song called "Jumped out the Window," that became "Higgle-dy Piggle Dy. The monks songs were much better than the Torquay songs.
Thanks to Gary & Eddie for taking the time to answer my questions!
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