Rock Brain of the Universe Extolls Jeff Duff

Posted on 23rd July 2015

Thrice-crowned Rock Brain of the Universe, Australian journalist  Glenn A. Baker, has recouped his often-quoted observation that Jeff Duff, had he been born in the northern hemisphere, would long have been cushy, in popular minds, alongside Bowie, Reed and Iggy Pop — noting "the presence about him … the astonishing voice … the capacity to fit into any environment …"

That’s in this exciting and informative vid with generous quotes from the Southern MainMan Himself [3 views as of posting]

For more about Glenn A. Baker, see bios at wikipedia and Penguin.

Actually, listening to Duff here, we hear the limits of Baker’s thesis. Duff admits he was “too way out there” even for British audiences. Yep, the data available to the Institute for Duffological Studies do not exactly gel with GAB’s proposition that Duff, alienated from Oz, found a perfect home in punk UK. Duff was gob-smacked and punched-up at his UK first gigs, abandoned by execs at a publicity stunt, and encountered groaned out enthusiasms from UK TV presenters even as he offered them masterful live performances—to(Russell Harty on ITV, and Annie Nightingale on the Old Grey Whistle Test). Maybe this is real punk-type celebrity; Duff still hotted up the charts, so much so that he’s become one of the elect "UK New Wave Greats", in line with Elvis Costello, The Jam, and Joy Division. But this historical status wasn’t led by bells and whistles, Rudolph and chorus-girls. It came by mighty slogs, against the odds—slogs and odds perhaps no less trying than what JD endured in Oz, after all.

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Duffo 4 Eurovision 2015

Posted on 14th February 2015

euro_1

The Daily Telegraph reports:
"Australians responded with bewilderment and delight at a decision to allow them to compete in this year’s Eurovision Song …Contest – and immediately began pondering efforts to enlist Kylie Minogue or Midnight Oil. For some Neighbours fans, news that Jason Donovan ruled himself out will be disappointing, but the list below suggests there are a few strong contenders …"

Strong contenders and nonsense aside!
Duffo rules!
Specifically, c’mon, Daily Tonygraph, err, Telegraph, in response to your list of Euro-contenders, we at the Duffological Institute contend …

S_Jade_1

Samantha Jade

Were we internet trolls, we might remark about some "harridan" channelling Charlie’s Angels, and music-vids like screen-tests for Dr Jekyll and Ms Hyde. BYO paper-clips and tooth-picks for fun. But there’s just a little, more basic problem, besides: Who is she? And so we need …

kmin_1

Kylie Minogue

If ever or ever there was a Judy Garland without herself, there is Kylie Minogue. If every generation has a voice (Sinatra, Presley, Lou Reed …), Minogue is there but at the same time isn’t. That’s pretty quizzical (Bowie-esque?), but the humans still among us like to show we’re not robots when we vote. And so we need …

sia_1

Sia

Is this the swan who lost her wings while fixing her face to Graham Norton’s back-wall? Is this the diva who struggles to pronounce “chandelier” for beauty’s sake? Her Eurovision calling cards state that she’s "collaborated with Rihanna, Beyonce, Eminem & Katy Perry," and proffer "her fondness for wigs & dance routines." What (all kindergartners so impressed aside), the lady can’t name-drop (like Duff) Bowie, or Warhol …? Try again.

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Tina Arena

Ms Arena’s bilingualism is certainly a strong point, but Duff, too, has long been cross-over cultural, even more than any other Australian artist. Who’s the only Australian artist among the UK “New Wave Greats” on Repertoire’s 2-CD compilation album of the same name? Who else in England topped the Argentine charts at the height of the Falklands War (with his “Walk on the wildside” – filmed with Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes” make-up artist)? And Duff was already TV-smart as a 17-y/o on the Paul Hogan Show, still topping youtube lists. So the answer we’re searching for is …

onj_1

Olivia Newton-John

If ONJ promises to reprise “Xanadu,” maybe. If she does it in Bob Downe style, certainly. But that’s not gonna happen. No, she’s a rainbow wide and long, and belongs with the immortals. She’d have to come down from Mount Olympus to pull this one off, between drinking nectar with the gods, to sing a fanciful song of pleasure, Athena and Diana for critics. No, “She startles like a botanist finding a rare flower,” is the best they’d admit, the bitches.

Who else, then, instead? It’s only, surely … Midnight Oil/Peter Garrett. Hunh? Go

Duffo_Jeff_Duff_2015_170wJeff Duff.


Dreaming on, imagine seeing Duff live, all over Euro, as in …

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On top of the Duff

Posted on 19th August 2014

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 …!

Question:

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.

uncle sam leprechaun cat in the hat  / jeff duff

Thesis:

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.

mabuse stock exchange scene races coach astaire

Antithesis:

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).

chaplin champion leybourne vance

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.

dietrich bolan cooper

Synthesis:

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.

rockwiz throne jeff duff

+ 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.

There was once so big a topper on Duffo
 
that all bods agreed was just troppo,
 
or too Viennese, or made them all sneeze,
 
which mightily pleased Maestro Duffo.

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“Me a celebrity? I just grow bananas.”

Posted on 28th July 2014
Duff in Sydney Morning Herald September 2004

Duff in Sydney Morning Herald September 2004

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.

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L’Art de Duff: Visual artists portray Jeff Duff: #1

Posted on 8th June 2014

duff_portrait_basement_2Visual 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?

Yes, the Walk on the Wildside faces of Duff by Richard Sharah, soon after he crafted Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes face. Yes, award-winning music-vids by Lew Keilar of Duff songs. But as for still artists …

Justin Pearson paints Jeff Duff: 1994. oil on wood, 90 x 65 cmJustin 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.castlehill_a
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.
 
"He and I spent a lot of fun time painting the portraits, Me splatting colour on canvas and him singing and posing. Sorry to say the large painting did not get in the Archibald. I understand now, it’s not the way you paint and the techniques of painting but also the way you present the painting. Some might say it’s the subject matter or who you know, but I think Jeff is an Icon and a great benefit to the music world and Australia." – Justin Pearson

Justin Pearson artist
Justin Pearson's Duffodyssey>/a>

Justin Pearson’s Duffodyssey



Jeff Duff by Catherine Hourihan

Catherine Hourihan’s New Wave Ghost

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_1museum3
"I conceived and directed the shoot, it was shot in the tunnel at Museum Station and it was a lot of work liaising with the Downing centre and organising the lights etc. I thought of Jeff because I met him briefly in the early 90s when my friend Mark Chochrane made that amazing video for Jeff’s version of walk on the wild side. Not long after that I went to NY for over a decade but I guess I never forgot him; I loved the clip and his singing. When I returned to Sydney I began a serious photographic practice and I thought of Jeff.
"The portraits are about combining the mythical and other worldly with mundane reality, how there is a magical element to existence just beneath the surface of everyday life.

I called the portrait of Jeff ‘New Wave Ghost’. I think he embodies an era but also he has a whimsical, other worldly quality. My direction to him was imagine you are from the past and you found yourself here and that you can see the future. He just went with it and we got a beautiful evocative image.

"I’m very excited that Jeff is using the pictures on his next album “Walking on Eggshells.” I can’t wait to hear it."

Catherine Hourihan

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.

bowie_hours_1bowie_hours_2



Penelope Beveridge does Jeff Duff, Fragile SpacemanPenelope 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.Brad Davis in Fassbinder's Querelle



grace_garton_jeff_doll_1From quizzical starts, we now end the same: to a donkey-doll called Jeff. Is this our Duffo? Here’s how the artist, Grace Garton, describes the doll:

"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 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.

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