All posts by Jason Lent

March 27, 1984

Last Friday, I celebrated the anniversary of missing a Duran Duran concert in 1984. If my parents knew I would be live streaming a Duran Duran DJ set almost 36 years to the day, they might have acquiesced to my persistent demands to travel the 39.1 miles to the venue on a school night. This sixth grader may have lost that battle but the band and I won the war. They’re still making music and I’m still writing about it. I’ve taken the motto of “Always Go To the Show” to the extreme at times but here are three shows I’ll always regret missing.

Thompson Twins – January 5, 1986

Sorry, Howard Jones, someone is to blame for this one. Me. Not yet in high school, I was dependent on the parents to take me to shows and if my grades slipped, the concerts were on hold. Too much goofing around must have led to some B’s or maybe, gasp, even a B- so that semester in 1986 was a “no-concert” time of my life. Lesson learned but little did I know that Thompson Twins were close to the end of their imperial phase.

It wasn’t until 2014 when I finally saw Tom Bailey (the lone Twin) and heard the band’s incredible songs live. Bailey was playing a swimming pool at Mandalay Bay because, you know, its Vegas. Despite the hours standing in the pool, it was well-worth the wait. Even better, I stalked him earlier that afternoon and he kindly signed one of my vinyl albums. I’m sure he had better groupies in the 80s but at least he is back making music.  

Oddly, there is little to no footage of the Twins from that tour online.

Cowboy Junkies w/Townes Van Zandt – May 13, 1990

This one hurts twice as much in retrospect. It would have been my first Junkies show and I was already in high school with car so I should have tried to attend. At the time, the venue was 18+ so I didn’t. Knowing the band now, I’m sure a wide-eyed fan hanging out near the stage door would have been snuck in out of kindness (they’re Canadian). 

I wouldn’t have known Townes Van Zandt at the time but now I’m pretty certain he is one of the greatest American songwriters to have ever lived. His songs are full of wonderful sadness. If you want to cry, listen to his music. I never saw Van Zandt but his live album Live At the Old Quarter is the first record I’m saving in a fire. Missing a chance to see him will always haunt me.

I’ve made up for lost time with Cowboy Junkies having seen over 100 shows so this one stings a little less with time. I even made it to the same venue to see them in 1996. I took my mother and she fell asleep. To be fair, the band can play very quietly! After the show, I met the vocalist Margo Timmins for the first time. All these years later, I count her and the rest of the band as friends and seeing them in Chicago two weeks ago will be the last shows I see for awhile, I assume. Duran Duran and Bryan Adams have both cancelled in the coming weeks. 

Duran Duran – March 27, 1984

Thank you @adora2000 for sharing this pic. She was there!

Every viewing of Sing Blue Silver haunts me because I missed the band’s biggest tour. Those moments in popular culture are fleeting. Bands do not stay that important for long. Yes, U2 still fills stadiums but nothing would have compared to the shows supporting The Joshua Tree. The energy of that moment in time can never be re-captured once it’s loss. Duran Duran certainly never matched it again. But, I was only 10 so it wasn’t my time, yet. That would come in 1989 at the Miami Arena. 

Everything I’ve read about the tour seems to be that the din of teenage fans drowned out the band. Even so, it would have been a special tour to experience. They were at the absolute peak of their popularity and when I finally saw them in 1989, it was a far different band and audience. If you were there in 1984, what do you remember most?

So, which concerts will you always regret missing?

A New Moon Revisited

In January of 1984, Duran Duran arrived in Noyers, France with director Brian Grant to film their video for “New Moon On Monday”. Throughout the years, the band members have not looked back fondly on the video shoot, mostly remembering the freezing temperatures and how much they drank to stay warm. While the video might have lacked the excitement of their earlier videos, there was a certain charm to “New Moon On Monday” and it’s story of the band as underground revolutionaries trying to stage a coup. Through the magic of Google Maps, I set off to find Noyers where the boys of Duran Duran once lit their torches and waved them for the new moon on Monday.

Our journey begins with the video itself because some of you may not have seen it in a few years. Ladies and gentlemen, “New Moon On Monday”.

The video opens on stage in an opulent theatre with actors rehearsing a scene in French. After exploring Noyers on Google Maps, I realized a theatre this grand would probably have been in Paris or London and filmed separately from the rest of the video. Director Brian Grant, who would go on to an exceptional career in film and television, was kind enough to point me in the right direction. We begin our journey in Paris and the Theatre Des Champs Eysees. As you can see in the picture, the theatre remains almost identical to how it looked when the band filmed there.

I’d guess that Simon sat in the little mezzanine just above the chairs at the bottom.

After making eye-contact with a mysterious women, singer Simon LeBon heads out of the theatre and gets on her motorcycle. Being in the world’s hottest band in 1984 had its perks and one of them was being able to cast Miss France, Patricia Barzyk, in their video. Grant remembers, “When we cast the girl, we asked her if she could ride a motorbike. Of course I can, she said. Classic mistake. When we got on set we found out she’d never been on a bike in her life.” What could go wrong? LeBon and Barzyk ride down an ominous street in Paris at night before the video moves to the small village of Noyers.

Noyers in France

After loading wooden crates labelled explosives aboard a horse drawn wagon (as all 80s rock stars did), Nick Rhodes and John Taylor ride through town at night on their mission. As you see below, the stone archway they come through looks the same today as it did in 1984. The window shutters are closed in the video but look virtually unchanged.

John & Nick arrive!
The archway they came through.

Come sunrise, LeBon arrives in Noyers, still on the motorbike. Since Barzyk had exaggerated her ability on a bike, the director had to improvise. “If you look at the aerial shots of Simon on the back of the bike driving through the French countryside, it was the Gaffer, dressed up as a girl, who is driving,” remembers Grant.

Tracking down the country road they are headed down took some work. The town appears on their left and as the camera pans away from the motorcycle and the river curving around one edge of town comes briefly into view. That allowed me to orientate the direction of the large work shed they pass and identify the likely road. A smaller grey shed occupies the space where a dirt lot had been in the video which looks like it was cleared for upcoming construction.

Simon LeBon and the gaffer rolling across the French countryside.
Notice the cleared lot on the right where construction looks about to begin.
The grey shed was built after the video.

The little glimpse of the river at the bottom of the town in the video helped orientate the search for the road. Without that, I don’t think I would have found the exact road.

The river flowing just below the village.

Drummer Roger Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor are next to appear in Noyers, coming out of an alley into the village square. With only a handful of streets to explore on Google Maps, it didn’t take long to find the alleyway. The wooden frame of the house on Roger’s left helps pinpoint the location.

Andy and Roger arrive!

They turn the corner and find themselves face to face with the uniformed soldiers who are oppressing the town (or so it is implied). The interesting house in the distance helps to confirm this as the spot where Roger and Andy once stood.

One dead end that not even the director could shed light on was the cafe where the band members and the pouty Miss France huddle to discuss their plans. Grant was positive the scene was shot in Paris but could not remember which area of town and there are far too many cafes in Paris for me to explore so we skip the cafe scene. 

The plan they hatch involves handing out cryptic pamphlets on the street. The location was found thanks to the stone arch that frames the door behind LeBon. If you look closely, you can see the sagging frame of the house directly behind LeBon has fallen further over the years.

Now that the elderly folks of Noyers have their Duran Duran flyers, it is time to take action! In rides John Taylor and Nick Rhodes with their explosives through the same square where Roger and Andy had been earlier in the day. The curve of the street and the arches on the left help pinpoint the spot.

Roger and Andy are entrusted with signaling the coup by flying a kite from the church tower. Being the only tall structure in the village made this easy to find. The street on the top right (below) is the one they run up to the church tower in the distance.

The kite goes up and people take to the streets. A wave of soldiers on horses ride into town which were an actual army reserve unit according to Grant. The fireworks scare them away and the town is liberated. I think. At this point, it was clear the band was well into the adult beverages and everyone looks properly sloshed. Just another day being the most popular band in the world at the time. If anyone ever visits Noyers, please get me a shirt of coffee mug!

If you enjoyed this trip into the wormhole that is useless video trivia from the 1980s, check out this impressive piece on Men Without Hats’ legendary video for “Safety Dance” which inspired this adventure in Duran Duran geography.

Desert Island Playlists

I’m writing to you from the Daily Duranie video lab where I am trying to stay in isolation. With concerts being cancelled left and right, I have a lot more free time to think about playlists. I’ve been obsessed with mix tapes all my life. If you’re like me, this v-blog is for you.

The Duran Duran Desert Island Playlist

Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride

YOU SAID NEVER TO GROW OLD, BUT YOU FORGOT TO TELL ME HOW

“Those Final Feet” – Cowboy Junkies

Flying back late Saturday night, the Southwest plane banked over Las Vegas and the city skyline was perfectly laid out over the wing. For some, the city represents an escape, a promise, an excuse. For me, it represents work and I was back at it the next morning at 6am. The real world. Ugh.

The short trip to Chicago for two sold-out shows watching Cowboy Junkies was wonderful, as always. It was an important reminder to me that seeing my favorite bands keeps me in a good place mentally. Spending time with the band, it was great to catch up on family and discuss the current toilet paper shortage in America. I float on the periphery of their circle, always conscious that touring is a job for them and wanting to respect that. Their music, not the memories it conjures up, are why I keep coming back. In a way, that is the opposite of what Duran Duran does for me. And, I need both.

Having seen Duran Duran on consecutive nights in Vegas, I know how to spot the little differences in the otherwise static set list and find pleasure in hearing the hits I loved as a kid. Cowboy Junkies are the polar opposite. The set list is written the day of the show and can include just about anything. On one tour in California, I caught eight shows and heard 51 different songs. Can you imagine Duran Duran taking 51 songs on a tour? I’d love to see that list!

While the first night of the two Chicago shows was fantastic, the second night really burned into my memory as one of the best sets I’ve seen the band play. The soundcheck was full of darkness and I joked about it with the band before dinner. No matter how sad the songs might be, the band’s sense of humor always shines through and it was feeling like it might be a special night. It was. Singer Margo Timmins was in a mood as soon as she hit the stage. The new songs in the first set were delivered with abandon as she let her voice loose.

After a short intermission (wish more bands my age did this!), the band returned with a glorious set of despair and pain:

  • Third Crusade – about murderous Christians and politcal hypocrisy
  • 200 More Miles – about lonely highways while on tour
  • Flirted With You All My Life – about suicide
  • Sweet Jane – the big hit (think “Rio” if she developed a heroin habit)
  • A Horse In the Country – about a marital affair in a loveless marriage
  • Fairytale – being tired with life
  • Shining Teeth – more marital troubles
  • Bea’s Song – really serious marital troubles (song two in a trilogy that ends with a dead body in a river)
  • Just Want To See – a song about how you’ll die
  • Those Final Feet – a song about dying
  • Murder Tonight In the Trailer Park – a song about homicide

The encore choice of David Bowie’s “Five Years” felt like a spiritual release from the weight of the set. After all, Ziggy Stardust comes to earth to save us all. Based on the band’s set, there is a lot of saving needed. Of course, I read too much into everything. Don’t we all when we love an artist?

As I returned home to the warm arms of an understanding wife, I realized how much emotion the songs stir in me. Hearing “Those Final Feet”, written for the passing of a grandfather, so soon after seeing my own in hospice, felt cathartic. All the songs about unhappy relationships puts your own daily hurdles into a larger perspective and leaves you grateful for what you have. More than anything, seeing your favorite bands perform keeps you feeling young and engaged in life.

So, no matter how much I whine about the short sets that never change and how expensive it all is, I know that I need a Duran Duran show in 2020. Also on the calendar this year is Shopping (one of the best bands going these days), Bryan Adams, Squeeze, Kraftwerk, A-Ha, more Cowboy Junkies, and Nick Cave. I’m sure plenty more will come up. My body and soul yearns for it. Music is the drug.

Dark Corners Yet Discovered

Three straight days of me? Sorry, Daily Duranie followers. I promise we will return to regularly scheduled blogging tomorrow. As you’re reading this blog, I might be flying over your head. It’s time to see my favorite band! Wait, what, they announced a new date? Nooo. Despite my often irrational love for Duran Duran, I’ve been seeing other people since around 1988. That is when I first heard Cowboy Junkies. Coming at a time when I wanted something more lyrically than lizard mixtures and a reflex, I fell into a trance when I heard Cowboy Junkies on MTV late one night. I’m not sure there is a band further from the Duran Duran on every level but they set reality to music for me and I was hooked for life.

The more often I meet other Duranies out there in the World Wide Twitterverse, the more I realize that most of us have reached that point in life when we can look in either direction and see the horizon that is our life. When we look behind us, we see the path we’ve taken and, often, the path our children are taking (just cats for me). In the other direction, we see our own mortality but, often, we also see our parents even closer to that final destination. It can be scary. Whether it is seeing my grandfather in hospice last week or reading about another fan dealing with their mother failing victim to scammers, life isn’t always a glittering disco ball and the pressure isn’t always off. 

Cowboy Junkies are my band for real life. I’ll always enjoy being the awe-struck kid staring at the “Girls On Film” video but there is a time and place for that. Reality rears its head whether we wish it to or not. There is heartache, loss, love, betrayal, and even death. Cowboy Junkies have a way of capturing those darker moments in song but never without a tiny dusting of hope. Really tiny, sometimes. But after 100+ concerts, I can promise you they are there. 

I find that they have a song for just about every moment in my own journey in life but they are always a little ahead of me. In a way, their songs have been signposts about where life was headed. When I was exploring Southern Gothic literature in graduate school, they had already written an entire album in that style (Black Eyed Man). When the world was turned upside down politically, they were there with Early 21st Century Blues. When the world was turned upside down, inside out, and backwards over the last three years, they were there again with All That Reckoning.

The last few months have opened up one album in particular – At the End of Paths Taken. The songs deal with losing grandparents, taking stock of what you’ve done in life, the highs and lows of family life, and how no parent can ever be perfect. When I read Tweets from LeBonGurl about her dad in hospice or seeing my own grandfather, trapped in a bed, lost in his own world, these are the songs my memory dusts off. In particular, the poignant “Follower2” which is sung from the perspective of someone fishing in the rain and seeing what both your parents and children are going through while you’re stuck, in the middle, unable to keep them safe.

Here is that song and also, a playlist if you decide to listen further. Have a great week and I’ll see you when I get back! 

Cowboy Junkies

Things Can Only Get Better

Good morning. I am not Rhonda. If you read her blog earlier this week, you know she is dealing with that fearsome dragon we call Life. So, you’re stuck with me today. And this week, we celebrated the birthday of one of my 80s heroes, Howard Jones. Most remember “Things Can Only Get Better” as his biggest hit and that is exactly what I wanted to tell her as she grappled with some unwelcome family drama.

One of the most unique artists to conquer America during the second British Invasion, Howard Jones always set himself a little apart at the time even if I didn’t quite understand why as an awestruck 12-year-old. In October 1985, my dad took me to Miami, FL to see Howard Jones, only my second concert, and the experience is one that has always stayed with me. For whatever reason, little moments from the show burned themselves into my memory such as him briefly stopping during “No One Is To Blame” to reach for the summit “that you just can’t reach.” Unlike the larger than life pop stars on MTV, HoJo always felt a little more down to earth and this week, on his 65th birthday, I don’t think that has changed one bit.

Currently playing a slew of sold-out shows on his solo acoustic tour, Jones remains one of the most under-appreciated songwriters of the 1980s. Not many artists have an arsenal of electronic songs that actually work just as well without electricity. His first hit single, “New Song”, was full of bouncy optimism and went against the rising wave of miserableness so finely articulated by The Cure and Joy Division. With apologies to Morrissey, HoJo’s “Assault & Battery”, not The Smiths’ “Meat Is Murder”, was my introduction to music as activism for animal rights. At the time, I was more enthralled by the colorful videos than the lyrical messages but, in the back of my mind, I understood that Jones was writing more serious songs than “I’ll Tumble For Ya” by Culture Club. 

After 1989’s Cross That Line, I lost touch with HoJo’s music for over a decade but then it came full circle for me when I met my future wife. Hailing from High Wycombe, UK, she left me speechless when she told me HoJo had been a mainstay in her local music scene and that one night her sister came home ecstatic about this new artist who had played at the pub. My wife’s friend even went around to Jones’ house in town to write an interview for the school paper before Jones became a major pop star. Now when I hear the romantic optimism of songs like “Everlasting Love”, I can’t help but think there was some sort of cosmic life-force that made me a fan of Jones as a kid so I could someday talk to my future wife about how much I loved his music which led us down the path we follow today.

The current resurgence in 80s nostalgia will wear off for some eventually (not me) but I don’t expect Howard Jones to change his approach to performing. Having seen him four times in recent years, he maintains an upbeat, self-deprecating sense of humor about each show with his trademark keytar and flashy clothes. His mastery of technology helped pave the way for electronic artists for the next thirty years but it is the songwriting I remember best. In these turbulent times, an artist with a strong moral compass and an unwavering belief in the power of positivity might be just what we need. Here is a playlist of some of HoJo’s best music to help celebrate his birthday.

Call It Paradise: Memorabilia

Home to the world’s largest collection of rock-n-roll memorabilia, if anyone had some cool Duran Duran pieces, it had to be the Hard Rock, right? Their legendary “vault” full of music history sits in a nondescript warehouse not far from the company’s already iconic guitar-shaped hotel in Hollywood, FL. The amazing team that cares for this music collection invited me down to check out a few Duran Duran pieces and I took my camera!

Inside the Hard Rock Vault!

Wow. As a life-long Duranie, well since I was 10 at least, holding the guitar from “Save A Prayer was an absolute rush of adrenaline. The band’s most watched video on YouTube remains an absolute masterpiece from the golden age of videos. Any fan of the band can picture the scenes vividly from the beach to the river, to atop a temple in Sri Lanka. Signed by Simon, and not John who plays it in the video, the signature includes a short message about how out of tune the guitar was for them. It is also decorated with different images from Simon that hints at the band’s history (check out the snake).

Wear Clothes

The most unexpected Duran Duran item in the Hard Rock’s astounding collection was a set list full of notes that was used by Nick Rhodes. Of course, it says “CLOTHES” at the top because Nick keeps his priorities in order. Being a massive fan of Big Thing and seeing that tour, I turned into a total geek analyzing this piece of Duran lore. The lyric notes for “Drug” were especially interesting! Of course, I looked up the song stats from the tour and then the show I saw in 1989 (Miami Arena). Wow, “Too Late Marlene” didn’t get played most nights but I was one of the lucky crowds that heard it. Holding that piece of memorabilia, I could almost feel myself back at that show that my father took me to.

Finally, I held one of the guitars Andy Taylor used in the 1980s. What?! Look, I am an Andy Taylor apologist. I firmly believe that Duran Duran would not have broken America without his six-string muscle. The band’s blend of funk, dance, and pop was built upon the rock-n-roll that runs in Andy’s veins. The weight of his guitar felt like tangible proof of his impact in music history. It was an electric moment.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without the kind invitation from Hard Rock’s Director of Memorabilia, Chase McCue, and his rock-star team who pulled these items out of their massive vault. I’ve intentionally not looked up where other Duran Duran memorabilia resides in the Hard Rock Cafes and Hotels around the world. I want to be surprised when I find it; just like that rainy afternoon last year when I came across John Taylor’s bass hanging in the Hard Rock Hotel in London.