I first encountered Stephen Duffy when I saw his “The Ups + Downs” CD staring at me haughtily in the import bins ca. 1985 in the Peaches record store I shopped at. He looked like the cat that ate the canary on that cover shot so I thought to myself, “what if he’s right?” I then managed to see his video for “Kiss Me ” from the album courtesy of Ron “The Man” Kane, and then I made a bee-line to that Peaches! This was sparkling synthpop with a clever, melodious core wrapped in the Art Of Noise [J.J. Jeczalik produced that single].” When I listened to the whole album I knew why he looked so smug on that album cover!
In short order, I became a huge Stephen Duffy fan and snapped up everything that I could. But no one is omniscient, and it remained until I stumbled across Duffypedia, which is run by real trainspotter fans, that I ever heard about The Hawks.
The Hawks: Words Of Hope UK 7″
- Words of Hope
- Sense of Ending
In that netherworldly zone between Stephen leaving his band, Duran Duran [readers should know that he was the original vocalist] in 1979 and striking out as cult fave Tin Tin in 1982, he cut a figure as the vocalist for The Subterranean Hawks. By the time they made their only waxing, they had simplified their name to just The Hawks.
The A-side bears all of the hallmarks of a Stephen Duffy song, albeit in a more tentative and low budget form. His accomplished sense of melody can be said to be intact from day one, as this song could have been polished up for inclusion on “Because We Love You” or the first Lilac Time album. The rudimentary production by the band and Pete King sounds pretty thin. They might have even used one of the first released Portastudios as my experience with the units produced similar fidelity to this single. And Duffy double tracked his vocals, presumably in an effort to gain some punch the studio couldn’t provide. Lyrically, there is not quite the sure-footedness to be found on Duffy’s work from Tin Tin onward. That reason, moreso than the music, is probably why Duffy never revisited this cut.
The single’s B-side is quite another kettle of fish entirely! “Sense Of Ending” was co-written with one of The Hawks’ guitarists, Dave Kusworth. Yes, The Hawks actually featured a twin guitar attack, that on this track at least, was strongly evocative of Television! I’m pretty certain that Duffy only wrote the lyrics to this since the music doesn’t sound like him at all. This is the only time I can proclaim Stephen Duffy rocking out prior to his rocking-out-most-excellently “Duffy” album of 1995!
This single makes for an intriguing archaeological dig into the prehistoric Duffy era that takes the shadowy post-Duran, pre-Tin Tin timespan into account. I’ve known about it for just a few years and when this popped up in my Discogs.com message box as available, I wasted no time in shelling out the shekels for this puppy. My copy is on the knife edge between VG+ and EX with the expected amount of transients but not much in the way of broadband noise. It has been digitized and awaits the de-noising.
– 30 –
Can’t wait to hear it!
As I live and breathe, I never thought I’d see the day where PPM would use a phrase like “rocking out most excellently!”
Oh my stars and garters! Oh my giddy aunt! The end of the world is nigh, and I DO believe I have a case of the vapours!*
*not The Vapours. Sorry.
chas_m – Well, if you are familiar with Stephen Duffy, then you may be aware of how his defining characteristic is his effete nature. Thus it is invoking supreme irony to juxtapose “rocking out” with him in any way. It’s all the more delicious irony [served with Madagascar Vanilla Bean ice cream on top] because with Mitch Easter producing, it certainly does.
he did the revisit Big Store – on “The Devils” LP he made with Nick Rhodes.
Toby Tobama – Welcome to the comments! Wow. I have The Devils album and The Hawks single, but never knew about The Hawks version of “Big Store” on the Seventeen album…until now! It’s on my want list. Thanks!
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