Examining the Promise

This week’s lyric day search landed me on Arcadia’s song, The Promise.  As I looked over the lyrics, I realized that instead of analyzing just one line in relationship to myself or my life, I should look at the entire song.

First, let’s take a look at the lyrics:

Whose tears on a gaping voice
Who’s stretching arms match
The hunger of mine
There lips will they never join
But always draw me closer
And further entwined
With a promise dealer understand
All freedoms fade away
To a point of view
Where many different pathways meet
And we’re standing on this precipice
With nothing much to gain save
But the deep blue screams
Of falling dreams
With our next move
Heaven hide your eyes
Heaven’s eyes will never dry
The shades of a thousand steel
Come flashing by my face
In the fury of war
In desolation and abandoned fields
The hungry make their stand
When they’ll stand for no more
Hear the passion in their voices
See the heaven in their eyes
Their hopes and schemes are waiting
Dreams of less than paradise
And sometimes we make promises
We never mean to keep
For blackmail is the only deal
A promise dealer sees
Heaven hide your eyes
Heaven’s eyes will never dry

Hmm…as soon as I read those lyrics, I think about what I teach each and every day.  As I’m sure that most of you reading this blog know, outside of my life as a Duranie, I teach high school.  Specifically, I teach United States History from Reconstruction through World War II (1865-1945).  To me, this song could be about teaching history, any country’s  history as there are many moments of grief, anger as well as hope.  Just yesterday, I taught my students about the Wounded Knee massacre that took place on December 29, 1890, in which about 250 members of the Lakota Sioux tribe were killed by the United States army.  There is a great and famous quote by a member of that tribe stating the Wounded Knee was the end of a people’s dream (Native Americans).  The lyrics definitely could fit that event.

If you spend any time at all looking at human history, many tears can be shed as the history of humanity is filled with horrors, tragedies and loss.  Of course, history also has moments of greatness, progress, hope.  There are so many lines from this Arcadia song that captures the feeling well, including “Heaven’s eyes will never dry,” “in the fury of war,” “the hungry make their stand when they’ll stand for no more,” and so much more.  The video, I think also, fits this theme, which you can see here.

When I look further into this song, I found an Ask Katy question on the band’s official website:

January 12th, 2001

Hello Katy, I was wondering, who wrote the lyrics to the song, “The Promise” on the Arcadia album? Also, what was the inspiration for the songwriter? Thank you for your time!

SIMON WROTE IT. “I DID. IT’S ABOUT THE WESTERN WORLD’S BETRAYAL OF THE THIRD WORLD. s”

According to the Song Meanings website, there was another Ask Katy question about this song in which case Simon supposedly responded with, “The Promise is about all that’s worst and all that’s best about humanity.”  My response to both of these quotes is fascination.  If this is the case, Simon views history similarly to how I not only view it but teach it.  This will make me listen to the song in a very different way now.

Speaking of history, Arcadia came out in 1985 at the time that a lot of people, including many fans and members of the press thought of Duran as nothing more than pretty party boys.  Some people saw them as superficial and only looking for a good time.  The lyrics to this song, in particular, really calls into question that assumption.  Clearly, Simon was not just about having fun.  He did think about the world around him and even wrote about it.  This makes the negative assumptions about the band even more infuriating to me.  Obviously, a lot of critics and a lot of the public missed that Simon and the rest were a lot smarter and more aware than what they assumed.

-A

 

November 2017 Katy Kafe with John Taylor!

Not much makes me happier during a lull than an invitation to listen to a shiny brand new Katy Kafe pop up in my news feed! This month, John takes a quick time out to chat with Katy, and I’ve got the highlights from the November 2017 Katy Kafe for you. Keep in mind, this is purely what I picked out, and with DD40 coming up – it might be time to get a membership to DDM so that you can stay up with all of the news that is sure to come!

What’s happening?

John comes to us from “the studio” in London, where he is working with Nick on a side project. Now whether this side project is the musical they’ve mentioned before, or something else, I’m not sure. John just says “it’s very different from what they’ve done in Duran Duran”…and I guess we’ll have to wait to hear more about it.

He mentions that they are going to be in Moscow (which they were earlier in the week) for the BRAVO award announcements where the band got back together and performed.

Ring in the New Year, Vegas-style

Katy also mentioned the upcoming Eve before New Years Eve show in Las Vegas, and asked John if he likes performing on New Years Eve. Emphatically, John answers with a quick, “YES” saying that he likes not having to worry about what he is going to do to entertain himself that night, and then almost just as quickly he adds a hasty, “but this is not on New Years Eve, it is the 30th, which means New Years Eve is still a problem that will have to be worked out.” Katy asks the question I was wondering myself, and that was whether or not John would stay in Vegas for New Years, to which he said he doesn’t know yet.

Apparently, Duran Duran has played on New Years Eve quite a bit over the years, citing the Savoy show in ’82 or ’83, and then the shows they did just outside of Washington DC last year in National Harbor. The band likes being on stage for New Years, and well….we really kind of like having them there, too!

There was a quick mention of whether this was really a final, final, Paper Gods date and John corrects Katy, saying that no, Paper Gods is finished. This is a standalone date. That leads to the obvious (Well, it’s obvious to me, anyway) follow-up about the set list. Will it change? John contends that they have to “err on the side of crowd favorites”. So, if you went to any of the Paper Gods shows and enjoyed hearing songs like Rio, Hungry Like the Wolf, Girls on Film, and any of the rest of those hits that have been in previous set lists, there is good news: you’re gonna love this one too! He does say that it might be less interesting for diehard fans – and while I can’t disagree, I can say this: most of us already know this, and guess what? WE BUY TICKETS ANYWAY.  Why? Because it is exactly the type of party we all want to be at, and the party is what we make it!

Just imagine what we’d do when/if one of them came out and said it would be a show that no diehard should miss?!?

I shudder to consider the stampede…or how Ticketmaster might “handle” the demand.  Moving on…

What about 2018?

Here is what I find most interesting about this band: every single band member has a different story about the studio, and it’s comical! Since August, I have heard they’re going into the studio at the end of the year for something “fun” from Roger, something about going in after the new year from Simon, and now John says they’re “hoping” to go back in…with no real time specified.

So I don’t think anyone really knows. And that’s fine. Odd, but fine.

John does say that an album next year is unlikely. Given my experience as a fan of this band, I’d go one farther and say it’s nearly impossible. I’d be shocked, probably to the point of needing oxygen, if the band actually came out with even ONE SONG this year, much less an entire album.

In the meantime, John says they’re talking about the possibilities for recording a new album, including who they might be looking to collaborate with, or where they will record – insinuating that perhaps London might not be the birthplace for the next one.

This led to a question from Katy who asked if the band were to stumble upon that perfect song right away, would they release a stand-alone single or just wait for the album. Speaking purely for himself, John said maybe – citing that the marketing isn’t very good for one song. You don’t get TV or magazines for a single song, typically, so the promotion isn’t quite there. He surmises that they just have to be open to whatever happens.

Paper Gods

Looking back over Paper Gods, Katy wants to know if there are any songs that John wishes they had played. He mentions two that he wishes they had played more: “Universe Alone”, which they played towards the very end of the tour (and I have often wondered why they waited so long), and “You Kill Me with Silence”, which they only played once, at the Jimmy Kimmel show in Los Angeles.  He says that it is hard to find a spot for mid tempo songs in the live show because you only want 2 or 3 of them.  I get that, although I think YKMWS was overall a difficult song for Simon because of the wide vocal range it requires.

John says that he still feels the album was the best since their reunion, but quickly says that he knows they always say that. (and they do, but I get it. Besides, if you didn’t think you were improving as a band, wouldn’t you have quit by now?? Funny how clearly it all makes sense now as opposed when I first asked about why they say that!)

I know there are fans out there that completely disagree, and some that herald Paper Gods as being the best the band has ever done. There is no accounting for personal taste, I suppose. John adds that he doesn’t want to put down the others, citing both AYNIN and of course, RCM. I’ll just say that we all have our favorites, and from the outside looking in, I think the band learned a lot from Paper Gods. They grew professionally, and perhaps personally. That’s not a bad thing after thirty-five years in the industry. John ends by saying that while the album “took some doing”, they’re all “quite proud” of something that is definitely a “Duran Duran album”.  A thought that is neither stupid, nor self-indulging. John is right when he says it ticks off all of the boxes of what one would expect from Duran Duran, whether it is your favorite album or a little less-than. It’s quintessentially Duran, and we like that!

Simple, short and sweet – John bids his farewell until the year-end Kafe, which we are rapidly approaching. Does not seem possible!

-R

 

 

 

 

 

Duran Duran at Birmingham University, 1979

On this date in 1979, Duran Duran played at Birmingham University. It was the seventh public show they played (according to duran duran.com), and it was the second of two shows at the university in November.

It is hard for me to imagine what gigs must have been like back then. (and that’s not ONLY a comment on how long ago it was, after all, I was nine at the time! :D) All of the lighting, video, light-up risers and things we enjoy now were mostly nonexistent at the time. I highly doubt the crowds were quite the same, since this was before the days of Rio and Sing Blue Silver. Even so, while I can’t really regret not being there….I absolutely wonder what it must have been like!

Particularly today, as I log on to Twitter and am greeted with photos from JT in Red Square and group photos on a balcony in Moscow, I think about the long, arduous road to get to the present. I have to think, knowing how the band feels about nostalgia in general, I don’t think they’d change a single thing along the way.

Lately, when it comes to writing the blog, I’ve thought more about where the band has been as opposed to where they are going. I think that’s because for me, nostalgia IS part of the game. I’m a blogger, and my gift isn’t in seeing what is coming ahead, but rather, what we have in our rear view mirror. With #DD40 in our sights, it isn’t a bad time to think back over the course of Duran’s career. Maybe I’m a bit biased as a fan, but I think they’ve had an incredible run.

Even so, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wished I could have been at these Birmingham University gigs at the beginning of their career….and I’d give my eye teeth to know what they’re planning for their 40th anniversary! 😀

Off to listen to Katy Kafe – highlights tomorrow!

-R

 

Hammersmith Odeon – London, 1982. Anybody remember?

It is getting to that time where I desperately look at the dates in history for blog inspiration. On today’s date, there are several things the band has done, but one in particular sticks out.

On this date way, way back in 1982, Duran Duran played at the Hammersmith Odeon in London. There are MANY different clips on Youtube from the show, but the one I chose is unique purely because it isn’t a song we hear from them very often.

Hard to believe this show was thirty-five years ago today. Wow. I’m just going to sit with that thought for a while.  Do you remember this show?

-R

Happy Tenth Anniversary, Red Carpet Massacre!

I remember the first time I listened to a song from Red Carpet Massacre. It was Night Runner, and boy was I ever shocked. I think I was on the carpet, perched up on my knees in the very room I currently occupy. The evolution from den to nursery to office in ten years is a fairly good indicator of the changes my life has taken during that time, oddly enough.  On that day though, I sat up on my heels, listened to the opening notes, and then checked to make sure I was listening to the right band.

Night Runner was unlike anything I’d ever heard from Duran Duran before. Slow but deliberate, and wait, was that falsetto hovering about in the chorus?!? This was not the Duran Duran I thought I knew. Without even looking at the message boards to gauge how other fans felt, I took an immediate and visceral dislike to Night Runner. It was everything, including-but-not-limited-to-Justin-Timberlake, that I hated about music at the time. It was not one of my finest moments as a fan.  I cringed every single time I heard it.

Then Skin Divers came along. As I like to say, “they had me until the chorus”. It’s true. Musically, the song was brilliant. If only Timbaland had kept his “wicky-wicky” rapping out of it. Alas. I just did not know what this band was thinking, and with every interview or update where Nick or John would tell us the album was the greatest thing since sliced bread, my sense of dread grew into an ever-hardening pit in my stomach. What were they hearing that I just couldn’t?

When Red Carpet Massacre was released, I was almost relieved because the sense of impending doom was over. It took me time, but I did learn to enjoy “The Valley”, “Red Carpet Massacre”,  and even “Last Man Standing”, but I felt like I just couldn’t get on board with the album as a whole.  Thank goodness I wasn’t a blogger back then!

 

At the time, I was just so mad. Like a lot of fans I’ve spoken with in the years since, we felt like the band had completely ditched its original fan base in favor of a younger crowd.  I can remember seeing various people scoff at that comment, self-righteous and smug in their fired-off responses. The fact is – that’s kind of how fandom works. Some people really do take it all very personally, and while it can certainly be a double-edged sword, without those types of fans, bands (or just about anything else) don’t make it for long. Loyal fan bases are what carry bands, TV shows, sports teams, and pretty much anything else, through the tough times.

I still don’t really “get” a lot about the album, but I clearly see the direction in which they were headed. I have many reasons to appreciate the album’s place in Duran’s history. Hindsight can be a beautiful thing! I just don’t think they had the choice at the time to work with someone who not only saw where they were headed, but also appreciated where they had come from. They desperately needed someone with the ability to finesse the music and sound they wanted in a way that would actually suit the band.  But again – it’s only hindsight.

In many aspects, Red Carpet Massacre paved the way for Paper Gods.  They could have never written or effectively executed Paper Gods, had they not expanded their horizons with Red Carpet Massacre. I don’t know that the fan base would have been as ready to embrace Paper Gods, had we not had the experience we did with Red Carpet Massacre, either.

One difference between the two albums is that Paper Gods continues to embrace and celebrate who Duran Duran has always been, while looking ahead and challenging their fans. This is something that I’ve always loved about this band. They continually force me to expand the boundaries of how I (and every other fans) personally define who they are. Sometimes, I enjoy the process; other times, it makes me very uncomfortable until I get it. That’s art.

I find it hard to believe it has been ten years since Red Carpet Massacre was released. Like nearly every other album, in some ways it seems impossible to have been that long and in others, it feels like a lifetime. For my family – it has been. My youngest was born the April after the album was released, and on this very day in 2007, I was at home, incubating away! Now she’s nine-and-a-half, and reminds me every single day of why I fear the teen years that lay ahead!

Happy anniversary to Red Carpet Massacre! One thing that album, and even Paper Gods, to some extent, has taught me, is to never second guess what this band will do next!

-R

Arena Anniversary and Live Albums

On this date in 1984, Duran Duran’s live album, Arena, was released.        This, of course, makes me think of my connection to the album and the other live albums of theirs.  I also give my little fantasy for live albums in the future.

Arena

This album was the first live album for Duran.  It captured the Sing Blue Silver Tour of 1984 and included the sentence, “recorded live around the world” on the sleeve.  This is unlike most live albums, which are recorded at one specific show.  Of course, we also know that the album featured one new track, Wild Boys.  Around the same time, Arena, An Absurd Notion, DVD was released along with Into the Arena board game.  Indeed, fans had a lot of material to watch, listen, and buy in late 1984!

I remember receiving this album for Christmas in 1984.  That year also marked the first walkman for me.  From what I recall, all of the kids in my family got walkmans that year.  For me, this meant that I could use the headphones while I listened to my brand new copy of Arena.  The family’s record player was located in the dining room portion of our living room/dining room combo.  I have distinct memories of sitting on a dining room chair, listening and pouring over the lyrics.  While I knew all of the songs (except for Wild Boys), I was fascinated by what changes took place, lyrically, from the original recording to these live versions.  Even as a kid, I analyzed everything Duran!

Looking back on Arena, I can now acknowledge both the positive and negative aspects of the live album.  It obviously featured a lot of the band’s hits, including Is There Something I Should Know, Planet Earth, Hungry like the Wolf, and Save a Prayer.  Yet, it wasn’t until the reissue of 2004 that Girls on Film and Rio were included.  It also included some fan favorites that weren’t hits, but were well loved like New Religion and Careless Memories.  Still, many other songs seemed to be missing.  I recall being surprised that the Reflex was left off since it was such a huge hit in 1984.  It is a rather short album in comparison to the 90 minute sets that they commonly then.  The main criticism about the album, though, is that it was simply too polished.  It lacked the feel of a live album.  I cannot disagree, which is, perhaps, why I don’t tend to play this one much.  I have heard far better bootlegs of that tour, which seem to capture the feeling of that era more.

Live from London and A Diamond in the Mind

Since Arena was released, fans have enjoyed two other live albums, Live from London and A Diamond in the Mind.  Live from London focused on the reunion of the Fab Five and came out 20 years after Arena.  During that time, I loved to listen to this one as it had all the great hits and really made me feel as if I was there at the concert.  Of course, it didn’t hurt that it also came with a tremendous live show DVD and a lengthy documentary about the band’s history and the reunion.  What more could a fan want?!  It didn’t hurt that I also got to see the concert in a movie theater with lots of other Duranies.  While it wasn’t a live show, it wasn’t the next best thing!

Truly, I didn’t think it could get any better until A Diamond in the Mind came out.  This one, released in 2012, focused on the All You Need Is Now era.  In 2004 and 2005, I couldn’t imagine a better time in Duranland, but by 2011 and 2012, I knew that the AYNIN era made me even happier.  During Astronaut, I went to a bunch of shows and had an amazing time.  Yet, AYNIN came at a time that my fandom needed a shot of energy and pure Duran-ness.  That album and tour gave me more than a shot.  They gave me lots more as Rhonda and I started this blog and began to plan meet-ups.  It also featured a couple of trips to the UK, which will always be special.  Like Live from London, I was also able to see the DVD part in a movie theater with other Duranies as part of Durandemonium, our little Duranie convention in 2013.

Hopes for Future Live Albums/DVDs

Ideally, I would love a live album and DVD for each album cycle.  I know that the show at the Budokan in Japan will air in Japan on December 10th.  Hopefully, maybe, possibly, this will be made available elsewhere after that?!  I, for one, would love it.

Another idea that I would love if the band would consider would be to record all of their live shows.  They could either make them available for purchase or include them in VIP packages.  For me, I would love to have every show I have been to available to listen to after the fact.  They would bring back lots of good memories.

What about the rest of you?  What do you think of the Duran’s live albums?  What would you like them to do in the future?

-A