Following on from our preview here of Duff’s stellar performance at the Let’s Dance “Bowie Hotel” in Carinda, New South Wales, here’s some review of the event that was, this Sat 30 September to Mon 2 October:
A 6+ minute doco from Bernard Marden across the Carinda landscape, featuring its locals in celebration, closing in on Duff’s performance as it boomed across the town, then into the famed hotel itself:
Part 2 of a trilogy of first-person tour by Shawn Dare through the festival, here featuring Duff in concert, performing several Bowie songs:
Part 3 of Shawn Dare’s video trilogy, from inside the famed hotel, including interview with the mainman, and with Jak Housden:
“SO MANY smiling faces,” observed Jeff Duff from the stage at Carinda Showground on Saturday night 30 September.
‘Duffo’ and his band, featuring some of Australia’s top musicians, were the headline act for the second Let’s Dance Festival held in Carinda over the long weekend.
Bowie enthusiasts and music-lovers of all persuasions had made the trek …
Visitors and locals were dancing in the street on the weekend, when for three massive days a small outback town was transformed into the Let’s Dance Carinda Festival. It was 34 years ago that legendary singer David Bowie shot the music video for ‘Let’s Dance’ in the town’s pub and over the weekend that iconic scene was re-enacted by performer Jeff Duff …
34 years ago, the tiny NSW outback town of Carinda became the setting of the now-iconic video for the hit song ‘Let’s Dance’. …
(Jeff Duff gets out of a car)
JEFF DUFF, ARTIST: It’s unbelievable. It’s like being in a county fair in midwest America, somewhere. Listen to the music. …
GINNY STEIN: Sydney artist Jeff Duff was once David Bowie’s neighbour. Now he performs his songs in tribute shows and the people of Carinda are hoping David Bowie’s legacy – with Jeff Duff’s help – can keep their town alive. …
JEFF DUFF: I don’t try and impersonate David Bowie. I just – when I do the Bowie shows, I do it as Jeff Duff. I have always dressed the same. I have always worn make-up. I have even got make-up on today. I think he’s just amazing. The legacy of not only his music but his art and technology: he has opened the doors for a lot of modern-day thinkers, you know.
GINNY STEIN: Jeff Duff first met the music legend in London, when Bowie came to see him perform.
JEFF DUFF: And I have always been sort of compared to Bowie; I guess because I’m tall, thin and white.
GINNY STEIN: When Bowie arrived in Carinda, the locals invited him in. Bowie was entranced by the vast landscapes of the outback, but what he saw as Australia’s endemic racism angered him.
JEFF DUFF: He was way ahead of his time with all of these issues. Amazing. So the ‘Let’s Dance’ thing stands for more than just an incredible song: it stands for an awareness. …
… The night was a blast, with every visitor from near and far having absolute fun dancing on a bed of dust and burrs. Jeff Duff is arguably a most flamboyant and creative Australian entertainer, best described as a tall waif of a man with a strong voice. Whilst not attempting to imitate David Bowie’s looks, rather keeping with his own style, he sang with gusto and energy. My red shoes certainly got a work out …
Jeff Duff‘s performance of Bowie Unzipped in Melbourne’s Satellite Lounge this September has had many fans of the mainmen recording their ecstasy for posterity—in views and verbiage, so to speak, as follows:
“Duffo sings excellent Bowie!” – Happy Sunflower
“Both Artists are sensational singers.” – White Cat.
“Super song of David Bowie’s, sounding phenomenal with Jeff Duff on vocals.” – Coral
Sat 30 Sept & Sun 1 Oct + Mon 2 Oct – Carinda (Outback NSW)
featuring Jeff Duff & Band, plus local bands, markets, food & bar, workshops
It was 1983 when David Bowie travelled to the tiny NSW outback town of Carinda to film his now iconic video for “Let’s Dance” in the Carinda Hotel.
David Bowie films Let’s Dance at Carinda Hotel, NSW for the smash worldwide hit proved the perfect companion for the ground breaking song. The added bonus of the scenes filmed in Carinda and the Warrumbungle National Park created the magical backdrop for what many regard as Bowie’s most distinctive and powerful video.
Since that date, the pub has become a mecca for Bowie fans from all over the world, looking to stand and be photographed in the same spot where Bowie filmed his video.
The town itself has now embraced this historic connection and hosts the annual “Let’s Dance Carinda” festival paying tribute to David Bowie and his remarkable music legacy.
This year the festival will feature the evergreen Jeff Duff and his band, playing both at the Carinda Showground on Saturday 1 September as well as a reenactment of the famous video in the Carinda Hotel on the Sunday. Jeff explains:
I’m honoured to be following in Bowie’s footsteps to outback Carinda in NSW — the wonderfully remote outpost where Bowie spotlighted the plight of indigenous Australians in his iconic video for “Let’s Dance”. I’ve been a passionate Bowie disciple most of my life and plan on doing whatever I can to to keep the great man’s legacy alive! —Jeff Duff
With a population of around 40, Carinda is about three hours drive from Dubbo and its remoteness certainly appeals to the more adventurous visitor. If you are planning to come to the festival there’s plenty of camping space at the local showground and lots of cold beer and drinks at the only pub for miles around. For city slickers it’s a real chance to get a taste of the outback with the added attraction of local bands, activities for both young and old and even a Bowie ‘Look-A-Like Competition’ plus lashings of country hospitality. Carinda would love to see you there! BOOK ONLINE at eventbrite.
Duff performs Let’s Dance
Sydney Opera House, 2014
Enmore Theatre, 2011
The Vanguard (now Leadbelly), Newtown, 2007
Sydney Festival, 2017 (including Starman)
Satellite Lounge, Melbourne, 2017
Bowie performs Let’s Dance at the Carinda Hotel
~ & what about that other venue in the video — the factory where Bowie slave-drives the children? That stark setting was in the Sydney suburb of Guildford. Could that suburb not also do with a Duff-Bowie renaissance?
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:
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:
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)
… 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?":
[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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jeff 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:
In the article, Duff comments on several Walker albums/tracks. There’s also info on how Duff’s preparing a Walker-inspired show, collaborating with the producer of Walker’s Nite Flights album.
Which brings us to another of Duff’s inspirational associates: Bowie, who spoke in awe of this album, and recorded its title track, with a vid where mime beats paparazzi, and art survives (exploits?) its survey:
Step back in time with glam rock legend Jeff Duff as he explores his prolific music career and the impact of Bowie on his work and life.
From the glitz’n’glam of his Ziggy performances, to his trips beyond the stardust with his BOWIE Unzipped shows, Duff will take audiences on a journey behind the scenes of his onstage engagement with Bowie and his music, and lifts the glitter-spattered lid on a flamboyant career that spans the 1970s to today.
A very special guest of the program, the legendary Australian rocker kicks off the Strange Fascinations series, and will perform an intimate set of songs at the conclusion of the talk.
Jeff Duff and Glenn Rhodes: opening night: Bowie IS @ ACMI
JD informs us, as follows, re the golden eve he performed with Rhodes on the grand:
”my conversation/performance was very professionally organised. Jess McGuire interviewed amidst a steady flow of Duffo slides and anecdotes. My performance was with Glenn on grand piano on the main stage with a giant screen projecting duffo images. As it was opening night it was a wonderful audience and it sounded beautiful. I return in Sept to perform more at the exhibition”.
Duff returns for a performance at the exhibtion, September 2015:
“Nobody can touch him, really, as far as the different styles of music that he’s attacked and developed. And also, not only that, but his incredible style. I think he’s without a doubt the coolest rock star on the planet.” — Jeff Duff re David Bowie on ABC Melbourne radio Nov 2010
"SINGERS from across Australia will descend on Hobart this week for this year’s Festival of Voices … More than 2000 singers – the most in the event’s 11-year history – are coming to participate in the festival, about two-thirds of them from interstate. … About 12,500 tickets were purchased for Festival of Voices performances last year and organisers are hoping to increase that figure to 16,000 — including more than 1200 to interstate buyers — this year, with a 114 per cent increase in ticket pre-sales so far." … read more
"Hobart City Hall is being transformed for the Festival of Voices: "into a musical Luna Park … with cocktail and lounge areas, candlelight and cabaret performances, … a place of temptation for the senses." … read more
"From Dame Nellie Melba to AC/DC, a 1954 state reception for Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh, as well as trade fairs, exhibitions, political and religious gatherings, dances and balls, Monday night wrestling, school speech and social nights, the City Hall has welcomed all." read more
Exciting from the start what with the Strauss “2001 theme” reverberating through the hall, from ground zero, crowned, creamed and topped-off by Duff’s backstage baritone spruiking up the spectable to come. Glenn Rhodes, Jess Ciampa, and Jak Housden emerged in genuine NASA outfits, taking up positions at keys/bass, drums/percussion, guitar (respectively) … followed by Duff in golden angel-wings, intoning that revolutionary “la, la, la, la” of Bowie’s Starman. Then followed Ziggy Stardust, … China Girl …
Duff, Rhodes, Ciampa and Housden performed some songs that are not always a common part of their Bowie Unzipped repertoire; or did them in previously unfigured ways (and way outs). Here are recordings from one or another of the 2 nights off my phone of the same: go your graphic equalizer.
Walk on the wildside
All the young dudes
These are just samples, tasters to keep us getting hither and smacked to the next Duff-does-Bowie gig.
And as for the “Festival”:
City Hall was spectacular at least as it was magically caught in Duff’s earrings; there was nothing of the promised “Luna Park” of sensory smorgasbord that FOV’s marketeers spun about in its invitations. Against the often undistracting back-drops (a flat wash of purple here, then one of green, and so on, occasionally dispersed with bubbles and streaks), Duff’s two little earrings “blitzed” out like fire-flies, beguilingly sparked anew with his every twitch, encasing his pretty head with every idea we might yet know of Cleopatra and Elizabeth Taylor.
And as for the audience —
All quickly warmed to Duff’s characteristic breaking of the 4th wall, through his ambient patter, and his frequent ambles down-stage and beyond, his conversational piques and prods.
How’s this for some patter? — "Does David Bowie get you aroused?" Duff queries [‘yay,’ all scream] — then Duff asks “"How about the ladies?" [muted guffaws follow].
On the first night, pitched royally front and centre in the auditorium, was the excellent presence of the late Premier of Tasmania, Lara Giddings, with the now Federal Labor senator Lisa Singh, also at table. Plain courtesy and discretion prevent us from reporting what exactly was the answer to Duff’s question, from this table, as he ad libbed to Young Americans, "Do you remember … your Julia Gillard …?". (A different sentiment, anyway, than guffed out in Julia’s time …)
Duff and Bowie fan Premier Lara Giddings: Quizzed re Same Sex Marriage Legislation in Tasmania
On the second night, Duff got up three likely “Bopsy Twins” to perform the “Do-to-do” parts, with dance steps, throughout his rocky and then funky rendition of his ever popular "Walk on the wildside.". So the crowd was lock-stepped with him all the way. Duff even cut through the 5th wall at the end of the 2nd night by getting the dame who called for “lights out” to come out and report why: a curfew, she alleged, was nigh. Duff carried on, obligingly, with a short but swelling song (“All the young dudes”), and no encore.
The night before, someone (who?) almost got JD excited enough to do “MacArthur Park” for an encore. Well, it’s always up there in the top 3 or 4 of his youtube hits. But the crowd here in Hobart, as elsewhere, are rusted on glam and dance fans, calling out for “Jean Genie” to the end, and giving much less than thunderous applause to the operatic arts of Duff’s “Wild is the wind” (rarely performed by Bowie himself). So, no post-“Let’s Dance” Bowie here, no “I’m Afraid of Americans,” “I’m Deranged,” “The Dreamers,” “Sunday,” “Where are we now?,” or so on. That’s all probably a whole ‘nother show worth. “Bowie Intime,” perhaps.
Bowie’s songs are more important than Duff’s own? That’s something JD announced, amid his patter. Explore. Everything Duff’s composed, from "Logical Questions to God" to "Mumbo Jumbo" would set free-men building coliseums across the Milky Way, all in the hope and herald of Duff’s showing, while saints come long and hard, cathedral-high, in photons and alabaster, delirious like automatons, into aeons of Renaissance, blinding all eternities in showers of Enlightenment.
No "dining on Einstein’s mind", at Duff’s up-coming supper-show; not even Polish bison; it’s more savoury than savant: Sushi with Pickled Ginger and Soy, a Mediterranean Antipasto platter, Semi-Dried Tomato & Mushroom Frittata, followed by Chicken in White Wine and Mushroom Sauce, Braised Lamb with Rosemary and Root Vegetables, Mediterranean Vegetable Lasagna, topped off with Old English Trifle, Apricot Bread-and-Butter Pudding with Vanilla Custard, Lemon Meringue Pie … all fare for a rare reprisal of Ground Control to Frank Sinatra, the Jeff Duff musical extravaganza previously shown at the Sydney Opera House, this coming Saturday at the Dee Why RSL.
That’s the songs of two legendary pop-crooners spliced over each other: Frank Sinatra songs rock-dramatised à la Bowie, and the songs of Bowie jazz-coolified à la Sinatra, as realised by Jeff Duff, hot from his Bowie “Unzipped” shows about Sydney. By the end of this fabulous night-of-nights, from your seeded bread rolls & butter to your Double Chocolate Cake with Cream, you’ll be smoking like Hockey till dawn, and happy as a rainbow-parakeet on Sunday.
Meanwhile, you can preview the tracks off the two studio albums related to this show, e.g.:
I subsequently learned that his dinners involved having people to the Factory, and he’d send out for McDonalds, and you had to find your own way over there – like flying to New York for dinner. So I didn’t take him up on that. Besides, I’m a vegetarian. [Sun-Herald, May 5 1987]
Taking up Duff’s invitation to dinner in DY this last day of May is more accommodating.
Start spreading the news … It’s only a drive-in Saturday away … Tickets here.
Vid of Duff’s Ground Control to Frank Sinatra at the Sydney Opera House: [7194 views as of May 1 2014]
Noticed the Bowie-theme surrounding Jeff Duff of late – the Daily Telegraph front-page mag-article on Duff and Bowie as neighbours, on top of Duff’s Bowie Unzipped show …? It’s been a dominant theme throughout Duff’s career: as evidenced by this Sun-Herald article of May 5 1987 re "the ever-changing face of the elusive Jeff Duff". Amid its report of Duff’s return 6 months earlier to Australia from his decade-long European career, and the release of his video-single of Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wildside, it espouses many Bowie-esque traits of Duff … adjectives of elusiveness, ch-ch-changes, mercuriality … even a gratuitous controversy re “publicity-seeking” … although the note about Duff on Oz-TV at age 10 with a self-made drum-kit is pretty idiosyncratic. Highlights:
Over the last 15 years this Melbourne-born singer not only has welded flamboyant visuals to every aspect of his music, but has gone through myriad changes of style and direction. … "I was forever changing my image, " says Duff, leafing through his scrapbook.
On the 1970s band Kush: a seven-piece … band of serious musos fronted by an outrageous Bowie clone. … With Kush he blossomed not only as a singer, but as good copy – in the Bowie/Boy George mould – for chat shows and media.
On his UK incarnations: "I guess it was a token punk thing," says Duff candidly. "A bastardised Jonny Rotten – I wasn’t singing properly." … Having arrived in the late afternoon of Punk, he threw himself into the cocktail hour of the New Romantics with alacrity … He even had his own club – Duffo’s Dive.
Pondering Duff’s quicksilver identity, one could do worse than compare him with Warhol – that sense of controlled simplicity, a sophisticated naivety.
Note: The Australian make-up artist Richard Sharah mentioned in this article as having worked Duff’s face for the Walk on the Wildside video is the same bloke who did Bowie’s face for the Ashes to ashes vid. Colour-blind (!) Sharah also worked the faces of Madonna, Jerry Hall, Faye Dunaway, Steve Strange (Fade to Grey) …, even Bing Crosby and Betty Ford. See A More Beautiful Makeup for more info re Sharah.
+ Psst – the parody album mentioned in this article includes a parody by Duff of Bowie’s "Heroes" – in mega-operatic mode. The whole album, including parodies of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s Relax, is available on itunes: Cyril Trotts to Bogna.
Duff and Bowie as neighbours in Elizabeth Bay, Sydney, in the late 80s/early 90s: Read all about it in today’s Daily TelegraphCentral Sydney News Magazine front-page article. It includes quotes from Duff, a pic of Duff at the very café where they quaffed tête-à-tête, and even an aerial pointer to Bowie’s waterfront apartment. Apparently Bowie and his Tin Machine gang also came crowding Duff’s gigs at Round Midnite at the time.
Bowie’s Sydney sojourn late 80s/early 90s was so secretive it’s not even mentioned in a 2010 “definitive biography” of Bowie. But trawling through the archives here at the Institute for Duffological Studies, we do indeed find a contemporary report: A 1990 (Jan 17) article in Pix magazine re Bowie’s mysterious Sydney life. It kicks off like this:
David Bowie sneaked into Australia, unnoticed and unannounced. Within days, Sydneysiders phoned up newspapers and radio stations to say they had seen him in the street … but no one knew for sure if it was really him.
He was spotted in rowdy rock pubs and smoky clubs while soaking up the atmosphere. And he was seen in Kings Cross cafes, drinking early morning coffee and catching up with the newspapers. [… and Duff]
Soon there was no doubt. The man cruising around town in the red Holden Commodore was definitely David Bowie. He was sighted travelling from his harbourside apartment to a recording studio and also appeared at chic restaurants and backstage meetings with fellow superstars like U2. [… and Duff]
Not breathless enough? Self-suffocating for more?
Well, after staking out Bowie’s apartment for a couple days, Pix magazine’s paparazzi caught up with Bowie in a Surry Hills music-shop, buying up some ware for Hunt Sales, Bowie’s Tin Machine drummer at the time. While offering a hand-of-peace to the vigilant photographer, and inviting him in to take some pix [scans pending], Bowie pleaded: “Whatever you do, don’t reveal where I live in Sydney. It’s the one city where I feel really at home without needing security guards 24 hours a day.”
Bowie also offered high praise for the live music he’d seen about the town: “The bands playing in clubs are actually exhilirating. But then I think the arts over here are generally very healthy.”
… Duff again!
How grand to get that exhilirating stuff first-hand this May all about Sydney all over again as Duff presents his new Bowie-themed show, “Bowie Unzipped” …
+ Keep up-to-date, on-the-pulse, and always wired re Bowie-Oz viabowiedownunder.
How to keep inspired ahead of the Duff-Bowie quest this May, as Duff offers 5 Bowie-themed performances across Sydney? How to keep the spirits up beyond the Budget and the winter? What to talk about with Sally and Harry all the way to Cronulla? Well hey man, let’s keep storming and clicking through the tubes and tracks …
Duff’s Bowie live performance tubes
From among about 1/4 million views of Duff-tubes, here are the latest stats (3rd May 2014) for tubes of Jeff Duff performing Bowie songs (as per the Duff-Rover) – from his Vanguard shows in 2007, to his 2013 show at the Sydney Opera House: sorted by views per days online:
(The more clicks per days online, the bigger/higher the bar. Actual view-counts shown next to the bar. For links, check-out the Duff tubes database here.)
Duff’s most popular Bowie concert performance to date: Wild is the wind, 2012, Sydney Opera House (1140 views as of posting):
[Oops …! We neglected to pick up this piece of Duff-Bowie stuff: A partial pick of Duff performing “Ziggy Stardust” as part of his Alien Sex Gods gigging. It mostly features Peter Northcote on guitar, rather than the Duff. But go for rare! It has 3,916 views after 2,825 days online, for a 1.39 ranking in 4th place up above.]
Congratulations on the JDS site. It really is amazing, comprehensive and accurate … and very well written. Your research is sublime … Thank you for all the hard work … / You continue to impress me with your handsomely constructed and informative insights into ‘Duffoworld’— J. Duff [ 2011/07/07 & 2012/05/17]