Embassy Club 1979: The first Duff/Bowie hook-up

Posted on 22nd January 2017
Bowie 1978

Interviewer: Did you ever meet David Bowie himself?
Jeff Duff: I did actually. I met him a few times in London, when I was living there; I lived there for ten years. And yeah, he was on the menu quite a few times.—ABC 612 Brisbane Afternoons (11 Aug 2010) [radio interview]

A particular Duff/Bowie meeting at the time of Duff’s Euro career (c. 1978-1987) occurred at the Embassy Club, London.

The Embassy Club, on Old Bond Street in London’s West End, was opened in 1978 by Jeremy Norman, and managed by New Zealander Stephen Hayter. It was actually a revival of a 1920s exclusive Bohemian club of the same name, in the same locale. But as recalled by Norman in an interview with The Spectator, his new Embassy Club was directly "inspired by a visit to the ground-breaking New York nightclub Le Jardin", becoming London’s answer to New York’s exclusive disco heartland Studio 54 "for three heady years". It was reliably "full of beautiful boys and model girls dancing and carrying on in a sexually charged environment to ecstatic disco music and revolutionary lighting effects". Keeping it afloat as disco sunk, for a time, it earned the investment in 1981 of Lady Edith Foxwell, then known (and still recalled) as the "Queen of London Society", and renowned, for one thing, for her naked pool parties with Helen Mirren and Princess Margaret, among others. The following reminiscence sums up the style of the club, from the inside.

 the Embassy club on Old Bond Street took London by storm when it opened in April 1978. … the Embassy was not about boy meets girl, but a place where sexual decadence reigned, underpinned by a homoerotic aesthetic … Instead of spending your Saturday night at a club where the people were a mundane extension of your everyday world with a bit of music thrown in, the Embassy was different. It catered to a cross-section, from transsexuals to European aristos … Once inside the club, you felt you were part of a privileged elitist group of people. … Cocaine spilled over the tables, young men in jock-straps and pillar-box hats danced on the bar, and drag queens simulated sex on the rostrum. … going to the Embassy was like being in a Hollywood movie with everyone wanting to be the star. Friendly it may have been, but everyone wanted to be the king or queen of glam. daily.redbullmusicacademy.com (May 2013)

Matching this quote in pictures, the cultural feel of the place has been copiously captured for posterity in the music-video for Sylvester’s You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real). It was largely filmed on the dance-floor of the Embassy Club. The extended play version is here:

Other accounts of the Club’s history can be found in Luke Howard’s Brief history of London’s gay clubs, and in We made it feel mighty real in The Independent.

But what about Bowie visiting the Embassy? This was actually something of a regular occurrence—as recounted by Nina Hopkins Deerfield. She first visited the club with Pete Townsend for a bite to eat, then came to be responsible, during the late 70s and early 80s, for booking the Embassy’s musical acts. In this audio recording, Deerfield recalls meeting a "sparkly" Bowie at the Embassy. The year seems to have been 1979; Deerfield’s not specific, but she recalls that Bowie was still a regular visitor "a couple years later", around the time of his recording of Baal. That was filmed (for BBC TV) in September 1981 (and broadcast in March 1982), according to various Bowie biographies. Anyway, Deerfield tells how Bowie would help her out by introducing her to particular artists, including The Eurythmics. Among other tidbits, she relates that, at a birthday party for her at the club, Bowie and Freddie Mercury sang Happy Birthday; and that Bowie confessed to her that he didn’t like his "sharp and pointy" elbows.

To picture Bowie at this time, 1979 was also the year in which Bowie performed an intense, stripped-back version of Space Oddity for Kenny Everett’s New Year’s Eve Show (December 1979):

Apart from Bowie, Townsend and Mercury, the various histories also note that Mick Jagger, Marilyn, Boy George, Steve Strange and Rusty Egan came to be more or less regular visitors. Pix of Marvin Gaye, Pierce Brosnan, Bryan Ferry, Nick Haslam, Peter Cook and Midge Ure, among others, at the place are here, and one of Steve Strange is here. So it was at once exclusive, exhibitionistic, provocative, etc.. And it was experiences in clubs like the Embassy that Bowie seems to write about in his Scary Monsters songs, on his next album, with its allusions to "teenage wildlife" and "new wave boys", the "dance my life away" ethos, fashion left and right, and "love back to front". The club also seems to have had (according to the Evening Standard) a later history when it was "popular with celebrities including David Beckham, Russell Brand, Prince Harry and Kate Moss".

So what about Jeff Duff meeting Bowie at the Embassy? For a start, it wasn’t random. It was contingent on Duff’s celebrity, the fact of a performance he did at the club, and Bowie’s beckoning. Well, this is the context that Duff has himself given, in an ABC radio interview, for his first meeting with the Dame:

Duffo 1979 OGWT

 The time I met him in London was when I had a hit record for a moment … I was an A-list celebrity probably for an hour. It was incredible actually. … I had breakfast with Mohammed Ali. I was invited to all these A-list parties where I was on the arm of Britt Ekland, and Rod Stewart. Andy Warhol became a friend of mine during that period. It was just an amazing period. It was short. It was brief. But it was just spectacular. ABC Radio National Books and Arts 1 Aug 2015 [radio interview]

And what actually happened? This is how Duff recounted the episode for 9News

 When I went to live in London in the ’70s I met David Bowie after one of my performances at the Embassy Club on Old Bond St in the West End," he recalled. "I just finished one of my shows and the manager came up and asked me if I wanted to meet David who was waiting in his office. [Bowie] was great, he looked amazing, and it was such a fantastic experience. 9news.com.au (12 Jan 2016)

… and this is how Duff recounted it at the same time for the Daily Telegraph

 I was playing at an exclusive club called The Embassy and was invited by the manager to meet him [i.e., Bowie]. He looked amazing, very youthful. Although, it was 1979. Daily Telegraph (12 Jan 2016)

Somewhat clarifying what Duff meant by noting that "it was 1979", a journalist in the Sydney Morning Herald, without directly quoting Duff, noted that Bowie was "rather less sober" at this Embassy meeting than when Duff met Bowie at a later time (back in Sydney). In an interview with Wendy Harmer for ABC Radio National (30 May 2016), Duff himself noted that Bowie was a bit "wobbly" at this meeting. Here’s an excerpt:

… the same twist is told in the interview Duff did for Channel 10 TV’s Studio 10 show (18 May 2016):

Now when exactly did this meeting occur—in the context of what else Bowie was doing? Duff mentions 1979, the same year that Deerfield first met Bowie. Although Bowie’s album Lodger was still being recorded/mixed in Switzerland and New York up until March 1979, it was April 1979 when Bowie got that "notorious" slap-in-the-face from Lou Reed at the Chelsea Rendezvous, London. Come October, however, Bowie is said to have been recording with John Cale in New York, but also recommenced his Isolar tour in late 1979, taking it to Australia and Japan. That roughly puts this first Duff/Bowie meeting between April and September 1979, and probably earlier rather than later: The note about Bowie’s "wobbliness" shakes the tail of Doggett’s remark about what happened when, that April, Reed asked Bowie if he would produce his next album:

 the occasion ended in a fist-fight [sic] after Bowie insisted—rather hypocritically, one might feel—that Reed would first have to abandon his intake of alcohol and drugs —Peter Doggett (2011), The Man Who Sold the World (p. 308)

Being both "amazing" and not exactly compos mentis is, of course, how any chameleon would go given the club’s culture ("when in Rome …"), in a period that was as extraordinarily productive and creative for Bowie as any other; and, true to Bowie’s generally quixotic nature, Duff’s experience of the MainMan is similar to Adrian Belew’s during the earlier leg of the Isolar tour in 1978:

 Bowie was "somewhat troubled. Maybe he was still doing some drugs. I don’t know, maybe he was tired. I remember him overall as amazing to be around, but I did have a sense he was riding through it, not totally happy". —Adrian Belew, quoted in Trynka (2011), Starman (p. 287)

Duff has painted Bowie in song: a masterwork that seems to express the ultimate stuff of this meeting:

History repeats: Interestingly, there is a story by John Taylor, bass guitarist in Duran Duran, of a meeting he had with Bowie at the Embassy that is similar to Duff’s. This was a few years later, in 1982. The Duran boys were similarly impressed, to the point of awe. They seem to have found a more talkative Bowie, who even uttered the impressively sane and sober words "How is Colin?":

Duffo 1979 OGWT

 [T]he place I most frequently went for after-hours amusement was the Embassy Club on New [sic] Bond Street, owned and run by an ex-guardsman, Stephen Hayter … One night, Rob and I were hanging out in the Embassy restaurant when Stephen beckoned for us to join him in his inner sanctum. "You’re gonna like this. Follow me." In his office sat David Bowie with his friend Sabrina Guinness. I was almost struck dumb. … "Hello, boys," said David, across Stephen Hayter’s desk, turning to me, "I’ve heard about you." "Oh, thank you, yes. .. we, er, we covered Fame," I tell him, trying to find some common ground with the Thin White Duke. "And Colin Thurston is our producer." "Ah yes, dear old Colin," replies David, "How is Colin?" I hadn’t met many legends at this point in my career. Jimmy Saville? It would never get any better than this for a boy with my roots. He was the perfect gentleman, and Rob and I spent the rest of the evening in his and Sabrina’s company. When we finally de-clubbed, we were on cloud nine as we traipsed back home to our Kilburn flat. "I c-c-c-can’t believe it," Rob kept saying, in his stuttering south Londonese, "Us and David Bowie." John Taylor @ duranasty.com

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Jeff Duff’s Top 20 tubes Nov-Dec 2016

Posted on 18th December 2016
What were the most popular of Jeff Duff’s youtubes and vimeos over the last month?
The Duff Rover has been at work again, collating these statistics, including the number of extra views-per-tube from November to December.
Here are links to the Top 20, in order of extra views (left-to-right, top-to-bottom) and then some stats:
Easy Street
MacArthur Park
Easy Street
Take a walk on the wildside
Give me back me brain/Duff record
Stairway to Heaven
Studio 10 interview
Walk on the wildside
Tower of madness
Space Oddity
Easy Street
Walking on eggshells
Walk on the wildside
Fragile Spaceman (Keady)
Guillotine quickstep
Le Poseur
Walking in Memphis

Some interesting points about this Top 20:
  • Although Duff’s performance in the ’70s of Easy Street on the Paul Hogan Show is—with more than 64,000 views—far and away the most popular overall, the biggest increase across all Duff ‘tubes was for his performance of Easy Street on Mornings with Kerrie-Anne (Channel 9, Australia); almost doubling in views (albeit from a much smaller base of about 400 at the start of November). There was also a 67% increase in views of the live performance of this song by Duff with The Grand Wazoo.
  • Most of these Top 20 vids were of Duff/Kush originals and/or single releases: not only performances of Easy Street, but also a couple versions of Walk on the wildside, and his MacArthur Park on the Ray Martin Midday Show. Each of these had more than 300 extra views over the past month.
  • Also popular were Duff’s TV performances in the UK (on the Old Grey Whistle Test) and Germany of singles from his first solo album—Give me back my brain, and Tower of madness—as well as the title-tracks from his two most recent solo albums: Walking on eggshells and Fragile spaceman.
  • Performances by Duff of Bowie songs were not as popular as performances of his own songs. Only three performances of Bowie material made it into this Top 20.
  • Even looking at the next top 20, most of the videos were of Duff’s own songs, Kush songs, or signature covers—but performances of Bowie songs generally had no more than two more views each from November to December. This is surprising given the run of Duff-Bowie shows of late: It seems that a lot of people get interested in seeing more Duff-does-Duff after seeing his Bowie shows than seeing more Duff-does-Bowie (albeit there are more Duff-does-Bowie tubes out there, and so the views for them are more dispersed).
  • Most of these vids also make up the all-time greatest number of views, led, as usual, by Easy Street on the Paul Hogan Show, followed by Stairway to Heaven on the ABC, the Take a walk on the wildside video, and MacArthur Park on the Midday Show; and then including, at #5, a live performance of Someone like you (Van Morrison cover). Total views across 237 Duff videos (including duplicates) was close to 360,000 at the start of December.
So: is a Jeff Duff originals-only show timely?
More Duff tubes here.
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– rodg.

Jeff Duff celebrates Bowie at Hope Estate Vines with Australian Symphony Orchestra

Posted on 17th October 2016


Pre-show promo pic of Housden, Stace, Ellis, Balbi and Duff

Pre-show promo pic of Housden, Stace, Ellis, Balbi and Duff

Jeff Duff—together with Steve Balbi and Brydon Stace—performed 3 hours of David Bowie songs at the Hope Estate, Pokolbin this last Saturday (15 Oct 2016). While the Stones, Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles have played there before, this show surely topped the lot in having George Ellis conducting the Australian Symphony Orchestra as "back-up".

Set in New South Wales’ Hunter Valley wine region, it was a perfectly sunny, 360º cloud-free day, the show commencing at sun-down: circa 7:00 p.m., and not letting up by 10:30 p.m..

George Ellis is well-known for his conducting job at the opening of the Sydney Olympics in 2000, and also his work in musical education. He comes with some rock sensibility as well, having been part of Sydney’s 1980s post-punk band-scene (Weekend Australian, 2010.04.10-11). Sporting the Aladdin Sane make-up, he also took the audience’s breath away from the start when, on first turning to face the orchestra to raise his baton, the iconic lightening flash was seen to adorn the back of his coat. So he set the stage ablaze! But then—we drew our breaths again—: by opening with the Bowie/Eno instrumental Warszawa (see youtube), we were offered an evocative sample from Bowie’s oeuvre, one that recalled how Bowie himself opened his “white light” shows of the late ’70s. So the show commenced by emphasising the art of the MainMan ahead of the party. So true to Ellis’ word ahead of the show, as reported in the Newcastle Herald (2016.06.30):

 The Thin White Duke’s music lends itself beautifully to the array of colours of the orchestra. Rich textures and harmonies weave in and out of his songs, making them perfect to decorate. George Ellis

Balbi opened the first song-set with Ziggy Stardust. He also took over most of the glam-era numbers, including Diamond Dogs, Rock-n-Roll Suicide and Jean Genie; as well as a stomping, über-funky, pleasantly mad Fame, coaxing it out in mind-splitting saxophonic treats from Ross Middleton. With Quicksand, Balbi reached back to Bowie as pre-funk, pre-icon poet-philosopher; and together with Life on Mars, had the orchestra making a particularly prominent and powerful contribution. Balbi’s stagework was as stunningly idiosyncratic as usual; the whole ecstatic messiah treatment (as also at, e.g., the 2012 Ziggy Show).

Stace offered his Olympian energy and polished vocals (a siren here, a tornado there) to a wide array of songs, from Ashes to Ashes to The Man Who Sold the World (see youtube) to Sorrow. Also as professional and breath-taking were the dazzling array of dance-figures that kept popping out from his every joint. Quite the stadium performer, commanding every possible precipice and pedestal of the huge stage with his muscular Freddie Mercurial stances.

And Jeff Duff. Doing the more emotive songs … an artful Lazarus (as previously seen at the Enmore and the Basement bio launch), and Wild is the Wind (as also seen at the Sydney Opera House). So he took to the stage with cool, meditative strides in the manner of Bowie himself, as he approached the Glastonbury stage. Also on board for the baritone singing; Let’s Dance, China Girl … Also a recall of his touching eulogy for Bowie. Of course there were doses of his "naughty" patter and moves, but the bulk of his challenges to the audience were to honour the MainMan who the "ten thousand peopleoids" or such had come to party in the spirit of.

The trio emerged to give a combined effort on Five Years, "Heroes" and (for encore) Rebel Rebel and Suffragette City, while Duff and Stace did their usual combo for Under Pressure (as also seen at the Enmore Theatre and the Sydney Opera House), and so Duff and Balbi on Space Oddity (as seen on Channel 10 TV). Costume-changes for every song, too; Duff, say, in his golden outfit for Golden Years (see youtube), then in red with top-hat (just his style) for Space Oddity, his new space-helmet with white Pierrot suit for Starman, and so on.

Jak Housden doing Moonage Daydream with a top-level voice of Bowie and guitar of Mick Ronson—as at the legendary Santa Monica gig. Interesting to see Jess Ciampa in his orchestral home, and to see more of the band’s newcomer Christo (Station to Station).

Lighting was exceptional, too. Working with a ring of lights about the huge disc above the stage—always projecting a close-up of the singers in song, or a deft selection of Bowie pics—the stage could be lit at times like the centre of a supernova, or the halls of Lang’s Metropolis. Sound was booming but bright; bringing out the aural delights of the orchestral strings to emotional splendour, as in Quicksand, or simply striking out the rhythms in body blows through, say, Fame. All radiating out from the huge, towering stage, the effect was of a constant tidal-wave of multi-sensory provocation.

Stage management was also interesting to watch; emergencies portended and avoided, mics arighted, and so on, with ardent precision.

And so it ended as Duff prophesied ahead of the show in the Maitland Mercury (2016.09.28):

 It’s going to be challenging, this eclectic rock band with acoustic strings. [But] Bowie used a lot of orchestral arrangements, it suits David Bowie more than most artists. It will be really exciting. … It does sort of build up to this raging climax and we do end up rocking out at the end. Even the violins and cellos will be rocking out. Jeff Duff

Harpist and singer-songwriter Anna Morgana opened the event. Blends of Keyes, Hagen, P. Smith, Bush, maybe, but certainly, as someone behind me said, "she sounds like some Australian singer". That was also a discovery to keep making.

Good to see an Artist Merchandise stall. Duff’s autobiography for sale (it’s always tempting to get yet another one!), and the DVD of Colin Hay‘s Ziggy/Unzipped live show videos (see the TUBES database; I got mine, to add to the TRACKS database).

For PIX of the gig, see Tania Smith’s album here, and Russell Cherry’s album here; like this one ahead of the classic electric fellatio scene, and a simple, all dude family-shot:

See why Duff calls Housden his Mick Ronson (and why Bowie called Ronson his Jeff Beck) in this searing solo by Housden on Ziggy Stardust

See the Bowie Unzipped site for more Duff/Bowie gigs—including his January 2017 tour including NSW, Vic, SA and WA.

~ And a thank you to the Zepher bus-blokes for getting me there and back to Central, and even championing me with a round of applause for topping their Bowie quiz! Did I get an extra point for getting Iman’s surname right? Or was it just that I didn’t confuse The man who fell to earth with The man who sold the world? We’ll never know. Meat-eaters bringing their deathly, smelly stuff on the bus aside (just to make a point), it was an easy and a glorious trip. Ta for stoking the flames with your Bowie Quiz—and for saving that back-seat.

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– rodg.

Jeff Duff and the Japanese sublime, singing Yutaka Ozaki

Posted on 1st August 2016

Was and is Yutaka Ozaki a James Dean and maybe even John Keats of song? All authentic and vulnerable, oceanic blue and alarmed like candle-light?

So Jeff Duff and Yutaka Ozaki must (if there is any law in the universe) connect.

Well—all this magic has happened, in our time, for experiencing and sharing.

No less surprising than everything else in Jeff Duff’s autobiography is the fact of his Japanese career—within which Duff has recorded Ozaki’s "I love you", with a Japanese audience in mind, laden with Australiana, as by kookaburra-harmonica.

Topmost is the art of hyperbole, stuff that Australia shares in spirit with Japan. So Jeff Duff delivers Ozaki with the height of his emotiveness, and perhaps with the highest note he’s put to record.

Also, fluttering out of Duff’s hands, the song gets a full-throated baritone airing.

The key note, though, is sincerity—Duff sings this song out like it’s the best delight in the world, belling out its meaning like an angel meant it. So, for Duffromantics everywhere, Duff’s cover of Ozaki’s song is on the streamed album from Laneway Music: Elizabeth Bay, available on iTunes, for example, here, or on Spotify here:

Thank you to Sachiko W., Duffophile, for her associations and research re Yutaka Ozaki and Jappo-Duffo, without which this blogpost would not have been possible. She is a Noble Fellow of the Institute for Duffological Studies.

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Political Duff Stuff

Posted on 1st July 2016

QUESTION: What has Jeff Duff in common with Alison MacCallum, the lead singer of this popular anthem of Australian politics?

MacCallum was a back-up vocalist on the 2nd Kush album (1975)
Both Jeff and Alison appear on the Big Time Operator: Big Bold Booming Voices Of The 60s & 70s compilation album (Sony Music, May 2016); see this blogpost
When Duff sang "So your daddy is a mushroom" on Bob the Birdman, he had MacCallum in mind
MacCallum is now a regular tennis partner of Jeff Duff

Now … can you spot Jeff Duff in more recent matters of political import in the following pics?

Incognito? Duff was strikingly pictured, in January 2016, as one of a league of local heroes fighting local council for the freedom to party in their own Elizabeth Bay Park. See the full story in the Daily Telegraph, with full-size, all-colour pic.

Jeff Duff defends local park for local people

Jeff Duff defends local park for local people

Jeff Duff was the star attraction at a euthanasia rights fund-raiser in April, 2016, with comedian Mikey Robins (also in the promo pic, below) as MC for the night. That was the Dancing with Dignity event, as previewed by altmedia.

Jeff Duff in Dancing with Dignity (promo pic)

Jeff Duff — Dancing with Dignity!!

Jeff Duff also appeared, in voice and visage, only a few years ago, as one of many luminaries of Australian music in Leo Sayer’s anti-CSG anthem "No fracking way". See this blogpost about it, and the vid on youtube here (or on vimeo here).

Jeff Duff in Leo Sayer's No Fracking Way

Jeff Duff in Leo Sayer’s No Fracking Way

And, to help meditating on recent efforts to create a status-based, two-tiered wage system in Australia for those who work on weekends, there’s also an anti-slavery song from Duff: namely, Twisted system, on Jon Lord’s (Deep Purple) Hoochie Coochie Men album, with Duff slaving on the vocals; available on iTunes here or at Spotify—here:

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Euro-Duffo: Clown Prince of Rock? The “naughty but nice” ZigZag Interview (UK, 1979)

Posted on 19th June 2016

1979.04_zigzag_pic_1Did Jeff Duff flee Australia in the late ’70s to find his natural home in punk UK? This is one thesis (see Glenn A. Baker on Duff); and corresponds, in part, to Duff’s own anticipations, as he marked off the days on his Sex Pistols calendar until he took flight; "Oh Lord, a one-way ticket out of here, please!" (TWEE, p. 95).

However, after landing on the Queen’s soil in 1978, some initial reactions to Duff from what remained of UK’s punk purists didn’t match these theses and enthusiasms. Gobbed off stage and beaten up by punk rock punters at his first Lyceum gig (where the Pistols played their first abortive gig, way back in ’75), Duff-off-the-bus, though armed with sterling phone-numbers to ring, still got throttled on the streets, in tow with the grubby UK arts-media: like finding himself pummelled by UK’s heavyweights of music broadcasting: by the infamously gay-shy Russell Harty (on ITV, quite nastily) and by the innocently regressive Anne Nightingale (on The Old Grey Whistle Test, tongue-in-cheekily). As for die-hard punk rockers still flailing on the streets, there was a particular article in their latter day street-pamphlets that sought to bust the head of this brazen outsider, in harmony with with Harty’s and Nightingale’s shocks. A particular article of the type was authored by punk-purist music journo Robin Banks—in the 10th anniversary issue of the music mag ZigZag.

While starting out as a hippie music mag, by 1979, ZigZag was a self-consciously low-brow champion of pure punk. Barely anyone other than the Sex Pistols and The Clash got a kind rap in this rag. Trying to copy at least the look of US punk mag Flashez, ZigZag‘s production values were poor, with cheap, ugly photography, and cramped, haphazard layout, while the text was often made up of a broken English word salad; an anti-literary complement to their anti-jewellery of rubber-bands and piercings. So, for example, in this issue in which "Duffo" was featured, a journo starts writing about Lene Lovich with the words "This gourds-churningly terrifying sshhuck! noise whistles malevolently close to Debbie Harry’s collatoral on a Saturday loan …". And only pure punk will do; the issue also proclaims that a new Roxy Music album "veers from ordinary and not noticeable to good-when-its-on", and Jonathan Richman is all a "fairyland of kiddie-romance and nursery rhyme nonsense". Banks himself writes of being left "breathless" when first listening to some Clash album, and to this day cites little more than his Pistols and Clash articles as meriting the historical record. Even readers chime in at this level; The Clash is said, in this issue’s Letters, to be "the best band in the land and have never recorded a duff record".

This did not bode well for Banks’ interview with Duff—with one of Duff’s songs on his first UK album even entitled Duff Record; check it out on iTunes, GooglePlay or Spotify. True to form, and to the appetites of ZigZag readers, the article begins by promising a report about "something totally ridiculous" as a way "to enliven our tenth anniversary edition". Banks claims that he made a "lengthy search" for someone who seemed to "fit the bill". Then he tries to be too clever beyond his ken in describing his encounter with this "someone" as "an insight into what might concur [sic] if Dr [sic] Spock met the Flying Doctor … and crashed".

Jeff Duff parties with Bill Wyman

Jeff "Duffo" Duff parties with Bill Wyman

Duff is then introduced as a creature found somewhere in Chelsea, in a grove (actually, Edith Grove, home of Duff’s esteemed publicist, Tony Brainsby) once associated with the Rolling Stones (who Banks also doesn’t like, writing that the Stones have since left this place for "puke-ridden greener pastures") … (see the pic, left, for another Duffo-Stones association). Duff first appears to him in (or as) "a freak glimpse of a pointed-ear-bearing character sporting bad make-up and striking velvet cloak". As for his music, well, because it’s not pure punk—Duff mashes it up with rock-n-roll roots, even cabaret of the Calloway type, with touches of Music Hall and Gilbert & Sullivan—Banks writes that Duffo’s first album contains 12 tracks "at least seven of which are stone cold turkeys".

Is music criticism like this of any use at all? Its yardstick begins and ends with what the critic personally likes; what is good is only what speaks to the critic’s own bit of space and time, as if the world is what is filled up by your very own drop in the ocean. Isn’t this just a low, banal, barely pubertal level of aesthetic appreciation—the aesthetic equivalent of egoism as the arbiter of moral reasoning (Kohlberg), or of the senses as the sole informant of the intellect (Piaget)? Asking why the musician does what s/he does is surely the start of a more developed critical approach, at least getting towards 20th century wisdoms of aesthetic appreciation, with more to offer readers than self-promotion of personal likes and dislikes, beyond childish liking of art as a choice between candy and brussel sprouts for tea.

BTW, others reviewing this album have found in it associations with The Kinks, the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, The Tubes, "Bowie (in his guise as Anthony Newley)", and even Monty Python; Banks himself finds an association with early (but, of course, "sub-standard") Ian Dury. Also, these reviewers have pointed to the album’s "witty lyrics with a pronounced strine inflection" and that "Duffo sings well and invests the entire disc with a self-deprecating sense of absurdity". The album is available on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, etc..

Jeff Duff (Duffo) cover pic for Give Me Back Me Brain single Jeff Duff (Duffo) cover pic for Tower of Madness single

Duff did not himself, of course, claim pure punk "credibility" for this early period of his Euro career; and he soon explored and immersed himself in other Euro trends—with peer and punter respect in tow. For example, as reported some months after his return to Oz, after a decade away …
Duff in the press: 1987.05.03 sun-herald

Robin Banks does, however, eventually doff his mohawk to Duffo. Of the infamous Number 10 body-stocking stunt (see Chapter 5 of This will explain everything from Melbourne Books for more info), Banks offers a perceptive and sensitive appraisal …:

 I should say here and now that Duffo struck me as more of a victim of cheapskate publicity endeavours than a straightforward media manipulator himself, quite the opposite. He came over as a person running hard to present himself in the only way he knows how, and for that he gets ten out of ten for trying. If he doesn’t quite cut it, then at least he’s made the attempt, and that’s far more than most people do. Robin Banks

Banks then applauds Duff for the sense of humour he showed in giving the esteemed NME music journo Tony Parsons—now self-proclaimed "Tory scum"—an exploding cigarette. The story is that Duff, having been summoned to an interview with Parsons after getting some adulation for the original, self-titled Duffo album (Beggars Banquet, 1979), entered the journo’s Carnaby Street club as a blindman, with dark glasses and walking-stick, and gave Parsons a cigarette that, exploding on being lit up, swept Parsons toppling off his seat, left him helpless on his hind, much to the mirth of fellow journos in the club.

Duffo badge modelled by Golly

1979 Duffo badge, designed by Duffo, proudly modelled by Golly; photo by GG

Banks also notes how Duff has his fans—Duffo’s performance at The Venue was "well-attended and well-received", and "I have even seen people sporting Duffo badges (which he designed himself) so it’s obvious that some people do actually like the guy". (See the Duffo badge, above, as proudly worn by our house-model at the Institute for Duffological Studies and photographed by GG.) Banks even uses the term Duffophiles to describe these creatures—much to the surprise of this writer, who independently came up with the term.

Banks also usefully records some quotables of lingering note re Duff on himself. Faithful to the low-brow ethos of the mag, Banks writes that he could not audio-record the interview because his tape-recorder was in a pawn-shop. Still, he seems to have scribbled down or committed to memory some notable words verbatim. So Duff could well proclaim that he was breaking new ground: "I want to prove that somebody completely different can come out of Australia and make it. That you don’t have to be Olivia Newton-John or the Bee Gees." And, whatever the reaction, he would not be deterred—like a Dali, his art was his life, and it was sanctioned to its freedom with entertainment as his mission:

 I’m not just Duffo on stage or on record. Duffo’s whole life is a performance. But I do feel the need to sing and show what I can do. I don’t care if people laugh with me or at me, as long as they laugh. And I don’t mind being regarded as the Clown Prince of Rock ‘cos I guess I am. Jeff Duff

(Summing up something of the Oz industry attitude to Duff at the time of his flight, the moniker "Clown Prince of Rock" was actually how a DJ, back in Brisbane only some weeks before then, introduced Duff to an audience; "which I thought was quite fitting", Duff himself added—TWEE, p. 96. So did Duff’s initial UK reception, as in ZigZag, just reflect, magnify and/or focus on that aplomb? A happy, even natural, outcome, after all? See TWEE [Chapters 5 & 6] for more by Duff himself on Euro-Duffo—and how all this early controversy actually gave him "keys to the city.")

See the complete ZigZag article as a pdf here—with more Duff in the media here.

Clown Prince of Pre Post-Punk Rock? Duffo on German TV

Clown Prince of Pre Post-Punk Rock? Duffo on German TV

For more about Euro-Duffo, see this Duffo album launch-poster in NME, his write-up in the German music press, and his German Rock-Pop TV Show performance, the interim 1982 report back to Oz in the Australian Women’s Weekly, this poster of his performance at The Factory, the inclusion of his Give Me Brack Me Brain single on the New Wave Greats 1976–1983 UK compilation CD, among other stuff.

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Big Time Operator: Jeff Duff on Sony’s “big bold booming voices” album

Posted on 21st May 2016

43Sony Music Australia has released (this 3rd week of May, 2016) a new Various Artists album entitled Big Time Operators: The Big Bold Booming Voices Of The 60s & 70s.

And, of course, quite fittingly, Jeff Duff appears among the esteemed artists.

Artists include Duff’s own hero, Scott Walker, with the song Duff himself covered on his own latest album: The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore). Walker is also on the album with Joanna. Other artists include Johnny Cash (Ring Of Fire), Long John Baldry (You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’), Leonard Cohen (Suzanne), Blood, Sweat and Tears (You’ve Made Me So Very Happy), and—another Duff hero—Bill Medley (Peace Brother Peace).

It also has the original Seasons of change by Blackfeather, which has been covered by Duff (on the Angels and Rascals album, and live on TV:)

—and of Eloise by Barry Ryan, also covered by Duff—but unfortunately with rotten, static-laden sound quality in this live-on-TV performance:

—and Duff also offers a version of this CD’s Long John Baldry song: from Ray Martin’s midday TV show:

And the Duff song on this 2 CD album? That’s on CD 2, Track 6: Easy Street, with Kush.

See the ARIA page here for details of the release. Seen to be available at all the usual outlets, including iTunes, Amazon, EBay, JB HiFi, and Spotify:

And lest you assume this is just an album full of fellas, it’s got at least one sheila on it too: The Aussie Alison MacCallum, best known for her politically arousing It’s time, but here with Excuse me (as one youtuber comments, sounds like a James Bond theme song, and with impressive Bassey-like touches too).

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“This will explain everything”: The Jeff Duff autobiography

Posted on 9th March 2016

jeff_duff_autobiography_cover_b_1The long-awaited Jeff Duff autobiography has been published — released in May 2016.

Crafted by Duff over many years, gloriously published by Melbourne Books, the work has a provocative promise as its title: “This will explain everything“, being a 248 page tome, hard cover printed on gold foil, beginning with a Foreword by Molly Meldrum. Here are some excerpts from Australia’s mainman of the popular music industry:


 Unique is an over-used word in showbiz. But Jeff Duff is unique. …

 Flamboyant, eccentric, cheeky, charming …

 Jeff Duff is one of the greatest entertainers Australia has producedMolly Meldrum

Order here from: melbournebooks.com.au.

Promo on Channel 7’s Daily Edition:

Promo on Channel 10

Excerpt of the ABC Radio National interview of Jeff Duff with Wendy Harmer ahead of the Sydney launch:

Interview with Duff re the book on RRR radio program The Australian Mood 26 May: on demand here or see the program page here.

Interview with Duff re the book on Maynard’s webcast here.

Performing Young Americans at the Basement (Sydney) launch of the book, Tues May 31:

Interview by Jeff Jenkins at the Flying Saucer Club (Melbourne) launch of the book, Sunday June 5:

Performing Easy Street at the Flying Saucer Club (Melbourne) launch of the book, Sunday June 5:

And listen to Lazarus from the same gig:

Pic of Duff at the Flying Saucer (Melbourne) launch of the book, Sun 5 June:

#JeffDuff at @flyingsaucerclubmusic yesterday…

A photo posted by Karen Freedman (@maccak) on

QUESTION: What was one of the earlier proposed titles for Duff’s autobiography (according to his blog of some years ago)?

The Naked Singer
The Disappearing Boy
I am a Genius
They said he was a fragile spaceman
Bashed, Banned but Unbewildered

More Duff quiz questions here.

FACT: It’s been a longtime coming. Already in 2004, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Duff was "putting the finishing touches to an autobiography that will be published next year". See the SMH article here.

From the launch of This will explain everything at Better Read Than Dead 265 King Street Newtown, NSW · Sun 19 June 2:00 p.m.:

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Jeff Duff on the Darren Sanders Show

Posted on 2nd March 2016

Darren Sanders was joined on his Channel 9 GO! TV show recently by the Australian music legend Jeff Duff—screened on 28 Feb, including performance of “Vampire Lover” and chat about 70s Glam Rock and his other career d’amour … in cricket.

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Ziggy returns

Posted on 25th January 2016

Ziggy The Songs of David BowieJeff Duff’s Ziggy: The Songs of David Bowie show returns to NSW venues in June 2016—as reported by noise11.com.

5 dates announced so far—from Newcastle to Wollongong—including a station to station dash from the Thirroul show down south on a Friday up to the Enmore Theatre, Newtown, on the Saturday. See the “Hot stuff” sidebar for dates.

Going by previous Ziggy shows, Duff might well lead the band and feed the crowd with performances of Ashes to ashes, China girl, "Heroes", Let’s dance, Sorrow, Space oddity, Starman, Young Americans and the ever-astounding rendition by Duff of Wild is the Wind à la Bowie.

With Brydon Stace on board for the high-top singing, he might also pull out Under pressure. And with Steve Balbi on board, there’s a good chance of burning off on a blistering Moonage daydream.

There are plenty of ‘tubes out there to get an early fix of the show, as performed at the Sydney Opera House, the Enmore Theatre, et al., in previous years. See the duffstuff catalogue of Duff tubes here—links to 17 tubes from the Ziggy Shows, + 31 from the Bowie Unzipped shows. For example, for starters:

Blogposts/Reviews re earlier Ziggy shows: 2014, 2013 and 2012 at the Opera House, 2012 in Adelaide, and 2011 at the Enmore Theatre.

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Vital Duff video from the vault

Posted on 24th January 2016

Fresh light of vid on long unseen Duff originals from his Lexicon and Bob the Birdman albums:

  • the dada-esque approach to Warholian themes in Sandy’s Drum:

  • and a stylish reflection on James Dean:

  • Duff’s invitation to "Come drown with me":

And there’s more …! VIZ: a contemporary version of Walk on the Wildside, and a more recent video of Duff’s Hide-and-seek, all re-released via Laneway Music.

See all Duff tubes from most recent to earliest, on youtube and vimeo, catalogued here. That’s all of about 190 tubes, or about 14 hours of viewing.

As of tonight, they’ve collectively had 270,102 views (as calculated by the Duff Rover). That’s over 60,000 down from late last year when the original Easy Street video (performed by Kush, live on the Paul Hogan Show) was pulled by youtube due to copyright issues (presumably related to a Paul Hogan retrospective on mainstream TV). Sadly, because this was by far the most viewed Jeff Duff video on youtube. But ~ an alternative copy of that vid still lurks on youtube …

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Jeff Duff, in the light of the blackstar

Posted on 12th January 2016

… at sbs.com.au, the Daily Telegraph, the Sydney Morning Herald, and 9news.com.au

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Jeff Duff’s Santa song

Posted on 24th December 2015

Santa-Rocket-Sleigh-Space-Classic-Christmas-Card-02Could this Russian Xmas card—from the US/Soviet Space Race era—have been the inspiration for Jeff Duff’s merry tune "Santa is an astronaut"?

The perfect antidote to the supermarket sound-track this season—preview via iTunes, GooglePlay or Spotify—off Duff’s "novelty" album Cyril Trotts to Bogna.

Here’s a small sample of the lyric …

Santa is an Astronaut

Intro announcement:

Hey! Look up into space, it’s a cosmonaut!
No, it’s an astronaut!
No! Oh, it’s only Santa’naut —
Hi Santa!


Forget what ya been taught
‘cos Santa is an Astronaut.
Don’t believe all ya hear
‘cos Santa rides a rocket not a real reindeer.


Space! — he’s got space in his head
for a turkey instead
of a brain.

Mars! — he’s a sucker for Mars Bars,
his stockings are all chocolate stained.


Bells! — he wears bells on his head
and scrap-metal instead
of a beard.

Sing! — he can’t sing, he can’t dance,
Xmas carols — fat chance! —
this guy’s weird.

There’s a swag more of these Russian space-themed Xmas cards, all copyright–free, at crazywebsite.com.

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Jeff Duff in “Polymorphia”

Posted on 15th November 2015

Maier's 1618 burning hermaphroditeJeff Duff is to appear in Polymorphia—a film by Sydney-based film-maker Edward Inchbold to be released in 2016. It’s a film of the short genre in which "an insane man meets the man in his head who makes his dreams". Duff plays the role of "Albert".

That’s according to IMDB, which also notes that the film stars one Felix Johnson as "Mr A B C", and one Nerida Bronwen as "The Dancing Girl", with music by Steve J. de Souza, among other seasoned artists of cinematography, production and costume design, etc.

Inchbold—this film’s writer, director and producer—also has the 2014 film Hard lines behind him. See also his early profile at the film-maker’s share-site mutinee.

Duff himself notes in his blog of 1st Oct 2015:

Film director Edward Inchbold, selected me to play one of the rather spooky characters in his new short movie called ‘Pollymorphia’. We filmed the movie in Sydney in September. I’m looking forward to seeing the completed film … apparently the aim is to have it screened at the Cannes Film Festival.

Pending more details, let’s ponder the above woodprint from 1618 of a burning hermaphrodite, which seems to fit in with the theme and perhaps even style of this new Duff project.

UPDATE via Instagram Aug 26 2016:

A photo posted by @polymorphiafilm on

For more info about Duff in film and theatre, there’s:

  • Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby—background info about Duff’s appearances, alongside Leonardo Di Caprio, here, with screenshots of Duff’s cameos here, and the whole movie via amazon here for streaming or here by hard-copy
  • Andrée Greenwell’s The Hanging of Jean Lee here, being a post-punk opera about the last woman to be hung in Australia, Duff playing her victim
  • The cult Oz science-fiction/heavy-metal movie Sons of Steel in which JD sprightfully plays the role of a hyper-glam nerd of body/mind science, Secta
  • Duff’s record on IMDB
Jeff Duff astride the whole party, in knickerbockers, in Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby"

Jeff Duff astride the whole party, in knickerbockers, in Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby”

+ See also: Jeff Duff in the 2013 Melbourne Arts House staging of "The Hanging of Jean Lee":

~ and Jeff Duff singing "The Burn" in Sons of Steel:

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