What’s the worst music career move ever made? Well, Stephen ‘Tin Tin’ Duffy might well qualify. An original member of Duran Duran who quit before they became famous once said, “My so-called career has been in a mess from the word go.” Apart from just two solo UK hits, he’ll always be remembered for being the bloke who left Duran Duran too early.
In the summer of 1978 John Taylor and Nick Rhodes formed the original incarnation of Duran Duran. Before long they recruited bass player Simon Colley and vocalist Stephen Duffy. Within a few weeks they became the resident band at a club in Birmingham city centre called Rum Runner. There was another club just up the road called Barbarella’s and after their first visit there; they decided to name the band after the villain from that film whose name was Dr. Durand Durand. At the beginning of 1979, Colley left and was replaced by Andy Taylor and then Duffy figured he would go it alone and was replaced by Simon Le Bon.
Duffy initially decided to form a band rather than a solo career. “Tin Tin was a group,” he recalled “We got John Mulligan and Dik Davies from Fashion and Andy Stoker from Dexys Midnight Runners. Luckily Stoker was on WEA with The Bureau but Arista weren’t happy as they had Fashion. We signed to WEA and when it came to getting a publishing deal, the secretary asked us what the name of the band was and I just said Holy Tin Tin and didn’t think any more about it. Someone at Warner Brothers decided to drop the Holy and we were then known as Tin Tin.
“On the cover of our first single, Kiss Me, which we’d written in one day, there was only a picture of me and a bag of flowers and on the second was (sic) Stoker and I – styled by Ray Petri if I remember rightly. I had no interest in being in Tin Tin, the record company however did as the second record had got to number 55 due to it being shrink wrapped to a t-shirt. I think you got the 12″ record and a T-shirt for a quid in the chart return shops. So I became Stephen ‘Tintin’ Duffy, it was an Evelyn ‘Champagne’ King thing.”
By 1983, Tin Tin was no more and Duffy was now a one man band. One night he was performing at a pub in Birmingham and, as he remembered, “This bloke from WEA turned up and told me they were going to re-release Kiss Me as Tin Tin.” It failed to make any impact peaking at position number 155.
In the summer of 1984 he signed to Curve records and decided to re-record Kiss Me, quite differently from before, he explained why, “I was in this record shop and this girl came up to me and said, ‘You’re Tintin’ (which I hated) and she said, ‘can I have your autograph?’ So I signed it and then asked her how she would sing Kiss Me. She started singing it and because of her hearing it in discos she had a different idea of it, so I then sang it that way.” It was produced by J.J. Jeczalik, who was a member of The Art of Noise and included the line Kiss me with your mouth, your love is better than wine which is from the Song of Solomon in The Bible.
This time it finally made the chart and eventually climbed to number four and in the process sold 250,000 copies. It was followed up with Icing On The Cake which reached number 14 and was released on Virgin’s subsidiary label, 10. That was Stephen’s last appearance on the UK chart, at least as an artist.
In 1986, he teamed up with his brother Nick, to form The Lilac Time who are, in one form or another and quite sporadically, still going. Most of it depends of Stephen’s availability because in 2004 he joined forces with Robbie Williams and co-wrote his number one hit Radio and the follow ups, Misunderstood, Tripping, Advertising Space and Sin Sin Sin. Robbie also did a cover of Kiss Me which appeared on his album Rudebox. Although never released as a single it make number 13 on the Norwegian chart as a download track.
Incidentally, Stephen’s version of Kiss Me was the last ever song played on Radio One on medium wave frequency before they completely went over to FM in 1994.