All posts by C.K. Shortell

C.K. Shortell is a lifelong Duran Duran fan who lives in the northeast with his wife and two sons, both of whom love watching concert footage of the band. When he’s not struggling to explain to a six year old why the guitarist always looks different or just what exactly Nick is doing, C.K. is constantly reminding co-workers and friends that the band never broke up.

Lost in Fandom: Comparing ABC’s Lost to Duran Duran

I recently re-watched all six seasons of the hit ABC show Lost. During the show’s run, I would read several blogs and message boards to see what theories other fans had about the show. I revisited some of those blogs as I binge watched it last month, and I have to say, there are definitely parallels between the Lost and Duran Duran fan communities!

Before I go any further, if you have never seen Lost and think you might want to someday, stop reading. Massive spoilers ahead!

Lost premiered in the fall of 2004. It’s about a group of people who survive a plane crash on a deserted (or so they think…) island in the Pacific. Each episode of the show focuses on one character, and provides flashbacks into that person’s pre-crash life. As such, Lost developed parallel plot lines: There were adventures on the island as the survivors tried to adapt, and there were back stories for each character (and, as it turned out, many connections among them).   In re-watching the show, and then going back and reading various blog and message board entries associated with each episode, I noticed the many similarities with my experience as a Duran Duran fan.

Soap Opera fans vs. Sci-Fi fans/Casual Duranies vs. Hard Core Duranies

At Duran’s shows, you can pretty easily distinguish between the casual fans who look lost (pun intended) during a song like Paper Gods or Before the Rain, and the hard-core fans, who are singing along to every single track, new and old alike. In the Lost fan community, the two main types of fans are not necessarily distinguished by their familiarity with the show as they are with their motivation for watching it. I call one camp the “soap opera” fans and I do not mean this negatively. (I grew up watching Guiding Light well into my teens!). The soap opera fans are invested in the characters and the romance and the back story. They want to know if Kate will fall in love with Jack or Sawyer. (In fact, there is even a subset of fans, split between “Jaters” (people who want to see Jack and Kate together) and “Skaters” (people who root for Kate and Sawyer to fall in love).

The other Lost fans I call the “sci-fi” group. I count myself in this camp. We enjoy the rich storytelling and character development, but are more intrigued by the show’s mythology. What is the island? Who (or what) is the smoke monster? What happened to the Dharma initiative? Why are so many of the characters named for famous philosophers and scientists? These are the questions that preoccupy us.

Duran Duran has to cater to both sets of their fans, although there is certainly a recognition by the band that they need to skew things a bit more toward the casual fan if they want to sell tickets to concerts. Likewise, Lost was first and foremost a character driven show that used elements of sci-fi to develop its mythology.   In both fan communities, this caused tension and disagreement.

For us Duranies, much of the tension revolves around the set list. We understand the band needs to sell tickets and cater to casual fans, but do they have to play so many hits? After 14 albums and 35 years, can’t they throw a bone to the hard-core fans and swap out even 1 or 2 songs with rarely played material?

For the sci-fi fans of Lost, we wanted answers more quickly than the show could (or would) provide. And not only that, but we wanted satisfying resolutions to the show’s mysteries, not convenient and lazy writing done after the fact because perhaps the writers wrote themselves into a corner. (The mystery behind the Dharma initiative and pushing the bottom? Satisfactory. Lapidus seeing the dead pilot’s body missing a wedding ring on the news, and thus signing up for the freighter mission? Ridiculous).

It also works the other way: A show or band can be hugely successful when it manages to please its various fan factions. For me, the last two shows I’ve seen—one from the Paper Gods tour and the other from 2012’s AYNIN tour—were both great blends of hits with new material.   On Lost, the season four episode “The Constant” represented one of the high points of the series for both sets of fans. In that episode, Desmond’s consciousness travels back and forth through time. His future self essentially guides his past self so that, in the climax of the episode, he is able to finally talk to his fiancé, Penny, via a dramatic phone call on the freighter. Fans had been waiting for over two years to see if Desmond would ever finally connect with Penny, and the show did not disappoint (even if it was only a phone call.)

Of course, the reaction to the show revealed the stark differences in the two fan camps of Lost. While everyone loved the emotional reunion of the two characters, the “soap opera” fans would write things like their “mind was blown” by the premise of the episode (i.e. the time travel). As someone who grew up watching Twilight Zone and Star Trek reruns, I had to laugh at that. Further, Lost’s creative team openly admitted that “The Constant” paid homage to a great Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode, “All Good Things…” which had a similar plot line. “The Constant” was an excellent, classic episode of Lost that delivered on multiple levels. It was many things—but to us “sci-fi” fans—it certainly was not “mind blowing.”

In Lost’s series finale two years later, this chasm between the two fan groups was especially evident. Although it was clearly spelled out by Christian Shepherd (yes, that is his name!) in the final scene that some characters lived a long life after their experience on the island, while some didn’t, many people refused to accept that. They thought the Ajira Airlines jet that Lapidus flies off the island crashed and everyone on it (Kate, Sawyer, et al) died right there, just like Jack did.

I will admit that it didn’t help when ABC decided to stick footage of the wrecked plane on the beach over the closing credits of the series finale. Which leads us to:

Interference from network executives/the record label

We all know how the powers-that-be have influenced Duran Duran’s history. The best example is, of course, Sony telling Duran that they didn’t hear a first single on Reportage, which started a chain of events that led to Andy’s departure and Red Carpet Massacre. On Lost, the show’s creative team begged ABC to give them an end date for the series. Naturally, the network was hesitant. Why would they want to wind down one of their most notable and successful shows? The show’s creators asked for two more seasons; the network made them do three. Some would argue that it was evident that Lost was dragged out longer than it had to be, resulting in some weaker episodes and, of course, a paucity of answers to the show’s questions.

As noted above, the network also made a major blunder at the end of the series finale. After a highly emotional show—in which Jack dies saving the island, and the “sideways” world is revealed to be a purgatory created by all the characters—someone at ABC thought viewers needed some kind of way to decompress. So rather than roll the final credits over a black screen, or even over footage of the island, they used stock footage of the crashed plane on the beach. On the show, the original plane wreckage had washed back into the ocean years before, so some people mistook it as a sign that the newer plane (the Ajira jet) had crashed. Others thought it meant that everyone died in the first episode, and the entire show never happened. Ultimately, the shows creators took to Twitter and made sure fans understood that it was an ABC decision which had no bearing or meaning on the show’s plot.

Nikki and Paulo/Liberty & RCM

We all know there are songs and even albums in the Duran catalogue that are reviled by fans. We probably won’t always unanimously agree on which ones, but generally albums like Liberty, Pop Trash, and RCM tend to not fare well in discussions or polls (just check out Daily Duranie’s recent surveys on songs and albums and see for yourself!). Lost is no different. Season three introduced us to Nikki and Paulo, two survivors who heretofore had never been seen on the show. Fans were annoyed to have two new characters returned into the show’s story, especially two annoying ones.

Luckily, their arc ended satisfactory (both get buried alive, which was met with universal acclaim by the fan community). But it seemed like one of many unnecessary diversions in season three, just as many of us Duranies wonder about some of the decisions the band makes on some albums. Also, just as Nikki and Paulo were not accepted by the Lost fan community, so too were different additions to the Duran lineup over the years met with less than full enthusiasm by some (and we don’t go any further down that rabbit hole today! But you know of what I speak…).

Evolving from the early material

The first run of Lost episodes produced and aired are heavily character driven. Indeed, if you watch roughly the first third of season one, the show’s mythology is in the background. It rears its head with the monster killing the pilot, and of course the revelation that Locke was in a wheelchair and can now walk. But despite this, in general, the show’s focus is on its characters and relationships. Every early Lost episode ends with a song—usually some kind of folk song heard through the perspective of Hurley’s headphones—as the camera pans, in slow-motion, over the beach and survivors. It’s only when Locke and Boone discover the hatch, about eight or nine episodes in, that a deeper mythology about the island’s history begins to emerge.   Gradually, episodes stopped ending with feel-good songs and with more dramatic, cliff-hanger events.   In fact, if you compared the first third of season one with, say, the season six episodes that occur at the temple, it’s almost like watching a different show.

Of course, Duranies can say the same thing. Comparing Rio to Medazzaland, or Seven and the Ragged Tiger to Red Carpet Massacre, evokes similar feelings. Bands—and shows—evolve over time, sometimes for the better, sometimes not.

Don’t complain about it

Expectations are tough to manage. For a band working on an anticipated album, it can be especially tough. Snippets get leaked online, and comments are made in interviews by the band or producer, and we form our opinion about an album we have never heard! And after a great effort like All You Need is Now—that seemed to undo all the damage done by RCM—what to expect of Paper Gods? Certainly the band’s choice to go in a different direction from AYNIN should not have surprised anyone. But it also doesn’t mean that it’s easy to get used to. I had a tough time with much of the album at first, although now I appreciate its diversity and can’t stop listening.

For Lost, expectations for the series finale were similarly very high. Fans wanted satisfying resolutions to the characters’ story arcs, as well as finally getting answers to questions. In many ways, the Lost finale delivered. Jack became the new “Jacob” and saved the island. Kate, Sawyer, Claire, Richard, Miles, and Lapidus escaped. In other ways, though, season six felt rushed. Several characters were killed off, including Sun and Jin, as the show moved toward the endgame, and in many cases it was frustrating (in Sun and Jin’s case, they had a young daughter living off island who was orphaned…it felt like a loose end that the writers Lost track of). And while many questions about the island were answered, others arose. There were enough unanswered questions that an epilogue featuring Hurley, Ben, Walt, and some Dharma employees was filmed called “The New Man in Charge” and included on the season six DVD set. It did provide some additional answers and closure (in much the same way that many of the bonus tracks on Paper Gods provided a welcome balance to the rest of the album).

Ultimately, like Paper Gods, the Lost finale grew on me. I was very disappointed in many aspects of it when it aired in 2010. But now, watching the entire show from start to finish, I found it much more satisfying. It’s still not perfect, but it is better than I remembered it.

In season five, Lost finally introduces us to Jacob, the mysterious leader of “The Others” who inhabited the island before the Losties crashed on it. In that episode, the Man in Black observes that all who come to the island “fight and destroy” and it “always ends the same.” But Jacob takes a more optimistic view, replying that “it only ends once. Anything before that is just progress.” Sometimes I think that could just easily describe our Duran Duran fandom. We analyze, we argue, we anticipate, we react-every album, every concert. Luckily for us, unlike Lost, it hasn’t ended.

-C.K.

 

 

Feel It in the Air: Duran Duran – Mohegan Sun

On Thursday April 7, I attended my 16th Duran Duran show. Although I’m a lifelong American fan dating back to Rio, I had never seen the band until 1997. In fact, nearly all of my Duran concerts occurred between the Medazzaland and Red Carpet Massacre tours (14 shows between 1997-2008, evenly split between the 90’s era and reunited lineups). As I sat with my wife and one of my sisters the other night, waiting for the show to start and chatting with other Duranies, these thoughts ran through my mind.  How was it that I was only seeing my 2nd show in the last 8 years? Of course, starting a family, buying a house, and job demands all get in the way, as does “Durantime” and the band’s lack of touring. Regardless, I made up my mind to go into the show completely open. I was going to enjoy it, even if they played “Hungry Like the Wolf” for two hours straight! (Well, maybe that would be a bit much…but you get my point.)

A little over 24 hours later, as I write this, I am still processing what was an amazing live performance of songs old and new.  Rather than go song by song, here are some general observations:

We’ve come too far to give up who we are. 

Chic’s set was awesome. Nile and the gang played all of their hits—“Le Freak,” “I Want Your Love,” and “Good Times”—in addition to a medley of other songs that he’d written for other artists. The highlight was a cover of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.” I won’t lie, I have always loved disco (before Duran Duran, my favorite artists included Andy Gibb and the Bee Gees…I was born in the early 70’s and that’s what I grew up with!) and seeing Nile perform these songs live was a dream come true. He has an energy and enthusiasm for life that comes through in his music. Nile introduced “Get Lucky,” a song he wrote with Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams several years ago, as the response to his cancer diagnosis (and he is now cancer free!). I had never heard “Get Lucky” but it resonated with me—musically and lyrically—as Nile, Duran, and all of us fans have truly “come too far to give up who we are.” Nile Rodgers and Chic perfectly set the stage for Duran with their funky, high energy performance.

Is it out of choice that you’re here next to me, or just the aftermath of moments as they pass?

 That line—from “What are the Chances”—is one of my favorites in the entirety of the Duran catalogue. As with any lyric, its interpretation depends on the listener. Last night, I wondered if it might refer to the relationship between Dom Brown and the band. Dom has been a loyal part of the Duran family for over a decade now, not just as a “touring” guitarist but co-writer on the last two (amazing) albums. Much has been made in the Duran fandom of his status (or lack thereof) as an “official” member of the band. All I know is what I saw and heard last night: an amazing show, with great chemistry, much of it involving Dom. Gone is the tension that marked the later Warren years and the initial reunion involving Andy (where something about the “Fab 5” just felt off). Now, they seem as relaxed and sure of themselves as they were in the early 80’s, and surely Dom deserves some measure of credit for that. “What are the Chances” was amazing, emotional, and a standout from last night’s show. I have been on the fence on the track for months now, but last night put me over the edge. Dom was also great on “I Don’t Want Your Love.” While I’ve seen different lineups perform that song, the Mohegan Sun show marked two firsts: The first time I’ve ever heard Dom play it, and the first time I’ve ever heard the guitar solo played properly, like Chester Kamen played it on Big Thing. Even the dreaded “Hungry Like the Wolf” sounded livelier and refreshed (my wife noticed that as well and she is no Duranie!). “Ordinary World,” another song I know some feel should be dropped (more on that in a moment) also sounded great, thanks to Dom’s faithful rendition. While I don’t fully understand the relationship between Dom and the band, and the fact that he seems to be kept at arm’s length at times, I only know what I saw last night. I hope to continue to see him playing with Duran for years to come.

We’re all busy being human; we remember.  

So when it comes down to it, there isn’t much I would change in last night’s set. “Last Night in the City” was far better live than I ever would have imagined, with Anna Ross doing a great job. As noted above, so too was “What are the Chances.” “Paper Gods” was the perfect opener. Complimented by the visuals of the band (minus Nick, unless I missed him) singing the Mr. Hudson backing vocal on the big screen, the band took the stage. Roger’s percussion and Nick’s synth line followed Simon’s vocal, and then the crowd went nuts as John’s bass kicked in. Putting “Wild Boys” earlier in the set (rather than toward the end, where it usually is if they play it) was a great decision. It got the crowd rocking early and followed the momentum of their entrance and “Paper Gods.” Perhaps the highlight of the night were two of the tracks that Nile Rodgers cowrote—“Notorious” and “Pressure Off”—played with the hit maker himself, who returned to the stage. His chemistry with John, Dom and Simon reinforced the fact that Duran truly is like a second band for him. Even “Hungry Like the Wolf” and “Ordinary World”—two hits that seem far overplayed and I could do without—sounded great last night and I would not have removed them.

That being said, I would make a few changes.   While it seemed well received, I would have eliminated “Come Undone.” I understand the band’s attachment to their few 90’s hits. However, we’re nearly a quarter century removed from The Wedding Album. If an 80’s hit like “Union of the Snake” or “The Reflex” can be omitted from the set, surely “Come Undone” can as well. Why not replace that spot in the set with something from the first three albums? “Last Chance on the Stairway” could easily function as an early mid-tempo number that would give the guys a breather while offering the fans (even the casual ones) a song they likely know.

Likewise, “Danceophobia” is a misstep that need not be repeated live. I understand from reading interviews how much the band worked on the track, and of course there is the celebrity connection with Lindsay Lohan performing on the studio version. If the goal is to get the casual Duranies to buy Paper Gods, why not replace “Danceophobia” with “Face for Today” or “Butterfly Girl”?

Finally, the band should either play the guitar-driven, 1993 version of “Too Much Information,” or go all-in and swap it out with “Drowning Man” and strip the guitar from that track (if they are so bent on playing something more from The Wedding Album). The sped-up, electro “Too Much Information” completely ruins one of their best songs.

Those quibbles aside, it was a great show for both long time Duranies and casual fans. The past may very well be “another country” but last night, for a few hours, Duran Duran, Nile Rodgers, and Chic successfully blended past and present songs for an amazing show.

HIGHLIGHTS: I Don’t Want Your Love, Paper Gods, Notorious, Pressure Off, What are the Chances, Planet Earth/Space Oddity, Save a Prayer, Sunrise/New Moon on Monday medley.

LEAST FAVORITE: Danceophobia, Too Much Information, Come Undone

MOST SURPRISING: White Lines continues to be a song that people go nuts for, even though most Duranies would probably like to see it replaced in the set. Yes, Rhonda, he still spit the water, although we were a section too far back to feel it.

BIGGEST OMISSION:  I understand the need to promote Paper Gods, but would it have killed the band to include something from All You Need Is Now?  All they need do is look at how Sunrise has become such a huge fan favorite, even with casual fans.  The same could be true of the song All You Need is Now if given the chance.  It has the same anthemic quality.

BY THE NUMBERS: Paper Gods (5), Rio (3), The Wedding Album (3), Duran Duran (2), SATR (1), Arena (1), Notorious (1), Big Thing (1), Thank You (1), Astronaut (1), & AVTAK.

-C.K

How Beautiful the Closing Down

Listening to Paper Gods, I am struck by how strongly the album ends. Has any Duran Duran album closed with a stronger trio of songs than Butterfly Girl, Only in Dreams, and The Universe Alone? Very few, when I actually sat down and thought about it. Why does it matter? Duran Duran album sequencing provides insight into how the band views their own material. Sure, Simon will say he can no more compare the songs to his children and avoid picking favorites, but the running order does not lie. A band is not going to bury their favorite song in the middle of an album.

Let’s look at Duran Duran album sequencing through the back catalog and see where Paper Gods stacks up. As usual, these rankings reflect my opinion and not those of Daily Duranie, Simon Willescroft, Rob Sheffield, Georgie Davies, or the man who stole a leopard (is he still in prison? Maybe he got out for good behavior?)

Tier One: My favorites

Duran Duran: Sound of Thunder/Friends of Mine/Tel Aviv

The gold standard.  Admittedly, these songs don’t just end the album, they represent nearly half of it since there were only 9 tracks to begin with. But I’m going to stick with my 3 song criteria to be consistent. Tel Aviv is my favorite “instrumental” in the band’s catalogue, even though it does have vocals. Friends of Mine and Sound of Thunder are classic Duran songs that have stood the test of time.

Paper Gods: Butterfly Girl/Only in Dreams/The Universe Alone

Yes, after going through the entire catalogue, I think we have the 2nd best ending to a Duran album. Butterfly Girl could be a single; it’s fast-paced, funky fun. If Notorious and Runway Runaway had a child, it would be Butterfly Girl. Then, we get the two funk ballads to close things out. (I don’t know what else to call them). I am a fan of the power ballads like What are the Chances, but I can only handle so many of those. I think Duran struck the right balance with Only in Dreams and The Universe Alone, building the synths and orchestral beginnings around the funky core of each song. It’s a really powerful way to end the album.

Medazzaland: Midnight Sun/So Long Suicide/Undergoing Treatment

Blasphemy, to rank this album’s ending so high! What can I say? I love all three songs. Undergoing Treatment has one of the more clever Duran lyrics and its funky acoustic vibe is a nice contrast to the mournful Midnight Sun (yes, the demo version is better, but the album cut is still great) and the driving rock ballad So Long Suicide.

AYNIN: Too Bad You’re So Beautiful/Runway Runaway/Before the Rain

Runway Runaway is still my favorite song off of AYNIN, five years later. It’s beautiful in its simplicity and subversive at the same time; an upbeat song evoking images of child leaving home, moving on to adulthood. And if Runway Runaway is #1 for me off AYNIN, than Too Bad You’re So Beautiful is a close second. Another bitingly clever lyric about dating while musically harkening back to Hold Back the Rain. Speaking of rain…Before the Rain really grew on me after hearing it live. All in all, an extremely strong ending sequence. (Note: I am not counting instrumentals in this analysis, thus the exclusion of “Return to Now,” which, truth be told, I am largely indifferent to.)

Tier Two: Very Strong

Rio: Last Chance on the Stairway/Save a Prayer/The Chauffeur

I am not a fan of The Chauffeur, but I recognize it’s a great and classic Duran song, and a fitting ending to Rio. Last Chance was my favorite song off the album growing up, and obviously Save a Prayer is classic. This would be top-tier (and probably is for most of you reading) but for my feelings about The Chauffeur.

Duran Duran (The Wedding Album): Shelter/To Whom it May Concern/Sin of the City

This is a strong way to end an album. I’ve always felt Shelter could have been a single, and I enjoy the guitar driven songs like Sin of the City and To Whom It May Concern. But…I’ve never particularly liked the lyrics to To Whom It May Concern (I get it, it’s about a lawyer they fired). I’ve always felt like that music was wasted with those lyrics…and similarly, I wish Sin of the City was shorter and all of the extraneous non-musical parts were stripped out. Again, I realize that it’s Duran Duran, they’re an art band, but sometimes those extra sounds work (e.g. fireworks in New Moon) and sometimes they don’t.

SATRT: Shadows on Your Side/Tiger Tiger/Seventh Stranger

The weak link here, for me, is Tiger Tiger. Otherwise, I might rank this as highly as the debut album’s ending sequence. The Seventh Stranger is one of my all time favorite Duran ballads (and would probably rank as my favorite album-closing song), and Shadows on Your Side might be my favorite song off the entire album. Tiger Tiger is fine, but I think its appeal for me is more one of sentiment (it takes me back to 1983! It’s the opening to As the Lights Go Down!) than of actual musical quality, as compared to the rest of the catalogue. That being said, I still put the ending sequence to SATRT in the upper half of Duran albums.

Best of the rest

Big Thing: Land/Flute Interlude/Edge of America/Lake Shore Driving

I don’t dislike any of these songs, but if I’m comparing them to the rest of the catalogue, they don’t hold up. I do think the ending works in context of the Big Thing album. Lake Shore Driving is as explosive an ending to a Duran album there is, as if all of the pent-up energy from the acoustic/mellow b-side of the album finally finds its release. Again, nothing bad here, but I’m not going to rank these songs, as a group, ahead of many of the other aforementioned album closing trios.

Liberty: Can You Deal With It/Venice Drowning/Downtown

These three songs are emblematic of the entire album. They are not necessarily bad (especially when you listen to John Taylor’s version of Can You Deal With It), but something went horribly wrong in production. They would probably sound good live. Venice Drowning’s lyrics are especially tough (I think it was the Rolling Stone review that called out this song and I was hard-pressed to disagree).

Pop Trash: Lady Xanax/The Sun Doesn’t Shine Forever/Kiss Goodbye/Last Day on Earth

The problem here is that we have the closest Duran has ever come to a country song wedged between an excellent ballad and one of the best, most guitar-driven and edgiest songs the band has ever written. I’m just not a fan of The Sun Doesn’t Shine Forever, the minute-long guitar solo at the end notwithstanding. I also think Kiss Goodbye/Last Day on Earth would have worked better as the album’s opening track, not the closer, with Lady Xanax closing out the proceedings.

RCM: She’s Too Much/Dirty Great Monster/Last Man Standing

The highlight here is She’s Too Much, one of the more underappreciated cuts off RCM. I don’t necessarily dislike the other two songs, but I don’t think they are especially memorable, either. I did think Last Man Standing was cool to see live, as each member left the stage as the song wound down to just the drums (similar to what U2 did when they would close a set with “40.”) If Cry Baby Cry were an actual album track and not an extra, then RCM would rank higher.

Astronaut: One of Those Days/Point of No Return/Still Breathing 

This will get me some hate mail, I’m sure. Let me be positive: I love One of Those Days, it’s one of my favorites on Astronaut. And if I’m in the right mood, I do enjoy Still Breathing, even though I’ve always interpreted it as Simon’s credo about the 90’s lineup. Which is difficult for me because I love that era of Duran, even though it had to end. Overall, Duran has set the bar very high with their ballads, and I don’t think the two that end Astronaut hold up well. Just an opinion…now, had some of the discarded tracks been used, we’d have a different story (e.g. “TV vs. Radio” has closing track written all over it and would have been an amazing way to end Astronaut).

Notorious: Meet El Presidente/Winter Marches On/Proposition 

Meet El Presidente is my least favorite song on the album, so for as much as I love Proposition, that’s hard to overcome. I am lukewarm on Winter Marches On, but it at least feels like an album-ending song.

Thank You: Thank You/Drive By/I Wanna Take You Higher Again 

I don’t even like including Thank You in these types of rankings, since they aren’t Duran Duran songs. Except for Drive By. See my comments above about The Chauffeur.

So what do you think of my rankings? Are they paper-thin? What did I get right? And more importantly, where did I go wrong?  (I know, I know: I must have a case of Chauffeurophobia…!)

-CK

Happy Birthday to you…So Red the Rose turns 30!

This month marks the 30th anniversary of the release of So Red The Rose, the lone album from Duran splinter group Arcadia. Several years ago, in one of my first guest blogs for Daily Duranie, I wrote about my love for this album (you can read that blog here). I don’t want to replicate that blog today, but offer some quick thoughts on Arcadia and this 30th birthday.

They’re still getting back together, right?

Do you remember what it was like to try to get news about the band in 1985?  I was 13 years old. There was no internet, no social media, no Ask Katy…there were magazines, newspapers, and MTV News. I do remember hearing on MTV News about Roger and Andy’s departure from the band and being devastated. I do not remember the exact timing–I want to say that would have been in 1986.  Regardless…put yourself back to 1985, when the Taylor “brothers” were jamming with Power Station and getting all sorts of airplay, and Arcadia dropped this album. I remember not being sure exactly what was going on, but hearing Simon’s voice, deciding I would just go with it, and buying the cassette on the strength of “Election Day.”  (I was so in the dark that I didn’t even fully realize what the project was about. I didn’t buy the “Tiger Beat” magazines or whatever they were called and while I watched MTV, I clearly missed something).   So it was in that context that I first encountered So Red The Rose, devoured the liner notes, realized what it was, and immediately fell in love with it. Can you imagine that scenario today? I would be absolutely going out of my mind trying to figure out what the heck was going on with Paper Gods…!

Don’t be scared of what they say:  

I love when Duran Duran doesn’t try to write hits, and just puts out material that they want (the song “Paper Gods” is a great example of this).   That’s why I love So Red the Rose.  Here is are three-fifths of the biggest band in the world recording “the most pretentious record of the decade” (Simon would later be quoted), and yet, they apparently didn’t care.  They wrote the music they wanted to, got the guest artists (what a lineup!), and created a masterpiece (in my opinion).

The John Problem:

I have only met the band once, and that was just Simon and Nick for about 30 seconds outside of a venue in New York city in 2001. But if I ever got the chance to sit down with them and actually talk, my first question to John would be about a comment he made in 1986 that Power Station “worked” and Arcadia didn’t, and that’s why the band went in a  funkier direction on the Notorious album. I know he’s the Bass God and all that, but…how dare he! I really like The Power Station album and some of those songs are great to blast if you’re working out or doing yard work. And I love Living in Fear, their obscure second album. That being said…come on, John! Everyone knows Arcadia is better than Power Station!!! (You can flame me in the comments below if you disagree.)

So..it’s been 30 freaking years?!?!?:

This anniversary really hits me. Obviously, since 2011, we’ve been cycling through the 30th birthdays of each Duran album.  But now I’m really processing how much time has passed. I think that’s because I was younger for the original albums; my experience with them was largely via radio listening. I didn’t own a cassette player until…1985! (I literally realized this as I was typing). So, this is really not just the 30th anniversary of So Red the Rose, but the 30th of my Duran fandom expanding beyond the singles! In the summer of ’85, I bought all the cassettes of the first four albums (including Arena). So Red the Rose marked the beginning of buying Duran albums as they were released. It marked the beginning of waiting for the new album, wondering what the single would be, what direction they would go. In essence…my concept of Durantime started 30 years ago this fall!

A final thought:

If you had told me in 1985 that, 30 years later, we’d still be talking about and analyzing So Red the Rose in the larger context of Duran’s catalogue and legacy, I would not have been surprised. But consider this: We can’t have the 30th birthday party for Paper Gods until 2045!

Regardless…happy 30th , So Red the Rose!

-C.K.

 

Paper Gods, Caveman Edition

Editorial note: C.K. didn’t title this blog and submitted it, probably assuming I’d come up with some catchy title for it. Well, he made the mistake of characterizing his own descriptions of Duran Duran’s music as being “caveman level”. So did what must be done and ran with it. You’re welcome, C.K!!!  – R

 

I had a two-hour drive recently to visit friends in Boston, and it was the perfect opportunity to play Paper Gods! On drive up, I played it in its official running order, because it’s been a while since I’ve heard it that way. Then, I began to skip around, looking for specific songs. It’s about that time in Paper Gods’ five week existence that we start looking for certain songs, right? What I found interesting, though, is that most of the songs I’m gravitating toward now were not ones I liked much a few weeks ago. Specifically:

  1. Face for Today: Some songs grab you strictly with the music, while others may hook you with the lyrics. This one really merges the two for me. I love the idea of Duran giving advice to this generation of pop stars. And yet it also feels like it can apply to our lives too. The “hold on to your time” message is a nice continuation of the similarly themed “All You Need is Now”.   It’s also reminiscent of R.E.M.’s “All the Best,” from what would be their final album, 2011’s Collapse into Now. In each case, the band is clearly speaking from a place of accomplishment and looking back, fondly, to those who are following in their steps.   I loved this song upon first listen, and continue to love it today.
  1. Change the Skyline: Admittedly, I didn’t like this song at first, but it has grown on me. Lyrically, it talks about “moving on” and while that doesn’t necessarily resonate (I don’t want the band to “move on” and I certainly am focused on the “now” in my own life!), I do relate to the notion that you can change the skyline: with your actions, words, accomplishments, with your life…so for me, when I do get to the point where I am passing the torch to someone, I want to feel this way—that I have made a difference. Musically, I really love the percussion, even though it has that club sound (disclaimer: As you all know from my past guest blogs, I am not a musician, so my descriptions of Duran’s music are going to be at the caveman level. No “syncopated bass” references from me!). I also like the rhythm guitar and the keyboard line. And Jonas Bjerre is great, in my opinion. I am sure this puts me in the minority of the fans out there, as this song seems to take a beating on some message boards, and that is fine…I’m used to it (says the guy with the Medazzaland poster in the background).
  1. Sunset Garage: If you asked me in mid-September what my least favorite song was on Paper Gods, I would have easily pointed to “Sunset Garage.” It sounded too different for me, too 60’s/70’s faux Beach Boys-ish.   It also seemed like the descendant of “Taste the Summer” and “Meet El Presidente,” two songs from the catalogue that don’t rank as my favorites. And yet…it grew on me. It’s so damn upbeat and catchy. You can just picture yourself driving on a coastal highway into the sunset with the top down. “Whatever happens, we’re okay…hey we’re still alive!” is one of my favorite lines on this album.   This song has the trademark Duran optimism that drew us to this band in the first place.
  1. Only in Dreams: This one was a fan favorite from day one. It took a little time for me to get into it, but I certainly love it now. I love the orchestral beginning that gives way to the funk about a minute in (very similar to “The Universe Alone”).   Again, lyrically, it’s about celebrating the now (“don’t want to wake up”), but is a little more playful than some of the other similarly themed songs. The Nile Rodgers influence is all over this one. And, yes, the (wait for it…) syncopated bass is also a cool effect. (Well done, my friend. – R) 
  1. Valentine Stones: My favorite of the bonus tracks. When the band talks about this album being heavily influenced by both Notorious and the first album, I think of this song. It’s got the funky rhythm guitar and a haunting, early era Duran chorus that sounds straight out of 1981. Lyrically, the song seems to be about someone getting over a relationship and being leery of a suitor’s promises (as if the protagonist in “You Kill Me With Silence” finally was able to “let go” and move on, but was leery of the “rebound” relationship that awaited him…or her. Yes, I really overanalyze these lyrics!).   I think all of the bonus tracks are amazing, but this one really stands out to me.

You realize that I could have written 13 more paragraphs, right? I love every song on this album. Even Danceophobia. But these are the ones I found myself gravitating toward on my recent trip. I think it speaks to the depth of this new music that these songs were not among my favorites a month ago. Who knows what will happen tomorrow? Whatever happens, we’re okay, though…hey we’re still alive! With new Duran Duran music!

-C.K.

Duran Duran Mix Tape Vol 1 Side B

Back for the Duran Duran mix tape B-Side today,  just in time for your New Year’s extravaganzas tonight!

11. One of Those Days

This is the other sneaky good song on the “B” side of Astronaut. According to the liner notes, they wrote it last (only a few months before the album’s release).  I wonder if this song gives us a glimpse into the sound of Reportage. Much of Astronaut feels forced to me, like the band felt pressured to make Duran-sounding dance music for the 2000s. Where it works, it works well (Sunrise, Nice) but in other cases…it just doesn’t (for me). Yet “One of Those Days” has more of an indie rock 90s feel to it…not sure if Simon had the lyric first (probably not), or Andy first came up with the riff, but whatever they did, it worked. It feels out of place on the album but too good to exclude, which is why I’m guessing they buried it on the second side.   On a side note, the band was supposed to play this during the rehearsals for “Red Carpet Massacre” (in fact it’s even listed on the set list for those shows if you look it up), but alas, it actually got cut. I was there…those shows were played five minutes from my house…my one chance to hear this song live and they cut it.

12. Midnight Sun

I wanted to list two tracks on this Duran Duran mix tape that were both 10th on their respective albums…what’s wrong with that? Okay, not true, in actuality…wait for it…I LOVE THIS SONG. Like most of Medazzaland. Again. I’ll stop.

13. Land

This is probably the only mistake I made on this Duran Duran mix tape. I decided to get back to moody songs. Here’s the deal: on Big Thing, Land is a grand, sweeping ballad that is the perfect centerpiece to the second side. But it’s a clunker on any playlist like this. For the last 25 years I have tried to shoehorn it in and to no avail. Will delete it after I finish writing this.

14. Big Bang Generation

I think I’m done with moody songs. Aside from loving the song musically, lyrically it gets me too (more so as I get older). “Now all our heroes gone…” certainly resonates.

15. I Don’t Want Your Love (Shep Pettibone 7” Mix)

The late 80s hit single that NOBODY outside of Duran fandom remembers, until you play it for them. It was all over MTV and the radio in the fall/winter of 1988 but people have collective amnesia about it. Baffling.

16. Falling Down

I know, I know—the only thing worse than creating a playlist with most of Medazzaland included is overloading on RCM tracks. Buckle up, people, because I’m not done. And as tough as that album and its impact on the fandom was, this is a phenomenal song that deserved a better fate.

17. The Valley (2009 Songbook Live version)

An amazing live Duran song; especially the guitar. If you haven’t seen Songbook, go to YouTube and watch it…or buy the DVD, it isn’t hard to find. John’s description of this song and Simon’s lyric is fascinating. The short version is that Simon hated this song and everyone else (including Yasmin) thought it was the best song on the album. The album mix criminally turns down Dom’s guitars (a shot at Andy and the “new sound” the band was going for, which is unfortunate), thus you really need to get this live version.

18. Sunrise ( VH1 Live Special)

The hybrid Nevins remix/album version that they play. I’m glad that something the original lineup did in the early 2000s will at least remain a staple in the set list and resonates with the fans. This song has come light years from the early 2003 version (which Rhonda likes much more than me. It’s all good. We are a “big tent” fandom.) For all of the criticism Duran gets for being “over produced” (and in many cases it’s true), here is an example where production not only salvaged a song but turned it into something special. (Ironically, the complete opposite is true on “What Happens Tomorrow,” with the early 2003 live version being far superior to what ended up on Astronaut.).

19. Nice (2005 Hammersmith Palais)

Another one I wish would get played in the set going forward, although it probably won’t. One of the best songs from Astronaut. My wife and five-year old son heard it at the store recently, so at least it’s getting some satellite radio airplay.

20. Do You Believe in Shame? (Live 2009 Songbook)

I warned you that this Duran Duran mix tape would veer into something different…I wanted some live cuts…but decided to at least go back to the “slow and moody” theme. I may have screwed up by including “Land” but you can’t go wrong with DYBIS.

20. Leave a Light On (Unstaged)

Another favorite from AYNIN. When I first heard this song, I thought it was just a cheap “Save a Prayer” rip-off that Ronson made them do. But the lyrics and music grew on me and the song took on a much more personal meaning. I actually couldn’t listen to it without tearing up. To me, “Leave a Light On” is about hope and written from the perspective of someone who has made it back to the “Ordinary World” that he had to so desperately find. The promise of the “half-dreamed shade of yesterday/in bloom tomorrow” spoken of in “So Long Suicide” is delivered. This person who was grieving is healed now; the void in his life, and heart, is filled: “You ease the lost cause out of me/With your sweet hand to bring me home/I’m not alone.” Am I massively projecting? Yes. But as Simon says in the “Songbook” interview, these songs, once released, belong to us.

And on that note, you have…a December Duran Duran mix tape!

What say you? Should I have put more Medazzaland songs on? Should I be less moody during the holiday season?   And more importantly—what is on YOUR current Duran Duran mix tape?

Duran Duran Mix Tape Vol 1 Side A

This is the first in a series of ongoing articles about Duran Duran mix tapes created by fans.  Or maybe it’s a standalone thing like Arcadia—it’s really unknowable at this point.

To those of us old enough to remember, making a Duran Duran mix tape was an all-night affair that involved shuffling through cassettes, pressing pause at just the right time, and nervously trying to figure out how much space was left just by eyeballing the amount of tape remaining on the spool (because adding up the song times and subtracting them from 45:00 would be too hard).

This month, I was in a reflective mood…okay, I’ll admit, a Medazzaland mood.  Be warned.  However, one of the miracles of dragging and dropping songs is that what you start out with is often not what you end up with…

This Duran Duran mix tape is, of course…two sided… an A-side and a B-side. Today we’ll start with side-A, and follow-up with the B-side tomorrow, just in time for your New Year’s Eve party plans.

1.  Still Breathing

I was in the mood for something slow and moody (my wife would reply, “Just look in the mirror after you first wake up”), and I especially like the haunting synths and drums on this track.  I will admit that I don’t rank this in the upper tier of Duran ballads/slow songs, but maybe after ten years it’s growing on me.

2. She’s Too Much

Is it me or does this track get lost in the train wreck that is the B side of Red Carpet Massacre?  I find that I completely forget this song exists, then stumble upon it and realize how much I like it.  It flows very nicely after Still Breathing.  Exactly the mood I was going for.

3. So Long Suicide

Now we’re talking. My favorite song from the second side of Medazzaland. I’ve always viewed this song as the sequel to “Ordinary World.”  Despite the ominous “suicide” in the title, this remains hopeful —“I need you I don’t want to bleed for you” and “hello I’m alive!”—but there is also that line, “I’m scared of being ordinary” which I’ve viewed as a reference to “Ordinary World” and the fact that this person’s struggle goes on.  The conflict also comes through in the song’s structure, as the calm verses are interrupted by the raucous guitars in the up-tempo chorus, mirroring the ebb and flow that you go through when you’re grieving. I’ve probably thought way too much about this song in the 17 years it’s been out…but it’s a favorite of mine.

4. Chains

Astronaut has two sneaky good songs buried on its “B” side and this is one of them, the original line-up’s answer to “Out of my mind” in a weird way.  I especially like the classic Duran “na na na” during the bridge.   Makes things a tad more upbeat…

5. Who Do You Think You Are?

I told you I was in a “Medazzaland” mood.  This is a more straightforward power ballad than So Long Suicide, although it still has that slow/fast/slow thing going on.

6. Winter Marches On

You knew this would be on this Duran Duran mix tape somewhere, right?  It’s generally regarded as the closest thing Duran has to a Christmas song (this is according to Nick himself in an Ask Katy many years ago). It stands out as the slowest track on the otherwise heavily funk influenced Notorious. And, for the purposes of this list…it’s as far back in time as I go (what can I say? Classic Duran reminds me of the summer. It’s winter. Not in the mood for that…and this is all about mood!).

7. The Edge of America

Duran at their most U2-ish.  Perfect place to go after “Winter.”

8. Lake Shore Driving

I suppose I could have separated these two but that doesn’t feel right.  And I’m sick of adding all these slow songs. We need to pick things up.

9. Runway Runaway

After four years, I think we can now objectively review AYNIN and place it in context. And at this time…I believe this is my favorite song off that album and one of my favorites ever by the band. I would include this in any mix I make…

10.  Red Carpet Massacre

The heresy!  Look, this song is great…I was done with slow songs…stop judging.

11.  Be My Icon

Wickedly clever lyrics and awesome guitar.  I warned you that I was in a Medazzaland mood…

And in perfect Duran-style, I’m leaving you all hanging, wanting more…until tomorrow when I unveil the rest of this Duran Duran mix tape!

Be thinking of your own Duran Duran mix tape choices and let me know what your A-side would sound like in the comments!

-C.K.

If Notorious and Big Thing Could Talk…

by C.K. Shortell

Sometimes, I think Duran Duran albums talk to each other. Specifically, they talk to their predecessor. I remember the first time I listened to The Wedding Album and hearing the line “You rescued me from liberty” in Love Voodoo, and wondering if I was reading too much into the lyric to wonder if Simon wasn’t taking a shot at the last album.  Or the beginning of “Hold Me,” when he starts with “This time…” — somehow I got into my head that “Hold Me” was one of the first songs written for Notorious and that line/ad lib was basically Simon’s way of expressing the uncharted territory the band was in, now down to a trio.  Additionally… all the lyrics to “Still Breathing,” which I took as a declaration against the previous lineup of the band. I can’t prove any of this, it’s just in my head when I listen to these songs and albums.

This topic circles in my head for a few reasons. First, we are between albums. Speculation abounds about the sound of DD14. We know the band never does the same thing twice. We also know that, on AYNIN, they finally felt comfortable “reclaiming” some of that old ground/sound. So what will happen on the next album? In what way will it be a reaction to what they did on AYNIN?

Additionally, Notorious, the album, has been in heavy circulation on my iPod for the last few months. I think there are a lot of parallels between Notorious and All You Need Is Now. Both feature very strong title tracks that will likely be a staple of the band’s live set as long as they continue to tour (I don’t think it’s going out on a limb to say that the song AYNIN will continue to be featured, but you never know).   Both were heavily anticipated after a pause in the band’s career in which it was uncertain what direction they would take. Both were heavily influenced/co-written by the album’s producer, and both featured a mix of guest musicians on other tracks (and in the case of Notorious, it remains the only Duran album that features the work of both Andy and Warren).

Why do I bring up these parallels? I am trying to draw conclusions about DD14, and I think we might gain insight by understanding the relationship between Notorious and its follow-up, Big Thing.

I’ve always viewed Notorious as being a very solid, “orderly” album, with perfect alignment between the A and B sides, the Hitchcock theme, and the neatly packaged video that tied back to the album artwork. Big Thing is the exact opposite. It’s noisy, disorganized, loud (at least the first half), moody (the second half) and unconventional. Notorious features a virtual all-star cast of guest musicians, including Nile Rodgers, Andy, Warren, and Steve Ferrone, not to mention the album cover featuring super model Christy Turlington. Big Thing boasts no such lineup—it is the truly the first (and ultimately only, as it would turn out) Taylor-Rhodes-LeBon collaboration, with Warren sprinkled in, albeit in a non-writing role.  On Notorious, the songs tend to follow the standard verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus/outro format, which the exception of Winter Marches On. On Big Thing, it’s the exception when a song follows that format. Notorious is defined by its title track; the song Big Thing mocks itself and the music industry in general, and is probably one of the more forgettable songs on the record.

When John, Nick, and Simon hosted an hour-long countdown of their favorite Duran videos on MTV in 1988, they commented that on Notorious, they were very polite to each other and trying to figure out how to function as a band. Not so during the Big Thing sessions, where “we were all screaming at each other.” This is not surprising. The trio had weathered the uncertainty of the Notorious era; they had put out an album and toured and had success despite the loss of Andy and Roger (of course, they were no longer the biggest band in the world, but at least they knew there was still an audience for their music, albeit a smaller one than before).

So, with that out of the way, they pushed themselves creatively on Big Thing. What resulted was an album of disparate sides: the first consisting mostly of noisy, dance “house” music, and the second slower, moody ballads. Side one featured the hit single “I Don’t Want Your Love,” that is possibly the band’s most underrated and forgotten hit (and one of my personal favorites), and the follow-up single “All She Wants Is” which didn’t chart as well, but did see a lot of club play. The B-side is built around the lush anthem “Land,” one of the longer Duran songs in the catalogue that clocks in at just over six minutes. Preceding it are the haunting “Do You Believe in Shame?” and airy “Palomino.” I remember first listening to Big Thing and strongly disliking the second side, and then about a week later I had a strange tune stuck in my head…and it turned out to be “Palomino.”

Conversely, I did love “Edge of America” the minute I heard it, and still do to this day. And I always have considered “Edge of America” and “Lake Shore Driving” to be one song, even if they have different titles and are on separate tracks. It’s an unconventional way to end Big Thing but it works, as the Nick’s synths and Warren’s guitar bring the proceedings full circle to how the album started.

There are many other details about Big Thing that we could cover (the two different producers, the controversy over the mixes of “Drug” that highly annoyed John, etc.) but those can be left to another blog. The question is, how can Big Thing’s differences from Notorious inform us as to DD14’s differences from AYNIN?

For starters, I suspect that there will be more of a balance between ballads and dance songs on DD14. AYNIN was heavily skewed toward upbeat music (much like Notorious) with several well-placed slower songs to even out the album’s pacing. I think it’s natural for the band to be inclined to write some more moody material after an album as upbeat as AYNIN.

And speaking of the band…by all accounts, it’s just them, just like it was on Big Thing. Or at least it’s more of “just them” than the AYNIN sessions, which included Mark Ronson, Ana Matronic, Kelis, Owen Pallett, and Nick Hodgson, as well as newscaster Nina Hossain. There was a report that Ronson worked with them initially but every quote I’ve read since indicates that it’s just the five (Rhonda says four…because we certainly don’t hear much of Dom being there lately. Just saying..) of them in the studio.

Is this a good thing or not? I think time will tell. Duran has made some tremendous music when they close ranks and keep it “in house”—see Big Thing and The Wedding Album and Astronaut, at least as originally conceived. But therein lies my concern: Duran Duran also seems to make ill advised decisions when there is no outside producer to referee things. (I’m convinced that Ronson or even Timbaland—yes, Timbaland—or any of us, for that matter—would have told them to keep “Beautiful Colours” and “Salt in the Rainbow” on the Astronaut album.  As it was, they went through three producers on that one.)

Do you think I’m reading too much into the relationship between Notorious and Big Thing to infer anything from AYNIN and DD14? And are you worried about the apparent lack of an outside producer tied to this project?

438d2-ckshortellC.K. Shortell is a lifelong Duran Duran fan who lives in the northeast with his wife and two sons, one of whom loves watching concert footage of the band.  When he’s not struggling to explain to a two year old why the guitarist always looks different or just what exactly Nick is doing, C.K. is constantly reminding co-workers and friends that the band never broke up.

 

Greatest, Part deux!

  
 By C.K. Shortell
I remember, when Greatest came out in 1998, that I had mixed emotions. I was happy to finally have a complete retrospective of the band’s career that included the 90’s hits. I was also glad that Liberty and Medazzaland were represented, although in the case of the latter, I would have picked “Out of my mind” in lieu of “Electric Barbarella.” But, these feelings aside, I was a little depressed about it. I wondered if the band would ever have another hit again, and I certainly hoped that there were many more Duran albums in the future.
 
Fifteen years later, and the mixed emotions remain. I’m thrilled that the band continues to write and perform, although I wish more people heard their music! That being said, I thought it would be a fun exercise to look at Duran’s body of work since 1998. What if you were tasked with coming up with the track list for a second Greatest compilation? What would you include, and in what order?
 
Here’s what I came up with:
 
1. Nice: I wanted to do more than just make a list of my favorite tracks from the last four albums; I felt like this “Greatest II” album should tell a story, and the main story of 2000s Duran Duran is the reunion of the original lineup. “Nice” is not only one of my favorite songs (from any Duran lineup!), but I think it was one of the earliest tracks written for Astronaut. It is – my opinion – the best song on Astronaut, and it certainly was a highlight on the tour. If I were trying to influence a casual fan who had stopped listening to DD in 1985 and get them back into the band, this is the first song I would play.
2. Runway Runaway: In the late April “Take 5 with Elisa Lorello” Daily Duranie blog, she is quoted as describing this song as “musical chocolate”. I couldn’t agree more and I don’t even know how to expand upon that (but I’ll try). This is my favorite song off AYNIN.  Its hook is as good as any in the Duran catalogue; it sounds like a lost orphan from Seven and the Ragged Tiger. It eschews the typical pop song structure by sticking the bridge right after the 2nd verse – thus not over-exposing the best part of the song. It also has a subversive quality that reminded me of Big Bang Generation, i.e. a musically upbeat song whose lyrics deal with darker subject matter. If I were trying to convert and/or catch up someone on new Duran, this is where I’d go, right after Nice.
3. Falling Down: I’m going to duck now while you all throw things at me. (Pauses…) What can I say? I love this song. I find myself continually putting it on CD mixes. I don’t like the “beat boxing” or breathing effect or whatever you call it at the beginning, but beyond that, I think it’s very much to 2000s Duran what Ordinary World was to the 90s. I will occasionally hear this on satellite radio in a store and smile, and regret that it didn’t fare better on the charts. As far as RCM goes, this is one of the highlights (in fact, it might actually function better as part of a compliation CD such as this one; it always felt a little forced on RCM, which we know it was, given its late inclusion.).
4. What Happens Tomorrow: I would include the longer version (with the “silent icy river” third verse). A powerful song about hope in the face of adversity – it doesn’t get more Duran than that.
5. Girl Panic: Represents the best of their collaboration with Mark Ronson, and sounds even better live. Will likely be a staple in the live set for years to come as it fits in seamlessly with the older hits.
6. Instant Karma: I know, I know – it’s a cover. How can I included this to the exclusion of so many other songs? For starters, it’s a great coer. It also represents the band’s last officially release work with Andy. But this isn’t about nostalgia; I really do enjoy this song and think it’s catchy enough, and good enough, to include on this list.
7. Pop Trash Movie: One of my all-time favorites. I realize this is a “TV Mania” song (but then again, aren’t most of the songs on Pop Trash and Medazzaland?) but it’s my favorite off Pop Trash and a classic Duran ballad in the tradition of The Seventh Stranger.
8. Leave a Light On: Another beautiful, haunting ballad, clearly influenced by and modeled after Save a Prayer. My favorite slow song off of AYNIN.
9. Beautiful Colours (“New” Track!): Yes, I’m a brat and a hypocrite. I can’t stand “Greatest
compilations that include new material. That being sad…if this is the only way that “Beautiful Colours” sees the light of day, then so be it. I would force them all in the studio, make them “get the lyric right”, fix up the bridge a bit (more guitar,please) and then release this as a single to promote the Greatest II compilation.
10. Tempted: For all the negatives associated with the Red Carpet Massacre album, I vew this song as one of the diamonds in the rough. It’s catchy, upbeat and contemporary, and for some bizarre reason I continue to like it.
11. Someone Else Not Me: When they were promoting Pop trash, Simon described this as “the best song we’ve written in ten years.” Not so sure about that, but it is a very strong Duran ballad. I think Pop Trash should be represented on this compilation and the best two tracks are this one, and as noted earlier, Pop Trash Movie.
12. Mediterranea: From its exotic title, to Dom’s guitar riff that somehow captures the yearning and mournful nature of the lyrics…this is another one of those AYNIN tracks that sounds like it could have come from the Rio sessions. This song transports you to a beach, and I think became and “instant classic” the minute most fans heard it for the first time.
13. Sunrise: I considered making this the first song but wanted to lead off with Nice. This song was not a hit on any mainstream radio charts (at least in the U.S.) but it did get extensive club play (reached #1 on the Billboard Club Chart in 2004), and continues to be in rotation on various satellite radio stations. Most importantly, it is the most recognizable “new” song (i.e. post 1993) at Duran’s live shows.
14. All You Need is Now: What more can I say? This song represents all that is good about the Mark Ronson collaboration, the inclusion of Dom in the songwriting process, and the current state of the band and fan base. I don’t even think it’s the best song on the album, and at times, I’m not convinced that the chorus and verses even belong together (referring to the music, not the lyrics), but…this is Duran and in the second decade of the second millennium. What a fitting way to close out the “Greatest II” compilation.
So what do you think?  I know, I know – how could I exclude The Man Who Stole a Leopard? How dare I?  Fine.
15. The Man Who Stole a Leopard (Available only on the special Easter Island Limited Edition version of the Greatest II CD): I will try to be objective. What I like about this song. That the band took a risk and decided to do something artsy. I will never object to that. I also like the end of the song when the guitar kicks in. And I do think it’s cool how the crowd gets into it on ADITM. However, I can say that I don’t like the faux news report. It kills me that the same band made me sit through that 25 minute film before the start of the show last summer (all in the name of art) would provide such pointless exposition in the form of that news story gimmic. But to each his or her own. If you live on Easter Island, you get this on your Greatest II compilation.
So…Leopard aside…what do you think? Am I crazy? On crack? Even as I write this I can think of songs that I excluded with bother me – e.g. Playing with Uranium, Being Followed, The Valley…so please, set me straight in the comments section and give me your own take on how a “Greatest II” would look!
C.K. Shortell is a lifelong Duran Duran fan who lives in the northeast with his wife and two sons, both of whom love watching concert footage of the band.  When he’s not struggling to explain to a three year old why the guitarist always looks different or just what exactly Nick is doing, C.K. is constantly reminding co-workers and friends that the band never broke up.   


Guest Blog: Now I Finally Get It

By C.K. Shortell

If you had asked me in the mid-80’s if I still expected, nearly three and a half decades into the future, to still be treated to new Duran Duran albums and new Star Trek movies, I would have probably said no. As huge as Duran Duran was, even as a teenager, I knew these things don’t last forever. Iconic bands like The Police, Led Zeppelin, and The Beatles had not managed to survive—for various reasons—and there was no reason to think Duran would be any different. Likewise, as much as I loved Star Trek and enjoyed both the syndicated reruns and movies, the cast was aging and there was no guarantee that the studio would continue to fund a sci-fi “space opera” franchise based on a cancelled 60’s TV show. And yet here we are, nearly halfway through 2013, and I’ve just seen the new Star Trek movie, and am anticipating a new Duran album within the next 18 months. That is amazing when I stop and think about it.

In a recent blog, Amanda wrote of her experience in seeing Star Trek: Into Darkness on opening night with friends and family. Her descriptions and emotions about this element of Trek fandom were spot on. I was lucky enough to see Star Trek VI on opening night while in college and I’ll never forget that experience. As she has written about before, there are many parallels between Star Trek and Duran Duran fandom: for every Duran lineup change and different musical direction taken, there are different Star Trek television shows and casts and movies that spark as much debate in the Trekker fandom as any argument you’ll find here in Duranland. However, for me personally, a different type of Star Trek and Duran Duran connection hit home over the last few weeks: balancing affection for the “old stuff” with gratitude and acceptance of the “new stuff.”

If you’ve read my previous guest blogs or posts or tweets, you know that I am a huge fan of Duran’s 90’s era. I am also a huge fan of their original work—like I always say, I’m like the guy in Office Space who “celebrates their entire catalogue.” I am not in the “Andy camp” or the “Warren camp” or the “Dom camp” but really find a lot to like from all eras and lineups.  Maybe that puts me in a completely different camp, or maybe it does tilt me more to the new stuff because I’m putting it on a par with the classic Duran, and die hard classic Duranies would never agree that anything has come close to matching the ’81-’85 output. Regardless, my point is that I have always kept an open mind about the “new stuff” and have tended to like most of it. 

Then there’s Star Trek. Seeing the new movie opened my eyes to a very curious thing: I realized that when it comes to Star Trek, I am exactly the opposite: I most certainly do not like the “new stuff” as much as the original. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying I didn’t like Into Darkness or the 2009 Star Trek movie. It’s great that J.J. Abrams has brought Star Trek back from the cinematic and pop-cultural graveyard. I think the new cast is good (not great—but good) and obviously the special effects are the best that the Trek franchise has ever used.  And I also think Abrams and his writers have gone out of their way to acknowledge the rich history of Star Trek in these films, whether it’s through a line of dialogue, a reference to something obscure from one of the television series, or even the way a shot is framed that mimics similar shots in the old movies.

But it’s not really Star Trek to me. The new movies seem strangely shallow in comparison to the earlier ones. The new films seem built around a handful of action sequences, and the underlying plot that drives the action is filled with holes and implausible coincidences and actions (even for a sci-fi movie!) (e.g. how Kirk comes to command the Enterprise in the 2009 film and how he happens to find Scotty and Spock Prime; the whereabouts of Scotty in Into Darkness, to just name a few). And while I like the cast, in many instances they seemed to be just caricature of the original actors (e.g. Scotty’s overdone accent, McCoy’s constant one-liners).  

My reaction bugged me because I wanted to like Star Trek: Into Darkness more than I did.  And I felt a little ashamed—shouldn’t I just be happy that someone is still making these movies, and that they are doing well and maybe drawing in a new generation of Star Trek fans? So what if there are more explosions and gratuitous action sequences—that’s par for the course for today’s action/sci fi movies. Maybe this momentum could even lead to a new television series – the possibilities are endless. As I devoted way too much time to this train of thought, my self analysis took another turn and that’s when it hit me: I was exactly like the Duranies who feel that nothing will measure up to the early albums.
For all these years, whenever I would read criticisms of the latest Duran project (going all the way back to Notorious), I would get highly annoyed. Why were people constantly comparing the new album to the classic ones? Those were in a different time and place. Didn’t they—the fans, the critics, the general public—get that? Did they really want Duran to regurgitate the same sound over and over? Couldn’t they stop being so closed minded about the new songs? It’s still Simon singing! There are still synths! Probably too many synths! It’ll sound awesome live! Give it a chance!

And yet here I was, making exactly the opposite arguments in my head and having the opposite reaction when it came to the new Star Trek film. 

Somehow, I had become so enamored of the “new stuff” and so sick of the earlier material that I had forgotten how good it truly was. I had become too dismissive of the magical quality—yes, I said magical—of those first three Duran albums. I was too caught up in whatever moment I was in, whether it was rocking out to Proposition (see Andy! You didn’t have to leave! Lots of guitar! You could still be here playing this!) or savoring the piano in Palomino or clinging to the hope of Ordinary World or dancing to the end of the millennium with Big Bang Generation. 

I’m not doing a 180; Medazzaland is still one of my favorite albums and I think I could argue that AYNIN is their best album (another day…not today!).  But now I won’t be so incredulous that someone I interact with on twitter or some message board can’t see the haunting beauty that I do in Pop Trash Movie or admit that The Valley kicks ass live. It’s fine. I get it. It’s not your Duran Duran; it’s not the same sound or magical quality that got you hooked, and nothing can ever replicate that. There was something so unique and special about the original lineup that we hold dear, and they set an impossibly high standard. You can hate the new stuff. I may not agree with you, but after seeing Star Trek…I get it.
 
C.K. Shortell is a lifelong Duran Duran fan who lives in the northeast with his wife and two sons, both of whom love watching concert footage of the band.  When he’s not struggling to explain to a three year old why the guitarist always looks different or just what exactly Nick is doing, C.K. is constantly reminding co-workers and friends that the band never broke up.