From The Desk Of The Lilac Time’s Stephen Duffy: Jimmy Mack And Birmingham And The Exodus From London

Stephen Duffy was the first singer in a little band called Duran Duran. He left them in 1979 and began a series of other musical projects before settling into the Lilac Time almost three decades ago with brother Nick. The band’s latest album is No Sad Songs. Stephen Duffy will be guest editing all week.


Duffy: I went to a Motown school. Tamla Motown. At every party or social event, you’d always hear “Jimmy Mack.” Now it makes me feel wistful because those dances and those people are in another century a long time ago. I’m still drawn to my memories of the streets of Birmingham and the time I spent growing up there. I know when you’re young you think amazing things are possible, and I’m sure this is still the case. I was hit hard by music and art and films. Without the internet, it’s difficult to remember how you found out about stuff. A lot of it was simply word of mouth. My cousin Karl took me to see the film Performance at the Birmingham Arts Lab cinema and the strobing cuts at the beginning sent me into a semi-psychedelic state. They have since had to re-edit for release on DVD because of the danger to those suffering from epilepsy. After the film, we went to an Indian restaurant with a huge plastic tree in the middle. When I was 17, we moved across town and I was close to the Cannon Hill Arts Centre, where they also showed art-house films and events. I could even walk home from the club Barbarellas, host to all the young punks, if I’d spent my bus fare on half a lager. There was a left-wing bookstore called the Peace Centre that I hung out in on my way back from school. I got my bus tickets to CND marches from there, and that’s one way I got to know the London I would soon call home, marching around it trying to ban the bomb. Now, in the exodus from London, artists, poets and multi-national companies are making the return journey to Birmingham. London is no longer owned by Londoners and, like New York, is visibly drying up, leaving dust where once a heartbeat. We once owned everything from the telephones to the steel mills, the water and the railways. We did, as they were all nationalised industries. Successive governments gave it all away and now we own nothing and we are paying for it. The fascists re-appear calling for the old Great Britain to magically resurrect itself. It’s all gone mate. Morecombe and Wise are dead.

Video after the jump.