Story of the Song - Warwick Avenue, Duffy (2008)
Friday 20 March 2009
Van Morrison ambled up Cyprus Avenue and Eddy Grant caught the spark of Electric Avenue.
In her London A-Z, Duffy circled a stuccoed, tree-lined street near genteel Little Venice. The 19-year-old Welsh songstress, with just one EP to her name, had recently relocated from North Wales and was getting to grips with the London Underground. She alighted at Warwick Avenue station, on the Bakerloo line, by accident. "I got off at that stop and the name just took me by surprise," she said. The following day she was writing songs for a projected album and, as she put it, "it just sort of came out". Lyrically, "Warwick Avenue" is a heart-on-sleeve number, in the tradition of great break-up songs.
"I wrote it from a secretive perspective," Duffy commented coyly after the song was a hit, stating it to be the most unusual song in her repertoire. "Everyone is talking about it now. It meant something different to me all those years ago."
Duffy collaborated with her producer, Jimmy Hogarth, and fellow songwriter Eg White. In the studio, Bernard Butler's guitar, a soulful string arrangement by Oliver Kraus and James Banbury's cello were added. The retro soft-shoe shuffle suggests "My Girl", Smokey Robinson's 1964 classic for The Temptations. "I'm learning about music – not only soul music, but all kinds," said Duffy when the similarity was brought to her attention. "I didn't even know what Tamla Motown was when I first started this record. I thought Tamla was one thing, and Motown another."
"Warwick Avenue" was performed live by Duffy during 2007 and premiered on British television that autumn on Later with Jools Holland. Extracted from the following year's bestselling album, Rockferry, it was the singer's second Top 10 hit in May 2008, charting initially as a download.
For the video, Duffy had planned an elaborate production featuring dancers and special effects. Instead, she settled for a tearful head-shot. In the back of a black cab, the singer's mascara smudges as she sings: "Meet me by the entrance of the Tube/ We can talk things over a little time/ Promise me you won't stay by the light." At playback, the footage surprised the singer: "That's as close as I'm ever going to get to doing a performance that's real in a video."
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