One of the many amazing Vegas highs for me this week was singing with these Memphis legends [below] at Green Valley Ranch Casino in Vegas. No need for a rehearsal with these dudes; from the moment they walked out on stage, they owned it! awesome band, inspiring gig!
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 appears in Classic Countdown on ABC-TV here.
For more: see this vid your very own Institute for Duffological studies clobbered together from what remains to date of this performance, as seen ahead of a showing on Rage (ABC-TV) of a Skyhooks performance at the National Music Awards 1975
This episode of Classic Countdown also features more of Duff hosting the show, adorned with a necklace of sausages …
And let’s round this off with a quote from the iconic host of the show himself writing about Duff:
More about Duff on Countdown in this earlier blogpost here.
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
Life transcends D, like essence tanscends concept. Like Elvis rings out elliptically, to the last epsilon, beyond our Voyager. Now 40 years, to this day, since this ordinary, folk-anointed king pulled off his Shakespearean shuffle. So Duffological …
Jeff Duff has sung about Elvis, D-wise, in the form of “Walking in Memphis”, that Marc Cohn song (oh yes, that Song of the Year & Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, 1991, Grammy Awards).
Here’s to saints, their little selves … and the fancy they’re preserving us …
Duff on Elvis, from one mainman to another:
A fab tube by Colin Hay of Duff singing the Cohn song in Waterloo, Sydney, 2013, with a lavish dose of his performance arts:
~ and Duff performing this song intimately with his main keysman Glenn Rhodes at the Mullumbimby Music Festival, 2014, as filmed by Anthony White:
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?
Close encounters with Jeff Duff featured in the Neighbourhood Paper for 7 June—including video of Duff escorting the viewer about his apartment, and so his wardrobe, sports trophies and assorted memorabilia.
Quite a Duffological week. From the interviews on 2UE radio and ABC-TV’s One Plus One, to a couple performances by Duff of a sample of songs from his 30-odd original albums, followed by an inteview at the World Bar, Kings Cross as Jeff Duff’s visage shone over the town in the iconic Coca-Cola billboard. All in the ordinary scheme of things for this hardest-working artist in the country, but a whirlwind for the simple fan.
So the Duff Odyssey retrospective was showing on two nights—firstly at Brass Monkey, Cronulla on the Friday (2 June), and then at Leadbelly (ex-Vanguard) in Newtown the following night (3 June). The first was something of a rehearsal for the second. It involved lots of banter with the small but adoring audience in this far-flung province of Sydney. Duff performed two sets, the second involving some Bowie classics, with an encore of Suffragette City. Duff could not oblige further; he had a midnight train to catch back into town. The second show had a bigger, booming sound, with a wildly enthusiastic audience; from where this punter was watching the show upstairs, the mosh-pit looked a total Bacchanale; a mayhem of ecstasy, especially through the climaxes of Duff’s Killing this affair and Bowie’s Young Americans and Under Pressure; and, of course, MacArthur Park.
Here’s the songlist of Duff tracks (and that latter signature tune) from the Duff Odyssey shows:
Here’s a sample from one of the performances (at Leadbelly), Duff and the band doing Skinny Girls, originally as part of the Alien Sex Gods—here with Jak Housden on guitar, Glenn Rhodes on keys, and Ben Isackson on drums—making up what must be the most experienced, versatile and talented rock-band in the country. Duff introduced the song with some apology for any perceived misogyny (from misandrists?), explaining that he really wrote the song only about himself (!)
… and another sample from the Leadbelly gig: Duff’s original 1980s single I Want to be the Pilot, from his Lexicon album. There was also a later version on the Jeff Duff Orchestra album, and you can see Duff performing the song with said orchestra here. It’s a resounding, almost Scott Walker-esque (Nite Flights) song, with some searing guitar and back-up singing.
The talk with Paris Pompor (4 June) in a theatrette in the World Bar (ex Kardomah Café), Kings Cross was an intriguing, joyful and even controversial 84 minutes. To much applause and cheering from the audience, Duff reflected on the sorry loss of the Cross’ unique cultural venues and character as it has become gentrified over the years; but added that “change is the only constant”, and it’s not really the Lord Mayor’s fault. He also recounted some performance experiences over the years, including when he first performed in the Cross music/strip-clubs (the Groovy Room, the Whisky a Go-Go) as a youth in the ’70s, and (in the same category, surely) a romp with the TV-soap star Abigail. There were also novel twists and colourings to some of the classic anecdotes, such as the Ray Martin Show ban, and the Ballarat arrest. Also some thrilling news about a plan to re-record the Fragile Spaceman album with the Australian Symphony Orchestra—albeit thwarted, at this stage, by the Australia Council with their deplorable decision to reject Duff’s grant application to assist it (the first time he’s sought what would only be some fitting return from the Oz taxpayer for all the work he’s done for Australian cultural life). Also an anecdote—worthy of a whole NewsCorp article— about Leonardo di Caprio’s "anxious assertiveness" toward the guest-star Duff on the set of The Great Gatsby. Much thrilling, charming news, too, including about new shoes, new suit, and a new bedside bicycle.
Getting “straightened out” by Abigail, and “put in his place” by Di Caprio: A couple of the subjects of Jeff Duff’s talk at the World Bar with Paris Pompor
The event was apparently video-recorded and there are ample pix of the event on JD’s FB; perhaps I’ll upload my personal audio-recording of it, if it doesn’t appear elsewhere and seems kosher. Meanwhile, there’s this video-recording (from Geoff Schuck) of an intimate rendition of MacArthur Park with which Duff closed this engagement. He dedicated it to his neighbour who was in the audience. She applauded the loudest, and can be seen at the end of the clip, in her red cape, rising to her feet, as others just shook their heads in wonder, clapped their hands with what energy they had left, having truly melted away at the majesty of the performance.
And here is the Coca-Cola billboard appearance; filmed in the rain, as various tourists gathered about me with their own cameras to catch whatever speciality I was filming (!). (Sorry to not have video-recorded other episodes of this week; crowds can be so inhibiting, and filming everything can reduce the immediate experience of being there at all.)
And then, the next day, Fullers Bookshop in Hobart was finally seen to carry Jeff Duff’s autobiography, This Will Explain Everything. This Duffologist only had to reshelve the thing; not good enough to simply show its spine amid so many others; the whole cover must be displayed.
Some entertaining and meaningful interviews with Jeff Duff on mainstream broadcast media of late … classic anecdotes but also, particularly given the interviewing arts of Jane Hutcheon, matters of love and spirituality on ABC-TV’s One Plus One.
Jeff Duff interviewed by Jane Hutcheon on the Australian national public broadcaster ABC-TV program One Plus One
The interview begins with an extraordinary short piece of footage from ABC-TV’s Countdown program; otherwise known as “lost”; Jeff Duff with a string of sausages. To date, only this other short piece has been recouped: here.
The One Plus One interview has touched many people, perhaps stoking insight into their own appreciation of this artist. Among comments on JD’s FB about this interview, people have said:
· I really enjoyed the interview Jeff. Very honest, and that’s why we all love you 🎤❤
· Awesome interview Jeff…..so natural and honest!
· Honest,erudite, kind, funny – I could go on – loved this Jeff
· It was very interesting.
· Fabulous interview on One plus One, Jeff Duff. One of the best, Man
· Yeah it was fantastic
· Great interview with a great entertainer
· Just finished watching it! Thank you so much. Such a pleasure to listen about your life trails. I’ve learned all about a great entertainer/music man. 😊 This interview with Jane made me smile and feel a tear or two when you talked about the one love of your life. A beautiful story about a time in your life. …. and us humans yes, this is so true about love.
· I have really enjoyed watching this interview of Jeff Duff. I recommend it to everyone.
· Finally got around to watching your ABC interview, Jeff. Beautiful, honest and moving.
And, on Jane Hutcheon’s Twitter feed, there is more of the same—e.g., “the Jeff Duff interview was brilliant, thank you :)”, and “If all men were as honest as Jeff we would all be in a better place :)”— … including from the interviewer herself:
Naturally, one comes across some other reactions: “strange” was one lady’s only response after watching the whole half-hour interview, and a certain bloke laughed at Duff’s show of emotion, and performed a mocking parody of it. … As in the quote from Duff’s father that Hutcheon inspired Duff to relate at the end of the interview, the strength involved in expressing all this, in existing this way, is the most worthy of all.
Not to be missed: another contemporary interview: Jeff Duff on Lifestyle Overnight (2UE Radio). With the unrestrained enthusiasm of David Prior, it includes an interesting take on Duff’s early career in Melbourne and Sydney ahead of his flight from Oz.
Jeff Duff interviewed by David Prior on 2UE Radio Lifestyle Overnight
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
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:
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.
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]