Thursday, October 29, 2020


I think this sort of meets the theme, even if the hidden place is a destination, if, as yet, unknown and, probably, unimportant. Driving somewhere, arriving nowhere. So, fulfilling, if in a roundabout and reverse way, the old adage that is is the journey that matters, not the getting there. Even when the aim is never quite to arrive. Or the outcome, even. Clear?

I guess both the song and maybe the band are also hidden places, outside most peoples knowledge or hearing. Yet they will have heard Stephen Duffy, if not necessarily of him. More famous for a couple of links rather than in his own right, so if I say Duran Duran and Robbie Williams, you'll have heard of them. Not that he sounds anything like either, perhaps a relief to any regular reader, used more to my parade of motley unknowns and minor league cult favourites.

Duffy was an early member of Duran Duran, but jumped ship ahead of their transition to fame and fortune. Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike Duran Duran, but I can't see his country pop musings fitting in so well with the glitz and glamour of their new romanticism. Starting off as the singer, he moved then to guitar, then to bass and finally to drums, ousted from each position as later members joined. He actually then had a crack at that market, even a hit single, in the UK at least, under the title Stephen 'Tin Tin' Duffy, but it took three different versions before it made its mark. Hasn't really aged well, has it?

A few further false starts and he started the Lilac Time, with elder brother Nick, the two the mainstays as a procession of players rotated through the ranks. The sound, like the featured track, and exemplified further on its parent album, 2007s Runout Groove, is of dreamy meanders down a melodic and country tinged lane. The pedal steel brings a wistful counterpoint to the slightly languid vocal, pinned down, on this record, by the masterful double bass of Danny Thompson, the ex-Pentangle maestro and John Martyn sidekick, who remains the go to bassist for anywhere where folk might meet jazz for a natter. Runout Groove is, for me, the highlight of Duffy's recording history, so far at least, as he still records and plays. The astonishing thing about it is that it came out four years after its predecessor, his career having taken an unexpected side swerve along the way.

Robbie Williams, the effervescent ex-boy bander, the cheeky chappie who exited Take That after mingling more with Oasis and their lifestyle choices than possibly appropriate for a teen heartthrob. He then became much bigger than his old band, but needed assistance with songwriting. This had first been provided by Guy Chambers, who had previously been in World Party. After he parted company, Williams' team asked Duffy, perhaps less for his Lilac Time material, maybe more on account of songs he had written for Canadian band Barenaked Ladies. And an undoubted success it was, Duffy also touring with Williams during some of his stadium sell-out tours, delivering further hits for his new boss. Radio became thus Duffy's first number one.

Then, as if nothing untoward had happened, he dropped straight back into Lilac Time mode, picking right up from where he dropped off. I think that is quite classy. Further albums have followed, sticking to the same formula, the last being released just last year. All well worth looking out for. Here's another track from Runout Groove, Once more it fits the feel of the theme, the lyric showing him back on a figurative road, again with, literally, no direction. But, if the first song was looking for a somewhere never found, this is a happy acceptance of the journey. Spot the namecheck to his erstwhile employer. A parting personal link to the theme is that I more than likely heard the album first in the car, that being where I do most of my listening. Sometimes with no other purpose in particular, just driving somewhere, arriving nowhere. Purely for the sake of the song.

P.S. Those, who have set to wondering how he could have affected the Durannies, might like this, a revision of old tapes, made in those old days, rebuffed and polished up, hand in hand with onetime bandmate and continuing DD keyboardist, Nick Rhodes. Put out in in 2002, they called themselves the Devils, the album called Dark Circles.

Here's the map to somewhere.

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