REDUX: Record Review: Stephen Duffy – Baby Impossible 12″

blast-from-the-past-headerMay 24, 2011

A danger of the internet is that it can make a life’s worth of knowledge accrued outdated with the click of a mouse. At one point, I thought I had a reasonably thorough Stephen Duffy collection. There were a few rare items that I knew it would take some time to obtain, but until I chanced upon Duffypedia, the #1 resource for the Stephen Duffy fan, I had no idea how in the dark I actually was on some shockingly crucial releases. One such record was the tantalizingly obscure “Baby Impossible” single which was apparently slated for release in 1984 only to end up as an “unreleased” record. That was all of the bait that I needed!

I found out about this record some five or six years ago. The “usual places” never carried a copy. For any price, so this was not the more common tale of a $50-100 buy-in staying my hand. It was several years after that when I stumbled upon Discogs.com, a paradise for record collectors like myself. I literally spend at least 30 minutes a day there; either researching or just discovering new nooks and crannies to explore. When I found “Baby Impossible” in their database, it seemed that at least two users registered with Discogs had the record, so it might not be “impossible” to hear, after all. I added it to my want list on Discogs.com and go on with my life for the next several years. Then, after bemoaning the fact that I would probably never get this record, it appeared in my Discogs.com inbox as available from a dealer for a scant $6.00! Success! But is it art?

Ten Records | UK | unreleased 12″ | 1984 | TEN 17-12

Stephen Duffy: Baby Impossible UK 12″

  1. Baby Impossible [olympic mix]
  2. Baby Impossible
  3. Broken Home

It seems like this record was intended as the first release to bear Stephen Duffy’s name. Cognoscenti will recall that Duffy recorded for several singles under the “Tin Tin” name from ’82-’83. You may remember the original 1982 version of “Kiss Me.” But this single was eventually spiked and his first release for Ten Records became “She Makes Me Quiver” instead, under the bet-hedging Stephen “Tin Tin” Duffy nomenclature. This record indeed sounds more like one of his “Tin Tin” singles, especially “Hold It,” than the later “mature” Duffy sound to be found on his debut album, “The Ups And Downs.”

The A-side sports an effervescent Booker T. Jones production and features sweet [though uncredited] female backing vocals as well as delightfully understated “pizzicato” synth lines as Duffy outlines the reasons why this love won’t work out. The Olympic Mix is radically mixed by Duffy and Femi Jiya; it comes the closest he’s ever come to dub reggae with its stabs of heavily reverbed guitar chords punctuating the remix. The first four minutes of the 12″ version are pure dub and it’s something of a surprise when you realize that the song has gradually ambled front and center for last three minutes of the song. As befits a Duffy song, there are memorable hooks and sparkling songcraft aplenty!

The B-side is “Broken Home,” a song which eventually saw release as the B-side to “icing On The Cake” in what seems to be the exact same mix here. That song is significant in that it is a virtual template for Duffy’s later band The Lilac Time. It’s telling in that it appeared on a single as early as 1984 that electropop was never what Duffy wanted to make. But in 1982, getting signed meant swimming with the tide, so Duffy had to put his desire to be the next Bob Dylan, in all of his acoustic glory, on the back burner. “Broken Home” shows he always had his eye on the prize; it just took him several years of banging his head against the wall to realize that he should go for broke and try to achieve it.

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About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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