A leftbank Rendezvous
A play in three acts by Max Bell. Stage design by Stephen Carr.
Scene: Bates, an expensive nouvelle cuisine restaurant in London’s Covent Garden. A group of three men are sitting at a corner table. They are waiting for a fourth person, female, French. She has just released her first single ‘Hé Stranger’ on ZTT. She is two hours late.
Duffy: I’ll bet she’s just found the date is with someone she doesn’t want to meet. Either that or it’s good for the image. If she doesn’t turn up can you say I didn’t come either. Then I’ll look cool too.
Some more time passes. The stranger arrives. She has a groovy French accent.
Pigalle: Sorry I’m a bit late. The traffic was awful. Poh! I’ve never known it so bad. What sort of interview is this anyway?
Duffy: It’s a blind date. Just chat away as if you know me.
Pigalle: Have we ever met?
Duffy: No, never.
Pigalle: It’s a bit contrived, n’est ce pas?
Enter stage left, a camp Australian waiter carrying plates of food. Fish for Duffy, veal for Pigalle and a nice bottle of white wine. They eat.
Pigalle: Mmmm dauphinoise potatoes. They come from the area my mother was born in. I tried to make them once. I like cooking sometimes. I’m getting into it.
Duffy: I always eat out. I can’t cook at all.
Bell: Perhaps some more wine might, err, lubricate the conversation.
Duffy (Quietly): Not so much lubricate it, more a question of getting it started (chomps).
I read an interview with you in Blitz by way of preparation.
Pigalle (crossly): You shouldn’t have! It was terrible. The guy eez a real jerk. A typical frustrated bloody journalist. Didn’t know what he wanted.
He was very nice to me and then went away and got everything wrong. Blitz is supposed to be stylish. It was just like Sun bitchy crap.
Duffy: It wasn’t that bad. Nice pictures.
Pigalle: Hmm. I find photographers think, ‘Oh French girl, certain type of picture needed’. They hardly ever get across any personality. They project something onto you that isn’t real.
Duffy: It’s interesting to see how other people respond to you though. Sometimes they just plaster you with make up and you look silly.
The Daily Star aren’t very original with their pictures either (drily).
Pigalle: Robert Erdmann did some photos of me. He thought I should be photographed at night.
Duffy: Yeah? He did me at night too.
Pigalle: He gave me a present, a book. It was a modern version of Brassai’s Parisian pictures, people in modern clubs.
Duffy: Oh! I didn’t get any presents but he told me I look like Clark Gable so I’ll forgive him anything. And he made me look my age, 24. Quite often I look 16 which is very embarrassing.
Pigalle: You look a bit like Steve Walsh (a musician), a definite similarity.
Duffy: Do I? (slightly irritated)
Pigalle: Mmmm, oh definitely.
I haven’t been in the pop world that long. I don’t understand it and I don’t want to.
Duffy: I’ve only been doing it since 1982 when I got my first deal and went to America. When I was younger I wanted fame but I’ve realised since I can survive without it.
Pigalle: My life isn’t glamorous.
Duffy: Aah, mine is. We differ again. Some people would think this meal was quite glamorous.
Bell (perkily): It’s certainly bloody pricey.
Duffy (ignoring him): Stardom was a factor but I forgot it when ‘Kiss Me’ was a hit. I get recognised, which I assume is a certain stardom but people only know you from an image.
Pigalle: I never have the same image twice. I’m a different person every day. No one recognises me yet but they might soon.
Duffy: They don’t usually say much apart from ‘bought the record and liked it’. Then there’s an embarrassing silence. Or they wave at you and grin. But I was always popular in my home town.
Pigalle: Which is?
Pigalle: I went there once.
Pigalle: I can’t remember.
Duffy (casually): I tried to book you once at a club I was helping run called The Duma Express but you wanted a Yamaha piano which was impossible. 1983 it was.
Pigalle (taken aback): I never heard about this! A guy tried to get me some gigs once. Pfui! Amazing.
This is good (lips smacking noisily).
Duffy: What? Oh the food! I thought you meant the conversation.
Pigalle: That? Mmm. Would you prefer to live there now?
Duffy: After London it seems very depressing. I suppose you can appreciate the sense of community but it doesn’t have any nice architecture left because of the war. Where we lived they built the motorway right across the end of our garden. It isn’t a grand looking place like Glasgow.
Pigalle: I went to Glasgow once. We (Pigalle and her piano playing sidekick Nick Plytas) were supposed to tour with The Associates.
Duffy: (airily): Oh! So you know Billy then.
Pigalle (sighing at memory): Yeeeeees. I like ‘im but the way he plays games… he tried to be so clever all the time. It ended up with him being so rude that we were sitting there insulting each other.
Bell: Sounds hilarious. Wish I’d been there.
Duffy: Often young artists do play games with each other. They’re trying to keep up an image.
Pigalle: True. In France we have an expression… everyone has got his stec to defend!
Pigalle: Stec, as in bif-stec. The popworld is so competative, it’s very tough. But people want the power of an image to look good, the English find this a trauma. Y’know all those expensive clothes on pop stars when half the people are really poor? The country is rich of course but the standard of living here is dreadful.
England is a funny place, so grey! It’s weird, the whole place is grey and yet people can wear what they like and no one says a thing!
In France everyone is more colourful, their homes are warmer and more comfortable, and yet if you wear anything unusual people are shocked! Odd that such a grey country should produce so many interesting people.
Duffy: There’s no strong movement in music or fashion anymore. Continue »
Just because people are seen wearing Crolla on Top of the Pops doesn’t mean everyone can afford Crolla.
The music scene just rapes the past. Same with videos. Most of those are merely promotional tools.
They pause to order puds. Duffy orders lime sorbet with fresh kiwi fruit and fresh pineapple. Pigalle sticks to the Drambule syllabub with glazed almonds. Conversation turns to foreign journalists.
Duffy: I’ve done England, Japan, Ireland. In Germany they don’t know the meaning of ‘laughing all the way to the bank.’
Pigalle (raising an eyebrow quizzically): Laughing? Bank? What is this?
Duffy: Well, I actually said to him ‘I’m laughing all the way to the left bank.’
Pigalle: Quite an existentialist statement, non? There’s a line in one of my songs which is very romantic —
Duffy: But, ah, back to foreigners. The Japanese are very polite.
Pigalle: I don’t like them.
Duffy: They tend to know everything about you. It’s impossible to have a conversation with them though. They just ask questions, there’s no sense of dialogue between two people.
Pigalle: I don’t know who I will appeal to. Teenagers? It seems a bit incongruous. My music is about experiences. Perhaps older men. I talk in an intimate way so maturer people are more likely to understand.
Who do you write for? Teenage girls?
Duffy: Well, my music is also intimate I think. Girls are an important market of course. Not that I aim my music at anyone in particular.
Pigalle: But pop here caters so much for the young! It’s terrible if no one caters for the older people. The older men thing is a myth too I suppose. It prolongs the image. I just take young boys (laughs).
Duffy (perking up): I think teenagers are well condescended to by the music business, the magazines and record companies —
Pigalle: I think it’s dreadful. Pop should be about dreams and brain work, not just consumption. It doesn’t work on me. Suddenly Duran Duran are popular so EVERYONE wants to be Duran Duran. It isn’t very innovative. They are innovators of a sort…
Duffy: True. You get innovators and a hundred copiers.
Pigalle: Are Duran innovators? Did you say that?
Duffy: I thought you did.
Pigalle: Did I?
Duffy: It certainly wasn’t me. Never mind it’s on the tape, we can find out later. Let’s have some coffee.
Afterwards Pigalle and Duffy share a cab back to West London. Duffy suggests they should meet again some time. He wonders if the blind date was successful. Or was it a bit dreary?
Pigalle is laconic and gives nothing away. Behind the Gallic cool she is really quite shy.
A few days later Duffy holds a gallery opening to display pictures and paintings from the ‘Kiss Me’ video. Pigalle arrives two hours late. They talk happily and in a relaxed manner. Yes folks, this has been another instalment In No.1’s ceaseless efforts to bring pop stars together.