Interview with Jeff Duff (Duffo) in a 1979 Italian pop-culture magazine "Dolly" … wonky translation by Google:
A.A.A. espansivo cerca amore
A. A. A. expansive seeks love
Il cantante australiano si dichiara asessuale e confessa di non essersi mai innamorato. Ma ora sogna di trovare in Italia una ragazza che lo converta.
He declares himself asexual and confesses to never having fallen in love. But now he dreams of finding in Italy a girl who converts him.
Si chiama semplicemente Duffo: lo chiamano tuttu cosi da quando era piccolo, ma il vero nome e
He is is simply called Duffo: everyone calls him so since he was little, but his real name is George [sic] Duff.
Tanto per cominciare, perché non ti presenti?
To begin with why do not you show up?
«D’accordo. Mi chiamo Duffo, sono nato in Australia, dove ho vissuto fino a tre anni fa. Poi mi sono trasferito in Inghilterra per ragioni di lavoro. Ho una casa a Londra e … ma sei sicura che non sono famoso in Italia?!»
“Okay. Duffo my name, I was born in Australia, where I lived until three years ago. Then I moved to England for work. I have a house in London and … but are you sure you are not famous in Italy ?!”
Abbi pazienza! Come mai, visto che hai gia un ricco passato musicale alle spalle, hai pensato all’Italia solo adesso?
Be patient! Why, since you have already a rich musical past behind, you thought of Italy only now?
«Vedi, in Australia non si parla molto dell’Italia, specialmente musicalmente, cosi non sapevo che possibilita avrei avuto qui. Figurati che dell’Italia conoscevo soltanto la pizza, gli spaghetti e Sofia Loren!», conclude, ridendo con allegria contagiosa.
“See, in Australia you do not speak a lot of Italy, especially musically, so I did not know that I would have had opportunity here. Imagine that Italy knew only the pizza, spaghetti and Sofia Loren!”, he concludes, laughing with contagious joy.
Che ti e sembrato dell’Italia?
What did you think of Italy?
«E incantevole, giuro! Me ne sono letteralmente innamorato. Le citta sono stupende, le chiese suggestive, si mangia molto bene e le ragazze sono meravigliose! Sai, sono rimasto molto colpito dalla simpatia degli italiani. Per uno che vive a Londra in mezzo a tanti “musoni” che sorridono poco, e bello essere contagiato dalla carica di entusiasmo degli italiani. Quasi quasi mi trasferisco!»
“It’s lovely, I swear! I literally fell in love. The cities are beautiful, evocative churches, we eat very well and the girls are wonderful! You know, I was very impressed by the friendliness of the Italians. For one who lives in London among many “bonneted” smiling a little, it’s great to be plagued by the office of the Italian enthusiasm. I almost I move!”
Che ti sembra della musica italiana?
What do you think of Italian music?
«Ciò che ho sentito mi è piaciuto, anche se nessuno mi ha entusiasmato come Rettore: la trovo straordinaria, bravissima e molto "personaggio". Comunque ora conto di interessarmi molto di più alla musica italiana, di conoscerla un po’ meglio perché ne vale la pena!»
“What I heard I liked, although no one has impressed me as Rettore: I find it extraordinary, talented and very "character". However now account interest me much more to Italian music, to know her a little better because it’s worth it!”
Torniamo a te e a "Take a walk on the wild side". Perche proprio questo pezzo?
Let’s go back to you and to "Take a walk on the wild side". Why just this piece?
«È un brano intramontabile, cosi ho pensato di riproporlo in una versione nuova: infatti quella di Lou Reed era più acustica, la mia versione è più elettronica.»
“It is a timeless song, so I decided to propose it again in a new version: in fact that of Lou Reed was more acoustic, my version is more electronic.”
Ti fermerai molto qui in Italia?
Are you staying a lot in Italy?
«No, non molto, purtroppo. Ora sto curando la promozione del 45 giri e del nuovo LP di prossima uscita in Italia. Parteciperò anche a diversi programmi radiofonici e televisivi. »
“No, not much, unfortunately. Now I’m taking care of the promotion of the 45s and the new LP forthcoming in Italy. Also to participate in various radio and television programs.”
Senti, visto che di te si conosce solo la tua versione di "Take a walk on the wilde side", puoi spiegare qual è il tuo genere musicale?
Look, since you only know your version of "Take a walk on the wilde side", can you explain what is your kind of music?
«Ah, allora provochi! Guarda che io non copio nessuno! Ho un mio genere musicale, personale; e chi ascolterà il mio LP vedrà che la mia musica è una specfie di rock and roll classifico, con un po; di new wave.»
“Ah, then I try! Look, I do not copy anyone! I have my kind of music, personal; and who will listen to my LP you will see that my music is a kind of classic rock and roll, with a little new wave.”
Chi sono i musicisti che lavorano con te?
Who are the musicians who work with you?
«Sono tutti ottimi: mi avvalgo della sezione fiati di Paul McCartney, del percussionista della David Essex Band e altri.»
“All are excellent: I make use of Paul McCartney’s brass section, the percussionist from the David Essex Band and others.”
E tu che tipo sei?
And what are you?
«Espansivo, se non lo avessi ancora capito! Cerco di guardare la vita con tanto ottimismo, adoro la compagnia, il buon vino, la gente allegra e la buona musica: non basta?»
“Expansive, if you have not already got it! I try to look at life with so much optimism, I love the company, good wine, happy people and good music: is not enough?”
Credi nel successo?
Do you believe in success?
«Per quanto riguarda l’Italia, sono sicuro che avrò successo molto presto; quanto al resto del mondo … sono già celebre!!! Il fatto di essere nati in Australia ha portato fortuna ai Bee Gees, a Olivia Newton-John e a molto altri. Sicuramente porterà fortuna anche a me.»
“As for Italy, I am sure that I will very soon successful; As for the rest of the world … I have already celebrated. The fact of being born in Australia has brought luck to the Bee Gees, Olivia Newton-John and a lot of other. Surely bring luck to me.”
Scusa l’indiscrezione, Duffo, ma sei sposato? A questo punto il nostro simpatico amico sgrana gli occhi e assume un’espressione inorridita.
Excuse the indiscretion, Duffo, but are you married? At this point our nice friend’s eyes widen and he assumes a horrified expression.
«No, per carità, proprio no! Vedi, io non ho mai avuto la ragazza in vita mia …»
“No, please, no! See, I have never had a girl in my life.”
Significa che ti interessano gli uomini?
It means that you interassano men?
“Ma no, sei matta? È solo che sono asessuale, non ho alcun interesse per il sesso, capito?”
“But no, are you crazy? It’s just being one who is asexual, I have no interest in sex, you know?”
Questa e proprio nuova! In mezzo a gay e bisex ci mancava proprio uno a cui non interessa minimamente il sesso! Scusa ma possibile che tu non ti sia mai innamorato?
This is something quite new! In the midst of gay and bisexual we lacked just one who does not in the least interested in sex! Excuse me, but can you not you ever fallen in love?
“Mai, ti assicuro! O forse sì, una volta sola: della mia mamma! Però non smetto di sperare, anzi ho deciso: cerco una bella ragazza italiana che mi aiuti a cambiare idea. Scrivilo, anzi: cerco una bella italiana che me converta!”
“Never, I assure you! Or maybe, just once: my mom! But I do not stop hope, indeed I decided: I want a nice Italian girl to help me change my mind. Write it, indeed: I want a nice Italian who converted me!”
Jeff Duff opened the Croydon Underground Club in February 1985 in his alter ego as Cyril Trotts—as indicated in this poster for the gig (click to inspect). The poster indicates the date of the performance on February 16, which fell on a Saturday in 1985.
Saw some memorable gigs at the Underground, devastated when it shut down. … 🙁 —jimble, 13 Nov 2006
The Underground was great :p And there was nothing quite like the friendly staff kicking you in the head if you nodded off on the stage 😀 [xab, 10 Nov 2006]
I used to go there religiously to see bands… it was a sad day when that closed down. 🙁 —Nork 1, 26 Jan 2008
my first and only stabbing in the underground / one of the door man / the guy just ran a blade over his back and quick as a flash run up the stairs / and out the doors / / in knew the door man and / the knife man—Mike Jones, 26 Jan 2014
The decor was often naff (flock wallpaper and sticky carpet), the beer sometimes watered down …, the food pretty iffy (what other club feeds you stodge like rice and French bread as soon as you walk through the door – thank you Cinatra’s), you got completely plastered on jugs of Double Diamond or Worthington E, alcopops hadn’t been invented, and if you were lucky you copped off with some bird that probably went to school with your Mum 😉 [La Bombonera, 10 Nov 2006]
The posters got somewhat more creative in the Club’s later years: a collection is here, and at songkick.com, including this. These show that, among other acts performing there, were Duff’s compatriots, the Australian band The Triffids.
Something of the feel of the club can be heared from this audio recording of a Sigue Sigue Sputnik performance at the club, six months after Duff opened it.
See the environs of the club today via Google maps here.
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
Did 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 "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..
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 …
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 everythingfrom 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.
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
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 …
For samples/purchases, go the links on the Jeff Duff Stuff TRACKS page. Just note that (1) Amazon MP3s are not generally available for purchase via Australia; (2) Google Play links are fine for both ample preview and purchase.
The two Kush albums Snow White and the Eight Straights and Nah, Tellus Wh’t Kush Means Yer Great Sausage are there (via Amazon and Google Play):
There’s also Jeff Duff Orchestra’s Alone & Paranoid album, and the two albums with Joseph Calderazzo.
The two late Duffo UK albums are finally available: that’s Bob the Birdman and Lexicon.
Sadly, only, as Duff goes streaming, cats will need to find another source of boxes to go strange in.
Mass aural infection was spawned by Jeff Duff across Punk UK in 1979. That was with his quasi-eponymous debut solo album Duffo on the Beggar’s Banquet label.
Here’s some stuff showing how Duff’s first solo album was marketed at the time. This is a half-page newspaper ad—in New Musical Express, of March 17, 1979, page 49, just under a review by Steve Clarke of the album “Cool for Cats” by UK-Squeeze.
So, actually, Beggars’ Banquet has nix directly to do with the late ’68 “return to roots” Decca album from The Rolling Stones.
Beggars Banquet is an English independent record label that began as a chain of record shops owned by Martin Mills and Nick Austin, and is part of the Beggars Group of labels. In 1977, spurred by the prevailing DIY aesthetics of the British punk rock movement (then at the height of its popularity), they decided to join the fray as an independent label and release records under the Beggars Banquet imprint. The first band on the label was English punk group The Lurkers; the first ever release on the label was The Lurkers’ classic 7″ single “Shadow”/”Love Story”. They also released the first solo “Duffo” album from Australian big-band vocalist Jeff Duff, starting with the single “Give Me Back Me Brain”, as performed live by Duffo on The Old Grey Whistle Test, The Russell Harty Show on ITV, and German-TV’s Rock-Pop. Later in the decade and into the early 1980s, hits with Tubeway Army and Gary Numan secured the label’s future. They have since released music by Biffy Clyro, Buffalo Tom, The Charlatans, The Cult, The Go-Betweens, The National and Tindersticks.
Who‘s the one and only Australian artist featured in this 2-disc, 36-track UK compilation of ground-breaking new wave musicians of the punk/post-punk eras?
The Birthday Party? The Go-Betweens? The Saints? Not a whisp or whisker of them. C’mon, there’s Icehouse, Split Enz, or The Church, for sure …
No. Instead, among artists like Elvis Costello, Madness, XTC, The Jam, The Stranglers, Joy Division, Psychedlic Furs, Tubeway Army … there is only one Australian artist, and that is: Jeff Duff.
That’s with a pressing of his single: “Give me back me brain.” As performed live all over Euro music channels at the time, including on the Old Grey Whistle Test …
~ the Russell Harty Show:
~ and this German show:
Duff is also one of the select half-dozen or so solo artists who cut it as a New Wave Great on this 1999 compilation album. There’s Costello, for sure, and Jona Lewie, Graham Parker, Lene Lovich, Nick Lowe, Wreckless Eric, John Cooper Clarke, Ian Dury, Ivor Biggun (!?), … & Duffo.
Duffo played at the legendary Manchester Factory on July 17 1979. Other artists who played that month at The Factory were Joy Division, The Fall, The Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen, and Adam and the Ants.
Scour songkick.com for notes about other Duffo gigs at the time, like at London’s legendary Lyceum.
See Duff’s UK/Euro-hits at the time, live on the Old Grey Whistle Test: Tower of Madness, Give Me Back Me Brain …
Jeff Duff made several appearances, including as compere, on Countdown, Australia’s fanatically watched weekly pop music show on ABC-TV in the 1970s and 1980s. These early shows have long since been wiped away; Fraser’s Liberal Government razor gang cut-backs having encouraged the national broadcaster to reuse their tapes. Sound familiar?
Still, while pulling together a retrospective of the show for the present-day Rage music video program, “John” at the ABC dug out footage of the National Music Awards for 1975. When that show originally aired, a kind of trailer of snippets of earlier Countdown episodes was shown, and it’s in this short sequence that we can still see a couple seconds of Jeff Duff on Countdown. The complete trailer, as re-shown on Rage, is on youtube here: 42 seconds long, and Duff appears in two segments – at about 3 seconds and then 17 seconds into it. The whole thing includes, apart from Duff, in Kush, Johnny Farnham, Skyhooks, AC/DC, Sherbert and Daddy Cool.
For a better look over this stuff, the Institute’s Vid Division has worked over the trailer, splicing off these 2 seconds of Duff, sticking them together, first at its original speed, and then slowed down by halves a few times, just to soak it all up; with some of Kush’s “I’m Your Football” dubbed over it. Duff is shown in acrobatic flight, upon a trapeze. Crossing absurdity with sass, he’s crowned himself with a fool’s coxcomb and flapper’s cap – topped off with a propeller (his own papier-mâché handiwork?). Altogether, he really put the new spectacle of colour TV to work in a cabaret performance that was surely unique for the show, and on Australian TV; all especially artful coming from a Geelong bloke still in his teens.
(Ignore the “Skyhooks” subtitle here as this trailer originally appeared at the start of a live performance by Skyhooks of “Horror Movie” on the Awards night, as replayed on Rage.)
(No player showing? See the clip at youtube here.)
But that’s not all! There is also a still from this performance published in the 1979 “Countdown Annual”:
Jeff Duff performs “I’m Your Football” (Countdown Annual 1979)
The complete annual – including a galaxy of stars of the day (Renee Geyer, David Bowie …) – can be downloaded from here.
As for Duff’s compering, Ian MacFarlane’s booklet accompanying the Kush Nah Tellus … CD offers a quote from Duff:
Each time we did it I got more and more bizarre. I remember I got to compere Countdown and Molly Meldrum made me dress up as a sausage. I compered the show as Super Sausage.
Well, no sausage here, and, as given in some inter-song patter recently by Duff, we know that the producers finally tired of his leotards (as in his 1974 showing on the Paul Hogan Show) and got him fitted out with that still snappy and snug red suit of his (see the banner, above). They treated him well: According to MacFarlane, it was the single “I’m Your Football” that first got Duff onto the show in 1975; bravely, as the song was banned from radio owing to a few double entendres (e.g., “I’m your sausage, eat me” – ouch!) among its quirky lyrics. OK at the time for the Carry On Gang but not rock-n-jazz artists!
Duff was also on Countdown on 6 Dec 1974 to perform “Easy Street” when in Kush (Episode 1.5), when Jim Keays, Skyhooks and Helen Reddy were also on the bill. Another appearance was on 7 December 1975 when he performed the “Banana Song”, also off the Nah Tellus … album. Marcia Hines, Sherbert and Skyhooks were among the others who performed on that show (guest list here). Some circa 1975 material survives, as catalogued at countdownmemories.com, but the Duff/Kush appearances aren’t listed among them. So this 2 second shimmer and a still seem to be all there is to document Duff’s Countdown gigs. Still, with the DeadSea Scrolls in mind, we might hope that more complete clips of Duff’s amazing appearances on Countdown are lazing away in the vaults of the ABC, or someone’s recordings of the show …
For a total blast of 70s Duff TV performance, here’s Duff doing his “Give me back me brain” and “Duff record” (off his Beggars Banquet Duffo album) on German TV pop music show Rock-Pop on July 7 1979 (Lene Lovich and Kevin Borich Express also on the bill). It’s a mix of punk and music-hall/cabaret and circus act, with Duff in a kind of clown costume (for sure from his own hand) that’s at least as iconic as, say, Chaplin’s tramp or Marceau’s Bip; and he also cuts cruelly through the fourth wall, making a perfect victim of this German audience. Too much tom-foolery? Or a post-modern mash-up of styles that is actually novel, if not revolutionary, without being just confrontational and decadent, or celebratory and nostalgic (where those invoking “cabaret” usually take us)?
“Fools had ne’er less grace in a year, For wise men are grown floppish, And know not how their wits to wear Their manners are so apish.” – Shakespeare, King Lear, I-iv
Live music TV has rarely been like this for art and entertainment before or since.
+ A kind of related Benny Hill gag:
A. “You’ve got the brains of an idiot.”
B. “Oh. Do you want them back?”
Remember that war between the UK and Argentina? The Argentine President has been sabre-rattling about it lately, it being 30 years on since that early 80s tragedy – a bigger 80s tragedy than big hair. What more of an absurd world could we still live in when the UK could go to war with Argentina? Oh, the President’s thugs coming out in her support. History has left us with plenty of geo-political absurdities, like the Falklands, Gibraltar, Australia (even the Queen has said she can’t figure out why Australia still wants her as Head of State. “My head is my own,” she once exclaimed, over sausages.) … Say no more – can’t we, man, just give absurdity a chance?
Read more of the international crisis here, in your Australian Woman’s Weekly of February 1982, via the National Library of Australia. While there in the jaw of the moment, Duffo could merrily and thankfully report from HQ that his own work continued constructively:
“I just love living in London. I’ve done more here in the past four years than I could have done in Australia in a life-time”.
But then the Australian Woman’s Weekly reporter, chasing Duffo up in London, had this to scurrilously report back to mother Australia:
“That’s true! He’s been arrested for insulting behaviour outside No 10 Downing Street, slashed his chances of favourable record reviews by handing exploding cigarettes to journalists, been carted off to hospital claiming his coffee was spiked to prevent him from performing … and so on”.
What did all those Dame Ednas reading the Australian Woman’s Weekly make of this report, next to their crossword puzzles and knitting patterns, in 1982? Was it all true, possum? Just what happened outside No. 10? Glenn A. Baker, the Australian rock music historian, writes (in the sleeve to the Duffo Beggars Banquet CD) of Duff’s “body-stockinged stunt outside 10 Downing Street”. Hmm, not really enough to imagine what happened.
What about the exploding cigarettes? And the detention in hospital? And those sheep-brains hurled out to the audience from the stage? Symptoms of war-times, it seems. For Mr Duff, these were no times for just standing around and floating about, like a stately ship.
Bowie’s manager Tony De Fries had Bowie of the Ziggy era going about in limousines and glamming up like a star. In the late 70s, Bowie did a very different publicity stunt outside No. 10 Downing Street (see pic) – when he showed minimal celebrity, in touch with the common need for a quieter life, and the political need right now for everyone’s intellect – or to just read the papers. This was quickly followed, in the early 1980s, in London, with no more space for glamorous stars – not even the simpler or more thoughtful ones. Times had become disgusting, and it was time for art to constructively exploit everyday disgust. Duffo was one of the Australian musicians who came to London in the late 1970s and early 1980s to take up this challenge. Duff took it up daringly, risking his social security and mental health to make a burst of artistic points about the musical possibilities of punk, while critiquing the popular music industry. So this news of Duff, in the Woman’s Weekly (then as common as Chicken Cacciatore in Australia), brought the times home to its readers.
This 1981 release of “Walk on the Wildside” (off the Bob the Birdman album) was followed with another release in 1988, and then with a dance-mix in 1989. The video accompanying these later releases was itself a hit: representing Australia at the MTV video awards in New York, and opening the Sydney Film Festival in 1988.*
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]