Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Duffy and a Case of Fame Fright

As I have already covered numerous times in this blog, the road to fame is littered with Rock ‘n’ Roll deaths from just about every cause under the sun. But like most struggles there are not just fatalities but those that simply go AWOL. I believe that in the days when armies met in fields to cut each other to death with large swords, people were employed to search the nearby copses and hedgerows looking for deserters and redirecting them to the battlefield. Hence it was with interest that I read that Lily Allen is withdrawing from the front line music scene to hide in the woods…er, that should be, to have a stab at acting. Well, good luck to her, it didn’t do Billie Piper any harm.

Another that has vanished without trace is Welsh chanteuse, Duffy, who it is rumoured has been struck down with the dreaded performer’s malaise, stage fright and is considering becoming a recluse. This, if true, is a massive shame, as I have a lot of time for her debut ‘Rockferry’ which I have been playing a lot of late and would be sad to see her retire at such a young age.

Stage fright is not new and has affected the great and the good. Paul McCartney has admitted that it almost ended his Beatles career very early on when the thought of playing the NME poll winners concert in the early 1960s was too frightening to contemplate. Actually, I don’t blame him for this one as I always found the tone of the NME a bit scary myself. However, history shows that the beast was slain and he carried on playing live until 1966 when the fab four shunned touring to shut themselves up in Abbey Road for the duration.

One victim who didn’t fare so well was XTC’s Andy Partridge (of whom I spoke in Dear God). His fright immediately curtailed the band’s live performances after 1982 and XTC became studio-bound from then on, having been one of the busiest bands on the circuit in the late 1970s.

But to get back to Duffy, it seems that it is not just stage fright that is operating here but an all encompassing ‘fame fright’ born of the relentless pressure to succeed. The music industry really should try and nurture its talent a little more rather than squeezing the last drop out of every act in a rush to sell ‘product’. It’s very sad to see beautiful butterflies crushed on the corporate wheel.


Charlie said...

This proves once again how tough the music business can be. Let's hope Duffy works through her stage fright or whatever it is that is bothering her.

musicobsessive said...

Charlie - Amen to that. It's a bit unnerving how the real talent gets squashed whilst the likes of the talent show wannabes thrive. T'was ever thus it seems.

Adrian said...

I know not any specifics of Duffy's circumstances, but, I well know the record industry and its machinations.

In an interview a few years back, Joni Mitchell explained the reality more candidly and concisely than anyone I've seen before or since.

Of the mainstream record labels, she observed:

"They're not looking for talent. They're looking for a look and a willingness to cooperate. And a woman my age, no matter how well preserved, no longer has the look. And I've never had a willingness to cooperate."

"As long as they look good, they can pitch-correct them now - they can interior-decorate their music. The artists don?t have to play anything, - they can cheat, buy songs and put their name on them, so they can build the
illusions that the are creative. And because [the record companies] made you, they can kiss you off."


"I hope it all goes down the crapper. It's top-heavy, it's wasteful. It's an insane business. Now, this is all calculated music. It's calculated for sales, it's sonically calculated, it's rudely calculated. I'm ashamed to be a part of the music business. You know, I just think it's a cesspool."

Joni tells it straight.

musicobsessive said...

Hi Adrian. Re Joni's quote - I'm very much afraid that this is what we listeners have already guessed but dare not think it's true. Even if you consider that there is an element of sour grapes, there is a ring of authority that makes it grim reading. I respect Joni Mitchell alot and feel sure this is not just for effect. As a successful artist she has nothing to lose.

Unfortunately, understanding what she says makes it even harder to enjoy today's music as you always have the feeling that you are being 'sold' a falsehood. Nevertheless, there are still some artists that you feel instinctively have something to offer us all and Allison is one. Nerina Pallot is another. Without them we are all doomed.

Adrian said...

Joni, whatever her own idiosyncracies, speaks the truth on these points. If anything, she's being kind in her assessment.

Today's mainstream recording artists have the naturalness and freedom of a farm salmon or battery hen. They are in the business of selling the illusion.

When John Lennon was with us, he pointed out the "company men" sucking the energy out of popular music/culture. Today, the corporate mentality is so all-pervasive in the record biz, revolution cannot be far off from blowing things up - once again!

Here's hoping ( :

bearockr said...

Well said mwarminger... Today's labels and studios are just looking to mint a good deal of money, and even if that means that the artist they choose must become their puppets to cater to the mass audience... These days you don't find just enough of 'really' talented musicians at award ceremonies... There are a couple of genuine artists, but being on this massive competitive road to fame, they can easily be ruined by the very burden to maintain their image and music too in the years to come ... And yea, my best wishes to Duffy too ..

musicobsessive said...

Thank you Bearockr. Haha! At least Simon Cowell was shot down in the Christmas chart this week by an orchestrated campaign to get Rage Against the Machine to No 1! I understand he has offered the perpetrator a job - talk about keeping your enemies close...