Category Archives: albums

So like your sonic soul

Is the album format really dead in the US?

I read an article from last week on The Guardian that discusses this very subject, making the point that Katy Perry (an apparently acceptable example of a well-selling pop artist in this country) has the current number one selling album in the country – and two weeks ago, the total number of album sales were 4.49m units, with Katy’s selling less than 300,000 units (out of the 4.49m). That’s depressing…both because Katy Perry’s album is at number one (in my not-humble-opinion), and because it’s sales are not good by industry standards.

The article goes on to make the point that the 10-song “artist-statement” format used since the 1940’s might be nearing the end of it’s line.  I’m really not sure that’s the case at all…nor is a follow-up response to this article found on  Music:)Ally.  To begin with, I think back to sales of Red Carpet Massacre – I don’t have a subscription to RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) so I can’t really track sales, but I know I’ve read that by 2008 it had only sold about 88,000 copies. All You Need is Now didn’t do any better in sales (in fact I believe it sold even less overall).  So when you compare to that of Katy Perry’s 300,000 units in a week, the picture changes significantly.

What are we really comparing though?  If we’re using the 1980’s as the benchmark – I think that’s incredibly inaccurate. The entire world has changed since then. Back in that day, albums were really the only way to access your favorite artist between tours. You had the memories of the gig you attended (if you were lucky enough to be there!) and the albums you bought in between. Throw in some pinups and some shirts, and that was about it.  Nowadays, you’ve got social media, you’ve got YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Myspace, Instagram, Pinterest…and a ton more than I’m not bothering to mention…and of course…I mustn’t forget iTunes and streaming. You can buy a song at a time. You can just subscribe to stream the songs…and frankly there are so many different places to stream that I’ve lost complete track. It seems like every single week someone else is announcing a new streaming website, and I can’t keep up with it all.

Just today I dutifully went onto iTunes because I wanted to purchase Direct Hits by The Killers. It’s a new compilation of a lot of their bigger hits, along with a couple of songs I don’t own. To be honest, it reminds me a little bit of Arena, except it’s not live; or Decade, except it does offer a couple of new tracks. I get to iTunes, hit purchase, and iTunes reminds me that I already own quite a few of the tracks. I know this, but I wanted to buy it just to have the whole thing, as I would if I were buying the physical CD (which I will eventually buy). I’m a pretty big fan of The Killers, and just as I do with Duran Duran – I have multiple copies of multiple formats of their music. However, I started thinking that it’s not like I’m buying the actual CD. I’m just buying the music files; well, the rights to the files anyway. So I started comparing what iTunes thought I had verses what I really do own. I couldn’t decide in some cases if what it was saying I didn’t own was really in fact the case or if it was a completely different version, so ultimately I skipped the purchase altogether. I would bet that this happens a lot, and while it’s a blessing in some cases, because there are certain bands where I only want a song or two and others where I want everything they’ve got in every single possible format, I can’t imagine it really helps sales. After all, if iTunes hadn’t told me that I already own the songs and just let me buy…well…I would be playing the entire album right now. Albums aren’t really “albums” in iTunes or mp3 form. They are a collection of music files in the same folder that you are buying the “rights” to play. So are albums really dead??

Industry folk point their blame at a variety of things, but this week – it’s YouTube, Spotify and other streaming sources. On YouTube, you can hear and see everything for free (as long as you don’t mind advertising) and apparently the issue with Spotify and other streaming websites is that it’s causing a 4% decline in digital downloads.

No one is tracking or is able to track (what year is this again??) – what streaming revenues look like. Doesn’t that matter? The article I read seems to indicate that yes, it matters, and it’s the big variable in this equation. (can you tell I’m teaching Algebra this year?)  I have no idea if the streaming figures will indicate where the market is headed, but I can’t imagine it wouldn’t at least give some clues. Every article I read seems to talk about how everything from standard radio to CD sales to digital downloads are suffering. Yet music is getting out there. It’s getting heard by someone. Seems to me it’s time to stop whining about what isn’t happening and start finding what IS. I just don’t understand why the industry is so incredibly slow to notice, react..and be proactive to the next steps for once.

The ONE thing I’ve learned about the music industry is that without a doubt, everyone goes for the low hanging fruit. No one seems to pay attention to what is going on at the very top of the tree (what is really growing) – they want to pick, or blame, what is easiest to grab, even if it’s the rotting fruit at the base of the tree!  That goes for whether we’re talking about sales, talking about what is going wrong in the industry, or even what artists should be promoted.  Exploit what we can exploit, ignore anything that might take a little more thought.

What does all of this really mean for Duran Duran in 2014? That really is the question, isn’t it? I know that the time will come where I’ll start reading the rumblings: “Management doesn’t get it.”  “They don’t know how to promote.”  “Sales suck.”  “Will the band go on?”  It’s the same statements with each passing album. To be fair, I think the band has some idea of what success really means for them. That’s key. I think the fan base should have a better, much more realistic view of what success means as well. I don’t think it’s any surprise that for the band, touring is huge. It means revenue, and it means connecting with their fans and using that fan energy to their benefit. The new music is a way of the band speaking directly to their fans. It is their art.

The 10 song album format should not be declared dead. That artist statement is very important, and albums are the vehicle for how that proclamation is delivered (regardless of what format – vinyl, CD, mp3, etc – we’re discussing). To call that dead is very much the same as suggesting paintings should be a thing of the past as well. After all, we can certainly create digitally…and yet we’d never consider to tell our great painters and visual artists to stop using the medium with which they choose, would we? The key is finding the space where albums not only exist, but thrive. In order to move forward, we must be clear that this is no longer the 1980s or 1990s. Much has changed, and the same sort of tracking that worked during that time is no longer fully accurate. I would argue that the moment we decided to tear that album apart, by allowing single songs to be purchased on their own, we created the avenue upon which we currently travel.  Yes, it’s a double-edged sword, as is every step forward we take in technology; but now is the time to stop damning what has already been broken and start the rebuild.  Ask the right questions and perhaps the real answers will be revealed.


Favorite Album

In thinking of a fast blog topic, I always go back to countdowns of favorites.  I have done other blog topics like that in the past with favorite songs, favorite live songs, etc.  Thus, I thought it would be easy to do favorite album.  Then, I quickly realized that I couldn’t really choose.  I might shout out All You Need Is Now then quickly change my mind to the first album and back.  What about the worst album?  Do I like Medazzaland less than I like Red Carpet Massacre?  Where do I put Pop Trash?  Obviously, this isn’t a countdown that I could just quickly do.  I had to have some serious thoughts first.  So, how do you rank them?  Should I rate all the songs on each album and see what the total scores were?  Do I just check off the number of songs I love on each album?  Would I get the same results with both methods?  Is there a different way to determine?  I am sure that there probably is.  Nonetheless, I opted for the number of songs I liked method.  It seemed faster than scoring every track.  I gave each song a like, love, okay or dislike.  Like would equal 1 point, 2 for love 0.5 for okay and 0 for dislike.  Besides, we do more specific ratings during our reviews and I often find my rating changes when I really analyze the songs.  I will also divide the number of likes/loves/dislikes/okays by the number of songs since every album has a different number of songs.  Wow.  I’m tired…just trying to think of a method of doing this!  Here is what I came up with:

Duran Duran 1st album:
Girls on Film-Like 
Planet Earth-Love
Is There Anyone Out There-Like
Careless Memories-Love
Is There Something I Should Know-Like
Sound of Thunder-Love
Friends of Mine-Love
Tel Aviv-Love
Total:  Average of 1.5 points per song
My Own Way-Like
Lonely in Your Nightmare-Love
Hungry Like the Wolf-Like
Hold Back the Rain-Love
New Religion-Love
Last Chance on the Stairway-Like
Save a Prayer-Like
The Chauffeur-Like
Total:  Average of 1.3 points per song
Seven and the Ragged Tiger:
The Reflex-Like
New Moon on Monday-Like
(I’m Looking for) Cracks in the Pavement-Okay
I Take the Dice-Okay
Of Crime and Passion-Like
Union of the Snake-Like
Shadows on Your Side-Like
Tiger Tiger-Love
The Seventh Stranger-Like
Total:  Average of 1 points per song
American Science-Dislike
Skin Trade-Dislike
A Matter of Feeling-Like
Hold Me-Okay
So Misled-Dislike
Meet el Presidente-Okay
Winter Marches On-Okay
Total:  Average of 0.65 points per song
Big Thing:
Big Thing-Dislike
I Don’t Want Your Love-Like
All She Wants Is-Like
Too Late Marlene-Okay
Do You Believe in Shame-Like
Interlude One-Dislike
Flute Interlude-Dislike
The Edge of America-Love
Lake Shore Driving-Like
Total:  Average of 0.58 points per song
Violence of Summer-Like
All Along the Waters-Dislike
My Antarctica-Okay
First Impression-Like
Read My Lips-Dislike
Can You Deal With It-Okay
Venice Drowning-Okay
Total:  Average of 0.455 points per song
The Wedding Album:
Too Much Information-Like
Ordinary World-Okay
Love Voodoo-Like
Drowning Man-Dislike
Come Undone-Dislike!!!
Breath After Breath-Like
None of the Above-Like
To Whom It May Concern-Dislike
Sin of the City-Okay
Total:  Average of 0.5 points per song
Big Bang Generation-Like
Electric Barbarella-Dislike
Out of my Mind-Like
Who Do You Think You Are-Dislike
Silva Halo-Okay
Be My Icon-Okay
Buried in the Sand-Dislike
Michael You’ve Got a Lot to Answer For-Okay
Midnight Sun-Like
So Long Suicide-Dislike
Undergoing Treatment-Dislike
Total:  Average of 0.38 points per song
Pop Trash:
Someone Else Not Me-Okay
Lava Lamp-Dislike
Playing with Uranium-Okay
Hallucinating Elvis-Dislike
Starting to Remember-Like
Pop Trash Movie-Like
Mars Meets Venus-Dislike
Lady Xanax-Dislike
The Sun Doesn’t Shine Forever-Like
Kiss Goodbye-Dislike
Last Day on Earth-Like
Total:  Average of 0.417 points per song
Want You More-Like
What Happens Tomorrow-Like
Bedroom Toys-Okay
Taste the Summer-Dislike
Finest Hour-Love
One of Those Days-Okay
Point of No Return-Dislike
Still Breathing-Okay
Total:  Average of 0.708 points per song
Red Carpet Massacre:
The Valley-Like
Red Carpet Massacre-Like
Falling Down-Okay
Box Full o’Honey-Okay
Skin Divers-Dislike
Tricked Out-Like
Zoom In-Dislike!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
She’s Too Much-Okay
Dirty Great Monster-Dislike
Last Man Standing-Okay
Total:  Average of 0.417 points per song
All You Need Is Now:
All You Need Is Now-Love
Blame the Machines-Like
Being Followed-Like
Leave a Light on-Like
Girl Panic-Like
A Diamond in the Mind-Like
The Man Who Stole a Leopard-Love
Other People’s Live-Like
Too Bad You’re So Beautiful-Love
Runway Runaway-Like
Return to Now-Like
Before the Rain-Love
Early Summer Nerves-Okay
Too Close to the Sun-Dislike
Networked Nation-Like
Total:  Average of 1.12 points per song
According to this then, my rankings of Duran albums are as follows:
First album
All You Need Is Now
Seven and the Ragged Tiger
Big Thing
The Wedding Album
Pop Trash and Red Carpet Massacre
I, obviously, didn’t include live albums or Thank You.  I also tried not to think too much and went with my gut instinct.  I also wonder if this method takes into account the time in which it was released.  For example, Red Carpet Massacre will always leave a less than positive taste in my mouth because of the division in the community, no matter what I think of the album, musically.  Likewise, Astronaut always makes me smile because of the reunion.  Does this way take into consideration the overall feeling of the album as the album as a whole can feel differently than the individual songs?  Will this ranking change over time?  I suspect that it would.  After all, each new album brings new music and a new perspective.   Time also changes one’s thinking.  Lastly, does this make me strange because I thought this was fun?  
What about the rest of you?  How would you rank the albums?  How did you determine your rankings?

Guest Blog: Flip it to the B-Side

Recently, Rhonda and Amanda offered the topic of regret as one to guest blog about.  As I pondered that, I actually thought of two regrets that I think are intertwined.  It all begins with a simple question:  How often do you listen to music?  I mean really listen–put on headphones, close your eyes, and take it all in?What has struck me recently is the fact that, as an adult, I never just listen to music.  It’s always in conjunction with other activity.  Music is on in the car, or on the iPod while doing yard work, or at work.  In fact, the only time in the last ten or so years that I can recall just listening to music would be when I’ve been on an airplane.  I can’t count that, though, since when I fly I also try to ward off thoughts of crashing into mountains, engines bursting into flames, etc.  (Yes, I hate flying.)

Thirty years ago the opposite was true:  I was listening to music, and doing nothing else, all the time.  I didn’t get my walkman until 1986 and the first cassette I popped in was Seven and the Ragged Tiger.  I will never forgot how blown away I was by the experience.  And even without the walkman, I had spent hour listening to all of the early Duran cassettes, as well as So Red the Rose, on my boom box.  And then I would make mix tapes and listen to those.  Listening to music was its own activity back then.

I’ve tried to tell myself that there is not that much of a difference between sitting in a dark room with headphones on versus going for a walk while listening to your iPod, but it still isn’t truly the same.  I remember imagining videos for every song on So Red the Rose back in 1985; today, I can easily go for a walk or mow the lawn and completely lose track of the playlist and wonder how I missed certain songs that had played.

And thus does my first regret spawn a second one:  Not only do I miss the days of listening to music for listening’s sake, I miss the distinctive sides that you’d find on a record or cassette.  One of the elements of those childhood and teenage listening sessions was appreciating and analyzing how different each side of the cassette was.  It was a different experience listening to the B side of those early Duran albums.  You could generally expect to find more of the radio friendly songs on side A, while side B tended toward the slower and darker material (R.E.M. took this to another level when they used to actually name their sides, e.g. “Memory Side” and “Time Side”).

I realize that it’s the songs, and not the format, that make side A differ from side B.  And certainly, in the Duran catalogue, the difference is more pronounced on some albums than others (more on that in a second).  But there’s nothing like that unmistakable hiss you would hear just as the cassette was about to run out.  And that longer delay because you either had to flip it or hit the “reverse” button if you were lucky enough to have a walkman that could do that.  It felt like an intermission…like the band had just rocked out to Hold Back the Rain and were taking a break, and after a moment, were returning as the first haunting notes of New Religion began to play.

The first song on the B side was always a big deal to me.  It set the tone for the second half of the album; it also served as an interesting comparison to the album’s opening track.  NIght Boat might be the greatest opening track for a B side in the entire catalogue–until New Religion!  Of course, even though it’s not officially Duran Duran, Arcadia’s The Promise is another heavyweight track that would seem out of place in any other position on the album.  An exception to this would be Seven and the Ragged Tiger–I think the way side B ends, with Tiger Tiger and The Seventh Stranger, is more distinctive and memorable than how it begins, with Union of the Snake.

The last Duran album I bought on cassette was Big Thing, which is the poster child for albums with disparate sides (even down to the producers–one for each side!).  Astronaut, while not completely mirroring the slower tempo and darkness of Big Thing’s B side, probably comes closest of all subsequent Duran albums to offering such a stark contrast between sides.  And yet therein lies the problem, for Astronaut is a CD and there are no “sides.”  I would assume that Astronaut’s “A” side ends with Nice (track 6)…but that would place “Taste the Summer” as the B side opener.  I think Finest Hour is much more appropriate as a “B” side opening track..but without the cassette, who can say for sure?  I can’t speak to any aspect of sides or themes when considering The Wedding Album, Thank You or RCM, which seem to all go on and on for one continuous side.  Pop Trash Movie serves as a natural breaking point on Pop Trash, and the sequence of slow song/fast song/slow song that pervades most of the running order is distinctive.  Notorious’s two sides represent perfect symmetry:  both sides’ lead tracks echo Hitchcock movies; both penultimate tracks are slow; and both final tracks rock the house.  Medazzaland actually does have a natural break in the middle with Silva Halo, and the B side gets darker and more experimental (and more awesome…if that’s possible–from the first side.  Sorry–I will try to contain my love for that album…!)  Likewise, Liberty breaks evenly with its only slow song, My Antarctica, and gets more of an edge on its second side (with a very underrated and solid “Downtown” closing out the proceedings).

Which bring us to All You Need Is Now.  I tend to think of it as Duran’s first three sided album.  Side one ends with Girl Panic; side two ends with Runway Runaway, and side three consists of Before the Rain, Networker Nation, Early Summer Nerves, and Too Close to the Sun.  I’m sure a lot of this is due to the nature of the album’s release (first on iTunes, then the full physical release, then the subsequent “special editions” with more tracks” etc.)  It also has to do with how I listened to it–although Before the Rain was part of the iTunes 9 release, I tended to keep replaying Runway Runaway and not really getting BTR until I had the physical version of the CD with other material.

I’m curious what you think–do you find the time to just listen to music?  Or is it next to impossible to do so when you’re juggling jobs, families, and other obligations?  And when you think about the different sides of Duran Duran albums, what stands out for you?

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

Beautiful Packaging

Mondays are not my favorite, and this particular Monday is no exception. Four places to be at the same time…one of me…it’s not a happy combination. My apologies on the lateness of the blog, especially to those of you in the rest of the world (meaning NOT the US) because I think I’ve pretty much missed the deadline of getting it to you on Monday if you’re waiting for it by email. These things happen, and to some of us more often than others, I suppose.

Last Friday brought a good surprise to my front door, and that was the delivery of my gatefold vinyl of the TV Mania album. I ordered the album with very little in the way of expectations – I just knew that I wanted something besides an mp3 of their effort, and while I would have loved the boxed limited edition, I felt that I needed to be more conscious of my household budget. (You can also read that as “If I would have made such a purchase, my husband would have had a fit.”  It’s true.) So I chose the regular vinyl.

With that in mind, when I opened the package – I was pleasantly surprised. To begin with, and this is just a silly thing I suppose – I LOVE the finish on the album cover. It’s a soft matte finish as opposed to a slick and shiny cardboard.  It’s just unique that way, and I like it. The cover is of course exactly what they have shown us on Twitter – and upon closer examination I discovered that Sassy is perched up on one of my dining room chairs, or at least a copy thereof, along with all of the items I would find strewn in my oldest daughter’s bedroom on any given day. Scissors, fabric, a pen cup…thread… and it’s a complete mess.  Vaguely familiar, I’d say.

The inside photo of the gatefold is an older one of Nick and Warren – definitely from the same period that the album was originally conceived. What is interesting to me about this is not the strange mask of beads that Nick seems to be wearing, or the hat that Warren has on his head, but the fact that it is a reminder that this album has been sitting in a drawer somewhere since the mid-90’s. Without that visual reminder, I am not sure I would have ever remembered.

The records contained are in fact the full album on two 12″ records, and then a 7″ remix of Beautiful clothes that I wasn’t expecting. I love surprises like that.  Another lovely surprise was that my album arrived with a plastic protector – I am OCD about that with my albums, they all have plastic protectors, so I was thrilled that this one came that way straight from the store. Thank you, Vinyl Factory.

Lastly, and most importantly for my purposes here, the album comes with a large 12″ booklet that I find positively exquisite. To begin with, Nick painstakingly outlines the story.  From an explanation of the family as Test Group 101 through to the explanation of the wayward son who never leaves his bedroom and video game world, there are certainly parts of this family that I believe can be found in nearly any family, including my own. From there, a bio of each character can be found on the opposing page. That leads into eight pages of photography, and upon examination, it would appear to me that the photographs are grouped by character  designated for Ray, Cathy, Sassy and Snoop.

The photos themselves are images we might have seen before on Twitter (if you followed @TV ManiaMusic). I especially love the plastic covered rotary telephone – there was one similar in my house back in the 70s. I also like the Second Life avatar of Snoop…and the demonic image on the very last page – it’s so pixelated up close, yet when you stand back it’s  much clearer. I can’t help but chuckle, because isn’t that the way life is anyway? Sometimes the most obvious answers can’t be seen until you back away from the problem at hand a bit.

I have said it before and I’ll say it again – I think the work is genius, and there is something to be gained here for DD’s future use. This is a project where the sum of all the parts add up to something much greater than each individual mechanism. I know many DD fans don’t like the music, they don’t understand the visual aspects of the art, and they can’t imagine why Nick and Warren would have bothered with a storyline. My advice to those people is to take a giant step back, and rather than looking at each individual element, try to see it all as a whole.  Try playing the music as you read the storyline and character biographies and looking at the pictures. Yes, the music is experimental and sure – it’s delightfully weird at times. So what? It’s not meant to be a pop album. I think the real tragedy would be if Nick and Warren were trying to tell us it was pop – THEN I would have something to complain about – but this isn’t the case at all. It’s art and as such it is meant to cause a reaction.  As my dear friend Amanda reminded me last week – some of the best art is never understood or appreciated.

What I find most interesting is that if you think about all of it – storyline, imagery, music, etc – in a lot of ways this project is a bit of a mirror held up in front of ourselves.  As I said, I can see definite parallels between this family and my own. I have a son who is FAR more comfortable in front of his computer than he is with real people, and yes – he loves video games. I have a daughter who wants to get into the entertainment industry (although at the moment she isn’t sure if that place is in front of the camera, on the stage, or behind the camera and behind the scenes)…and my husband? Well, he’s far more conservative than I am, rest assured. Me? I’m on the computer, although my obsessive behavior has a little more to do with writing and getting a certain blog done…and aside from a glass of red wine or a good vodka tonic every now and then, there are no drugs here. I’m too much of a control freak, can’t you tell?

And lastly….just what IS it with those barcodes?? Anyone?  I wish I had a barcode reader…they all seem different, so what do they say?


‘Cuz it makes you feel so nice…

I’ve got my own “question of the day” for you Duran fans out there. Are there songs that you love, but only when the band plays them live? I think you all know what I mean, but in case you’re sitting there scratching your head…are there songs that you’ll make the effort to skip when listening to a CD or your mp3 player in the car (or even on your computer), but when the band plays them live, you stand there screaming your lungs out, wondering all the while why they didn’t just record it that way to begin with?

I do. In fact, there are quite a bit of those for me. Sometimes I even wonder if I should be embarrassed about that, until the next time I see the band live – then I’m suddenly OK with it all again. So I’ll tell you what, I’ll share a few of mine, and if you feel like it – you can share a few of yours.

White Lines – I was never a fan of this remake. In fact, I will openly tell anyone who asks, and even those of you who aren’t, that when I first heard Thank You, I wondered why someone didn’t explain to Simon that he is not, nor should he ever pretend to be Grandmaster Flash. Back in high school, I adored the original, so even I was taken back when Duran Duran decided to do this cover and felt it would be an extremely tall order. I wasn’t impressed with the song on the album, and even to this day, I skip the album version at nearly every opportunity. It is just too homogenized for my taste, to be honest. The guitar isn’t nearly gritty enough, and while good old Grandmaster Flash himself helps out, it still doesn’t work for me. However, in 2003 the band did something that made me stop and reconsider this song.  They had Andy play the guitar. A simple thing really, and I found myself rocking out in the best way imaginable. Then I heard it again, and again, and then noticed I was hoping they’d put it on the set list! Of course, we all know that it is now Dom Brown playing the guitar, and my ears still love what I hear. I love that raw, gritty guitar and it has become one of my most favorite songs. Live.

Sunrise -The funny thing about this particular song though is that I heard the live version first…well before I heard any remixes or the version on Astronaut, and that live version – I loved. Unlike my friend C.K, I actually liked the “Tra la la la” beginning that was done in 2003. I just felt it added some fantastic texture to the song. Sort of like adding silk to burlap…or vice-versa if you prefer. (Ok, so maybe not quite that drastic but you get my point.)  I think that when I first heard the version that is included on the Queer Eye soundtrack, I liked it. I wouldn’t say it was a favorite by any means, but I didn’t run to skip it the way I do some others. I did always feel (and still do) that the song, in any of the recorded versions I’ve heard, is way overproduced and hurts the quality of the song. They took a technicolor song and made it plain vanilla, in my opinion. Of course, the live version has evolved over time into this sort of hybrid between the remix and the album version, with much more of a raw feel – that yes, I love. The song is uplifting, fun and it rocks live.

Wild Boys – And here is where I start feeling insecure…  Did you know that when Wild Boys first came out, I didn’t really like it? It’s true. I’m not even sure that I can put my finger on why that was, but it was not a favorite. I would genuinely SKIP the song, and back in those days, it required more labor than just clicking an arrow!  Keeping in mind that I didn’t actually hear Wild Boys live until MUCH later in my life – I’d grown steadily more irritated with that song over the years until the reunion. The fact is, they just do more with this song live than they could ever record on an album. For one thing, there’s this energy that permeates from the band when they are really feeling it – and yes, I’ve seen some rather lackluster performances of Wild Boys in my time; but more often than not, the band brings it, and I soak it up. I just don’t know if there’s a way to ignore the power of this song live, at least not for me. Do I still skip the album version when I hear it? Yep.

One more for the road…then it’s your turn.

Tiger Tiger – It’s not always the guitar that does it for me, and this song is proof. I’ll admit it, when I was what – 13 years old, I would skip this song on SATRT. I did it, and I accept whatever punishment comes my way. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the tune or that there was something horribly wrong, it’s that I was a kid, Simon wasn’t singing, and I saw no point.  (Wow, that feels even worse to admit when it’s in print and I’m reading it….) Sure, sure, I got goosebumps during the opening scenes of Sing Blue Silver. What I’m not saying though is that I didn’t really get those goosebumps until about 2004 when I would watch the DVD.  Before that, the song really didn’t have much meaning for me. I didn’t GO to any shows during that tour, and while I would watch SBS with this melancholy, bittersweet sort of feeling about the whole thing, the song didn’t really connect well. Along came 2004 when I got very involved in the fan community, planned a convention, watched the DVD’s with a sort of reverence that I can’t quite describe…and hoped against hope that they would play Tiger Tiger live when they toured for Astronaut. My hopes were not dashed, and in Chicago of 2005, I heard the song live and cried like a baby. The song has obviously come to mean a bit more for me now than in 1984, and I adore hearing it live…although I will say that I much prefer the way it was played in 2005 than I did this last tour. I can’t quite put my finger on the difference but I think Andy Hamilton has quite a bit to do with the success.

I’m sure that for me, part of the energy that I feel from these songs that seems to be lacking on their respective albums is due to being right there in front of them, watching them perform.  I’d be crazy not to admit that, but the truth is that it’s not just being there. For that matter, there are plenty of songs that they play live that I honestly think sounded better on the album! (Another blog, another day) There are even other songs that no matter how they play them, live…on the album…standing on their heads in my living room…they’re not going to move me. I can’t imagine I’m completely alone here. So what about you?  Any songs you’ve never loved off the album(s) but really get into live? Don’t leave me hanging – share away!


Album Favorites!

As I am sure many/most/all of you know, we do a “daily” question on our facebook and on twitter.  The question is usually a this or that type question.  For quite awhile now, we have been doing a poll of sorts about songs on the albums.  Thus, we simply ask, “This song or that?”  In reality, this has been a bracket of sorts with losing songs being eliminated until we get the favorite song per album.  Because Duran has such a large catalog and so many songs, this process of going through each and every album has taken quite a while.  Yet, finally, today we have the results, of our friends/followers collective album favorites.  We will present them here with clips for everyone to enjoy!

Duran Duran (self-titled) winner:  Careless Memories

Clip is from the Chichester Festival in 1981 (November 30, 1981)

Rio winner:  New Religion

Clip is from Hammersmith ’82 (November 16, 1982)

Seven and the Ragged Tiger winner:  The Seventh Stranger

Clip is from As the Lights Go Down (Spring 1984)

Non-album tracks winner:  Wild Boys

Clip is from the Montreux Pop Festival (May 10, 1985)
Notorious winner:  Vertigo

Clip is from Working for the Skin Trade (1987-1988)

Big Thing winner:  Do You Believe in Shame?

Clip is from Seoul, South Korea (February 11, 1989)

Liberty winner:  Serious 

Clip is from Italian TV (1990)

Wedding Album winner:  Come Undone

Clip is from MTV’s Unplugged (November 17, 1993)

Thank You winner:  White Lines

Clip is from a live broadcast (1995)

Medazzaland winner:  Out of my Mind

Clip is from Greatest:  Live at Wembly 1998 (December 21, 1998)

Pop Trash winner:  Someone Else Not Me

Clip is from Italy (2000)

Astronaut winner:  Sunrise

Clip is from Live from London (Wembly Arena Spring 2004)

Red Carpet Massacre winner:  The Valley

Clip is from Songbook (January 28, 2009)

All You Need is Now winner:  The Man Who Stole a Leopard

Clip from A Diamond in the Mind (December 16, 2011)

On that note, I did want to acknowledge the runner ups.  They are in order from the first album to the most recent album:  Sound of Thunder, The Chauffeur, Of Crime and Passion, A View to a Kill, Winter Marches On, I Don’t Want Your Love, First Impression, Ordinary World, Thank You, Midnight Sun, Last Day on Earth, Chains, She’s Too Much and Too Bad You’re So Beautiful.  Now, many of you might be wondering what we will be doing next.  First, I plan to have the winners battle each other so that we know the order of album favorites.  After that, I will be asking about b-sides.  Perhaps, I will look into demos.  Then, of course, we have a ton of songs left with the various side and solo projects (Power Station, Arcadia, Neurotic Outsides, The Devils, Andy Taylor, John Taylor, and Simon LeBon).  As always, I have enjoyed seeing which songs people prefer and look forward to the ones to come!


What Makes Duran?!

This past week as part of the Would You Rather daily game I asked people which era they would like to return to and why.  I avoided giving too many parameters in order to allow people to pick one era over the other for whatever reason(s).  In fact, I would be curious to see those reasons when given.  Some obviously picked an era for what was taking place in their own personal lives.  Others chose era that meant something to them as fans.  Still others picked due to the music.  I was expecting these types of reasons.  Yesterday’s question had to do with Medazzaland and Pop Trash.  This was a similar question to one posed earlier about which album people preferred and they had the same choices.  In both situations, I ran across a similar answer that went something like this:  “I don’t know.  I don’t have those albums or I haven’t heard those albums.”  So, what’s the deal with the Medazzaland and Pop Trash eras that warrant this response? 

On one hand, these responses make sense.  Neither Medazzaland nor Pop Trash were very popular eras for the band.  In fact, these albums weren’t released in as many countries and the number of copies were quite small.  Duranland was not a very popular place then.  On top of the lack of sales, small production numbers, and loss of general popularity, many of us were at busy points in our lives.  Most of the original Duranies are now mid-30s to mid-40s.  The late 90s were a time that many of us were busy starting careers, starting families or both.  Personally, I was graduating college, starting my career and beginning graduate school.  I didn’t have the time or the money to follow any fandom.  Thus, there are many reasons why people weren’t paying attention to Duran from 1997-2001.  We were busy and they weren’t very popular.  Yet, like many people, I went back and got those albums after the fact.  Many people obviously have not.  Why not?  Even if they couldn’t buy them in stores, in this day and age, most songs are readily available to purchase through online providers like iTunes or are readily available to listen to on sites like youtube.  So, if the music is available, why is there still a percentage of fans who don’t seek out the music from that era?

From 1997-2001, Duran Duran was at a strange point in their careers.  1997 saw the last of the three Taylors leave when John left the band early that year.  This left Simon, Nick and Warren.  In terms of writing, from everything I have heard and read, Simon wasn’t doing super well with writing lyrics and many songs were written by only Nick and Warren.  I have also heard and seen interviews in which Simon talks about how badly he missed John and how he felt like the life of the band was fading away.  Is this what the fans saw?  Is this what the fans felt?  Could they feel this shift in writing?  Could they feel Simon’s unhappiness?  Or was it something personal?  Did the band no longer look and feel like Duran Duran? 

It seems to me that there have been many discussions within Duranland about whether or not Duran Duran could continue without one of the band members.  In this past year, many fans have come to the conclusion that Duran wouldn’t be Duran without Simon since he is the voice of the band.  This, of course, was reinforced by the band’s forced cancellation of shows when Simon injured his vocal cords.  The shows could not and did not continue without Simon.  Then, of course, the band was forced to cancel dates in 2008 when Nick was stuck somewhere in Latin America trying to recover from an ear infection.  Even 2005 saw the cancellation of some dates when Roger broke his foot.  Does that indicate that those members are essential?  I don’t know.  The band managed to continue for quite some time with Roger and, even, John.  On the other side of the coin, they did put Dom in whenever Andy was unavailable.  It seems to me that the fanbase never questions if the Notorious era was Duran Duran.  There is also little question about whether or not the Wedding Album was Duran Duran.  While people might say that Medazzaland and Pop Trash were Duran, actions say otherwise.  Was the loss of John Taylor too much?  Did that tip the balance over to it no longer being and feeling like Duran?  Was John then more essential than Roger or Andy?  Is Roger now essential?  Maybe.  I don’t know.  It just seems to me that many people did not feel like it was real Duran Duran during 1997-2001.  The reason could be that the band wasn’t the band without John Taylor.  He could be the big factor.  The other factor could be that writing piece.

Do Medazzaland and Pop Trash sound and feel like Duran Duran?  Obviously, every fan is going to have a different answer to that.  Some might say that they do.  Others might say that they don’t, at all.  Some might say that some songs do and some don’t.  No matter the answer, I think most of us can acknowledge that things were different now that the writing was frequently done with just Nick and Warren.  I know that I really liked the tug of war that seemed to take place between Nick, on one side, and Andy, on the other.  This musical tension often resulted in really amazing music.  This musical tension wasn’t the same after the Fab 5 split in the 1980s yet there were many great songs that came out from 1986-1997.    Yet, to many fans, Medazzaland is still very different from the Wedding Album.  Did John help to create some of that musical tension?  I don’t know.  It just seems to many fans that something was lost, musically, when John left. 

So, let’s take an informal survey.  Did you get Medazzaland and Pop Trash when they came out?  Why or why not?  Did you get them or hear them years later?  Why or why not?  Did these albums sound and feel like Duran to you?  Maybe after getting feedback from all of you I would know what the deal is with those two albums and I would know what really is needed to make Duran Duran…Duran Duran.


The Quality of an Album

This week’s interactions with fans really inspired me.  More specifically, the responses to our “Would you rather” game got me thinking.  One of those thoughts is what I blogged about yesterday.  Today’s thought is somewhat related.  Many of our questions this week had to do with people’s preferences between albums.  What was interesting to me was not their answers, specifically, but what they used as their reasons.  Some of the reasons I saw for liking or not liking an album were the individual songs, the tour or the performance on tour, when they became fans and personal connections to the album.

I was not surprised when a majority of people commented about individual songs when answering which album they preferred.  In some cases, people said things like “I like 5 songs on that album” and “only 2 on the other”, which lead them to choose the former.  Okay.  That makes sense.  It should then be easy to identify which album you like in comparison to the other or even to put the albums in order of preference.  Other people commented about specific songs.  Perhaps, one’s favorite song is What Happens Tomorrow.  That person might have chosen Astronaut over Red Carpet Massacre.  In this case, it wasn’t about the number of songs but about the quality of specific songs.  This type of judging could make it much more challenging to determine a preference as it isn’t done necessarily mathematically.  Perhaps, some people just judge the album’s overall feel without thinking about individual songs.  For example, I’m not a fan of RCM, the album, but could name some decent tunes on it.  Yet, the feeling I have towards that album isn’t good.  Nonetheless, this focus on the songs on the albums or the music was what I had expected.  The rest of the reasons were not expected.

Some people mentioned specific tours or specific performances connected to an album.  These connections could be personal like “the tour that followed album x was the first time I toured well” or “that was the first time I saw them live” or “that was the best tour of my life” for whatever reason.  For those fans, their touring experiences absolutely affected their opinions of the albums connected to those experiences.  Interestingly enough, I also saw the opposite.  Some commented about how they cannot listen to an album without thinking of the band’s poor performance on tour x.  Of course, this is also logical.  If the songs were not performed live well, then fans are not going to be attracted to them.  The opposite could be true as well.  What this proved to me is that tours matter.  It matters how well Duran plays their shows.  They have to work really hard to perform at their best as any performance could hook fans or convince fans that the album isn’t any good.  On a personal level, I can understand this.  After the fan show in 2007, I was biased against RCM.  The band didn’t seem excited by the new album based on their body language and when they played Nite Runner, it was extremely awkward.  Simon, for example, had no idea what to do with his body during that song. 

Then, of course, people can have personal connections for or against an album.  I’m sure that one’s first Duran album might always rank high in that person’s world.  After all, it was that album or the songs on the album that made them fans to begin with.  Maybe the time that they reached out to other fans to become part of the fan community might also be one that is more meaningful.  Thus, the album, at that time, would be more important to them.  Of course, there might be other personal reasons for liking an album.  Perhaps, the fan was going through a hard time when album x came out.  It is possible that this album would always remind the fan of that time or, on the other hand, it could be that the album helped the person get through the trouble. 

All of these different reasons for liking or not liking a album reminds me that it has got to be so challenging for the band to actually write and release new albums.  They have to compete with their old catalog and they have to fight against whatever outside forces are out there for their fans and for the general public.  That said, they still have some control over a couple of elements.  First, they can write quality music that can and does stand the test of time.  For example, most fans still love the first album and Rio.  Then, they must tour the albums well.  They have to make sure that they don’t turn people off by a poor performance.  Instead, they can convince others to check out their latest album by performing their hearts out.  This discussion also reminds me that so many little details go into the making and sustaining of a fandom.  Each fan is different and likes the music for a variety of reasons.  That said, the fact that there was discussion about one’s preferred album shows that the fandom is healthy as there is still much to talk about!