This past Wednesday, I saw a little show entitled “Rock Legends” on AXS TV. This isn’t a channel I normally turn to but did this night after I did a search for Duran Duran on my TV Guide app. What is the connection? Apparently, this series focuses on different legends of music and this week was Duran Duran’s turn. I had no choice but to turn in and watch it, right? I am always curious about what they include with these shows, how accurate they are, etc.
Originally, I was going to blog while I watched but I found myself just sitting on the couch in slight shock. The show followed the usual format of providing their history, including how John and Nick formed the band, the connection to the Rum Runner, the New Romantic period, etc. Yet, even with the history, the show provides…interesting interpretations. For example, the reason that the band stopped wearing New Romantic clothing was because they knew that they wouldn’t “go anywhere” with that look, according to the show. That’s new to me. I knew that they moved away from the look but I had not heard/read that it was solely to hit commercial success. Did they not have some success with Planet Earth? That seemed to be pretty New Romantic in style to me, especially the video. Another interesting statement was how having Princess Diana claim them as her favorite band increased their stardom and success, internationally. Apparently, their music or live performances had nothing to do with their increase in success.
Then, there were the facts presented that I found questionable. For example, at one point, they start talking about the band’s remixes and how they were very creative with them. This, of course, is true. Yet, the statement that followed had to do with the fact that the b-side of the singles were remixes. Sometimes, that is true. Sometimes, however, the b-sides were new original songs, but, of course, they didn’t dwell on that too much as they moved back to discussing videos with a focus on the Rio video. The description was like a “Hollywood fantasy” with “conspicuous consumption”. Of course, what is missed is that the consumption did not win the girl for any of them. Why? They were losers in the video. It is funny, but, somehow, people miss that for the focus on wealth and fantasy. The miss the humor. Then again, the yacht for the video was described as Simon’s yacht. sigh
Speaking of misses, there were some errors in the show that caught my attention. The first one I noticed was that John and Nick had supposedly met at Birmingham Polytechnic, which most Duranies could tell isn’t true. They lived around the corner from each other and were childhood friends. Second, they made it seem like Andy was the third member to join as opposed to Roger. A few minutes later into the show, the “experts” discussed the Girls on Film video. One “expert” stated that Girls on Film was “consciously” made for the Playboy channel. Hmm….I always heard that it was for nightclubs that were showing videos. Perhaps, the error that really shocked me was when they called Seven and the Ragged Tiger the band’s second studio album. Huh?!?! Even as the show moves into 1984 and their description of Sing Blue Silver, I pondered where in that documentary does it show Duran Duran on tour buses as described in the show?! I remember planes and limos. Heck, I remember boats, even, but tour buses?! Finally, I didn’t realize John left Duran Duran because he was more interested in Power Station. While I’m aware that Power Station recorded a second album in the late 1990s, John didn’t actually appear on that album or go on that tour.
Beyond the errors, there were other choices in the show that made me almost recoil. The biggest example of this is how they chose to cover the band’s career. Like many of these shows, the majority of the time is allotted to the early days and the massive commercial success. What this means, of course, is that the rest, which covers about 30 years has to be squeezed in an half hour. This small amount of time means that some albums barely get talked about or…not at all, including All You Need Is Now. While I appreciated the inclusion of Paper Gods, I was not okay with them skipping All You Need Is Now. Frankly, I want all the albums discussed, to some extent. Perhaps, they would have had space to discuss that album if they had not talked Arena, the film. I think that is one that most Duranies overlook and with good reason. Another choice made by the show that didn’t surprise me but bothered me is how they talked about the band and the fans. For example, the very first line of the show is from some “expert” who says, “Duran Duran was so superficial, they’re deep.” insert an eye roll here Superficial? On the contrary, I would argue that there is much more to Duran Duran than what is seen on the surface and I’m very sorry that this man cannot see that. A few minutes later, they are described as a band that “reveled in being pop stars”. Again, I would argue that this person only saw the surface. As for the fans, the only time Duranies were mentioned were as “screaming” fans, fans who were upset by Nick, Roger, or Simon getting married or in relation to the band being “pin-ups” and “teen idols”.
Yet, of course, with all of my criticism, I always enjoy seeing shows on Duran Duran. There is always a part of me that watches with a little bit of pride especially when a show wants to acknowledge their legendary status. That said, there are many documentaries out there that do a better job providing the band’s history while describing their success, including ones like Behind the Music. Perhaps, I also appreciate that these other shows feature the band members themselves telling the story versus music “experts”. Plus, whenever I hear significant errors or stereotypes about the band and their fans, it is hard for me to love the show.