Duffy-Warwick Avenue

Sitting in bumper to bumper traffic on Lincoln Boulevard I heard Elvis Costello’s "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes". I was driving to Loyola to speak to John Hartmann’s music business class. I was in a sour mood. I wanted to tell his students to STAY THE FUCK OUT! Why would you want to be in the music business, with its sharks and rotting financials. But this record made me forget all that. It reminded me of hearing Elvis for the very first time and seeing him days later at the Whisky. Where his intensity was palpable and he and the Attractions almost got in a fight with an unruly patron, Elvis holding his Jazzmaster over his head, ready to clonk this dude, Steve Naive having broken a beer bottle, ready to cut the guy up. We didn’t have this kind of rocker on our side of the pond. Who, when heckled by the audience, broke through the curtain to defend his honor.

The heckler was ejected and the show restarted. But I felt I’d witnessed an event. And was thrilled when "Time" wrote about it the following week. I felt that television was irrelevant, that what I was witnessing live and on black vinyl was the true pulse of the nation.

But records don’t sound like that anymore. Not usually. Records are made for a market. If they can’t get Top Forty airplay, big labels aren’t interested, and the dirty little secret is the indies are just smaller scale players who’ll hype your record less, get it distributed in fewer stores and STILL won’t pay you royalties. What’s a lonely rock and roller to do?

I’m not sure. Because I’m not a musician. I’m a member of the audience. And I’m a fan. I love something new and different, but it’s got to hit me like those Elvis Costello tracks of yore. I’ve got to jump to attention and stare at the speakers, wanting to part the cloth and GET INSIDE! But people tell me I’m an old fart, that I just don’t get today’s music. To step aside and let the younger generation take over. But I’m just like the younger generation, I’ve got a shit detector nonpareil. And something’s got to pass my test in order for me to be interested. And Duffy’s "Warwick Avenue" passes with flying colors!

I stole it. Because I wasn’t sure if I liked it. Wasn’t sure if Duffy was a one hit wonder. This is what you do. Fire up your P2P program and take every available track. This is anathema to Paul McGuinness and the old farts. I’ve got to pay first. Shit, you’d think these guys never did drugs. Doesn’t the dealer give you the first hit free? And, if it’s good shit, you’ll not only buy, you’ll become addicted and cough up ALL YOUR MONEY! You’ll go broke being a drug addict. And I almost went broke collecting records. I know people who ate boiled hot dogs rather than go out to dinner, just so they could buy records, by people long dead, who never made it big. We want to encourage this behavior, get the whole WORLD addicted to the aural crack. But the powers-that-be are stuck in the old model. Selling bespoke clothing in an era of ready-made. Why sell to a few when you can reach EVERYBODY! Oh, not everybody is going to like every act. I know people who HATE U2. But, if you expose a bunch of people, and your music is good, you’re going to make quite a good living.

We’ve got to believe it’s a real act, not a one hit wonder.

Duffy’s "Mercy" is the hit. The other heavily exposed track, "Rockferry", is good. But the killer to me is "Warwick Avenue".

I just loaded it on my iPod. It came up on random. I didn’t even know what it was, I was in the mountains long after dark. But, I didn’t need to push the button to fast forward, I stayed along for the ride. The mood was exquisite, a private moment in the fog that was universal. Then there was that point, two-thirds of the way through the song, when Duffy lost control, not in orgasm, but PAIN! No one had a finger in her pussy, rather she was wailing from her heart. She was telling her story, not for the back row, but herself. This was a declaration of freedom, despite the inherent misgivings.

This was no Alicia Keys faux universal anthem. Not no-talent Jordin Sparks singing the crafted turd of a million songwriters. Not Mariah Carey and the melisma crew. Music is not a competition, it’s about personal expression. "American Idol" is truly a competition. But so is Top Forty. The big business. Who’s got the largest gross. Who sold the most CDs. Who’s got the most most! Let me tell you, "My Aim Is True" never broke Top Forty, many AORs, caught up in corporate rock, wouldn’t even play it. But when the public at large got a glimpse of this true believer on Saturday Night Live, Elvis Costello gained a place on the landscape.

Now in the seventies, Duffy would go on a club tour in a couple of months. I’d immediately drive to the Roxy and buy a ticket. I’d get there an hour in advance of the show, to acquire a good seat. When she sang "Warwick Avenue", I would be titillated. I’d go home tingling. I’d tell everybody I knew about the show.

But when she gets over here, she’ll do a ton of TV. Play much bigger venues. It’s big business. The culture is gone. You’ve got to start small. You’ve got to let the audience build you. The audience must own you, not the media.

There’s a backstory here. How this record came to be. But it’s irrelevant to the listening experience.

This sounds like nothing on American Top Forty radio. That makes it fresh. Tell everybody you know. Own it before the robber barons start their full court press.

Long intro, good image, decent sound: Duffy – Warwick Avenue live from Later… With Jools Holland 
Shorter intro, worse image, but louder sound: Duffy – Warwick Avenue (live at Later…)

One Response to Duffy-Warwick Avenue »»


    comment_type != "trackback" && $comment->comment_type != "pingback" && !ereg("", $comment->comment_content) && !ereg("", $comment->comment_content)) { ?>
  1. Pingback by Duffy « Ryan for the Future | 2008/05/18 at 17:30:35

    […] m from the Uterus… Duffy I first heard of Duffy from the Lefsetz Letter but never actually checked her out. The very firs […]

comment_type == "trackback" || $comment->comment_type == "pingback" || ereg("", $comment->comment_content) || ereg("", $comment->comment_content)) { ?>

Trackbacks & Pingbacks »»

  1. Pingback by Duffy « Ryan for the Future | 2008/05/18 at 17:30:35

    […] m from the Uterus… Duffy I first heard of Duffy from the Lefsetz Letter but never actually checked her out. The very firs […]

This is a read-only blog. E-mail comments directly to Bob.