Aussie singer Jeff Duff is bringing his David Bowie tribute show back to Brisbane.
“Bowie Unzipped”, which Jeff brought to the Brisbane Powerhouse’s MELT Festival in February, blends Bowie anecdotes and loving renditions of the Duke’s classics including Space Oddity, Let’s Dance, China Girl, Life On Mars, Changes, and Ziggy Stardust.
“He’s the most amazing performer, and definitely one of the most influential of the 20th century artists,” Jeff said, citing Young Americans, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and Hunky Dory as among his favourite Bowie records. “Unzipped” is the third Bowie tribute show the rocker has devised.
“He’s spanned so many generations. When we do this show there’s grandfathers, and men and their sons and then their sons. He has such a huge fanbase, particularly in Australia,” he said.
Jeff lived next door to David Bowie during the 1980s when the singer was intermittently, and covertly, residing in Sydney during the Tin Machine era. Jeff said in many ways he and Bowie have traveled the same path – Jeff was asked to speak at the David Bowie Is exhibition during its Australian opening in July – “even though he’s sold a billion more records than I have,” he laughs.
But Jeff’s own musical career has seen him traverse rock, jazz and cabaret over the decades, starting with his years as the flamboyant, androgynous frontman of 1970s glam rock band Kush. He said that style simply felt natural to the artists of the time.
“I was at Swinburne Art College in Melbourne. I was making my own designs and making my own clothes. Some of them were a little feminine or androgynous and I just started wearing makeup,” Jeff explained.
“I didn’t know it was a movement called glam rock, I just thought I was being me. Marc Bolan started the whole movement but I’m sure he didn’t know it was glam at the time.
“A lot of these movements that were started in contemporary pop music were only named by the media. I still wear makeup every day so if that’s glam, that’s me!”
Never afraid to push the boundaries, even on national television, Jeff once sprang a very revealing leotard on producers of Ray Martin’s Midday show during one of many appearances in the 1990s.
“I was a rascal! I was doing that show so regularly at the time I had to invent new costumes every time I went on,” Jeff recalled.
“I went out in this little leotard, unannounced. The cameramen freaked out and they had to shoot above the waist.”
Jeff recently finished writing his autobiography, with a foreword penned by friend Molly Meldrum. It’s tentatively titled “This Will Explain Everything”, Jeff said, and he’s got no shortage of stories to tell.
“We’re just going through the photographs now because my career has been so extensive,” he said.
“I’m so fortunate, I’ve had photographers follow me all the way from art school to now, so it’s going to be a wonderful pictorial autobiography.
“Some of it’s quite racy because I went through that period in the 70s, pre-AIDS, when it was a sexual revolution. The sexual revolution began in the 60s but in the 70s a lot of people were still experimenting. The men and women were like rabbits.
“The first orgy I ever had happened in Brisbane at the Kangaroo Point Motel. I was performing with Kush at Chequers Nightclub. These girls started making suggestive movements when I was onstage, and afterwards they organised this orgy. I was the only male invited!
“Brisbane certainly holds some very fond memories.”
Jeff will perform “Bowie Unzipped” at the Kedron-Wavell Services Club on September 11. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.