Friends reunited: Stephen Duffy speaks to SDE about his new reissue

Photo by Andrew Cotterill 

Stephen Duffy thought he’d cracked it in the mid-90s with his Duffy album. Jangly guitar-pop was ‘in’, the stars had seemingly aligned and surely this time his efforts would be rewarded with some ‘hits’ and commercial success. Heck, even Lloyd Cole had a single played regularly on radio in Britain in 1995, and breached the top 30. Sadly, it was not to be and when Stephen’s next solo album, 1998’s I Love My Friends, endured an even worse fate – with even the record label questioning its worth – it was, in Stephen’s words, “a real blow.”

But with that album now revived and rebooted via Pete Paphides’ Needle Mythology label, Stephen Duffy has taken time out to talk to SDE about the record and some of the highs and lows of his long career in pop, touching on Duran Duran, ‘Kiss Me’ and Robbie Williams. “I’m really my biggest fan. You have to really love it to want to continue” he tells Paul Sinclair…

SuperDeluxeEdition: The reissue of I Love My Friends was an initiative of Pete Paphides. Your relationship with Pete obviously goes back a bit…

Stephen Duffy: Yes, he had a fanzine called ‘Perturbed’. All of the Lilac Time post [from fans] – because, you know, back in the day, in the early 90s, people did still write letters – used to go to my mother’s house and she opened it and she said that this guy, Peter, wanted to do an interview… then a couple of weeks later he left the four middle pages of his fanzine blank, so he kind of blackmailed me into doing… no he didn’t! So I spoke to him and obviously, you know, he came from Birmingham, and it would have been something I’d have done anyway, so… I don’t know how old he was then.

SDE: So what year was this, then?

Stephen Duffy: I would imagine this must be about 1990. Or ’91 maybe. Because I think we were on Creation [Records], and we talked about R.E.M. And then when he moved to London, and he was working for Time Out, and he’d written some nice things, so I said let’s meet up and have a drink, and we’ve been friends ever since.

SDE: With regards to the album I Love My Friends, tell us a little bit about your mind-set at that point because, to me anyway, it came at the end of quite a kind of strong period for you in terms of the solo material with Music in Colours and the Duffy album.

Stephen Duffy: I was about 31 or something when Music in Colours came out, and I’d already released eight other records, I mean I did manage to make eight records which hardly sold anything, and then when I was 31 I thought, now I’m really getting the hang of this. So, you know, I was really proud of Music in Colours, and the Duffy album was the one I really thought chimed with the times, even though it was completely recorded in America – and mixed and produced by Americans – it fitted in with the beat boom because it was a very simple, you know.But when that failed to sell, I don’t know, it probably sold about 15,000 or something, then I could feel that, the rug was being pulled from beneath us…

SDE: But what happened? When you look back on it now, can you understand why that record failed commercially, because, like you say, it had the right sound and it seemed to be kind of perfect for that era, and you weren’t an unknown quantity. There was so much music on TV in the ’90s. Was it ineptitude from the record label? 

Stephen Duffy: People who’d been in the business obviously thought, well, here he is again… and people who booked TV shows, you know, they’re not the same as people who wrote for newspapers. None of the singles got onto any lists at radio, and we weren’t invited onto any television programmes. I remember, before… maybe it was around the time of Music in Colours, this one radio producer saying to my manager, “well, we really like Stephen, but, you know, it’s not enough.”  So like it sort of it didn’t really matter what I did… I could have done anything really. And Music in Colours was such an astonishing record. After Nirvana, I thought, well, anybody can do anything now, I didn’t realise that everybody had to do grunge. So I kind of just went off and made like a prog album, really, with Nigel [Kennedy]. And, of course, that was just at the point where Nigel became from being everybody’s favourite classical violinist to somebody that they wanted to sort of give a good kicking to.

SDE: You look back and think how was ‘Natalie’ not a hit single, you know? It astounds me, really, when you think about it…

Stephen Duffy: It was a hit in Mexico. And it was also a hit somewhere in Greece. Because when I went to Mexico with Rob [Robbie Williams], I was in the car with the EMI people, and they said, why didn’t you ever come over in ’91? You had a massive hit with ‘Natalie’. And I didn’t even know.

SDE: No one had told you.

Stephen Duffy: Because EMI saw South America as being this sort of lawless place where they didn’t necessarily get paid the royalties, so they obviously decided not to inform me of my superstardom in Mexico, which would have been … I mean I would have loved to have gone out. I would have gone and lived there, probably, I was a bit of a roaming soul at the time. It would have been fantastic, ‘big in Mexico’. Lovely little apartment in Mexico City, it would have been fantastic. But there you go, no point having regrets.

SDE: So that relationship with EMI obviously kind of came to an end.

Stephen Duffy: Yes, that was like a one album. I think that they were not going to let Nigel make a record for anybody but EMI. So [after the Duffy album] there was Me Me Me you see, which was sort of at the real fag end of Britpop, but that got to number 19, so I kind of thought, well, here we go, maybe there is a chance. It meant that the next album was greenlighted and I’d work with Stephen Street on the Me Me Me stuff, and he was still producing Blur, obviously, at that point. So we decided to go in and make an album, like a proper, old fashioned album, six weeks or something, and go in, bash it out. We made a record before in 1985, my second solo album, and, in fact, I think that ‘Icing On The Cake’ for my first album was first single produced by Stephen Street that charted.

SDE: Okay, so you had a good relationship with Stephen?

Stephen Duffy: Well, strangely, that album, we went to the fallout shelter underneath Island Records and made that, and we finished and it was all cross-faded, and I’ve got a copy of it here, a safety copy, and then, of course, the record company started saying, oh, you know… as they do. So that record [Because We Love You] that was sort of chewed up and other things put on it.  So that ended badly with Stephen. And the same thing happened with I Love My Friends; we went in, made the record, and we thought it was all finished, and then they all started going, well, I don’t know, it’s a shame it’s not more trip-hoppy…

SDE: So this was Indolent?

Stephen Duffy: Indolent were very happy with it, it was just like the rest of RCA. By that point it was 97, with the Spice Girls, you know, so pure pop was back, Pro Tools HD was just happening. You could actually make records on Pro Tools. And I think that basically the big labels couldn’t wait to get rid of the old, guitary geezers.  So I was first in line because being the oldest guitary geezer, apart from Weller, you know, so I was … they couldn’t wait to get rid of me no matter what I did.

SDE: Which is weird because you think, if you’ve got Stephen Duffy, you want a Stephen Duffy record, you don’t want a record to sound like something else.

Stephen Duffy: It didn’t really matter to the accountants and the marketing team people, they just wanted something they could market and they didn’t feel that it was old guitar chaps.

SDE: And you had to – well, you didn’t have to –  but what happened with Andy Partridge? Did someone suggest that you needed to go away and write some more catchy songs?

Stephen Duffy: I think that was basically the inference. And I’d worked with Andy on & Love for All, the third Lilac Time album. At the time he saw his job to make The Lilac Time into a more roadworthy sort of, you know, toughen it up and make it sellable. So I kind of thought, well, maybe that’s what’s needed now, you know. So I went back to him. And also I mean he’s got, obviously, a fantastic ear for melody. So I went and saw him and we did those two tracks [‘You Are and ‘What If I Fall In Love With You’]. But even those two tracks didn’t satisfy them.

SDE: So the two new songs went on the record and the two that are now reinstated (‘In the Evening of Her Day’ and ‘Mao Badge’) got taken off it. Did you pick those tracks to remove, or was that someone at the label. Can you remember?

Stephen Duffy: I’ve no idea. I’m really brilliant at not knowing which songs to leave off. I mean I left ‘In the Evening of a Her Day’ off. I think I just didn’t feel as if I’d got it right… but I obviously had. And, I don’t know about ‘Mao Badge’…You get to a point where it’s like just let’s just get on to the next one [album] – this is already a bit of a [drag]. You’ve gone in, you’ve written and you’ve done it, and you just think can we just get it out, so you can get on and do something else. But that was the way I always felt. I was always too busy thinking of the future.

I’d started in therapy a couple of years after my father died in the early 90s, and by 1997 I was still in therapy, and so when all of this happened I was in the right place, you know, in that I was seeing somebody. So I went from kind of talking about grief to railing against the record industry. And this is exactly the kind of person I hate, I felt entitled to have a record deal in all of this. So it was kind of embarrassing to be sitting there spouting all of this nonsense, and so I restarted The Lilac Time, and kind of got on with it.

But it came at a very strange time, because I really did think this is the best record, it was my tenth album, and I thought have I actually really cracked it with this. So to go through all of these shenanigans and it to be not appreciated, and then to have it shuffle out on Cooking Vinyl a couple of years later, it was a real blow. And the strange thing is I never approached a major label again.

After [2007’s] Runout Groove came out, that was our worst selling record, it sold something like 500 copies. And we played three concerts, which was sort of like a major tour for us. I just thought we’re going to have to be a tiny cottage industry not even a big cottage. And I kind of gave up. But I thought that I’d better keep my hand in and play gigs occasionally. So we played the Port Eliot Festival. The second time we played it a senior scout from BMG Rights Management was there, and said you ought to play something to BMG. So I did and I got signed.  So I got scouted when I was like 58 or something, it was absolutely absurd and the last thing I thought was going to happen. So the next Lilac Time album is coming out on BMG.

SDE: On the sleeve notes for the reissue of I Love My Friends you talk about trying to write more confessional songs, songs that are true, from the heart… about what’s going on in your life. Presumably you were you were always writing like that, just a bit more obliquely before?

Stephen Duffy: Well, I wasn’t clever enough to be writing about anything else, but I was writing in such a way that it was … you couldn’t really [tell]. When my therapist heard it she thought I was talking in some sort of strange, romantic code. She really thought that it was absurd. Because obviously she heard ‘Sugar High’, I mean a song about pop music being like eating a donut or whatever, so obviously she wasn’t, you know, an 80-year-old Hungarian was not really going to be that tuned into the teenage news, or whatever I say in that song. So yes, I suppose to be incredibly plain about it, like on ‘Twenty Three’, I sort of wrote poetry upon a hill and, you know, I moved to town at twenty three, launched myself in society from a squat in Archway N19… it was very much more understandable.

SDE: Was that hard for you to do, to kind of open up in a very transparent manner?

Stephen Duffy: No, it was like a great joy to realise that I didn’t need to dress things up and pretend to be poetic, I could actually do it, I could write about what I was doing and that was fine, you know, that was better than what I’d been doing before.

SDE: How much satisfaction could you get from the creative success of your albums, all three of them, including this one, in the 1990s? Even if commercially, things weren’t working out, could you just think, ‘well, sod them, I know it’s a good record’ and just compartmentalise it and sort of move on?

Stephen Duffy: Well, writing and the recording was so joyful, and, you know, I’m really my biggest fan, you know, I stand there in the studio and play things really loud and I think, this is fantastic, which, obviously, you need to do that to kind of battle on against the tide, as I’ve done, you know, for so long, you have to really love it to want to continue. I remember doing a tour from & Love for All and we were kind of playing to, you know, 15 people. And then I think we actually played a gig in Newcastle, on the Music in Colours tour, and there was like five people there and they were all related to the string players or something, you know, it’s like, oh, God… this is really not selling!.

But now, when we played the Port Eliot, the church was full and there’s queues and it’s kind of like…I  didn’t realise I was doing it but by not doing anything, it has kind of worked.

SDE: But also, the industry is so different now and with social media and all the rest of it, if you’re starting out, you know, you can create your own momentum, can’t you, and do things in a way that you never could back in the 80s and the 90s.

Stephen Duffy: The amazing thing about this is that I didn’t even create this momentum, the momentum came from elsewhere, you know, people just turning up and I don’t know why.

SDE: I noticed that, in addition to the two Andy Partridge-produced songs, ‘Something Good’ is no longer on the album. What was the thinking behind that?

Stephen Duffy: Well, I wanted to put three tracks back on, ‘Holding Hands with Grace’, ‘Mao Badge’, and ‘In the Evening of Her Day’. Before I came up with that ‘Tune In’ bit at the beginning, I thought the album should start with ‘Holding Hands With Grace’. And when I was putting the album back together I did actually find ‘Tune In’ going into ‘The Deal’, so that was obviously an idea I had at the time. But ‘Something Good’ was the end one but it sounded dated like lyrically, and I just wanted to cut it [the vinyl] loud so I didn’t want to put too many tracks on it, so listening back to it that one just… it just dragged to me. And it mentions Camden, and I can do without that.

SDE: How important was it for you to get ‘I Love My Friends’ out on vinyl.

Stephen Duffy: Yes, originally it [the reissue] was only going to come out on vinyl. The CD was an afterthought. With the last Lilac Time album [No Sad Songs] we sold a lot of vinyl and I just thought, well, this is the way. Because vinyl… I mean vinyl should cost about £50 a copy, if it was in line with inflation, it’s just so extraordinary that records have got cheaper and music has got cheap … well, cheap, free!

SDE: The single that never really came out, ’17’, where there was going to be three CDs and there was all these extra tracks.They ended up on the previous reissue of this album, didn’t they?

Stephen Duffy: Yes they did.

SDE: They’re not part of the two CD set that’s coming out now, although obviously you have got all the unheard demos. Did you not think that maybe you should incorporate those extra tracks as well, as part of this?

Stephen Duffy: Well, I feel that there’s just so much stuff out there. I own the copyright to everything from I Love My Friends, Looking for a Day in the Night, Lilac 6, The Devils, Keep Going, No Sad Songs, and Runout Groove… so I own the copyright to all of those, which is why none of them are on Spotify or Apple Music. Mainly because there’s a lot of paperwork, that put me off. After I’d done the Rob [Robbie Williams] tour, I came back to London and I went out to lunch with Nick Rhodes, and I said, ‘well, what’s happening?’ because, you know, streaming had happened, everything was… And he said, “Stephen, things will get better, but not in our lifetime,” which wasn’t the most reassuring comment.

SDE: Well, it’s interesting because I have noticed, with Duran Duran, they do come out with a new album every four or five years, but in the main they’re out there just gigging, you know.

Stephen Duffy: And it’s surprising, actually, people who I know hated touring – because we really thought it was the worst thing in the world – and are now touring merrily because obviously they stopped earning money. Nowadays, they’re going off doing corporate gigs whenever they get offered.

SDE: Yes, exactly. But tell us about the second CD, then, because obviously there’s a two CD set…

Stephen Duffy: [the label] Needle Mythology were saying, well, let’s do a CD, we’ve got all of these extra tracks that you put out before, let’s get gather everything together from that period and put them on a CD. And that’s when I said, there’s so much rubbish out there and none of this has been on Apple or Spotify, so I want it to be neat, I want people to be able to say this is the I Love My Friends album, without there being another hour of bollocks, you know… I want them to be able to concentrate on, you know, on what we’ve been talking about. Because suddenly you fall asleep and you wake up and you’re listening to somebody’s instrumental B-side recorded on a Portastudio in 1984, and you just think, well, what is this? There’s no focus, there’s no sort of appreciation of the form, you know the classic form of the vinyl album.  So I said, no, I’m not having any of that bollocks.

SDE: Does that mean that what you’ve done with the demos on the second disc, is that you’ve picked out things and tried to create almost like another album that flows in a certain way?

Stephen Duffy: Yes. I wanted to make an album of the things that I was kind of astonished that I never put out. A couple of them came out as extra tracks but these are the original demos. When I moved to Cornwall I kind of, suddenly, for the first time in my life, everything turned up out of storage and I had it all here, and I was forced to think, well, I can either kick these boxes to the side or I can go through them all and kind of organise things. I’ve been transferring everything from DAT and cassette to Pro Tools because, well, nobody else is going to do it, and it would be nice to get rid of all these cassettes and DATs, if only to a storage space somewhere. And the thing about this [bonus] album is it’s not going to be on Spotify or Apple Music, it’s not going to be streamed.

SDE: It’s labelled ‘volume 1’, so does that mean that we can look forward to other volumes?

Stephen Duffy: Well, you know, it’s not something I’m rushing into but I have found I have got so much stuff. I’ve got at least two albums of the ‘silly voice’ electronic period [Stephen means the ‘tin-tin’ period in the mid-1980s], which I find very difficult to listen to, but I mean [it’s good] for the fans of the silly voice and the Roland SH101 and all of that. I could have been Green [Scritti Politti’s Green Gartside] if I’d have double-tracked it. I wonder if Green thinks, ‘I really wish I hadn’t sung in that Mickey Mouse voice’ because it’s an extraordinary thing to have done. I was trying it, too. I mean I’d listen to it and think this is absurd, hours and hours of this squeaky voice and plinking and plonking. And it was only when I started The Lilac Time, and I think I was singing a Stevie Nicks song, something off a Fleetwood Mac album, and it was like, ah, I can’t sing like Stevie Nicks but this must be what I sound like!

SDE: Well, I saw a quote somewhere where you said you didn’t think you made a decent record until the ’90s. Is that something you meant and do you still believe that?

Stephen Duffy: Oh, yes. I really, really despise… there’s some of the stuff I did with Stephen Street on Because We Love You is okay – ‘Sunday Supplement’, ‘Julie Christie’ –  there were some nice songs there and then, the first Lilac Time album is kind of okay, but then Paradise Circus… I gave up smoking or something and my voice just fell apart, it was like… it took me a year to kind of get my voice back together… so that sounds really weird to me. Yes, I think I didn’t really get it together until I was in my early 30s.

SDE: Of course, the song that you’re best known for is ‘Kiss Me’.

Stephen Duffy: I wrote that in 1979.

SDE: Do you look at that track as an albatross, or as a gift? What is your relationship with it?

Stephen Duffy: Well, recently, Juliette Lewis’s brother’s putting together some … a film of video stuff that he did in the 80s, and she put up a clip on her Instagram, and it’s her, as a 15 year old, dancing, and they put ‘Kiss Me’ as the music underneath it. And for the first time ever, well for years and year, I thought I get it, I understand this, this sounds really poppy, this sounds okay. But what is strange about that ‘Kiss Me’ is that the first version that we recorded at Bob Lamb’s on a 16 track one-inch [tape], it’s darker and more sort of … more compelling and electronic. And the hit version that was produced by the Art of Noise is kind of incredibly camp and jolly, because you really think that it should be, I don’t know…but their reputation was of the mechanic, you know, this incredible electronic panzer division…but it’s the campest record of all time.

SDE: On ‘Eucharist’ on the album, you namecheck ‘Kiss Me’ and say it was pay day when it was a hit. Give me a flavour of how that changed your life and what freedoms it gave you. Having one big, hit single…does it really give you actual money in the bank?

Stephen Duffy: It did because back in the day… I mean I thought I was never going to have to work again… because I was absolutely clueless about money. And when I got my first record deal with WEA, which was like £3000, it was the most money I’d ever had in my life. I had no idea, you know, I didn’t know … can you live on £3000 for a year? I had no idea. I’d been getting £13.50 a week on Social Security, you know. So I was very clueless. But it did earn quite a lot, for a very long time.

SDE: But you read things where people say ‘I didn’t see any royalties from that record for five years’, due to the machinations of the record industry. You think, it could have been easy for you not to see any cash.

Stephen Duffy: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a penny from the actual record, it’s just the publishing. I mean after a couple of months I got a PRS cheque and I’d been used to getting £150, and it was £15,000 or something and I was like, “oh, my God, look at the riches!” Mind you, back then, a provincial doctor was probably only earning £18,000 a year so it was quite a considerable amount of money … [even] in those olden times.

SDE: And, of course, the other thing that was happening was, you know, your old band, Duran Duran, were having great success. Tell me what your feeling was when they kind of took over the world and were massive?  I mean were you happy for them, were you envious that you weren’t part of it?

Stephen Duffy: Well, I always knew that it wouldn’t have happened like that [with me in the band] because I wasn’t Simon. If I’d have stayed we’d have been supporting Echo and the Bunnymen, you know, it would have ruined their lives. And then when I toured with Rob and saw that stadium existence… it just wasn’t for me, even that, you know, the supporting role, let alone being the geezer having to run around.

One other thing about Duran is, I denied that I was ever in them, so I think there was something kind of wrong with me, you know what I mean? I think, now, you can’t stop me talking about them, I’ll rattle on about them at the drop of a hat, but I think there was a time, especially when The Lilac Time started, that I would actually deny that I’d even been in the band. Because when I put out the The Devil’s record, somebody who used to work for my management during The Lilac Time, phoned me up and said, you told me that you had nothing to do with them, but what’s all of this? It must have had some sort of mental effect, I don’t know. I suppose having people say you’re Pete Best, is bound to have a kind of negative effect on you, eventually.

The funny thing about working with Rob was [although] I worked with him for three years or something, when I stopped working with him I went straight back to being ‘Tin Tin’ who left Duran Duran. Because you only get one chance at first impressions, as people say, and people, you know, that is what people know me for. So you said, you know, you said curse, but, no, it’s brilliant, I mean people these days, aren’t really going to get the chance to have a song like ‘Kiss Me’, are they, because people don’t, you know, it was on Top of the Pops, for a month, it was in clubs, you know, it was on the radio; it was massive, you know.

SDE: You mentioned Robbie Williams. Obviously that must have brought you a fair amount of financial security…

Stephen Duffy: Yes.

SDE: How did that change you? 

Stephen Duffy: It’s always nice not to [have to] worry about money, isn’t it? And anybody who says the opposite is nuts. Having been very poor… I had a birthday once when I was a kid, I got a pencil sharpener, you know, so it’s kind of nice to be able to afford something more than a pencil sharpener. Obviously I’ve bought myself better pencil sharpeners since then…. Since working with Rob, I’ve got pencil sharpeners of course in every room!

It wasn’t like that at all, what I was thinking was… I came out of that record with Rob and that tour, and I made Runout Groove, and because I’d been living in Beverley Hills, for God’s sake, I had no idea. And then I’d been on this big tour when there’s loads of people and we sold a million records in a day and so I had no idea that that was only him and Michael Buble [that could do that]… you know, Runout Groove sold 500 copies – I couldn’t believe it.

Because we always relied on selling 5000 in the first month or something, so you’ve got, you know, you knew the money was coming in so you could do some adverts and do some gigs, and then you’d hopefully get up to 15,000, and it would breakeven and blah de blah.  But to only sell 500, I just thought, well, this is … we’re dead.  So that’s why we didn’t do anything for seven years or something, until I realised that if I didn’t, I was never going to do anything. I never stopped writing. I was recording as well so I was still doing all of that but nobody was hearing it. But I just realised that if I didn’t play in front of people that I might lose my nerve and never do it again.

SDE: So what you’re saying is, in a way it’s that it’s sort of semi-irrelevant because it doesn’t matter how much money you have or haven’t got, if you want to release an album you still have to have an audience that connects with it, and goes out and buys it.

Stephen Duffy: Yes, so that’s, you know, when we did No Sad Songs, I kind of felt, oh, yes, there is an audience here but they want to buy vinyl.  Then I made [the next Lilac Time album] Return to Us, but thought, well, I don’t feel like supporting somebody else’s business model necessarily, you know, and then this BMG thing came along [the album’s coming out via BMG]. But that’s how I thought of it… my main thing was, so fuck the business, you know, I think we better sue them, the geezers who gave away our rights to Spotify and Apple Music for nothing, rewrote the contract. I mean this is negligence on a major artistic scale, isn’t it, you know? They destroyed a business, they destroyed our business and they did it by giving away something they didn’t really own, our music. But now, of course, we do have a business model that we can get behind and it’s called trying to sell a couple of thousand of vinyl records.

Thanks to Stephen Duffy, who was talking to Paul Sinclair for SDE.

I Love My Friends reissue is out now. There is now more signed CDs and vinyl available exclusively via the SDE shop (these will ship in a couple of weeks).

SuperDeluxeEdition.com helps fans around the world discover physical music and discuss releases. To keep the site free, SDE participates in various affiliate programs, including Amazon and earns from qualifying purchases.


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[…] Read the SDE interview with Stephen Duffy. […]

[…] Keep Going (2003) and 2007’s Runout Groove (“our worse selling record” as Duffy told SDE earlier this year). The most recent record was No Sad Songs which was released about four years […]

Post-Punk Monk

And, yes, I am one of the 500. And in The States at that! I bought “Runout Groove” and the “Happy Birthday Peace” EP at the same time at a well-stocked store in South Carolina! I had to admit, that it was the first time I had seen a Duffy CD in the racks in over a decade and was flabbergasted. Funny it was that album of them all.


This interview is almost as strong as the album. Fascinating reading and as usual SD is perfectly forthright in his answers. I felt that ILMF was a paradigm shift when I managed to snag the Indolent pressing in 1998. There was a sense that Duffy was more forthright than ever with the lyrics and it gave the album a bracing quality; even with the compromises made at Cooking Vinyl’s behest. Now we know why as the liner notes revealed he was responding to Jungian analysis. I feel it was this quality that made it a go-to Duffy album for the last twenty years for me. Of course, the new release is much more definitive! Even so, I find it interesting that this is the only release of the Duffy canon to have gotten 2 DLX RMs; the 2006 and now 2019 editions. I was just looking at his back catalog and every album from 1985 to 1998 [“Because We Love You” and “Designer Beatnik” albeit DL only versions] can be found in a DLX RM CD version. That’s surprising to me considering Duffy’s long-term “cult appeal.” There are many artists who have sold much more music but have not had their first ten albums all get the attention in that way.


Stephen is wrong concerning the last two albums by The Lilay Time not being an Spotify. They are, at least in Germany…

Matt Thurston

“I own the copyright to everything from I Love My Friends, Looking for a Day in the Night, Lilac 6, The Devils, Keep Going, No Sad Songs, and Runout Groove…” ~Stephen Duffy

So does this mean we can expect vinyl re-issues of these albums? Please say “YES!” I own all of them on CD, but would happily buy them again on vinyl. Keep Going, in particular, looks more like a vinyl cover than anything you’ve released in the past 20 years. Make it happen!

Love the re-issue of I Love My Friends. (My second favorite Duffy/Lilac album following Paradise Circus.) Track list taking a bit of time for me to get used to. I miss Eucharist following Tune In, if only because thematically they seem to go hand-in-hand, and I feel like this album should start out with a banger. But the inclusion of In the Evening of Her Day, and especially Mao Badge is brilliant.

DJ Salinger

Greetings from one of the 500. I had no idea I was in quite such rarified company.

Really enjoying the new sequencing of ILMF and reconnecting with the album. Although it still beggars belief a single as good as ’17’ was dropped at the time.

Oh well, it was a noble effort, as Gurney Slade once said.


Green Gartside is a wonderful singer – and songwriter etc. What an odd comment. Maybe a bit jealous of his success?

Lazlo Nibble

It’s not a dig, it’s legitimate to wonder if Green has any second thoughts about choosing to build his singing career around a highly-affected vocal style, especially given that Duffy worked similar territory for a while. Hearing Green’s natural speaking voice for the first time isn’t a Jimmy Somerville-level shock but it isn’t what one would expect based solely on hearing the music either.


Stephen made the Green comment at Rough Trade too. I don’t think it’s anything to do with envy, just a comment on how as you get older you wonder why you sang in a certain way when you’re younger (apart from “because you can” :-) ). Strangely enough, a few days after the Rough Trade thing I was watching Scritti supporting Tears For Fears at Blenheim and i noticed Green (although brilliant as usual) was struggling slightly with some of those songs. The beard and normal speaking voice made it all the more noticible :-D

Hugh Hall

‘The Ups And Downs’ and, especially, ‘Because We Love You’ are two of the great “lost” albums of the 1980s. I pity the poor fool who doesn’t know them! And of course, you can tell the strength of an album by the accompanying b-sides and mixes which are all still immensely listenable.



“I’ve got at least two albums of the ‘silly voice’ electronic period”
Ok, please RELEASE THEM!

Kevin Galliford

Great interview Paul! I love the fact that you do such in depth interviews as I doubt you would get such comprehensive fan type questions in the printed media! Now off to order me the 1st Kate Bush boxset as it’s a steal at that price!


Love The Devils disc. Always hoping he and Nick get back together and do another.

Thanks for the read. Well done.

Michael Meddemmen

Great article Paul – i’ve enjoyed Lilac Time ever since the release of their first album and have followed them ever since. I was intrigued to read about Chris’s duffypedia site which sounds excellent. I went to search for it but alas it no longer exists. Are there any plans for it to be reinstated?

Chris Squires

Sadly, no. Poor Sabine did most of the hard work and as anyone who runs a website will know it was quite difficult to maintain with that amount of information.

If you use, as Brad, below, suggest the Wayback machine up to about 2010 you will more or less see how it was all set up from every single copy of The Lilac Times and The Ups and Downs and just about every known newspaper / magazine clipping. Every known live performance and so on.
Try this:

Mark Penny

Is there any song as heartfelt as Western Greyhound off No Sad Songs? It’s a masterpiece of wordsmithing.


Always followed what Stephen does , nice to read a good interview with a good bit of variety.
I prefer the Bob Lamb version of Kiss me too .
Would be nice to get a CD of Dr Calculus at some point but won`t hold my breath.


Dr. Calculus was so much fun. I got Stephen to sign my copy when Lilac Time did an in-store in Boston. Sadly it was signed to an ex. Silly me.


A very insightful and thoughtful interview Paul, thank you. I’ve followed SD from the ‘Because We Love You’ LP onwards, and it seems like there are plenty of folk like me!

I’ve often thought that part of the reason that Stephen has only released two albums in twelve years (Runout Groove and No Sad Songs) was due to the security afforded by the Robbie Williams royalties. Your questions kind of confirmed that, although he does seem a little jaded by the music industry.

Spiral Scar

This is a wonderful interview that has left me intrigued about the wealth of music Stephen has created. After the original post about this, I sought out The Lilac Time’s first album and then Compendium to get a taste. I really was utterly unfamiliar with his work except “Kiss Me” and “Icing on the Cake” from WLIR/WDRE in New York back in ’85. I have a very pleasant commute to work that allows me to play a full album on the drive to work, and another to return home. I guess I do more listening in the car than in my apartment, but I get to dig deep into the collection to air less-familiar albums, and give my attention to new discoveries. No wandering away from the stereo! I put on disc one of Compendium yesterday after reading this post, and it connected with me. I realize that Compendium isn’t complete, but it’s a fine starting point. I have no problem getting the other Fontana albums and I was so curious about The Runout Groove that I had to get a copy. Eagerly awaiting. Undoubtedly, it will turn out to be a diamond in the rough.
This site is kind of like having a cool, informed friend that always finds great music to introduce you to. I had such a friend in ’80-84 who completely opened my mind to what lay beyond the top 40. Same age, just several steps ahead. Similar friend in the late 80s and 90’s. Thank God for the both of them. SDE and the community of readers and commenters serve the same purpose, pretty much. Sometimes a strong positive run of comments about an unfamiliar artist will inspire a purchase. Sometimes the nitpicking and whining will make me roll my eyes, but it was exactly like that with my friends years ago. That was our bonding method, even if we sometimes annoyed each other. There are some truly dedicated music fans hanging out here, and I strongly identify with that.
Thanks to you, Paul, and all of the rabid music “freaks” here. You’re somewhat like mentors-across-the-pond to me in these musically dark times.
And by the way, I think I’ll dig out all my Lightning Seeds while I’m at it. Pete Paphides’ devotion has my attention.


Excellent interview . Long term fan . Only saw him live once on the Duffy tour where he signed my Music In Colours album ….. I can’t think of a more consistently high quality song writer !

Dave C

As at teenager in high school, Kiss Me was one of ‘those songs’. It was a favourite song of one of my best mates. Even know when I see it mentioned, I think of him. I haven’t been keeping up with the later Mr. Duffy, but the interview is a fascinating and candid read. It makes me want more. Thank you both for ‘fighting the good fight’.

Nick Love

Paul am I to infer from that last part of the interview that when Return To Us does come out it will be vinyl only?


Thank you for the interview Paul. I ran into Stephen in a pub in Camden in 1996. The pub sold Thai food years before that became de rigueur and Stephen was with a gaggle of rather noisy people. I approached and told him how much I liked his song “In This Twilight’ (the b-side of Kiss me, I think). He looked at me somewhat aghast, as if I had awoken a ghost, and said “I have a new record” … and here in 2019 I finally get to hear it as he intended. Funny old world. Good Thai food in that boozer … probably a Stealbucks today.


This seems as good a place as any to thank anyone who might have contributed to the assembly and availability of the now waybacked duffypedia. When i began my quest to collect as much Lilac Time and Mr. Duffy as possible, the guidance on which version of each release would maximize the number of extra tracks was extraordinarily helpful.
Thanks so very much to Mr. Paphides and Mr. Sinclair for dedicating their efforts to ensure musical prophets do not go without honour in their own time beyond their own house, kin and country.

Chris Squires

That….(duffypedia) was me……and a wonderful German lady called Sabine. It took about a year of solid work to put it together. It lasted about a decade I think and really was just about everything possibly known about Stephen’s work. Bio’s of everybody who ever worked on any tracks and so on listening to every song to get the correct lyrics. It was real anorak stuff but great fun to compile.

Hugh Hall

Thank you. I found it extremely useful too.

Gareth Toop

Great interview, thank you. Still getting used to the new running order having loved the original for so long but loving the new version. I know from a previous interview Stephen isn’t a fan of how Astronauts turned out but surprised that also might stretch into most of TLT early albums. Hope to see him gig again soon, think the last time was in Borders bookshop in Glasgow for the release of Keep Going in 2002.


A great interview Paul, best one (so far…) :-))


Having been a Stephen Duffy since And Love for All this was an excellent read! Thank you, Paul! Unfortunately it is impossible to get either the vinyl or the 2cd for a reasonable price here in The Netherlands.


Wow, what a great interview. Full of insight and earned wisdom. A pleasure to read!


Superb interview.

For me, Blown Away is an object lesson in how to present unreleased demo recordings to the world: construct a ‘great lost’ album that hangs together as a stand-alone cohesive whole. Brilliant.

As one of the 500 who bought Runout Groove and enjoyed the supporting gig at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in November 2007 (and indeed, was present at the premiere of Memory And Desire at the Raindance festival in 2009, which unfortunately Stephen could not attend), I am seriously looking forward to this month’s Needle Mythology launch event at Rough Trade East.

Speaking of the 2007 QEH show, I have a distant memory that it was being recorded for a possible live album. Does anyone know if this is true? And if so, are there any plans to release it?

paul wren

I’ve never really listened to Stephen Duffy before but the tracks inserted here and the quite fascinating look back at his career highs and lows is enough to persuade me to buy the album. How does anybody keep their sanity in the music business?

Chris Squires

Been listening to the album in full this morning ( the wife woke up at stupid o’clock and dragged me out for a two mile walk at 6.30!)
The full album hangs together much better with Mao Badge and In the evening of her day replacing You Are and What if I fell in love with you. Having the latter two separated out makes me realise how much they seem to sound like out-takes from & Love for All. This makes sense with the Andy Partridge connection. They really don’t fit. I don’t normally go along with changing a well known album but in this case it has made an album I know very well into something even more beautiful. Top Work. Now if the team that bought us New Improved I love my friends can do the same trick with another of my favourite albums and turn Cocksure into the album that Because We Love You was meant to be then I will be a pig in clover twice in a year.
It’s funny but referencing what John Waddington says below there will always be a lot of love from this quarter for Stephens first six (1980s) albums. The Ups and Downs, Because We Love You, Designer Beatnik, The Lilac Time, Paradise Circus And & Love for All. There is something so solid about that Canon of work. Even as a little outlier to the 1980s, Astronauts is a work of beauty too. An SDE of any of those albums, using the ranks of demos that Stephen mentions would be a real joy if handled with the skill that this release has been lucky enough to enjoy.
Bring on the expanded Cocksure. Can’t wait.

Chris Squires

Paul, not John. Sorry Mr. Waddington. See it’s too bloody early to be out walking, it creates brain fade. Apologies Paul.

Paul Waddington

It’s alright Dave!

Paul Waddington

Thanks for the interview Paul. Much better than the one in Classic Pop. Been a big Duffy fan and completist since Kiss Me (which makes Classic Pop’s decision to start issuing special subscriber covers of the magazine with a Prince cover the month that Duffy appears on the cover rotten timing!). I really love his first half dozen albums, so it’s disappointing to find he doesn’t feel the same way.

Really disappointed that financial reasons prevent me from attending the album launch Q&A/short acoustic set down in London, as I don’t like missing his shows. Hopefully he’ll book one in up north, preferably in Sheffield/Leeds. I saw him on the tours he mentioned, and can confirm the Music in Colours gig I saw, at St Helens Citadel, was also very sparsely attended, despite the appearance of another of my favourite singer-songwriters (The Dream Academy’s Nick Lard-Clowes) on the bill. However, the show I saw on the & Love For All tour, at Manchester University was well attended. Nearer 200 than 15.

Something that’s always confused me is that the only copy of the withdrawn 12” of Baby Impossible I could find was in Mexico, and it took a good couple of months to arrive. It just seemed a weird place to find it. Thanks to your interview I am confused no more!


Outstanding interview, reminded me how much I needed this vinyl & CD (order placed immediately thereafter). USA fan in on the ground floor with the Ups & Downs album. Saw The Lilac Time at The Roxy in Hollywood. Autographed “Welcome To Hell, Here’s Your Accordion” vinyl on my wall. Glad to see this reissue and to support such an outstanding artist as well as the SDE store.

Wayne Olsen

Nice article, Paul!
Got the CD on Wednesday. Thanks!

Tyler Williams

Great interview, Paul! However, I’m a little confused. In it, you write, “the single that never really came out, ’17’, where there was going to be three CDs and there was all these extra tracks …” I have those three CDs. How do I have them if the single “never really came out”?

CD1 has
1 17
2 Mao Badge
3 Come Down
4 Hey Kat

CD2 has
1 17
2 House of Flowers
3 Barbarellas
4 Hanging Around

CD3 has
1 17
2 Holding Hands With Grace
3 In The Evening of Her Day
4 A Darling Who Can’t Wait To Taste You

Chris Squires

Like a fair few rarities in people’s collections it was withdrawn before release. I bought my copy from a bargain bin in Sheffield for 99p. Advance copies had been sent out to promote it’s impending arrival but it never arrived. So most shops back in the day would have had a copy or two but the reinforcements never arrived.

Pete Paphides

Some were manufactured but my understanding is that they never reached the shops, as Stephen was dropped before the scheduled release date.

Mark Penny

To Pete/picked up both CDs you recently released so I hope you’re going to consider publishing future releases on that format as well as vinyl/many here have let go of our turntables and vinyls. I have no plans on going backwards so depend on companies to produce CDs however limited a run it could mean (i.e. Bill Nelson for instance), so I hope you keep us in mind for future Needle Mythology releases; so far so great. Thanks Pete


Fascinating interview, thank you.

Andrew Roberts

Great work Paul


Good job Paul. I admired your restraint for not asking too many Duran questions. I listened to some of Stephens work last time he was featured on the site. I enjoyed Icing On The Cake & will give his other music more of a listen. Interesting to hear how record companies operate espically the stuff with iTunes & Spotify. Boy George recently started legal action to get ownership of his music & artists should have this.

John Knapp

But Green really sings like that!

Mike the Fish

Very interesting interview.


Best interview I’ve read on this site and best Duffy interview ever – hands down – really excellent questions – thank you so much for doing it and sharing it.

Chris Squires

Nice work Paul, you are wasted as a shopkeeper! You got him to open up nicely. I am one of those who would kill to get their hands on two albums worth of “Silly Voice” demos. Songs like Broken Home, In This Twilight, She Loves Me, Push It, Love is driving me insane have stayed with me all my life and I don’t think I will ever tire of hearing them.
The extra CD with I Love My Friends is a revelation, I know half of the song titles but none of the songs as he sings them here. It really does sound like we have been gifted a whole new album. They are so much more than demos, so much more than throwaway. Stephen Duffy – king of the b-side!

Tyler Williams

I couldn’t agree more! I’ve been listening to those “silly voice” songs for 37 years (since I first heard ‘Kiss Me’ in 1982), and will never tire of them. “The Ups & Downs” and “Because We Love You” are amazing albums filled with brilliant songs. It always makes me sad when I hear or read about Stephen disparaging his Tin Tin output and early solo albums, because they have brought me so much joy throughout my life. And buying his records in America was always fun because only the little import shops seemed to ever have them. And I could hardly wait to get home and listen to the b-sides!


Oh my God! Yes! Broken Home!!! I listened to that over & over & over again from the “icing” 12″, so yes Stephen PLEASE release those “Silly Voice” demos & call it that too.

Chris Squires

Ha, yes what a brilliant title, mugging a line from a later track.
“An Ear for Silly Voices – volume one” would suit an expanded suite of early tracks rather nicely.


I get the feeling that CDs format for him is over; tell me it ain’t so. I buy all his shiny discs. I’m part of the 500


Great interview.
Shocked at that 500 copies statistic, unbelievable. At this rate a fair proportion of those purchasers will probably end up posting a comment here:)
Another vote from me for continued CD releases though!

Chris Squires

The three excellent Lilac Time expanded releases from 2006 sold even less. The Lilac Time, Paradise Circus and &Love for all which had BBC sessions, b-sides, single remixes and an expansion of Nick Duffy’s superb instrumentals only sold 300 – 400 copies. Which, frankly, is scandalous. Three of the best single disc reissues of three superb albums and…… no one noticed.


Seriously!? Again, I’m shocked, have all three, wonderful reissues. It makes you realise sometimes how marginal your own taste/interest is.


What a lovely, funny interview. Duffy has been a consistent joy over all these years – can’t wait to hear his new music.

Gary Hunter

Very enjoyable read Paul, well done.

Robert Laversuch

Awesome interview, as always. Have to admit that I missed this album first time round but received my “revised” copy the day before yesterday. My Bday, co incidentally. Listened to it three times in a row and was in tears by the end of it. In part quiet, shy, almost unassuming but it packs a huge punch. If it needs a comparisson to me it sits very well alongside Jonathan Richman or Lloyd Cole. Awesome Stuff. If it is any consolation so many great works of music never went far saleswise but get “handed down”by those in the know and when they are discovered they might help to change someone’s life or hugely enrich it. This album does that and that is better than everything else. To me at least.