Be My Icon – Is the band purely our 80’s band?

If you follow the blog, our Facebook page or Twitter, you probably know that last week there was quite the discussion over why it is that the press tends to keep Duran Duran tucked into the nostalgia box.  I think it’s fair to say that by and large most fans have at least a certain amount of distain for the statement “That band you were all fond of in the 80’s – Duran Duran – is BACK.”

One comment that was infrequently made, but still very well read/heard amongst the calls for slaughter(ing the press), was that it’s not just the press who tends to keep Duran Duran in that memory box from 1984. Many fans believe that other fans are just as responsible for this characterization. My knee jerk reaction is of course to deny, but when I sit down and really consider the truth, perhaps fans including myself in that group are at least partially responsible. How can this be?!?

Let’s go back a bit before you all decide to call for my beheading. (Besides, as you read this – I am definitely sitting under an umbrella, reading a great book and enjoying the heat of the day while on a very peaceful vacation sans children. I don’t return home until later in the week, so calling for the guillotine is a bit premature. You’ve got time.) I’m sure most of you remember Duran from the mid-80’s. They were difficult to forget, am I right? Then Notorious came along, Big Thing, Liberty, Thank You….and none of these were blockbusters. We lost some Taylors, gained a Cuccurullo and a couple drummers…you know the drill. Then around about 2001 or so, we heard murmurs of a reunion of the “Fab Five”. How many of you did NOT immediately think back to the times of Planet Earth, Friends of Mine, Rio or even Hungry Like the Wolf (I won’t hold it against you)? My point of course is that at least initially as a gut reaction we tend to associate the original band members with a certain period of time. Then Astronaut was released, and while I can’t be sure of how many people absolutely hated the album – I know I heard more than a few comments that attempted to compare the music to what had come previously. On Rio. On the first album. That continued through the years after and including the release of Red Carpet Massacre. What comment did I hear (and make) most during that period of time? “It sounds nothing like the Duran Duran I know and love.” I stand by that statement, but I also recognize the idiocy behind feeling that way as well.

So that brings us to All You Need is Now, naturally. I distinctly recall panning the band (and Mark Ronson) for making comments about how that album was intended to be the follow up to Rio. (How dare I say such things after being so critical of Red Carpet Massacre? I know.  My worry wasn’t that they were dating themselves, but rather that they’d never be able to live up to such a statement. I was wrong. You can read that blog here.) Of course now in retrospect I can see that it wasn’t necessarily about making the album sound like it was Rio’s child – it was the spirit with which it was recorded. Even so, if we continue to laud the band for attempting to spread their wings, evolve and grow their sound beyond what we knew the 80’s to be – how are we helping them to feel confident in their abilities to remain relevant?  I’m not sure.

On one hand, I really do believe that All You Need is Now is fresh, relevant and living in the moment. The very theme of the album speaks to the concept and I feel the album is extremely solid, even if it didn’t perform well on the charts. Some say it flopped. While I hate using that word, I don’t know how the band feels about it. I really hope they don’t look at the album on those terms. I love this album on a personal level as much if not more than Rio – I just can’t look at it as a failure because for me, it’s anything but. On the other hand, I can’t be the only one to recognize that the chords from Leopard or the tom-toms from Girl Panic sound vaguely familiar. It’s not that I don’t welcome the music (Hardly!), but I think we have to be honest with ourselves as well. Duran Duran has never been the band to “play it safe”, and I’d hate for them to stop taking chances at this point in their career simply because the fan base (including myself) through a monster sized tantrum over Red Carpet Massacre.  Was All You Need is Now purely an album to placate the fans? I really hope not. The album is worth so much more than that.

At least one fan out there mentioned that she felt the characterization of Duran Duran as an 80’s band was spot on. Her comments were that when she goes to the shows, they transport her back to her childhood, and she welcomes that. Duran Duran isn’t known for songs like Undergoing Treatment, Chains, Sunrise, Falling Down, Nite Runner or even All You Need is Now. They’re known for songs like Rio and Hungry Like the Wolf. She feels that the band tries much too hard (I would probably at times agree). While she still loves the band, her opinion is that they’re an 80’s band and should accept that rather than fight it. I’m not pointing out her difference in opinion as a way to flog her, but rather to prove that while many of us want to continue to insist on their relevance, many are happy to accept them for what they once meant. Neither way is wrong.

I fall back to the statements I meant last week. This album and this band has fostered a relationship between their fans and themselves that cannot be denied. We stand here in this moment, and we all want the music to last a little longer. For many, this band was iconic of the 80’s. For others, it was the quintessential band of the 90’s. Still plenty more see this band as the music of a lifetime…with more to come.

-R

8 thoughts on “Be My Icon – Is the band purely our 80’s band?”

  1. As someone who was born in the 90s I missed out on when they were even bigger than they are now. At first I didn't like Duran Duran (probably because I was introduced to Red Carpet Massacre), but once AYNIN came out, I fell in love. I have their first 3 albums on vinyl, and AYNIN on vinyl. The furthest I traveled for a show was 550miles (about 860km) and am still in shock over the events that transpired….

  2. I'd probably fall in the category of partly blaming other fans(but mostly the press tbh, they've never really appreciated the band for what they are). LOL Not saying it's fair or right to do so but I can see where it comes from.

    The band shouldn't have to “accept” they are an 80's band IMO, because they are still creating today and any artistic, creative people generally WANT to do new things, and do different things and most of the time don't want to be put in a box. That's how they created their 80's sound in the first place. But people, hopefully, grow and change and it seems unfair to expect the band to stay in some safe little area just so you(general you, not personal you:) can remember what it was like to be 12 years old(or thereabouts) when you go to a concert.

    It's like a marriage, do you really want to stay exactly the same as you were when you entered it? Do you really want your spouse to be exactly the same, even while you are changing? It would never work, because no one stays the same anyway. The best hope is that you grow together, even if you grow a bit differently and you learn to appreciate those changes in each other and that the fact that you already care will hopefully make you more open to change, to experiencing something new with the other. I want to experience new things, new sounds with the band if they want to put them out. Maybe I'll like some, maybe I won't like some, but I still want to experience new things.

    Besides which I genuinely liked Red Carpet Massacre and if anything probably like Red Carpet Massacre even better today than I did in 2008. I think it's a great album, has some great melodic songs and some amazing lyrics. I listen to it often and I can't see how three “Timbaland” style songs(which IMO are quite good for that style) ruins the whole thing for those who aren't into that sort of sound. There's nothing particularly “Timbaland” about Box Full O Honey or Dirty Great Monster. 🙂 Red Carpet Massacre has a bit of a punky edge to it. I think The Valley is a fantastic song to open a concert with.

    I still cannot understand the RAGE that some fans reacted to the album with. I can understand not liking it, I don't like Liberty, but the rage just seemed out of place compared to the actual content and quality of the content of the album. There are plenty of songs on the albums that sound suitably “Duranish” to me.

  3. I absolutely agree that they aren't simply an 80s band as they are still being creative and trying out new things. That said, I am one of those fans who still has negative feelings towards RCM. I don't think it was just NR, SD and ZI that bothers the fans. It was the feeling that something was different. While there are songs that are decent and some I even like, it didn't FEEL right to me. I didn't get the sense of instrumentation that I always had with Duran. Heck, even John Taylor commented in interviews that he had to figure out where to put the bass. IMO, that isn't Duran. It's cool, though, that you like it and that it fits your idea of Duran.

    -A

  4. Ooh, lots to talk about today. I can't understand the RCM vitriol either, I love most of it. Some of Simon's best writing, I think. I will be interested to see what they do next with Mark Ronson. He got some 'classic' Duran sounds out of them on AYNIN but do we think he drove the songwriting too? Now they know how to work together, will he take more of a back seat and let them discover what direction they're going in next? Interesting and exciting stuff!

  5. RCM, love it when the band plays songs from it live, but dislike the actual album. It sounds almost too slick & too produced. I completely agree that overall it doesn't quite sound like a genuine Duran album.

  6. Interesting thing happened to me with RCM. My husband downloaded a few songs from RCM and added them to his/my Ipod. He loved the album–he is not familiar with its backstory, and had no knowledge of the reviews it received when it came out, so he had no biases towards it. I told him I didn't care for it. Inevitably, when I was looking for something DD to cue up on the Ipod, I'd just skip over the RCM album tracks entirely in favor of something else in their catalog.

    Then he created a special playlist for me entirely of Duran songs, to specifically be used when I am out running, and included some of the RCM tracks. Well, when I run, I don't like to fiddle with my Ipod, I'll just pick one long playlist and let it run through. So I ended up listening to the RCM songs that were in that playlist, and you know what? They grew on me! Although IMO I still think it is their weakest of all their albums, and I still have a decided preference for Rio, AYNIN, SATRT, now at least I can see why people say they like it.

    -Susan-

  7. While I don't share your opinion of RCM (the commenter's opinion, that is) I think we're all entitled to feel however it is that we feel when we hear their music, and I'm actually glad there are those out there that like the album. I have to admit, I feel a bit like a broken record when it comes down to my thoughts on RCM so I'll leave that subject here.

    I do agree with much of what you say with regard to fans and the band – thanks for sharing! 🙂 -R

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