Bow to the Paper Gods: Their Final Encore?

Every once in a while, a fan will reach out with a profound idea that should be shared with the community-at-large. Amanda and I strive for Daily Duranie to be a safe place for fans to share their ideas. While not everyone may always agree with the message being shared, we think it is important for fans to have a peaceful space to say what they want to say. In that spirit, we have a guest blogger today that is ready to share some of his own thoughts and feelings. I hope his blog provokes thoughtful conversation.  -R

By, Jeff Bistline

I recently tweeted some thoughts on Twitter concerning my thoughts on the current state of Duran Duran.  I changed my mind several times, reached out to friends, changed my mind again.  I re-edited my writing (several times), and decided I still needed to communicate some of my thoughts, for my own sanity.  The following is my “edited version”, or “PG version” which is far less speculative, but still contains quite a few opinions.

I have not lost faith in the band, I think they are at a crossroads, and we all know it has to happen sooner or later.  So here it goes…

On Twitter, I recently “called my shot”, and proclaimed that I believe that Paper Gods is the last proper album and tour cycle for the band.  The reason for my tweets were not to cause drama, gain followers, or throw shade at the band or management. I care very passionately for this band and its music.  It has been a part of my life on a daily basis since 1984, and always will be.  Above all, and most importantly, I know that we will always have the music of Duran Duran.  In addition to following every note, lyric, and news item, I closely follow the music industry in great detail.  I have made many observations that have been building in my head for over a year now, and I feel the need to share those observations in great detail.

These observations are heavily based on my opinion.  I have no inside information directly from the band.  I honestly don’t want the band the stop recording and touring, but I think the band, management, close confidants (Ronson/Rodgers, and perhaps Mr. Hudson), and Warner mapped out an a long-term exit plan a few years ago and they are in the middle of that process.

First of all, I love the Paper Gods album.  I think “Pressure Off” was the best single since “Come Undone”. “Planet Roaring” is one of my favorite Duran tracks of all time.  I think the entire band put EVERYTHING into the making of this album.  They did their research, started writing, consulted Nile Rodgers and Mark Ronson, and returned to the studio to complete the recording while bringing in Mr. Hudson to add some current and fresh perspective, which has been a long-standing trait of every Duran Duran record.  Fan reaction has been mixed.  The band has stated that everyone loves the album, new fans are coming on board etc., but I have a hard time believing these statements.  It is not their best work, but it is not their worst either. Overall, I think the Paper Gods album is a success, both on the charts and from an artistic viewpoint, given where the band is in this screwed up age in the music industry.  However, I don’t think the band wants to go through this cycle again without much to show for it in terms of physical units sold, or chart success (outside of the initial debut of the album on charts which basically lasted one week).  Simon stating that “Pressure Off” was their most successful single in two decades is pure management spin.  It didn’t make a dent on significant sales or radio airplay charts.  In contrast, even “Leave A Light On” charted on radio playlists in the U.S.

The Paper Gods tour has been a huge success to date.  The strategy that was implemented to tour Paper Gods had been brilliant up until July 2016.  The band, management, record label, and promoters put together a billing that was amazing considering that Duran Duran has not been a full size arena/stadium level touring band since perhaps the reunion and Astronaut era in 2003-2006.  Having Nile Rodgers and Chic on tour made sense, and the billing produced some fantastic shows and crowds.  Most shows I saw ranged between 7,000 to 15,000 people.  Extraordinary support for a legacy band, in my opinion.

A pivotal turning point came in July 2016 when it was announced that Nick Rhodes would be leaving the tour for a short period.  There has been nonstop speculation as to the reasons for Nick’s leave of absence, and nothing has been released or leaked relating to his situation.  First and foremost, I hope Nick (and/or his family) are physically and mentally well.  I prefer to focus on the collective unit/band Duran Duran, but Nick is truly the cornerstone and visionary of Duran Duran, and always has been.  Nick and Simon have been the two constants over the past 36 years.  I cannot imagine Duran Duran existing without either of these two individuals.  I don’t know if there is strife in the band.  I thought maybe there was when I was doing some research on this, but I listened to a few interviews, read some articles, and I honestly think things are fine between the band members.  However, Nick’s absence has certainly had a ripple effect in the fan community.  I don’t think Nick enjoys touring as much as Simon and John.  I think Roger still enjoys both recording and touring.

Here are some observations I have collected (in one place) that have bothered me over the past 14 months (and years in some instances).  These are things that just seem “out of place” compared to previous album and tour cycles.  I originally planned to speak on each one of these points at great length…Perhaps this community can discuss these points in greater detail.  Obviously some of these thoughts are not my own, but have come from threads posted on message boards, Twitter, Facebook, and other sources.

Paper Gods Album

Several fans wondered if the lyrics in the “The Universe Alone” was a goodbye statement.  “Planet Roaring” can also be viewed as an exit song, but more on the celebratory side.  There could also be some lyrical clues in “Pressure Off”, and perhaps the most debated song on the album “Last Night in the City”.

Paper Gods Artwork

The symbols are obviously self-referencing, but why on a new album of new, modern music?  I think the band said it was a conglomeration of images that have collectively “gotten us to this point of time”, but it could also certainly be seen as a final package.

Paper Gods Ancillary Releases

First of all, as a collector…WTF?  We were told we would get a deluxe package.  I’m still waiting.  I’ve exhausted this avenue several times online.  I have two additional comments to make.  DJ’s are celebrities these days, both in the clubs and on the charts.  They demand huge dollars these days.  The unreleased Night Version of “Pressure Off” was probably done in-house (Spike Stent, Josh Blair maybe?).  The “Last Night in the City” mixes were done by lessor known DJ’s.  I’m sure the band and management is unwilling to invest much into remixes and ultimately additional single releases at this point in their career as the return is probably pretty small these days since people are buying less and less physical releases.

Paper Gods Music Videos

There was such a delay in releasing both of these from when the initial single was released, etc.  The “Last Night in the City” video was filmed 6 months before it was finally released.  Director Nick Egan even commented on a fan’s Facebook page that he was not pleased with the process and the end result.

Record Store Day

The vinyl industry has had a huge resurgence in the past 2 years.  Why hasn’t Duran been participating in this event for 3-4 years now?  Again, this probably relates to production costs, ROI (Return On Investment), and effort.

Duran Duran Appreciation Day

We previously received some unreleased music for this day.  Now, we get a video performance of something that pretty much existed already.  Again, few resources are being spent to deliver a unique remix, live set, etc.

Paper Gods Tour

I live in the United States.  I’ve been very happy that I have seen the band on four legs of tours since the album released (counting the upcoming New Years Eve shows).  The band or management has decided to only tour the three largest Duran fan base territories:  U.S., U.K, and Italy.  Europe was told they would get a tour, but Nick’s situation may have delayed or shelved that tour.  There were rumors of a billing with Pet Shop Boys for Australia this fall.  There have been mumblings of a tour for South America for 2017. No dates have been released.  I listened to John’s Katy Kafe from July…I sincerely feel that he wants to further the Paper Gods tour into next year and different markets.  Nick’s situation, or management, may have delayed or shelved these plans as well, since tours are announced several months in advance.

New Year’s Eve Shows

Who wouldn’t want to spend New Year’s Eve with Duran Duran?  I’m going, but there is no denying it…these are two $$$Payday$$$ shows.  Big bucks at a fancy new casino resort.  I believe the fans deserve to know if Nick is playing or not.  In July, we were told his absence was going to be “short”.  This has caused a firestorm within the community.  Again, I have no idea what is going on, and I hope he is well, but I think fans deserve at least a heads up on his presence for these über-expensive shows.  The 1/1/2017 date doesn’t appear to be selling that well.  You can view available tickets on Ticketmaster.  There are also several seats available for 12/31/2016. I think both of these are sell outs if Nick’s presence is confirmed.  I think fans are very skeptical on these shows at the moment.

Fan Access

Access to the band has been very limited during this album cycle.  There are no longer meet and greets as part of the VIP packages.  John has left social media, and I don’t blame him based on the horrific berating his accounts received.  I wonder if this incident alone has reduced the opportunity for meet and greets, etc.  We rarely get Ask Katy questions on the website, and they don’t seem as interesting as they did during and between previous album cycles.The Move to Warner

I think Duran like the status of being on a big label.  They were on big labels during their heyday.  I have no idea how much Warner plays into the decisions of releases, touring, the band, and management.  I’m sure they wanted access to the back catalog more than anything.  At the time of the press release, John stated “We are also excited that this deal means we will be reunited with our catalogue after years apart – and in that sense it really feels a little like coming home.”

Concert Setlists

This has been debated to death.  I do think the band could put some more effort into this. The current stage production doesn’t allow for a lot of flexibility.  I believe this current setlist was developed with the casual fan in mind.  It was a high energy setlist, set to the backbone of their greatest hits.  I enjoyed every show that I went to, but would have preferred a few changes here and there.  I think the band has settled into this formula to keep the most people happy, again tailored towards the casual fan.

Ask Katy

She certainly has caused a divide within the fan base.  Specifically, some people did not care for her using the “askkaty” moniker on her personal twitter.  It finally got changed and it appears to be 100% personal now.  I believe this should have happened a lot sooner, and I don’t think Simon needed to interject, but again, there is a divide there.

Current Management/Magus Entertainment

I have no problem with the band wanting to bank some buck. Don’t we all?  However, the hard-core fan and collector is not being treated like we deserve, many of those points I highlighted already above.  The current management is on a mission to maximize earning potential, and give the casual fan a great night of entertainment.  The bundling of the Paper Gods CD with the tickets was an artificial attempt to bloat album sales numbers (it actually reentered the charts in the U.S.) and get the album into the hands of the casual fan.  I have an extra ten copies of the standard album, and I’m sure other fans can say the same thing.  This bundling practice also increases the concert tickets as I believe that some document has to be filed/exist for these units to count towards album sales and charts.

What is Nick doing?

Is he working on anything Duran related?  That’s the million dollar question at this point.  Are the other band members upset while they are still out on the road?  We all know Nick loves art, curating, cataloging, organizing, making lists.  Some friends have been wondering if he is working on some anthology type project, something that he probably couldn’t do from the road.  Hmmmm.  Seems very possible to me.  I’m sure he’s doing some work while on break.

SOOOOO, where does this leave us?

I think Paper Gods is the last album.  I think that touring Paper Gods will be completed with the Cancun, and New Year’s shows.  Heck, they may have already turned in the equipment, video screens, etc. to the lighting and video companies and plan on showing up to these shows with basic equipment from local companies.  2018 will mark the 40th anniversary of the start of the band.  I think we will see a large-scale, worldwide greatest hits/farewell tour, and a greatest hits package or anthology type project to commemorate their fabulous career.  After that, who knows?  Whatever, it seems like a great stopping point to me if I were in the band.

I’ll be supporting Duran Duran until I die, whatever happens, I’m in it until the end.  It’s time for me to go back to enjoying Duran Duran for the reason I started listening to them in the first place.  The music.

Cheers y’all, and Duran On!

Jeff and his dog

Jeff Bistline has been a dedicated Duranie since 1984. His passions in life are his Duran Duran collection, college basketball, and his boxer dog, Vivi. He is an accountant and lives in Nebraska.

15 thoughts on “Bow to the Paper Gods: Their Final Encore?”

  1. Thanks for sharing all your thoughts, Jeff. Your insight offers much food for thought. While no one wants the party to end, I have to wonder if your theory on Paper Gods being the last might be true. I think I’ve felt that in my gut as well. And who wants to believe that, really?

  2. Thank you Jeff for your input on Duran Duran, there is so much to consider about the Band’s present and future!!! Only a TRUE/DIE HARD FAN would put that much thought into these Subjects… I appreciate your Love for the Band and what you chose to share with Rhonda and Amanda and all of us Fans. I have been a Fan since their conception with Nick and John expanding their earlier friendship into a “Creative Power House” that we now know as Duran Duran…
    Until and unless they ( the Members of the Band ) announce their Final Swan Song(s), it’s only speculation at this point. We can only hope that there is at least one more Album and Concert Tours in the near future. If they should decide to call it quits, they owe the Fans a definitive Farewell. Besides, if they do this, it will be Major Bank/$$$ too, bringing out New and Old Fans alike. Now that’s the way it should be done from all aspects considered… Thanks again Jeff!!!

  3. Tis interesting, that’s true. Fundamentally the band is reaching an age and point in a long, successful career where what they have left to give, and perhaps just as crucial, WANT to give, is finally reaching a lull.

    And, time does seem to be flying by and it is probably getting harder to do all the different things that they might want to be doing above and beyond touring, writing, recording, etc. Missing Nick is a real twist in all this, very much because of the silence – ‘You kill me with silence’ perhaps??

    In the end, until we have a clear sense of where things stand, and where the band is at then we are left to read the hidden signs, IF they are that. If the band, or even a particular member decides they aren’t all in any more then they might have just caught up to the foreshadowing of things when Andy had to miss time, both the first and second time around.

    I personally hope the band has at least ONE more, new-to-be-written album in them, because the good news is there is ALREADY one still in the vault – REPORTAGE. Perhaps a bit underdone, but one that I am still looking very forward to listening to, someday.

    No matter what happens, I’ll always treasure what they’ve done, and the chance to see the band in Toronto this past July with the whole family – my wife and both our son and daughter, and one of my sisters.

    Perhaps one of the toughest things as a fan is that we probably feel they have at least a few more albums left in them that we all want to hear, But, we, and they can only get so much done in a day, before the setting sun. Same applies to a career as well. And, a very fine one at that.

    So here’s to ‘all they’ve done before, and all they might still yet do’. :))

    1. Hats Off to you Rich and the Band!!! Never Say Die and Never Say Quit!!! Until and Unless there is nothing left to offer in this Life!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Jeff, short and sweet reply-I agree with every guess, speculation and curiosity you wrote about. We are all miffed at the Nick silence. Yet we are trying to be respectful of his privacy.

  5. Jeff I agree with you completely. A great read and very happy for your view. I do hope it’s not the end for the band, I can’t imagine my world without them. Your friend Larry

  6. Food for thought! I was wondering why they included a CD copy of Paper Gods with every ticket sale recently. But am I the only one who dislikes Paper Gods? I rate it as one of their worst albums. 100 ‘guest’ musicians and ‘guest’ co-writers/producers does not guarantee for a better album. I think they need to strip it back to the basics and take it from there. If they have definitely run out of ideas, then take a break or call it quits, but don’t release crap just for the sake of it.

    1. Paper Gods I thought was a wonderful album. It sounds like Old original Duran Duran. I have been a fan since I was 9 and I’m 43. However, I believe Red Carpet was one of their best albums ever.

  7. Dear Jeff

    Many thanks for such a scintillating article. I actually found your article such a compelling read I had to go back to it several times I enjoyed it so much! I have been an avid DD fan since 1982 and followed them religiously through all the times, albums, songs and lineups….taught myself guitar and keyboards so could appreciate the songs even more.

    Like many, we would want this band to go on forever producing new and innovative music we’ve come to expect…..but you make some very interesting points. I completely agree with you on the Nick thing. Also most compelling was your comment on the roadmap leading to 2018 marking 40th anniversary.

    I guess we all watch this space over the next months and years!

  8. I see some valid points, but I also see the flip side. A band re-evaluating there place in music history, whilst still being relevant. The signing to warner means they have come home in a sense, but warner don’t seem to know what to do with the band. There was a great deal of to appearances early on, but very little promotion. I think nick just needed a break. None of the guys are 20 something anymore, and long touring schedules aren’t for the faint of heart. I still think they have at least two more amazing albums in them, and I would love to see warren or andy come in from the cold, or maybe even both of them! That might give the band new inspiration and ideas. This is not the end. I’m positive of that

  9. Love the article, but I am an optimist with this wonderful band! I have hope that that Duran will always play for old and new fans and create new music and memories! I can’t imagine a time without Duran music! I know that there has been bad feelings within the band and management and of course music industry! But surely there is a place for everyone in this industry! I have been a strong fan of this wonderful and amazing band since 1982, and I just simply want others to enjoy this band!

  10. Definitely bring Warren back! With his help, DD wrote some of their best stuff and he is such an awesome guitarist. But the way he was shoved out of the way to bring back Andy, I don’t think he will ever be back.

  11. Hello Jeff.
    To your points I can add: why is Dom selling his gear and guitars, all the stuff he used with DD and on his solo albums? Is he leaving the band and… changing job?
    The final encore? No, I can still see them motivated to carry on, especially Nick, then they have to keep financially feeding their ex-/or otherwise wives!! Kidding, LOL!
    I can remember John replied, jokingly, as I have done now, when years back he was asked if Astronaut was the final encore.
    All support.

  12. Thanks Jeff for such an interesting, thought provoking blog post. I agree with your point on Nick and that the fans do deserve to know whether or not he will be back on stage for the Cancun, DC shows considering what an investment it is to attend. My hunch is that it may be a family matter. Maybe one of his parents are sick and he doesn’t want to be overseas and not close to home for the inevitable. Just something I thought about because it seems weird that they cannot give us an answer to the Nick
    question, so maybe they don’t know. What do you think?
    I also agree with the concert set lists and the band wanting to appeal to the casual Duran fan. I have been a hardcore Duranie since 1983 and love them to bits, but….. I do not want to hear Hungry Like the Wolf or Girls on Film or Rio for that matter at another show. 😮 Sorry, I said it. I just think they have so many more songs that would be incredible to hear live; New Religion and Box Full O’ Honey to name two.

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