Category Archives: albums

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!