Posts Tagged ‘Duffy’

Something Beautiful

Posted: March 21, 2020 in 2020, 2020s, Duffy
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Last night, as most nights, Tyler the Cat plopped onto the bed beside my head and sang me the song of his people; it’s often the last thing I hear before drifting to sleep. And when I open my eyes the next day, he’s there to greet me. Sometimes, in fact, my eyes open because of him – he tap-tap-taps me on the head with a paw. Most mornings, however, he’s simply happy I’m awake, doesn’t care if breakfast is late, and picks up his song where he left off.

We feared we were going to lose him last February, when we took him to an emergency veterinary clinic on a Sunday after a week of failing health. A battery of tests revealed that his BUN and creatine levels were off the charts. The vet explained that his kidneys were failing and hinted that it might be best to put him down.

Instead, we took him home. Our thoughts were quite simple: If it was his time, his time would be with us. We’d keep him comfortable and, in the meantime, pursue whatever reasonable measures we could. An ultrasound soon revealed one of his kidneys had shut down due to a blood clot that then either withered or burst, but that the other was fine. We introduced a new renal-friendly diet (easier said than done) buttressed by a potassium supplement and, as important, started a daily regimen of subcutaneous fluids.

The results were near-miraculous: Within six months, his levels were in the normal range. The fluids were reduced to every other day. Now, 13 months later, he cajoles me into playing with him – or, as he did yesterday afternoon, tricks me out of my seat. After a day of working from home, I shut down the work laptop and fired up my MacBook Pro, and signed onto the Neil Young Archives to watch the Fireside Session – Neil performing a half-dozen songs for those of us self-isolating at present. Tyler poked his head up, batted me on the leg and seemed to want to play. But as soon as I got up, he jumped into the chair.

We’re not out of the woods by any means, of course, but – for now – we’re on an even keel. He, and we, have adjusted to a new normal.

Which leads to this, totally unrelated item: the Welsh singer Duffy, whose Rockferry album is one of the new millennium’s great works, shared a new song with BBC2 Radio presenter Jo Whiley on Friday March 20th and posted the note she sent Whiley on Instagram. “It’s just something for you to play people on radio during these troubling times, if you like the song of course. If it lifts spirits. I don’t plan to release it, I just thought a little something might be nice for people if they are at home, on lockdown.”

(For those unaware, she recently revealed that she went through a harrowing ordeal that caused her to pull away from public life; that she’s chosen to share this song with us now speaks volumes about her soul.)

Last night saw a who’s who of singer-songwriters gathering for a swank soiree at one of the region’s finest (if over-priced) restaurants. While some arrived in tuxedoes and others in gowns, a few underdressed artists explained/complained that they would have bedecked themselves if only they’d known they should. (“Who would’ve thought,” said one of the offenders.) The occasion: the Old Grey Cat’s first-ever “Album of the Decade” fete.

The six-hour event is now being edited into a one-hour TV special to air on the world’s top TV networks next Saturday night; apparently, watching an LP rotate on a turntable isn’t as enthralling as initially imagined. (That said, watching the LPs spin turned out to be more exciting than watching the CDs being dropped into a CD tray and then disappearing inside the player.)  

One of the night’s highlights came when select performers took to the stage to sing holiday songs. Up-and-coming Rhode Island-based country singer Charlie Marie, for instance, warmed hearts when she sang her latest single, “Old-Fashioned Christmas.”

And Shelby Lynne and Daryl Hall recreated their Live From Daryl’s House duet on Shelby’s bluesy “Xmas.” 

Lucy Rose, for her part, chided the Old Grey Cat for forgetting her No Words Left album in his rundown of the top albums of 2019 before forgiving him with her sweet rendition of Shakin’ Stevens’ “Merry Christmas Everyone.”

Maja Francis and First Aid Kit brought the house down with their stirring cover of Joni Mitchell’s “River.” (Technically, it’s not a Christmas tune, but…)

Finally, the Greta Garbo of rock ’n’ pop ’n’ soul, Duffy, returned from reclusion to close the festive fun with her stripped-down spin on Nat King Cole’s “Christmas Song.”

(As noted in my first Essentials entry, this is an occasional series in which I spotlight albums that, in my estimation, everyone should experience at least once.)

Immense. That’s the first word that comes to mind when I think of “Rockferry,” the title track of – and lead single from – Duffy’s stellar 2008 debut album. Co-written with former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler, the song is laden with echoes of the ages. Way back at the end of 2008, in a Facebook post (now available here), I noted that it “has an utterly timeless feel, conjuring the likes of Procol Harum, Lulu and Petula Clark.” I should have added Dusty Springfield, too.

Although the single didn’t do well in the charts, peaking at No. 45 in the U.K., it’s the song that drew me to the album. In those days, I sat in a cubicle composing TV descriptions that the whole world – or, at least, TV Guide subscribers – read. An episode of the Brit TV show Later…With Jools Holland that she appeared on was slated to air in the U.S. in the spring of ‘08, and the single moniker led me to verify that, indeed, she was a she and, too, a single-name singer. I also learned that her full name is Aimée Duffy, and that she hails from Wales (which seems to produce more musicians per capita than just about any other country). Anyway, I remember plugging in my headphones to my work computer, pulling up YouTube, and watching the video for “Rockferry” – and being transfixed. It’s a magical song.

I ordered the CD that night, and played it to death over the next few months. And when she released a “deluxe edition” that included six additional songs later that year, I purchased that, too.

Another highlight: “Mercy,” the second single, which broke big. It topped the charts in 13 countries and made her a household name in the United Kingdom.

“Warwick Avenue,” another wondrous track, was the third single. It reached No. 3 on the U.K. charts.

“Syrup & Honey” is another tasty number. Here’s a clip of the songstress singing it in the studio…

My favorites, however, are the title song, which kicks off the 10-track set, and the closing number, the yearning “Distant Dreamer.”

The deluxe version is well worth seeking out, I should mention. It includes the hit single “Rain on Your Parade,” which was in contention to become the theme song for the Jame Bond flick Quantum of Solace. (It lost out to “Another Way to Die” by Jack White and Alicia Keys.)

Other “deluxe” gems include “Oh Boy”…

…and “Enough Love,” which – like “Rockferry” – echoes long-ago days while sounding utterly modern. (At least, it does to my ears.)

There’s much to be said of the trajectory of Duffy’s career in the years since, but that’s grist for another post. The reality is that, even if she never records again, she’s gifted the world with a “bag of songs” that resonates still, a decade later.

Here’s her seven-song set from Glastonbury ’08…

… and here’s the track list of Rockferry, the album, in its deluxe form:

Christmas is the time to say “I love you.” I’m not sure why, but that Billy Squier lyric (and accompanying melody) has stuck with me since I first heard it way back in…1981?! Yes, I suppose so. I was never a Squier fan, never bought anything by him, but this song –

– just takes me back. Martha Quinn, aka Mrs. Bobby Brady, introduces it; the song itself starts at the 1:40 (or so) mark. In fact, I likely saw the clip when it first aired or shortly thereafter, as we had MTV by then (I think).

Seeing Martha reminded me that I have an autographed photo and letter from her, circa April 1983 – perhaps a post for another day? – and, somewhere lost in my archives, I possess a letter from Santa…yes, you read right – not to, but from. The jolly old elf took pity on me one year, though I don’t remember the specifics. Perhaps that’s the year I got hit in the eye by a mud ball? Could be.

Anyway, for today’s Top 5: Christmas Songs. No rhyme or reason to the picks, just songs and performances that I enjoy – and, hopefully, you will, too!

1) Duffy – “The Christmas Song.” This has become one of my favorite Christmas videos and renditions of “The Christmas Song.”

2) David Crosby & Bing Crosby – “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth.” What needs to be said about this classic clip?

3) The Supremes – “Children’s Christmas Song.” Pure joy set to music – that’s this song in a nutshell.

4) Rumer – “Remember (Christmas).” I created this slideshow from pictures my dad took while serving in Korea during the war. Earlier this year, I was surprised when Rumer retweeted to me someone’s request as to where to find the song. (Of which, I have no idea. Someone shared it with me.) She watched the video, liked it and was intrigued to learn the history behind the slides. Kinda cool.

5) Hayley Westenra – “River.” Not a real Christmas song, but it’s become a seasonal favorite – as this Washington Post article explains. And I love Hayley’s crystalline voice.

And, of course, a few bonuses…

6) The Waitresses – “Christmas Wrapping.”

7) Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band – “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.”

8) Bob Seger & the Last Heard – “Sock It to Me, Santa.”

9) Pat Benatar – “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

10) Paul McCartney – “Wonderful Christmastime.” Yeah, some folks hate this. I don’t. And Annie Zaleski over at Salon gives a good defense of it.