A Young Person’s Guide To: Stephen ‘Tin Tin’ Duffy – The Ups + Downs

stephen-duffy-ca-1985It was some time in 1985 when I spotted the cover to the album in the import bins at my local Peaches Records. The haughtiness of the cover photo spoke volumes to me. The character on the cover had the demeanor of a dandy with all of the confidence in the world that he was a genius; much to the indifference of the rest of the world. That, in a nutshell, was the crux of the everlasting appeal of the music of Stephen Duffy to me. And it serves as an effective précis of his career in pop to this day damnably well.

I saw that cover and though I had not heard anything from the album or artist, I felt that it would reward my careful listening. It was later that year that I happened to see the video for the single “Kiss Me” thanks to reader and longtime compadre Ron Kane, and once I had viewed/heard the song, the album “The Ups + Downs” shot to the top of my want list and in those days, I acted immediately on that desire. That disc was in the Record Cell in no time flat.

Ten Records | UK | CD | 1985 | DIX CD5

Ten Records | UK | CD | 1985 | DIX CD5

Stephen Duffy: The Ups + Downs UK CD [1985]

  1. Kiss Me
  2. She Makes Me Quiver
  3. A Masterpiece
  4. But Is It Art?
  5. Wednesday Jones
  6. Icing On The Cake
  7. The Darkest Blues
  8. Be There
  9. Believe In Me
  10. The World At Large Alone

The album lived up to that cover most assuredly with a brace of extremely well written material that was given an eclectic production by hands as varied as Brit Fairlight maestro J.J. Jeczalik [Art Of Noise] and American Booker T. Jones [Booker T and the MGs]. In spite of the many cooks, the pot delivered tasty soup due to the inherent quality of the ingredients. To this day my heart melts when I hear the sumptuous “Be There” with its delicate pizzicato strings via the hand of Nicky Holland. The fact that this stratospheric song wasn’t a single [much less a hit] is testament to the chicanery of this fallen world!

The album fueled a lifelong admiration for the songs of Duffy in whatever guise he chose to release music under. His even better sophomore album failed to produce a chart hit as ebullient as his 1985 redux of his 1983 debut single “Kiss Me” so in the manner of genius, he rethought the concept for the third and final album for Ten Records” with the tad too prescient Dr. Calculus MDMA that was launched a year too early for a Britain that was not quite ready for an ambient rave album in 1986. I fervently collected all manner of Duffy singles until in 1987, he released the first Lilac Time album, and thus began his new folk phase, which has been his most lasting brand.

Duffy has many admirers and is to be considered a songwriter’s songwriter. Enough to the extent that lesser lights such as Barenaked Ladies and Robbie Williams were drawn to his status as a co-writer of material like moths to the flame. Given that I have no interest in their music, I am nonetheless grateful that their largesse [and ability to shift units] has contributed to the Duffy coffers, thus giving him a basis on which to continue on his own development. Duffy made a brilliant stab at the Britpop target in the mid-90s that still fell on deaf ears, in spite of their canny timing marketwise. Since then, he has returned to The Lilac Time to release subsequent music. But lo, in 2008, our friends at Cherry Red records decided the time was nigh to re-introduce the manifold pleasures of his debut album to the ears of a not quite waiting world. The differences in the program were startling.

Cherry Pop | UK | CD RM | 2008 | CRPOP11

Cherry Pop | UK | CD RM | 2008 | CRPOP11

Stephen Duffy: The Ups + Downs UK CD RM [2008]

  1. Kiss Me
  2. She Makes Me Quiver
  3. A Masterpiece
  4. But Is It Art?
  5. Wednesday Jones [Dixie]
  6. Icing On The Cake
  7. The Darkest Blues
  8. Be There
  9. Believe In Me
  10. The World At Large Alone [Remix]
  11. Kiss Me [1982] [Unidentified Bob Lamb Mix]
  12. Holes In My Shoes
  13. Love’s Duet
  14. Baby Impossible
  15. In This Twilight [Long]
  16. Little Lost Boy
  17. Broken Home

The DLX RM has two tracks remixed [red] as well as a brace of desirable adjunct material from the singles that surrounded the initial album release. “Wednesday Jones” is now in its dixieland jazz guise as previously released here. The remix of the album’s final cut is previously unheard, as are tracks 11 and 16! In fact, “Little Lost Boy” is a song that is unknown in any form. The most desirable cut by far on this remaster is the 7″ version of the great withdrawn “Baby Impossible” single, which, against all odds, is sitting in my Record Cell after a $6 expenditure [plus shipping]. So this DLX RM needs to be purchased before too much time goes by and it’s an OOP bank-breaker. But wait, there’s more. It has recently come to my attention that Virgin’s Caroline division has also worked that action on a download only version of the album that is heavily salted with completely different bonus material! Now how much would you pay?

Caroline World Service | DL | 2008

Caroline World Service | DL | 2008

Stephen Duffy: The Ups + Downs DL version [2008]

  1. Kiss Me
  2. She Makes Me Quiver
  3. A Masterpiece
  4. But Is It Art?
  5. Wednesday Jones
  6. Icing On The Cake
  7. The Darkest Blues
  8. Be There
  9. Believe In Me
  10. The World At Large Alone
  11. Push It
  12. Kiss Me [Mixe Plural]
  13. In This Twilight [12″ ver.]
  14. Holes In My Shoes
  15. Broken Home
  16. Icing On The Cake [Remix]
  17. Hold It [Remixed]
  18. She Makes Me Quiver [12″]

This version is notable in that it replicates the original album cover/contents through track 10. The original “cover” is a plus, since face it; it’s what drew me to the music in the first place. But the eight bonus tracks differ widely from the Cherry Pop reissue. All of these songs come from the 12″ singles surrounding the album, but are largely different to the selection on the CD.

Flat out, the one amazing thing here is the rare as sin “Icing On The Cake [remix]” version! I managed to obtain one of these after years of concentrated effort as written about here. Unfortunately, my hard won copy sounds like trash, so you had better believe that when I found this on my “friendly” online music retailer, I bought that track without a moment’s hesitation!

But committing pocket change is easy. What I need to commit to is buying the Cherry Pop DLX RM CD and perhaps cherry picking any other bonus tracks from the download version, but since I bought all of those singles new from which the bulk of the material is from, I won’t need any further download material for that long mooted Stephen Duffy BSOG!

– 30 –

 

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
This entry was posted in A Young Person's Guide, Core Collection and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.