23 June 2019

Susan Fassbender - Merry-Go-Round/ Reasons

Slightly neurotic but hooky new wave pop from the under-rated Fassbender

Label: CBS
Year of Release: 1981

"Left and to the Back" has keenly supported Susan Fassbender's work before now. Her debut single and hit "Twilight Cafe" is probably the most persuasive and brilliantly penned one hit wonder of the eighties, and deserved to chart a lot higher than its final number 21 placing.

CBS only took Susan Fassbender on when it was clear that "Twilight Cafe" was going to be too in-demand for her original label Criminal to cope with, and there's a sense that they weren't entirely behind her work after that point, seeing her as an adopted stray rather than one of their A&R Department's own special discoveries. Her second single, the perky "Stay", made very little impression, and "Merry-Go-Round" ended up as her final release. After this, there was no LP, and no additional 45s.

This was a ridiculous move on their part. The demos that were recorded by her and Kay Russell have since been released, and point towards an assured pair of songwriters with plenty of other tricks up their sleeves. Given the fact that numerous one hit, three-chord wonder punk acts were being kept on the books of various labels in the hope of further success, Fassbender's ejection from the premises of CBS felt very premature.

"Merry-Go-Round" is actually a solid single which was unlucky not to have charted, and in a more established act's hands probably would have done. Sugary but faintly neurotic, it has Teardrops styled keyboard lines and a confident if rather bubblegum chorus.

It was not to be, however, and both Fassbender and Russell carried on regardless for a little while, before gradually settling down into rather more routine lives. Sadly, Fassbender's mysterious and tragic suicide in 1991 caused any possibility of a mid-life reunion to be utterly scotched, and we may never know what a proper, fully fleshed out LP might have sounded like. Sometimes, life is very, very unfair.


VanceMan said...

Thanks for this one. Her sadly limited output reminds me of slightly less-well produced version of Marshall Hain (and that's a compliment.) It seems so odd to me that she wasn't given a chance to at least get one LP out (I wonder if she alienated someone at CBS?)

23 Daves said...

None of the stories I've read suggest that's the case, but it does seem very unusual that someone with one hit single to her name wouldn't have been given a chance to show off her range across an entire LP.

It's possible someone at CBS looked at the sales figures for her second and third singles, looked at the gig receipts, listened to the demos and said "No thanks". The demos on iTunes do show incredible promise, though - "Eliliath" ( "Merry-Go-Round" and "Twilight Cafe" would have been three solid standouts.

Arthur Nibble said...

It appears Susan's singles were co-released by the Lark label in Benelux instead of CBS, with this single credited to the rather ungainly "Susan Fassbender Featuring The Fassbender / Russell Band" on the Belgian release (facts courtesy of the 45cat website).