We don’t know about anyone else, but it feels as though we’re doing twice as many reviews as normal these days….and we are NOT complaining one little bit!
This week, we are going to dive right into “Do You Believe in Shame”. This was the 19th single from Duran Duran, as well as the third and final single off of the Big Thing album. The song only made it to #30 in the UK, #72 in the US and a whopping #14 in Italy, in spite of the single’s extra-long running time (it runs 4:24 – well beyond the “magic” 3:30 of a typical radio single). As most know, the song was dedicated to three special friends in the Duran Duran “family”: record producer Alex Sadkin, Andy Warhol, and Simon’s childhood friend David Miles. The song also had its share of controversy in a legal challenge due to the melody resembling that of Dale Hawkins’ “Suzie Q”. The writing credits were changed, although Duran Duran has continually insisted they never intentionally copied, instead claiming that the similarity is due to a basic blues progression pattern found in both songs.
There will be no blues progression test at the end, or a determination of copyrights, but let’s jump in and see what the song has to offer!
This is a song that I often forget about until I hear it, and then I wonder why I don’t listen to it more often. There is a strong drum beat to begin with, and you barely notice the other instrumentation (synthesizer, bass, and guitar of course) until after the first chorus, which is a little unusual for a Duran Duran song. I appreciate that particularly in this song, the instruments act as more of a backup for the vocals rather than trying to compete with Simon’s voice….the vocal message being more important than the music here. That said, there is still balance here. The synthesizers are really no more or less prominent than the bass or the guitar, and all are kept at rather subdued levels.
Simon outdoes himself for this song, keeping his voice in the lower portion of his range, and singing with all of the emotion one might expect for a song such as this. The timbre of his voice is gorgeous and full, and reminds me of just how talented he is. As much as I love the rest of the song, the brightness he reaches with a bridge about midway through the song is in direct contrast has an almost hopeful quality, which really gives the song even more dimension. Definitely one of the best and under appreciated Duran ballads, particularly vocally.
There are very few Duran lyrics that swell up the emotion as well as this song for me. It isn’t easy to have people die, and I think that everyone experiences regret about things they should have done or should have said, even under the best of circumstances, and this song conveys those feelings perfectly. Lines like “So why your eyelids are closed, Inside a case of rust, And did you have to change
All your poets fire into frozen dust” convey an eerily familiar feeling for me, an make the ever-present feeling in the pit of my stomach surge back to life. Anyone who has ever lost anyone should be able to find that emotion here in this song.
I think part of the reason I don’t listen to this song more often is because of the intense emotion it conjures up for me. That alone makes it a brilliant piece of work. The music and vocals work together beautifully, and I appreciate that the song is subdued without losing emotionality. This isn’t the type of song you dance to, yet the band has played it live and it’s gone over brilliantly. Do You Believe in Shame is a fine example of the depth that Duran Duran is capable of, something that I feel continues to be completely missed by media. Their loss.
The song’s instrumentation, to me, is such that it is definitely felt rather than heard. It works to create quite a mood of melancholy and does not appear to have significant changes throughout the song. Yes, there is clearly, musically, a chorus but isn’t that much different the music of the verses. The instrumentation clearly has all of the usual Duran instruments present but none is front and center. The instrumentation works in the background. When there are slight changes or additions, particularly keyboards, they work to make the song, the feeling more intense. Truly, the musicality of this song matches the focus of the song. It really feels like grief that is ever present.
I want to love Simon’s vocals here but…I don’t. While I appreciate that Simon also wanted his vocals to represent the grief and match with the instrumentation, I find myself wanting something different each time I listen to it. I have a hard time picking out the words and, while I know that I’m getting ahead of myself here, they are too good to miss. They are too beautiful not to be understood and I always struggle to understand each and every line. I do love the part about 2/3 of the way through when he declares how selfish he is. The power of that section is great and I wish the entire song sounded like that. All this said, I do give him credit for truly sounding like he is grieving in this song. He definitely channeled everything he was feeling with the loss of his friend, David, when he recorded this. I give him a ton of credit for that.
When I think of Duran Duran songs, I struggle to think of ones that we know truly relate to a real life experience of Simon’s. Most of his lyrics tend to be some broad observation of some aspect of society or relationships or they tend to be more poetic. I don’t often think personal when I think Simon’s lyrics. These lyrics are very personal and yet they truly do capture what grief is like. It is a song, lyrically, that everyone can relate to. Everyone has experienced loss and the classic five stages, many of which Simon alluded to here. Yet, like the best of Simon’s lyrics, he describes the emotions he felt in such a poetic beautiful way.
This is one of those songs that touches everyone who hears it. It captures the experience of grief and loss well. The instrumentation makes the listener aware while the lyrics explain the complexity of grief with confusion, angry, sadness as well as the attempt to move on. The only part of the song that doesn’t work as well as it could is the vocals, in the verses, in particularly. The lyrics and the message loses a little bit when the vocals aren’t easily understood. That said, it demonstrates the depth of Duran and the band’s ability to really create a mood with their music.