My Duffo-pilgrimage of 2014 continues — now by way of a long road to Mullumbimby, courtesy and in the high company of fellow Duffophile Antonionio (I know how to spell his name, I just don’t know when to stop). Hope to document this travelling as it goes, and also to be so bold as to take post-worthy pics of the performances. The opening night has already sold out (but we’ll be there), and then there are afternoon gigs day-by-day (checking in). Potential plus! Duff is appearing in Kings Cross later on the same weekend, and then at the Rock Opera night at the State Theatre – from wearing flowers in his hair, to dodging king-hits, and then frocking up for something truly regal, all in a blink of days. Unless Antonionio is good for whipping, I don’t think we can follow Duffo all the way from Mullo back to Sydney so swiftly. But plenty of blinding spells to be reported soon enough and nevertheless, via this channel of Duffophilia.
Duff performed at Milson’s Park, Kirribilli, this last Sunday (2 Nov 2014). Thanks to the man at another park (one I first found myself at) who promptly Googled me to the proper place. Duff’s voice piped its serpentine way to my ears over the suburbs, as I scaled, lunged and hurtled my way there, to land at the feet of his performance, eventually, on the grass.
This was the “Spring into Jazz” event organised by North Sydney Council, with the Jeff Duff Trio on show — that’s Duff, Glenn Rhodes, and Jess Ciampa. Glenn Rhodes is known to the Duffophile as a co-composer of Jeanne d’arc on Duff’s Alone and Paranoid album, as a back-up vocalist on the Ground Control to Major Tom album, and as seen on The Midday Show sharing the vocal to Bowie’s Sorrow. They did that again as an encore to this "on the green" show. Jess Ciampa was a percussionist on the Lost in the Stars album. But up to then …
There was Duff taking a seat on the down-stage bench alongside a lady with long black hair and eyes behind shades for him to sing Young Americans to. And Duff wandering all about the crowd, so way down into the throng that he even heard a delay between his patter and its pick-up, and Rhodes had to ask Duffo "Which suburb are you in?" There were uncontrolled children let loose to play with Duff’s percussion instruments, and even a vino offered to quench him (no, his herbal tea sufficed). There was also Walk on the wildside in a breezy jazzy canter, and Duff’s own Miles Davis rap re-configured into the Marvin Gaye rap; see this tube to relive that song at the Thredbo Jazz Festval, 2013 — also with Rhodes on keys. Another highlight: Does anybody really know what time it is?, taking the Duffophile back to HMV’s ’70s.
Many folk reached for their cameras to take in a visual swig of Duff — of his many photogenic-plus-musical moments throughout this sunny gig. This Duffophile is always too shy or high on the senses to do the same. Just go searching facebook for such stuff. Maybe searching for “Sydney at its best on a Sunday in Spring” will reveal and revive all for you about this sunny and especially magical Duff gig.
Managed a trip to The Vanguard this Thursday (30 Oct 2014) to see Duff doing Bowie Unzipped. And unzipped he literally was, in the second set, from his cat-suit down to the barest leotard. Duff kept the already enthusiastic audience in high gear throughout the night, what with his canters through the crowd, letting himself loose for celebrity selfies, and chiding us all into loud chorusses and dance; even getting friend Anthony to repeat a solo of the "Ain’t there one damn song" line. The following Friday night gig was apparently packed out, unlike this one, but Duff certainly didn’t just phone it in for this cheery Thursday throng.
And how many versions of Walk on the wildside can Duff do? Each one as mesmerising as the next. That’s when one chick, dame, lass, lady and gal after the other took to the floor for a dance. Barnesy would have had his hands full at that point; most Oz-rockers would have lept from the stage and reached for their pens and calling cards. Duffo kept the musical moment going, treating the crowd not with the usual flotsam and jetsom but a whole Titanic performance, all night long for all.
And it was great to meet a fellow Duffophile behind me, as I flashed Jeff Duff’s ’70s Easy Street performance about on my phone for any bod to see … (Thanks, lady, for the Duffo-chat.)
The new Jeff Duff album Walking on eggshells
is to be was launched at the Camelot Lounge, Marrickville on October 17 2014 at 7:30 p.m. Duff, with the help of his Duffmen, performed the entire album in the first set, then filled the second set with Bowie songs and some of his standards. About 16 members of the Rock & Soul Choir rose up from the audience to accompany Duff on his own God bless the dreamers, and then The sun ain’t gonna shine anymore (wonderful nihilistic rejoicing to that Righteous Brothers cover). Duff kept it all going up to midnight, with plenty of patter between songs, such as about his love of Scott Walker’s music (inspired his I have no regrets on the new album), and the popularity of his tribute shows ("I have to eat — a bit").
Here’s the official preview blurb of the show:
Jeff regards the brand new album as one of his very best and is pulling out all stops to make this launch one of the most memorable you will ever attend. For starters Jeff & The Duffmen will perform the entire album live along with some other Duffo classics. The extraordinary magician MANNIX (the magnificent) will dazzle the audience with his sleight of hand and Esmerelda the incredible singing goldfish will make a cameo appearance. Together with Jeff’s magic movie show and lots of audience prizes this will be a launch party to top all others!
The show included the premiere of the video for the single “Walking on eggshells” which Duff says, on his latest blog, was filmed “in a tiny studio in Sydney late in August … co-ordinated by my friend Marisa Zamora from ‘Loud & Clear’ advertising agency and directed by Tristan Baker.” Listen to the track on soundcloud here, or via youtube:
… and download for eternal listening from itunes here:
Not up with Duff albums? Check them all out on a single page here.
Duff tubes currently online have exactly 250,000 views as of 2014/08/23 01:36:06 Aussie EST, given the latest Duff Rover report. That’s from 145 tested tubes, less some earlier removed tubes and multiple artist tubes, for a total of 131 tubes. Average number of views at this time = 1908.4. The tube with the max views of 51,037 is “Easy Street” on the Paul Hogan Show. Total play-time = 9 hours, 29 minutes and 34 seconds.
Take the top hat, surmising how it crowns The Duff, and get more oxygen into your thinking, and more antioxidants into your brain, than, say, TV promises of Lucy …!
What do Uncle Sam, leprechauns and Dr Seuss’ cat have in common with Jeff Duff? Add the Mad Hatter to that, and you’ve got an "a–ha" moment: It’s all in the a–hat. A topper, in fact. Taller than a trilby. A large but trim brim, occasionally fluted. And its most enigmatic feature: a flat crown.
Authority of class and sex are key signals of a topper: to be worn at the Stock Exchange, at the races or riding to hounds, on the coach going to Parliament or a funeral, taking a box-seat at the Piccadilly, playing high stakes at the Pontoon, or signing an armistice. So entertainers could signal themselves as a class-act by donning a topper — like Fred Astaire in dance, or Howard Thurston in magic (— who would pull out not just a rabbit but trapeze artists and multiple mini top hats from his own topper; see youtube). It’s artistic mimesis, imaginal association — appropriating a cultural meaning by taking up its cultural cue.
At least as many entertainers, however, have used the top hat to create something different: to make an ironical statement, to show up the subversiveness of their acts and attitudes, including in song, dance and humour. Charlie Chaplin, before he came up with his bowler-topped tramp, was one of many English music-hall artists to use this theatrical trick. Performing in a top hat gave an ironical twist to their cockney accents, and upped their romanticizing about poor living, and reinforced the conservative values they sang into their songs. Among these topper-tiled curmudgeons and cads were Henry Champion (Any old iron?), George Leybourne (Champagne Charlie), Henry Vance (Walking in the zoo — a song that gave us the word “okay”), Charles Coborn (The man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo), Harry Ford (Knocked ‘em in the Old Kent Road), Rich ‘n’ Rich (The Court of King Karactacus), and Ernie Mayne (And the fog grew thicker and thicker).
Keeping close to classiness, Marlene Dietrich made her own subversive statement in top hat and tails — simply in virtue of being a woman taking on this most masculine (phallic?) symbol. More in line with the music-hall subversion, there’s Bert Williams, with a top-hat plus lap-lap or feather-tail, on top of playing on being a Black American. Then we get, in their footsteps, several rock artists, including Marc Bolan, Alice Cooper and Slash, taking up the topper.
As for Jeff Duff, look over the images he cuts in a topper. It’s not a mere Fred Astaire kind of classiness, and it’s also not a simple Chaplinesque twist. We’ve heard before about how a dialectical shift between opposites is a common feature of Duff’s lyrical work (blogpost). That’s a shift between the above thesis (the top hat’s class, authority, Uncle Sam, Lincoln, toffiness …) and antithesis (the leprechaun, Cat-in-the-Hat, Mad Hatter, music-hall artists, rocky fops …) So there are multiple voices, sources, signs and images in a Duff style – but the whole is more than the sum of these …
Duff in his toppers combines and goes beyond these elements. The image he cuts has both classiness and puckishness. He could be taking the best seats at the races, or treading the music hall boards, each with sure and sincere effect. He can’t really be slotted alongside any of the above reels, for instance, not with any depth. Naturally, it’s not just in the costume. The process is more prismatic than that. The person is the new synthesis himself. It’s the effect of the entity he is, accentuated by donning a top hat.
+ P.S. Of course, other hats have fitted Duff’s crown — see the covers of Gonna Send the Boys Around, Ground Control to Frank Sinatra, Kiss My Apocalypse, and Fragile Spaceman, among his albums. Even a fez among his Great Gatsby appearances, and a propeller on a Countdown appearance, and whenever emergency portends. But in donning the topper, Duff epitomises and gives a key to something that is essential to his art — including in his words and music.
+ P.P.S. Further theoretical development could occur by referencing Sheldrake’s theory of morphic resonance, or Hardy’s theory of semantic fields, and their supposed parapsychological effects.
After the August Ziggy Shows, many people will need a cool-down … so try …
+ vids by Colin Hay of the Duff & Co Ziggy Show that was: Recently updated (pre-August 2014) to now include Let’s Dance and Young Americans:
+ a Ziggy-esque performance of Eagle Rock by the Duff at The Great Australian Songbook show, 26 May, Enmore Theatre:
~ and how about pre-listening to some recorded Duff-does-Bowie tracks (includes Duff-as-Cyril covering "Weirdos" off Cyril Trotts to Bogna):
+ and there’s this pic of Duff at the ACMI announcement, mid the Ziggy shows, Aug 13, of their score for 2015 (16 July to 1 Nov): Bowie IS.
The top-rating of about 120 Duff-vids reaches 50,000 views by August 2014. That’s for Jeff Duff and Kush on the Paul Hogan Show:
That’s a lot of views for a single released in October, 1974. Many live performances by Australians of their singles don’t get near this many views. Also, there was a lot of competition in 1974: the top-selling singles by Australian artists included Olivia Newton John’s I honestly love you (561,807 views), Sister Janet Mead’s The lord’s prayer (182,893 views), Ross Ryan’s I am Pegasus (202,092 views), Helen Reddy’s Leave me alone (104,848 views), and of course on top at the time, Stevie Wright’s Evie (275,758 views). And Duff was only a teenager!?
Going below the Top 5, Easy Street crops up as one of the kickass survivors, growing by an average of 775 views per month (since November 2012, when the Duff-Rover first went to work).
Even Farewell Aunty Jack by Graham Bond, while reaching No. 1 for 3 weeks in 1974, now only has 21,658 views on youtube (its top-listed vid for artist + song on this 1st Aug at about 6:00 pm AUS, as for other stats mentioned here).
So congratulations, Kush. Mushy marketeers and little terrorists envy you and your art, while a kickass survivor of 1974 keeps propelling popular appeal.
- About the album where Easy Street is on.
- Kush at the Sunbury Festival, 1974 (with vid)
- Other top-rating Duff vids:
Then follows a Van Morrison song, then:
Duff recently commented on his facebook that he didn’t regard himself as a celebrity – as well as offing his banana again. Both of these themes were taken up in a Sydney Morning Herald article on Jeff Duff, 25 Sept 2004. Richard Jinman was the journalist. Thanks to Justin Pearson for the material.
From the bashing that greeted him back in Oz, after a decade of “losing touch with my genitals,” the article almost assures us that, when not packing fruit, Jeff Duff doesn’t suffer from, say, “Fame, that makes things hollow.” Or “Fame, fame, fame,” in general.
Or is it like Tiberius, wasn’t it, who didn’t want to return to power to win a war if it stopped him from growing cabbages? A Tiberius Complex? But one that still makes Duff the hardest working artist in Australia, there to F your mind over and over and over again.
2061 views as of posting
Visual artists have espied a lot about the Duff, in their visuo-intelligent ways. Like that portrait greeting goers-down to The Basement, once bled for delight and goodwill, to see him in silken blouse, against a warm cabaret drop, coolly fitted against a soporific wall of blue – now here before it in striking creams, with a watch about his otherwise nubile left-wrist, his right-arm in frozen salute to rest his countenance upon; and a winking eye where once eye-fulls of reflection did floweth. All as he art-masters the situation. But who these artists?
Justin Pearson – painter-most-prized of Australian opera – gives Duff in angelic mode – brushing him down on wood in oil with wings – about the time (1994) of Duff’s Angels and Rascals album. Is this not the most transliminal of Pearson’s subjects? By setting Duff against a wood grain, Pearson accentuates Duff’s über-naturalness – whorls-n-whirls well setting off the Duff without containing his wonderousness. Maybe this painting recoups but surpasses a theme of that Wim Wenders movie “Wings of Desire” (Himmel über Berlin, 1987); that amongst us, there are angels with human biographies, in our very own necks of the wood. Yep, proving the point, here’s a pic of Duff like a Wenders angel, but smiling over human traffic, and smiling back to any kid rising over it.
The painter, Justin Pearson, has kindly informed us of the following inspiral thoughts, with more pix from the Duff-Pearson Experience:
"In 1994, Surry Hills, I meet Jeff at an art exhibition in Sydney. At that time i was looking for a good subject to portray at the Archibald. He said yes and i was thrilled to paint such a great singer and charismatic figure. I did two portraits of him in oils. One small one on wood (i thought the grain of the wood was a bit psychedelic and so matched him). He asked me if I could put Angel wings on him (angels were the thing at that time, like vampires are now) so wings it was. The other painting oil’s on canvas was very big, so big I had to do it in two parts (not a good thing to do for an art comp), one on top of the other, portrait size.
Art-photographer Catherine Hourihan shows Duff amid a series of Phantastical Portraits that featured in many of Duff’s 2013 publicities. The collection was exhibited recently at m2 gallery in Surry Hills. Ms Hourihan kindly writes the following for us Duffophiles …
Hourihan’s photos remind of Bowie on the escalators of “Ricochet,” to the tune of doubt and dog-howled “Heroes”; and the “hours …” shoots, as below. But as opposed to Bowie’s exhaustion, and invitation, Duff’s stance is, in part, puppet-like, inspiring by bald curiosity as he goes into a Frankenstein walk, still wanting back his brain; a frozen-momented street-mime; a rabbit at the end of a shot-gun, caught out for being curious; a neo-über mainman in a late Space Odyssey.
Penelope Beveridge‘s photos for Duff’s Fragile Spaceman give off, momentarily, a gasp; and then a reverie, and then a storm. Babes just think of the morbid; those who’ve walked some miles are mystiqued, walk its wharf, fall off its plank, and enter its world; dance not with death but tear off their skirts to excite Querelle, the man who kills the thing he loves, lost at the precipice of human touch, in love with Duff songs, submitted to heavenly ends. Da-ti-dah, l’art de Duff. Beveridge’s Duff could be the antithesis of Fassbinder’s Querelle, but strip away lust and loss, and we end up with similar eyes upon the seas, meditating over the waves of the world in blind wonder.
"Jeff is a most entertaining donkey, singing and dancing to 20’s vaudeville and 80’s music! Jeff would make a lovely addition for collectors of vintage dolls and toys. Jeff a wears a red and white polka-dot pair of britches detailed with vintage cloth covered buttons. He also sports a racy little red checked scarf and a little rusty pin and bell. … His eyes are made from two vintage chocolate brown buttons. Jeff has been distressed using coffee to give him a vintage look [but he has] a warm layer of varnish to protect him from the elements. He measures 9 inches high and 6 inches wide from ear to ear." – Grace Garton
This doll was a featured work in the Spring 2013 edition of Stampington and Company’s Prims magazine, a deluxe publication of contemporary doll-art rivalling painting itself, and older than photography. Still, if this is Duff, it is a non-representational, impressionistic, take on the artist; us ‘philes don’t remember Duffo ever appearing in polka-dot pants. (We understand that the artist might be working on a more associative representation of the Duff, in a doll; let’s keep our buttons peeled.)– rodg.