File under "How could I have missed this?" – Stephen Duffy & Lilac Time

In terms of my musical taste, I’m definitely a Brit. I blogged about how this shows up in my music library, and when I checked my car CD changer last week all 6 slots were filled with British artists. But having been out of the country for so long I’ve definitely missed some important artists. And one of these is Stephen Duffy. The story of how that changed is a nice little example of how the Internet has changed how we I approach music.
I’m a big fan of Robbie Williams music, and my favorite album is Rudebox. It’s an eclectic mix of songs, and Robbie worked with a number of different artists and arrangers to put it together. There’s a video on “The Making of Rudebox” (which seems to have disappeared from iTMS in the last few days), and in it there is mention of the fact that one song – “Kiss Me” – is a cover of a Stephen Duffy song, and that Robin and Stephen have worked together.
I vaguely remembered the song – a classic Europop number from the early 1980s – but I’d never heard of Stephen Duffy. Wikipedia came to the rescue, and I saw that he’d worked with Duran Duran, Tin Tin (which was where “Kiss Me” had come from), done some solo work, and also been involved in two other groups: the Lilac Time, and the Devils. Duran Duran I knew (obviously), but everything else was new to me. So I explored the Amazon MP3 store (which I find to be cheaper than Apple, as a rule), and listened to samples from an early “best of” the Lilac Time: “Compendium – The Fontana Trinity“. And I was hooked.
I bought “Compendium” and played it several times over the next few days. It was good, and I wanted more. Reading around, I found that most fans seemed to think that “Astronauts” was the best Lilac Time album. But there was a problem: it was unavailable on CD anywhere, and the only MP3 download version was in the UK iTunes store. No problem: I asked a good friend of mine over in England to buy me a copy and upload the MP3s. (I’ll see him when I visit England next week, and I’ll pay him then. No illegal file-sharing here!) And the fans were right: “Astronauts” is brilliant.
What about The Devils? This turned out to a a real oddity. In 1999, Stephen Duffy unearthed a collection of old Duran Duran tracks, laid down in 1978-79 before the band hit the big time. He and Nick Rhodes (also ex- [CORRECTION] co-founder and current member of Duran Duran) re-recorded the songs as close to the original sound as possible, and released the result as “Dark Circles” by The Devils. New CDs are hard to come by, but I found a good second-hand copy through Amazon.
Most recently I bought the MP3 version of a collection of Duffy’s solo work, “The Ups and Downs: A Very Beautiful Collection“.
A month ago I’d never heard of Stephen Duffy or Lilac Time. Today I’ve got a CD-changer full of their music (and obviously its on my iPhone and iPad). Nice.