All posts by Jason Lent

Rhythm of Youth

While back in England visiting friends and my wife’s family, we took a cold, evening drive to have dinner at her dad’s house in Stokenchurch. This perfect little village was not only home to my future wife as a teen, it is also where synth-pop hero Howard Jones grew-up. So, when her dad opened his record cabinet, I hoped that in those rows and rows of wax that a treasure might await, like an early demo from HoJo or, perhaps, a Duran Duran artifact. Well, I sort of struck gold.

Between the Willie Nelson and Elvis Presley singles, a few 80s gems began to appear from Human League to the first Adam Ant 7″ in a black and white sleeve! As I looted my father-in-law’s record cabinet of any records that belonged to my wife or her sister, I slowly lost hope of finding a Duran treasure until I came across a handful of flexi-discs, the flimsy plastic records that came inside magazines.

One of them promised a Merry Christmas wish from all the Smash Hits stars. Knowing the magazine’s fixation with the Fab Five, I looked closer and saw them listed on the label. A little unsure if the flexi-discs would still play, I packed them in the bag and now you can hear what I heard last night when I put it on.

Smash Hits Christmas Flexi-disc

Not exactly a well-scripted moment…..and that is perfect! It sounds fun. And that is what the band and the world started to lose by the end of the 80s. MTV started to become a well-oiled machine and everyone had expensive, boring videos that aspired to be “Rio” or “Hungry Like the Wolf”. The era was winding down.

It took a little stumble but when Duran Duran returned on a mission with the Wedding Album, the videos had style and looked modern. The band were ahead of the pop-culture curve again. In “Come Undone”, John and Simon are wearing the infamous Seinfeld pirate shirt before the episode had aired! Kidding (sort of).

Everyone gives U2 credit for making the creative leap from the masterpiece of Joshua Tree to the equally brilliant Achtung Baby but it was harder for Duran Duran to get to the Wedding Album. The band had to convince an audience, and themselves, that there was a place for them in music a decade after ruling the world. As the bad-ass commercial proves, they were ready for the new decade.

A slick commercial for the Wedding Album.

Boy Keeps Swinging

Music. It never stops. For reasons I don’t know, I texted my wife from work early this morning – “Let’s have some cocktails tonight and listen to disco.” I have to admit that disco is far from my first move when choosing music but it is my Friday and we like to cut loose a little after I finish a workweek. I guess I was in the mood for some Studio 54 grooves? Regardless, it was an odd thought to cross my mind.

I didn’t think about the text again until I was sitting in a Vegas showroom tonight listening to Australian Bee Gees sing “Night Fever”. As a Vegas local, free show tickets often fall in your lap and around 3pm today, that happened with the Bee Gees. Did I sense my own future with that text to the wife earlier in the day? It was a really cosmic coincidence, if nothing else.

Sitting at the show tonight, I was slightly humbled by the Bee Gees songbook. They have written an incredible amount of hit singles and I’ve grown quite fond of disco, to be honest. When Duran Duran released the single version of “My Own Way”, I understood that it was heavily influenced by disco but the music of Gloria Gaynor, Tavares, and Bee Gees was hardly on my 9 year-old radar. However, I still prefer the disco style of the “My Own Way” single compared to the lumbering version found on Rio. All it took was a few Chic albums to sell me on disco.

Speaking of Nile and Duran Duran, they are equally guilty of steering me towards David Bowie. When Duran Duran covered “Fame”, it was a b-side on one of the many 12″ singles I was buying by my favorite band from England. Then, Rodgers produced “Let’s Dance” and David Bowie was everywhere on MTV. I put a face and sound to the name under “Fame” on the Duran Duran single I owned. And life was forever altered.

When Bowie released “Blue Jean”, I was really intrigued but the late 80s were hardly Bowie’s most prolific period. It was only later when working with a songwriter named Holly Palmer in the 90s that I re-connected Bowie on a deeper level. As her webmaster in the early days of this thing called the internet, she would send me pictures and tour diary updates from her tour with David Bowie as his backing vocalist. If you listen to his ‘hours…’ album, that is her voice on “Thursday’s Child”. As her career grew, Bowie’s management team politely emailed me that they would be taking over her website and I was honored to hand it off to them.

While Holly continues to write and record music, Bowie no longer does; at least not on this planet. Friday was the anniversary of his death, and the universe piled on my sadness with the loss of Neil Peart of Rush. It was an important reminder to live every day and enjoy as much music as we can while here. On Sunday, I joined a friend on her radio show and we played two hours of David Bowie tracks and shared our favorite Bowie stories. She chose Bowie’s “Fame” as one of her tracks so I slipped in Duran’s cover of “Boys Keep Swinging”. If you fancy a listen, you can stream the show here.

Getting back to disco, I never thought about the lyrics to “My Own Way” and Studio 54 until just now. The song mentions standing on 45 between 6th and Broadway. Studio 54 was on 54th between 8th and Broadway so just a short walk from there. Was the band making a reference to the disco scene that helped inspire the Rum Runner back in Birmingham with that line? Or were they reflecting on their first visit to play NYC a few months earlier at The Ritz? All these years later, I’m still discovering new connections in the music I’ve spent a life with. And that is why this boy keeps swinging.

Be My Icon: A Bronx Tale

Saturday night, I boarded a six-hour red-eye flight across the country after working a hectic day at the restaurant just to see a concert. As I get older, this gets a little tougher each time. A few years ago, I flew into Los Angeles, saw Duran Duran at the Hollywood Bowl, slept for 3 hours in a hostel that smelled of Ramen noodle, and took a shuttle back to LAX. It took days for me to get back to normal after that. And yet, here I went again chasing a concert. It is one of the symptoms of extreme fandom and there is no known cure.

How did this all begin? For many of us reading this blog each day, it was obviously Duran Duran. The band lured us into a world of fantasy and possibility in the early 80s and a little (huge?) part of us have never left that behind. For me, before Duran Duran and MTV, there was my father. I grew up listening to him entertain at parties on guitar and the music of Dion & the Belmonts was always a huge part of those nights.

Like many New Yorkers, my parents left the Bronx for South Florida when the kids started to appear. But every summer, I flew back to stay with my grandparents and take in the old neighborhood. There was always amazing Italian food at the street fairs and incredible music would be coming out of every open window. I just loved walking to the Bronx Zoo and visiting the Botanical Gardens.

My dad would tell me stories about growing up in the Bronx and heading down into Greenwich Village to listen to Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. He told me about the time he shared the stage with a down-on-his-luck Dion in a little bar and how the best guitarist he ever heard was Leslie West of the Vagrants (later of Mountain) who shared a few stages with my dad’s own band The Ducaines. The Vietnam War ended my dad’s rock-n-roll dream but music stayed a huge part of our home as I grew up and he was a “rock star” in my eyes.

Living in Vegas, there is no shortage of shows to see but when I saw The Bronx Wanderers a few years ago, I felt like I had heard the soundtrack to my life. Led by Vinny Adinolfi and his incredibly gifted sons Vin A. and Nick, the show stretches from the Dion and Frankie Valli songs I heard my parents playing as a little kid all the way through today’s popular hits by the likes of Bruno Mars. From the Vietnam-era anthems by The Animals and CCR to iconic songs by Queen and Neil Diamond, the band pulls from every chapter of the rock-n-roll songbook. Every single song they play is important to the fabric of rock-n-roll and the show still gives me goosebumps after attending almost a dozen times.

When I saw the band was touring Florida, I mentioned to Vinny and his son Vin A. that I’d love to get my dad to a show. After retiring, my dad started playing gigs again and the Dion songs were still a big part of his set. They upped the ante and suggested my dad join them onstage for “Runaround Sue” to finish the show. And just like that, I was flying through the night in a tuna can with wings that Frontier Airlines has the audacity to call an airplane.

Attending soundcheck, my dad was able to take in all the work that goes into such a big production and the band graciously invited us backstage to talk about the show. It felt like an extended family and the atmosphere was unlike any I’ve seen in my years of working in the industry. As if they hadn’t done enough already, the band had us in the front row for the show and suggested my dad come up earlier to jam on a few other songs. The told him it would be in the key of A and like the proper musician he has always been, he said no problem.

The Vietnam tribute in the show always gets me and hearing it next to my dad was especially poignant. He volunteered as a Marine and ended up in the infamous Suicide Charlie outfit that faced some of the most hostile conditions of the Vietnam war. As we again find ourselves on the precipice of another useless war, I was screaming along with “Fortunate Son” searching for the emotional release that only rock-n-roll can provide.

As the show reached its climax, my dad confidently walked on stage and borrowed a guitar. Just like that, he was in the show as the band ripped through “Johnny B. Goode” and the older crowd came to their feet to dance. The energy in the room was better than a few Duran Duran shows I saw on the last tour so age is no excuse for not enjoying yourself!

After “Runaround Sue”, the band exited the stage and I ended up talking to the wonderful people in the audience who wanted to tell me how great my dad was. Well, I know. I grew up listening to him play and he raised me to appreciate music which is a gift that has guided my career and life. Hell, the musical journey led me to work for a music-themed restaurant where I met my English wife while debating Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet! Thank god he didn’t teach me to love plumbing.

We drove an hour through the cold, dark roads to his house in Beverly Hills, FL – which is NOTHING like the one in California (he has horses!). A few hours of sleep and we were back on the road to Tampa so I could make a 7am flight. Landing in Vegas at 9am, I went straight to work, taught a class, and came home to write this. I am exhausted. But as always, the miles and miles of travel to see a musical icon were worth the lack of sleep.

So, the next time Duran Duran plays Las Vegas (let’s be honest, it happens a lot), plan to arrive a day early and we can all go see The Bronx Wanderers together. If its 80s you crave, you’ll love Vin A. doing a mean Stray Cats cover but I promise you that you’ll know every song. And maybe my dad will be in town so I can introduce you to my first musical icon!

This Band Is Perfect (Just Don’t Scratch The Surface)

As I watched There’s Something You Should Know, I kept cringing at how little the BBC special actually let us know. The reaction to it in the United States, where it just aired for the first time, has been wonderful to see. That Metal Show guru Eddie Trunk espoused on Twitter how important that band was and his legion of metal heads were quick to agree. So, on that level, the show has been a success but as a music fan, these glossy specials are a disservice to the hard work and perseverance of the musicians who make the music I love.

The show moves along nicely at first until we get to Seven & the Ragged Tiger and I notice that the show is more than half over with eleven albums still to cover. All of a sudden, the show starts taking creative liberties with the band’s story. Somehow, we skip from Notorious (covered in excellent detail) to the second eponymous album without mentioning Warren Cuccurullo or Sterling Campbell, both official members at one point. Even worse, Big Thing gets no mention! This is one of the more significant albums in the band’s history and it doesn’t even register on the radar?

Not touching on Liberty or Thank You glosses over the imperfections of the band’s studio work. Fair enough. This show is clearly just fluff for television with no promise of being accurate but it pains me to see this. It reminds me of the scene in Bohemian Rhapsody when the director injects a fake narrative about Queen getting back together for Live Aid. Oh, please. The band was on The Works tour until May of 1985. They were in peak condition to dominate Live Aid. And they did.

Getting back to There’s Something You Should Know, either I fell asleep or we jump from 1993 to 2004 as if Medazzaland and Pop Trash never occurred. Oh, and John left the band for a few albums. Might want to mention that. These selective gaps in the band’s story are some of the most interesting times for the band and what I would really want to know more about. Without the lows, the highs of Rio and All You Need Is Now lose some of their magnificence.

Interestingly, even with Mark Ronson in this special, there is no mention of the band’s flawless collaboration with him on AYNIK. We learn Andy Taylor left the band during the Astronaut tour and then we are looking at Paper Gods. Another two albums skipped, one of which ranks amongst their best ever. Hopefully, viewers who haven’t been along for every step of the DD journey will be excited to rediscover the band and find every album.

The show’s best moments are, well, every time Roger Taylor speaks and when Simon LeBon shows some cracks in his armor by discussing how it becomes a little easier to accept each time Duran Duran falls out of favor with popular culture. Taylor comes across as a genuine musician who loves the work. The fashion, the videos, the drugs, and the success are all secondary to his love of playing in the band.

Seeing LeBon open up a little about the band’s struggles gives me hope that there will be a deeper documentary someday that explores an amazing four decades of rock-n-roll. Come on lads, scratch the surface! We never expected you to be perfect and we, the fans, have proven that we will stand with you through it all.

The Past Is the Present

As I prepared to DJ an 80s show last week, another DJ made a comment, more curious than snarky, wondering how the 80s music retains its popularity with each passing decade. That might be hard to explain to someone who didn’t live through it but those who did understand. It was a time of blockbusters in popular culture. Films like Raiders Of the Lost Ark, E.T. and Empire Strikes Back were larger than life. So were the pop stars. Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince, Duran Duran, George Michael, and others ruled the world on a level that today’s artists cannot fathom. Today’s artists might get more streams but music has become disposable to popular culture and has fragmented into small tribes of tastemakers. It wasn’t like that back then. It meant everything to us. And it still does. 

As the decade comes to a close, I’d like to raise a glass and toast the 80s artists who continue to release excellent new music. Here are ten of the best albums released this decade by artists who rose to fame during the 1980s.

10. Bryan Adams – Get Up (2015)

Produced by ELO legend Jeff Lynne, Adams delivers his best set of songs since the epic Reckless. Tapping into a vintage sound reminiscent of Duane Eddy, Adams balances the uptempo rockers with some beautiful ballads that are, thankfully, free of the sappy movie-soundtrack songs that never felt as genuine. 

9. New Order – Music Complete (2015)

As someone who resides in the Peter Hook camp, it caught me off-guard when New Order released such a close approximation of their vintage sound in 2015. There are hints of Joy Division’s melancholy woven into the music but the band has their eye on the dance floor. It’s a worthy, if unexpected, addition to the band’s legacy.

8. OMD – English Electric (2013)

The first of two entries from OMD. After the cautious steps of History of Modern, the re-united line-up found their footing like never before. It’s a rare feat when a band is releasing their strongest albums forty years into their career but OMD has done just that. Bringing the electronic influence of Kraftwerk more to the foreground, the band crafts beautiful pop songs for tomorrow. 

7. Men Without Hats – Love In the Age of War (2012)

Wrongly dismissed as an act with a novelty hit, the band were slyly political in a time when it wasn’t cool. When this album came along in 2012, it felt like the band and the world were finally in sync. If all you ever knew was “Safety Dance”, you are in for a treat on this album.

6. Tom Bailey (Thompson Twins) – Science Fiction (2016)

Certainly the least likely entry on this list. Few, if any fans, held out hope that Thompson Twins in any form would return. A few successful tour dates were enough to get Bailey making new music in the vein of Thompson Twins. The Twins’ Close To the Bone might be the 80s album most like Science Fiction but there is enough lush pop on the record to satisfy even casual fans who remember the band’s biggest hits. 

5. The Fixx – Beautiful Friction (2012)

One of those bands that slips under the radar these days, The Fixx are still touring and they sound better live than almost any 80s band going. If you haven’t dug deep into their catalogue, go back to the beginning and work your way forward. It’s better than you think.

4. Gary Numan – Savage (Songs From A Broken World) (2018)

Re-inventing himself as a futuristic synth-pioneer after Tubeway Army, Numan’s journey to industrial-synth legend has been a long and winding road. There have been some clunkers along the way but he hit his stride in the 2000s and Savage (Songs From A Broken World) is a concept album with grand ambitions. He pulls it off flawlessly and reveals more of his own self in the music that we have ever seen before. 

3. ABC – Lexicon of Love II (2016)

Nostalgic but also wiser. Martin Fry returns to the sweeping sound of the 1982 masterpiece with his soaring voice intact. Had this come out instead of Beauty Stab, ABC might have become as huge as Duran Duran by 1985. The songwriting and the style are still shooting poison arrows at our hearts. It is hard to resist. 

2. Duran Duran – All You Need Is Now (2010)

After Astronaut and Red Carpet Massacre, it would have been OK if you lost a little faith in Duran Duran ever recapturing their mojo in the studio. Enter Mark Ronson. He pushed the band to be Duran Duran again and his passion lit a fire that we had not seen since Rio. The fact that you can hear synths that sound exactly like they did in the 80s is no accident. From the artwork, to the songwriting, to the videos, the band were hitting on all cylinders again. 

1. OMD – The Punishment of Luxury (2017)

It’s one thing to rekindle the magic of the original decade but it is another to actually surpass it. With The Punishment of Luxury, OMD fulfill the promise of all their memorable singles and their more artistic ambitions on one album. There are plenty of potential hit singles on the album (if we take it back to 1985) but it sounds completely modern. If you haven’t seen them live, their energy can set a room on fire these days. One of the most surprising second acts from a band that never received its due.

Happy Christmas as well. See you in 2020!

Dilate My Mind: Falling Down The Video

This week’s Dilate My Mind (Change My Mind sounded a bit plain) focuses on the Falling Down video. Daily Duranie has argued that the video is one of the smartest clips they ever released. For some context on why, check out the blog here. For one of us (me), this is my first time sitting through the entire video!

Justin-fied But Ancient

The video for “Falling Down” suffers from two primary flaws:  what it is, and what it is not. 

Let’s begin with the former. 

In their heyday, the lads of Duran Duran could be excused for dressing up and role playing in their various video romps.  After all, that’s the medium that helped shoot them to worldwide stardom.  However, the boys are no longer boys; they are grown men, with children, in their forties and fifties.  As wonderfully clever as the videos’ premise may have seemed, the sight of them dressed up as doctors in a psych ward for super models is disturbing at best at this point in their careers.  Duran has unfortunately reached the stage where their videos should only include them if they are playing their instruments.  

What’s worse, the video (and by extension the song) lacks the one ingredient that could have, potentially, brought them some press:  Justin Timberlake.  He famously co-wrote the song with Simon over a weekend, and I suppose that’s him breathing in the beginning of the song.  We’ll never know for sure if it was Duran or Justin who put the brakes on a more overt collaboration, but regardless, it certainly couldn’t have hurt from a publicity perspective.  

Taken together, and it’s clear that “Falling Down” is not, by a long shot, one of the smartest videos the band has ever done.  – CK Shortell

Losing Their Balance

Duran videos are at their cleverest when they flip the expected script. The self-mockery of the band in ‘Rio’ is what makes it witty. Lounging about on an expensive yacht is just showing-off. Getting yanked into the water while prancing around on your fancy yacht, by the girl one is pursuing, is self-deprecating and charming.  They use the same energy delightfully in “Girl Panic” by taking on the roles of the media and hapless bellhops at the mercy of the ‘band’.  

The video for “Falling Down” is almost a lot of things, but doesn’t fully commit to any of them, much less turn anything on it’s head. It’s almost a horror film. It plays at being a Hitchcockian thriller. It even approaches social commentary on the entertainment industry and its treatment of women, but veers away from making an actual statement in favor of the male gaze. Consequently, lacking an appropriate narrative follow-through, it’s almost smart, but falls down before the finish line. 

One of their earlier videos even plays with these same elements of creepiness to greater effect. 

“Perfect Day”, nominally a performance video, juxtaposes a gorgeous, relaxing melody with the claustrophobic confines of a colour-saturated padded room, where the Durans seem almost captive, subjected to a series of beautiful, unsettling images. Breaking the fourth wall to show that the stage is just a stage helps to build tension with the implication that they could leave at any time, but are choosing to stay and reap just what they’ve sown. Now that’s clever. – Laura Skurka

More Than A Footnote?

While it’s true that the vast majority of Duran Duran videos are not particularly clever or intelligent1 – they have always tended, especially in the early days, more towards a dreamlike escapism – I don’t believe the video for ‘Falling Down’ stands out in this respect either.  It’s the usual daft ‘male gaze, models, slightly subversive themes’ nonsense that permeates the Duran fantasy world in general, and frankly that’s what makes it great.

The story of the video is as flimsy as any other – girl goes to a highly unrealistically-portrayed rehab facility,2 girl lies around in a bathtub posing in expensive lingerie, girl leaves rehab without having made any progress – and is really just an excuse for lots of provocative shots of models in furs and six-inch heels (so 2007!)3 having breakdowns and spitting out pills.  It’s all very beautifully shot and directed, but let’s not pretend there’s some great meaning or substance here.

After all, you can’t say the ‘band members are suddenly rehab doctors’ narrative is any more clever or complex than ‘band members foil a revolution’ or ‘band members go to a wedding’ or ‘band members buy a sex robot’.  It’s all just part of the glorious and visually pleasing episodic story that is Duran Duran.  Tune in next week to see where their adventure takes them next! – Dee Cooke

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1The cleverest video DD ever did was ‘Girl Panic!’. I’m not a fan of that one.

2 The glamorisation of addiction recovery here makes me uncomfortable.

3 I want to buy shoes now.  Mmm, shoes.

Rehab Party Massacre

I watched the entire video for the first time tonight (gasp). I remember hearing the limpness of the guitar and instantly being turned off on Red Carpet Massacre. I never gave the video a chance and it took years for me to realize how incredible the album is. Using “Falling Down” as a lead single wasn’t very smart on the label’s part but we are here to judge the video.

Director Anthony Mandler came to the video after a year of working with some major artists: The Killers, Beyonce, Rihanna, and Nelly Furtado. He knows how to make it look pretty. Apparently, the band worked with him on two versions of the video; one of which was full of nude models (article here). I imagine the reaction to this video if the models were naked and I think the band were very smart to never release it.

As for the video, I am torn. I want to read something smart into everything they do. “Shake up the picture, the lizard mixture” has a deeper meaning, I swear. (internal voice: it does not) In this case, I’m hanging my hopes on the book that briefly flashes in the window of a door. Psychodynamically Based Psycho Therapy sounds like a great read. Based on a brief visit to PsychCentral, it likely covers this:

The goals of psychodynamic therapy are a client’s self-awareness and understanding of the influence of the past on present behavior. In its brief form, a psychodynamic approach enables the client to examine unresolved conflicts and symptoms that arise from past dysfunctional relationships and manifest themselves in the need and desire to abuse substances.

In this case, is “Falling Down” an attempt to show how past behaviors (“Girls On Film”) can manifest in the present? Both videos are nothing more than soft-porn wrapped in the artifice of “art”. According to the psychodynamic approach, the dysfunction from, for example, the male gaze and the patriarchal society that houses it could lead to substance abuse. And here we are, watching models who could have been pillow fighting in a Duran Duran video now locked in a rehab facility trying to deal with that reality. It’s uncomfortable – and sometimes art should be.

I want to read this video as an apology, or perhaps, an acknowledgement of how their videos could have had a damaging effect even though they most definitely never intended that. It was 1982 and they were conditioned to think and act as they did. As the doctors, the band seeks to help the women but in the end, they just play the song because that is all they know how to do. Only then do the models smile. There is a sadness to the entire clip that drains away any attempt to tantalize the senses. If “Falling Down” is a group of men finding some sort of enlightenment; that seems smart to me. I’m not sure we get there but it’s still smarter than lizard-men dancing underneath a desert. – Jason Lent

The Best Songs of 2019

The onslaught of Best Of lists for 2019 are coming quickly in December and it’s often an opportunity to find some great new music that slipped under your music radar. As I look back at the year in music, it has a definite book-end feel with a lot of great stuff arriving early and then late in the year. Much will be written about Lizzo and Lana Del Rey and deservedly so. Del Rey’s Norman F*cking Rockwell is a career-defining moment for her and belongs on everyone’s Best Of list. It also reinforces the power of women in music this year. Without any doubt, female artists are creating the most interesting, and important, songs of these turbulent times.

As we await the arrival of a new Duran Duran album in 2020, there is plenty of time to explore some new artists and this Best Of playlist probably has at least one or two artists you haven’t heard of (maybe?). For fans of jagged, post-punk fun, Shopping manages to sound as fun as the B-52’s while dispensing their politics with the fervor of Gang of Four. If you’re a hopeless romantic, The Regrettes have you covered with an album full of pop-punk goodness that unfolds like a fuzzy John Hughes film. It blows my mind that singer-guitarist Lydia Night was born in 2000. She sings with the wisdom of someone older than me.

Bang Bang Romeo’s debut has finally arrived and it justifies the faith P!nk showed in them when choosing the band to support her European stadium tour. I saw Bang Bang Romeo supporting Spandau Ballet (sans Tony Handley) in 2018 and they have honed their soulful anthems into something special. A Heartbreaker’s Guide to the Galaxy will be on a lot of radars in 2020.

A few 80s and 90s mainstays are scattered through the playlist. As much as the Madonna album left me a little, bleh, “I Don’t Search I Find” captures the energy and excitement of her best work. Meanwhile, Morrissey, despite the issues with, well, everything he says, provides a beautiful cover of Jobriath’s “Morning Starship” that deserves your attention. And while Sleater-Kinney might have unravelled in the wake of their latest album, the album itself is an absolute beauty. St. Vincent’s production work gives a modern sheen to their music that sparkles.

If forced to choose only one album from 2019, it would be Lily & Madeleine’s beautiful Canterbury Girls which sounds like a lost classic dug up by archaeologists in Laurel Canyon circa 1977. The sister’s weave succulent harmonies around some of the most memorable melodies of the year. It’s the perfect album for slow mornings over a cup of coffee pondering the meaning of where life has taken us. Let me know what some of your favorite songs of 2019 were in the comments and on the socials!

On This Day In 1981

Simon LeBon – Manchester Apollo in 1981

On this day in 1981, Duran Duran played the Manchester Apollo on the Careless Memories tour and the set list was an absolute classic with some songs that would soon find a home on Rio to some deep cuts we all wish they’d bring back.

  1. Anyone Out There
  2. Planet Earth
  3. Friends of Mine
  4. To the Shore
  5. Late Bar
  6. Last Chance on the Stairway
  7. Khanada
  8. Night Boat
  9. Sound of Thunder
  10. Faster Than Light
  11. My Own Way
  12. Careless Memories
  13. Girls on Film
  14. Planet Earth(Night Version)

The fact that I could so easily find that setlist by typing in “Duran Duran 1981” to Google and following a link was really too much information. Technology has improved our lives in countless ways but I am not sure that live concerts is one of them. The mystique of rock-n-roll can so easily come undone by too much information.

Think back to your first concerts and try to remember if you knew the setlist beforehand. Unless you are really young, you didn’t. Information could not travel faster than a tour bus and the mystery of what a band might play was part of the experience. As much as I might try to avoid it (sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t), it would have been hard to see Duran Duran over the last few years without having a pretty good idea of what the set list would hold. Did that enrich the experience? Not at all.

This week, I have a list of presale codes and times for the 2020 Alanis Morrisette – Garbage – Liz Phair tour that seems to be happening solely so the 1990s version of me can die happy. Not only do I have to navigate a handful of apps, websites, and codes, the ticket prices remain hidden from view. LiveNationMasterHub (my term for the evil businesses that have turned music into an accounting statement) are shrewd. If you find out prices as tickets go on sale, you are more likely to panic and grab expensive seats. They know that passion often triggers impulse, especially with a credit card in hand.

At shows, the technology is often a rectangle piece of plastic that everyone holds up around me to film a show. We’ve touched on that enough here and it isn’t a debate I wish to have. As someone who has shot shows professionally for artists, I believe the “First Three Songs Only” rule should apply to everyone with pictures and video should never be allowed. Every band releases a DVD. Relax.

The technology on stage provides a more clear and present danger. Backing tracks and effects filters can turn any artist into a replica of their studio work. Duran Duran certainly doesn’t shy away from backing tracks but their best live moments are when Roger tosses the headphones (i.e. click track) and wails away at the skins. A computer can never reproduce the emotions of a truly live experience; I just read Blade Runner so I know this to be fact.

So, what can we do to save the live music experiences the feed our soul? Probably not too much. Capitalism always wins. However, look for little moments that we can win. Share the pre-sale passwords everywhere and dismantle the practice by making it irrelevant. And an easy one: do not buy tickets above face value from scalpers (and StubHub is a scalper). Drive away the secondary market and you’ll find plenty of tickets for every show. And most importantly, support live music, as in, actual LIVE music.

If a band is playing live, from the heart, support them if you like them. Buy physical product at the merch stand (it’s their gas money, trust me) and go to see them in other towns. Those bands will rise and the band’s that rely on deceit will find empty rooms. Duran Duran were on fire as a live band in 1981 and that turned into an unstoppable moment in music history. Help create that next moment and save us from the algorithm-generated “stars” of today that have turned art into crass product touring overpriced arenas so ticket agencies can create a secondary market (they basically own) to double their profits.

Speaking of overpriced arenas, buy a plastic flask and bring your own liquor to shows! If concessions go down, they might realize their prices are silly. So, if you see me at the Alanis Morrisette concert next summer, bring a few Diet Cokes over to me because I’ll have a bottle of rum stashed somewhere on my person!

Dilate My Mind: Notorious

Is Duran Duran’s Notorious the band’s biggest sidestep of an album?

Admittedly, Notorious makes a pretty obvious target for this category. It came at a time of huge change for Duran, after all. They had taken a break at the top of their game as a five-piece, and come back as a threesome. Without the beat of Roger’s drums, and Andy’s rock guitar riffs, it has to have been the greatest change in their sound, right? You could claim that the remaining trios ‘discovery’ and use of a very American sound was the biggest departure they have made from their more Euro-centric dance roots.

On the other hand, there’s a strong case to be made that without Chic, there would never have been a Duran as we know them in the first place. Without the inspiration that they found in the funk and rhythm of Chic’s catalog, a quintessential part of the Duran sound, from the beginning, that deep drum and bass heartbeat, goes missing. 

You can hear “My Own Way” in “Notorious”, and “A Matter of Feeling” in “Mediterranea”. “Winter Marches On” and “My Antarctica” draw from the same well. Just to start. And introducing strong backing vocals may have felt new for Notorious, but it certainly isn’t a practice they have abandoned. 

With Nile Rogers coming on to produce the entire album, instead of the previous one-offs of remixes and singles, Notorious wasn’t an aberration, so much a fulfillment of a musical promise. And it’s one that the band has returned to again and again throughout their career.  – Laura Skarka

Gotta Have That Funk

“Duran have often been applauded for ‘not making the same album twice’ but we couldn’t have done so had we tried.” – John Taylor

If we take John at his word, there is no core group of albums with “the Duran Duran sound” from which to make a sidestep. I would disagree to a certain extent as the band has often shown a desire to bridge the sonic and ideological space between punk, glam and disco. It took the departures of Andy and Roger Taylor to finally bring this to fruition and Notorious remains the perfect blend of the various influences John and Nick built Duran Duran around.

Ground-zero for punk and disco was New York City in the 1970s but the scenes were on different paths until Blondie merged the Parallel Lines with songs such as “Heart of Glass” and “One Way or Another”. If there exists a template for the Duran Duran sound, this album seems as likely as any to be the best example of red-hot guitars and shimmering dance rhythms. With Notorious, Duran Duran finally had the musicians in the studio capable of taking that vision to a new level.

Much has been written about Nile Rodgers, and deservedly so, as his guidance and guitar work allowed them to capture the funk and soul of Chic in its purest sense but it is drummer Steve Ferrone (Average White Band) that drives the album. With his creative playing, John Taylor’s bass lines pop like never before and Rhodes’ synth work brings a moody elegance to the vibe. I’m reaching the word-limit on Dilate My Mind so I leave you with this graphic! – Jason Lent

Like Some New Romantic Looking For the DD Sound

What, exactly, is the “Duran” sound?  To answer this week’s “Dilate My Mind” challenge, one first has to answer that question.  Is it the darker debut album, in which you can still find remnants of the band’s punk influence?  Or maybe the more radio-friendly SATRT?  Is it the lush beauty of “Save a Prayer,” or the in-your-face harshness of “The Wild Boys”?  Can it be the latent funk found in “New Religion”?  Funk that was brought to the fore by Nile Rodgers in the remixed version of “The Reflex,” Duran’s most successful single on the holy trinity of its first three albums?  

The argument that Notorious represented the greatest departure from the “true” Duran sound relies on the false premises that Duran’s “sound” from ’78-’86 was homogeneous, and that somehow funk was absent from it.  Neither is true.  

Of course, another argument is that there have been far greater deviations elsewhere in the catalogue.  Liberty would seem to represent a greater departure than anything that came before; so too, one could argue that Medazzaland and some (not all, but some) of Red Carpet Massacre.  


No matter how you view it, though, Notorious is a logical extension of the funk that was always in Duran’s DNA and launched them to their greatest success with “The Reflex.”  You’d have to be buried in the sand to think otherwise!  – C.K. Shortell

Uncertain To the Core

I don’t think Notorious can be considered the biggest sidestep from the Duran Duran sound in the band’s history… because their music is so wide-ranging that I’m not really sure that there IS a ‘Duran Duran sound’!

Even if we put it into context by going back to 1986 (i.e. ignoring everything that came afterwards) and suggest that the album was a major sidestep due to Roger and Andy not playing on the record, I can’t agree that it differs in sound from its predecessors more than 7ATRT and Rio did from the first album.  The difference between the melancholy almost-post-punk of the first album and the colourful electropop of Rio is particularly notable.

If we do take the whole history into account… well, then, there are other albums that could be considered more prominent sidesteps than NotoriousLiberty featured some (glorious, IMO) leaps into a slightly harder rock sound, which had been forgotten about by the time of The Wedding AlbumRed Carpet Massacre had a contemporary hip-hop vibe that hasn’t ever been repeated.

Besides, while there is an undeniably unique funk sound to many tracks on Notorious, it still features songs that don’t share that sound – ‘A Matter Of Feeling’ and ‘Winter Marches On’ could have fitted into any of the ‘80s albums (except, perhaps, for the bounce-a-minute Rio).

Most importantly, though, I think Notorious is a very important and iconic part of the band’s history, and as such it’s also a huge contributor to their overall ‘sound’… if there is such a thing! – Dee Cooke

The Calm Before the Storm

This week in 1980, Duran Duran were finishing up a tour supporting Hazel O’Connor with shows in Leeds, Norwich, and the grand finale at the Dominion Theatre in London on December 6th. It was during this run of shows when war broke out amongst the record labels for the band’s signature. After that London show, the band would sign to EMI and record their debut album. Life would never be the same again.

For those fans lucky enough to see them before they graduated to a major label and started headlining clubs, it must have been a special time. The band would have been a lot more accessible and the sheer energy of a band about to break feels like the undertow of a giant wave about to rise up from the ocean. I imagine that a lot of people at the shows were there to see Hazel O’Connor and left with a new favourite band. It has happened to me more than a few times!

One show that has stayed with me a long time was The Killers supporting Stellastarr* in April of 2004 at a bar in Denver, CO. At the time, The Killers had just released “Somebody Told Me” but there wasn’t a lot known about them. I mistakenly assumed they were from England because they reminded me of New Order with a hint of Duran Duran. They played with an energy and determination that made it clear where they wanted to go. There was no denying that the band had the frontman and the hooks to make it huge. And they did.

stellastarr* and the killers flyer still on the wall of the club when I went back in 2011…..

On Sunday, I was lucky enough to end up on a radio show discussing Duran Duran and other 1980s bands. As I arranged the songs for the show, I realized how quickly it happened for bands like Duran Duran. From supporting Hazel at the end of 1980 to becoming the stars of MTV a little over a year later, time was moving faster than light (hehe). For the most part, the energy and excitement of the Second British Invasion was starting to wane by the end of 1985.

I’ll leave you with a taste of that final Duran Duran show supporting Hazel O’Connor in 1980. And if you need an 80s fix this week, you can stream a replay of my radio show here. I snuck three Duran Duran songs into the show and talk about our Daily Duranie leaders Amanda and Rhonda a few times.