It is exceedingly seldom that I find myself even vaguely interested in music that bothers the charts, never mind the very top of the Hit Parade! I make the odd exception for Britney, but truthfully this is rarely about her music, and more due to a lack of immunity to rubber-necking and being dazzled by all the National Enquirer type reporting...as opposed to experiencing any overt interest in her recorded output (with an exculpation for Toxic, which is simply a stonking good song).
Anyway, I am not here to talk about Britney, but the current inhabitant of Britain's number one spot - a young, Welsh lass by the name of Duffy. There is just something about the (few) songs that I have heard from her so far that has caught my attention.
Here is a young woman with not just a great voice, but a good dollop of soul...before you think of Joss Stone, please, have a listen if she for some reason has not yet reached your shores. Her single, Mercy starts out all Stand By Me and morphs as it goes into Chain of Fools. And, as you may be able to tell from the picture above, it really would be difficult for this girl to be any whiter, which adds an interesting angle to her old-school Motown style sound. For this reason I am reminded very strongly of Chris Clark.
By the time I heard that Duffy was due to be appearing at local venue The Cluny it was already too late. On the Cluny website, SOLD OUT was emblazoned in large letters (this almost never seems to happen at the Cluny, despite it being a small venue. Perhaps this is precisely because I don't tend to want to go and see chart-botherers...and it's not generally the sort of venue that they play anyway. But even with the much-net-hyped Johnny Flynn I was able to get tickets on the night). I telephoned to check - yep, definitely sold out.
On the night itself, a friend and I decided to head across there anyway, just in case...it is the kind of place where you will often find people selling any spare tickets they might have in the queue. I have never, in the entire time that I have been frequenting - and I mean frequent-ing - The Cluny seen it so busy!
As I fought through the throng to the door to the venue itself (handily right next to the toilet had anyone chosen to be funny with me about my journey there) in order to enquire of someone 'in the know' if there was likely to be any chance of getting our mitts on two tickets, or indeed if we could be alerted should some unneeded tickets come to their attention, I was looked at by the queuing masses with equal parts disdain and curiosity - who might be so important as to be allowed in, or so un-British as to jump the queue?!
The man with whom I spoke said that there were about 40 people on a waiting list for any tickets that might come free...bummer!
Is it just me that finds all this Duffy mania, this frenzy, completely crazy? The majority of people have only heard one song and, correct me if I am wrong, one is not yet even able to buy anything by her. Talk about media hype!
Prior to Sunday night, in an attempt to try and wangle some tickets (even this was a good week before the gig itself), I attempted to message Duffy on MySpace. I got as far as receiving some script from her (pre- me being able to type anything) saying that she is receiving so many messages that no-one is allowed to send any more! I have never even seen this message before! I then tried to contact 'her people' via her own website, explaining that I write a music blog (yes, yes sporadically at the moment, but anyway...), would very much like to write about the gig, was not asking for a freebie yadda yadda...and never heard a peep back.
Back to Sunday. Whilst waiting about for the gig to start, biding our time loitering outside smoking, we talked to a man with a pass around his neck...absolutely no idea who he was, but he seemed like a nice and chatty sort of chap. He told us that, outside the gig in Edinburgh the previous night, there had been people touting tickets for £150! He, too, found this to be completely bonkers. All on the merit of one single? This is nutty business!
Shortly after door opening, and after another brief chat with man-at-door (who was also very personable, on both occasions, incidentally), me and my aforementioned friend roundly gave up and actioned Plan B...local band Blackflower for free at The Tyne, a pub just a hop, skip and a jump down the road.
Blackflower had been a band I was keen to see...songs I had heard, ooh a long time back now, of theirs on the net had sounded good and, hell, it was free and in one of my favourite drinking establishments in Newcastle! They were fine, but sadly under-inspiring. And it was hot and loud in there (am I turning into a grown-up?)...although I'm willing to bet that it was not nearly as hot nor loud as Plan A would have been.
In summary, we didn't get into the Duffy gig, we didn't even manage to stick out the whole of the alternative gig...instead we headed to meet some friends at proper cask ale and folkie singalong boozer The Cumberland Arms. I even joined in a little on my way to and from the toilets. And do you know what? It was a cracking good night! (I even managed to do a bit of hob-nobbing with a guy involved in local music-booking legends the Jumpin' Hot Club).
So don't be dismayed if Duffy also spurns your advances...she may be very good (I couldn't say), but it will all turn out alright in the end!
mp3: Mercy - Duffy
mp3: Rockferry - Duffy
mp3: Breaking My Own Heart - Duffy
Duffy on MySpace