Category Archives: history

Anger Here Is All You Possess

The title is a lyric from the song, The Edge of America.  I adore this song.  Simply adore it.  I have for a long time but did not love it when I first heard the album, Big Thing.  I believe that I started to love it when I made an emotional connection to it.  This emotional connection was a simple one.  I felt like the song spoke of my students.  Let me give you some background here.  As you all probably know, I have been a teacher for the past 16 years.  16.  Like many teachers out there, I went into the profession to make a difference.  Sounds simple, but it was anything but.  I planned to be a Social Studies teacher (History/Political Science/Sociology) but that didn’t happen.  Instead, I found myself being a special education teacher through a long term substitute teaching job.  I discovered that special education was not quite what I thought it was.  It was broader than the images I had in my mind and much more intense.  Yet, at the time, it made perfect sense, especially for the school I worked at.  You see, my students, for the most part, struggled, behaviorally and emotionally.  Academics were the very last focus for many of them as the majority of them struggled with the harsh realities of life.  Many of these realities were ones that I was lucky to have never had to deal with.  My students dealt with every social issue, imaginable, from poverty to racism to abuse to mental illness to drug addiction and more.  Yet, they were just kids, trying to make their way in a world in that seemed harsh and unjust.  Many of these students of mine seemed to fit many of the lyrics to this song.  They lived in the city (“concrete beach”).    They didn’t have anything to lose (“there’s nothing left to lose”).  Anger certainly was often the most prominent emotion (“Learn to love your anger now, anger here is all you possess.”)  It wasn’t easy to teach these kiddos, but, for a long time, I felt supported in my work.  I felt rewarded for my work from the kids themselves, from their families, from my school, and from the public.  I felt successful.  Unfortunately, this feeling of support has not been there for awhile.  
Where did the support go?  This is a complex answer and one that isn’t part of the scope of this blog.  Let’s just say–all areas of support have decreased.  Some areas have been not just unsupportive but harmful.  Last year, I interviewed at other schools with the hope that switching to a new building with a fresh set of staff and administration as well as a different population of students would re-ignite my desire to teach, my desire to make a difference in this way.  Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that I now know that the song at the center of this blog isn’t necessarily about my students (current or former) but instead is more about me and where I’m at.  I’m at the edge of America.  I’m part of an educational system that is undergoing dramatic changes.  Even worse, I’m part of an educational system that exists in a state in which teachers and teaching have been undermined at best and openly attacked at worse by the people in power, at least from my perspective.  
“This is where it ends.  There’s nothing left to lose.  Nothing to protest.”  This is exactly where I’m at with my profession, my career.  There is plenty that I should be protesting but I can’t.  This is the end of the road for me as an educator, as a teacher.  I decided I was going to be a teacher at 16 and now, at 38, I’m ready to walk away.  I gave it my all for a very long time.  I fought.  I protested.  “Paradise is lost.  Recognition never realized.  Salvation lost among the crowd.”  Like Duran asks, I do wonder, “Where is your nation now?”  While I ask that question, I am walking over the edge to whatever comes next, whatever my next career will be.  As I ponder the unknown of my future and listen to this song, I can’t help but to think about how John Taylor must have felt in 1997 when he walked from Duran.  Did he feel like I feel?  I have many mixed emotions.  While I’m ready to go and really have been for a few years, part of me is filled with sorrow.  This big part of who I have been will no more.  Did he feel that way, even when he thought he was making the best choice for himself?  Another part of me is just scared.  I don’t know what the future will bring.  
I know that I will need to be focused on getting a new job.  While I don’t want to decrease everything that Rhonda and I do, I have to be realistic, too.  This blog isn’t making us any money.  Our book could but that isn’t out yet.  The convention is just an event put on by fans for fans.  I may have to pull away from this–I don’t want to.  (Unless, someone, somewhere wants to pay us!  I would gladly accept that job!!)  Yet, my main goal must be finding a job and, eventually, my next career.  For now, I’m looking at political/non-profit organizations.  Wish me luck.  I’m going to need it.  Maybe then, with a new career, a new me, I can walk away from the edge.  
-A

From Past to Present to Future…

This past week, I have seen an incredible numbers of posts, tweets, comments and more regarding the 20th anniversary of the release of the Wedding Album.  Today, the posts and tweets increased as 20 years ago today the album was released.  There have been articles written and a blog written and posted on dd.com as the members of the band and those working with the band reflect on the album and its significance.  All of this made me think about what the album meant for me and what anniversaries mean for the band and its fans.

When I read the blog that was posted on dd.com, which you can find here, I couldn’t help but to realize that most of the reflections were very personal.  John talked about how his daughter was born during the making of the album.  Nick Egan talked about his thinking through the video shoot for Ordinary World.  Comments from Simon included how he listened to the album as a whole for the first time.  Of course, at the same time, everyone agreed that it was a special album that meant a lot to the band and their career.  I don’t think there is any Duranie out there who could argue against that.  We all know that Duran had lost a lot of the spotlight they had in the early 80s.  Albums like Big Thing and Liberty didn’t get them attention, strong album sales or hit songs.  The Wedding Album, on the other hand, did get them all three.  For the first time in years, the band was back on the charts and back in the spotlight.  It renewed their confidence and belief in their ability to write great, meaningful music.  One could wonder what would have happened to Duran had they not had this.  Would they have called it quits?  We will never know.  Nonetheless, we all can appreciate what the album did do for the band.  Of course, it also affected the fans.

Based on a lot of the posts I have seen from fans, they are much like the band and their colleagues in the blog post on dd.com in that they are all related the album to themselves and their fandom.  For many fans, this album was the one that brought them into the fandom.  For those fans, there is no album that means more.  I get that.  I look back at Seven and the Ragged Tiger in fondest for the same reason.  For other fans, they liked the band before but this one really made them a Duranie for life.  Again, this album means a ton to them.  Some fans just love the songs so much.  Whatever the story is, the anniversary makes them think about what the songs and album means to them.  I’m no different.  In hearing that it was the album’s anniversary, I immediately thought about what it meant for me.  My story is simple.  It was the first time I saw the band play live.  That said, my friend had to ask me to go.  Duran wasn’t as much a central part as it is nowadays.  I was more focused on graduating high school and getting ready to go to college.  I went to the concert with 3 friends and had a good time.  That said, as I am sure you all know by now, I didn’t leave the show having my inner Duranie awakened in a big way.  Nope.  I told my friend, “That was a good show but something seemed wrong.  Not sure what it was but it didn’t feel right.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the band isn’t around much longer.  Maybe it’s time.”  I  know, I know.  Blasphemy.  Maybe I shouldn’t mention that in this blog post but it is true.  That is what I said.  Now, that didn’t stop me from listening to the album.  None of the songs really grabbed me then.  Later, I saw the beauty that Ordinary World was once I was able to relate to the meaning of the song.  Now, as we all know, the songs that are most often played from this album (Ordinary World and Come Undone) are not my favorites and that is an understatement, of course, when it comes to Come Undone.  I much prefer Too Much Information and Breath After Breath, which I think are too often overlooked.  No, this album isn’t my favorite but it is important in my history as a Duranie and important in the history of the band.  I can’t and shouldn’t ignore that.

Despite my experiences, I can appreciate the album and definitely celebrate the anniversary.  I think it is important to look back at events and their significance.  Maybe, this is the historian in me.  Perhaps, it is that all of my history and social science classes have taught me that what happens in the past can and really does matter for the present.  Does this album matter for Duran and their fans?  Absolutely.  Duran and its fanbase are where they are because of it.  It was a big part of their story and their success as a band.  If one is to appreciate the present state of Duran, one must acknowledge anniversaries like this.  Thus, I’m thrilled to see everyone’s posts and tweets about it.  I love hearing about what the album meant to different people.  Likewise, I love that the band and their colleagues took the time to look back, to reflect, to celebrate this huge chapter in their careers.  This reflection, this remembrance will, I’m sure, weigh in their minds as they begin to think about the next chapter.

It is interesting to me that on this anniversary I have noticed a few tweets from certain people like Simon, Dom, and Simon W (sax player).  These tweets have made reference to being in Zurich.  Now, of course, they could all be in different parts of Zurich.  Maybe they aren’t with each other.  That’s very possible, right?  Sure.  It has also been pointed out to me that TV Mania has gone quiet.  Huh.  Of course, this has led people to wonder if there is something going on and what it could mean.  Now while I do appreciate the focus on the past, I won’t lie.  The thought that the band or some of the band might be together excites me more.  What I appreciate the most about the past is that it has led the band to NOW, the present.  What excites me, what brings a smile to my face, what increases the bounce in my step is the FUTURE.  I cannot wait to see what the band in its current form can come up with.  Then, maybe in 21 or 22 years from now, we can rejoice in this upcoming album’s anniversary.

-A  

Live Aid Revisited

Every morning, I post the “Today in Duran Duran History” fact for the day.  This morning, this fact discussed the Live Aid event from 1985.  Obviously, this was a significant event in Duran Duran history.  In fact, if we were to write a history book on the band, that day, that event would be considered a massive turning point.  I would compare it to shots being fired, beginning a war.  Tensions had been building and now action had finally been taken.  Much like events in history, the true effect of the event wouldn’t be known for months or even years.  No one knew that day that it would be the final performance of the classic line-up until the Fab 5 reunited about a decade ago.  It would be almost 20 years before they would get back on stage together.  No, most people acknowledged the terribly missed note during A View to a Kill but no one knew that it was the end (for a long time).  Interestingly enough, most people commenting today on this fact aren’t bringing up the significance for Duran Duran.  No, they are talking about where they were on that day.  I’m no different.  I, immediately, thought about my life at that time.

If I go back in time to 1985, I was 10 years old but, like many of us, was a huge Duranie!  My best friend, at the time, and I watched Duran videos all the time and squeed over pictures of John Taylor in magazines like Bop and Tiger Beat.  I was, generally, a happy kid at that time.  Yet, there was a huge black cloud on the horizon.  My family was in the process of moving.  We didn’t move that far–about an hour away from where we were but it was like moving from one world to a totally different world.  When I became a Duranie, I was living in the Chicago suburbs.  I had access to Top 40 radio that played Duran all the time despite constantly making fun of them and I had access to MTV.  While Duran wasn’t super popular in my elementary school (Michael Jackson was king in my neighborhood!), there were enough Duranies around that I felt safe.  That all changed when I moved to a small town.  More to the point, this place didn’t have Top 40 radio and didn’t have MTV.  I felt like I had gone back in time!

On July 13, 1985, my family, including myself, was doing what we always did on weekends that summer, which was to drive to the new house to take boxes and other items that needed to be moved.  My dad was already living there as he was working in the area so he needed supplies.  Plus, it would make the big move easier, or so went the theory.  I so protested this trip.  I, obviously, wanted to be watching Live Aid.  Why couldn’t I stay at my friend’s house?  I asked my mother over and over again.  The response I got was simple:  I had to help the family.  I rolled my eyes, grumbled to myself and felt like I had lost a friend.  It was like an additional kick to the gut.  I couldn’t even watch for Duran!

Interestingly enough, we got back “home” right before Power Station came on!  I didn’t miss them, after all!  I was still upset about being forced to help make this move that I desperately didn’t want to happen, though.  I remember my parents getting Chinese for dinner and I refused to move from the TV, in case Duran came on.  For some reason, my parents didn’t force me away from the screen.  I don’t even think I ate dinner that night.  I think I kept thinking that Duran would make me feel better, but they didn’t.  I almost felt worse after they came on.  I don’t know why.  I could say that I had a sense that something wasn’t right but I doubt it.  My kid brain wouldn’t have been able to move beyond my own thoughts, life, problems.  I probably didn’t even notice Simon’s bum note!

A little over a month later, the big and final move took place.  That, of course, is another day that I’ll never forget in my life.  I was walking around outside when a neighbor girl rode her bike up to me, which was actually very nice.  We started talking and, of course, I asked her if she liked Duran.  Her response, “Who?”  She had never heard of them.  The kids in the neighborhood spent most of their time making and playing game outside or riding their bikes.  They weren’t glued to MTV like I had been.  Now, I can understand how both cultures (and that’s what they were) had their positives and negatives but as a kid, I couldn’t see it.  I missed my best friend and listening to the radio.  I think, at that point, my Duranie-ness grew.  I held on to it for dear life.  As summer turned into fall, I tried to make friends but that didn’t go well.  Neither side wanted to learn about the other person’s interests.  No one wanted to learn about Duran, which I totally couldn’t understand.  Soon enough, this divide between me and my new classmates grew and turned ugly as they found out that I was a religious minority in a small town in which everyone was the same religion (or so it seemed).  The kids used this along with the fact that I wore a lot of black and red along with my black rubber bracelets (I wonder who else was dressing this way in 1985?  Hmm…could it be…John Taylor?!) to make fun of me pretty frequently.

By 1986, I was pretty lonely as I didn’t have a lot of friends in my new town and my best friend from home had decided that Duran was done.  By now, we knew that Roger and Andy left the band.  It seemed to me that my feelings of dread on Live Aid were justified.  Going back to the original analogy of how Live Aid was a turning point, it definitely was.  It was for me and for the band.  On July 13th, 1985, no one really knew what exactly was going to happen, but what did happen was significant.  My life was changed and the band member’s lives changed, too.  Thus, not a year goes by that I don’t remember that fateful day.  I’m relieved I made it through this not-so-happy time in my life and I am so glad that the band was able to go on as well.

What about the rest of you?  Is this a fateful day for you?  Are there other days in Duran history that have personal meaning?  I love to hear your stories!

-A 

Ordinary World?

I have been sitting here for the last half hour trying to figure out what to write about.  I pondered writing about the announcement about promotional appearances in the UK, which you can read about here.  I also saw that the band posted a link about Duran fans from back in 1984 talking about their fandom then and now, which you can read about here.  I’ll be honest.  Neither one hit me to talk about.  I don’t think I have the brain power to critically analyze much today.  I’m recovering or something like that.  The campaign I was working on ended on Tuesday in an extremely disappointing fashion.  Since then, I have tried not to think about it too much and have tried to catch up on everything else.  This hasn’t been easy, especially since next week will prove to be tough, emotionally, as well, as Tuesday will be my last day at my current job as I’m transferring schools next year.  Thus, I’m on emotional overload.  In fact, I would go so  far as to say that I’m feeling numb and unable to process much.  I need to clean my house and get ready for a trip but all I want to do is sleep.  Seriously.  I know that it will take time to find my way back to an “ordinary world”.  I wonder how the guys do it after facing an overly emotional time or an overly busy, stressful time or a time like I’m in the middle of, which is both busy and overwhelming.

It seems to me that some people have jobs and/or lives that pretty much provide a constant stream of activity.  At times, this constant stream might become a little more busy than normal or a little less busy than normal but it never or rarely reaches extremes.  Then, there are those who have extremes.  These people are either extremely busy or not busy at all.  I think the band is in that category.  They have times when they have tons of things to do, when they can’t find more than a few minutes to sleep and catch their breath.  I’m sure that doing a lot of promotional work and/or touring would be like this.  Then, of course, now-a-days they also have the chance to relax some.  These stretches are or seem to be longer than what a usual vacation entails.  I think my life is in between the constant stream and the extremes.  During the school year, I’m consistently busy and then when I have added campaign work, that consistently busy extends to being insanely active.  Of course, then, I do have summers, which aren’t completely off with classes, professional development, curriculum planning, etc.  Nonetheless, summers are very different than the rest of the year.  As I’m facing an extreme shift in activity level like the guys do after a tour or something equivalent, I wonder how they adjust.  What advice would they give the rest of us?  How do they find their new normal?  What if their last project was horribly unsuccessful?  How do they use their time off to regroup?

Let’s face it.  Duran Duran, overall, has been a successful band but they have had projects, times that have not been as successful as they would have liked.  In some cases, when they have regrouped, the results have been more than they hoped for.  For example, the Liberty album wasn’t exactly what they had hoped for, both musically (not saying all the songs were bad but…) and commercially.  Goodness, they didn’t even tour that album!  How did they pick themselves up off the ground and give themselves the energy, the courage to try again?  Why didn’t they decide to call it quits?  Obviously, they were not only able to keep going but they were able to make an album (Wedding Album) that resulted in commercial success and converted a whole new generation of Duranies!  Likewise, Red Carpet Massacre wasn’t the success that they thought it would be but they kept going and made the fabulous All You Need Is Now.

I don’t have the answer to this question about how they continue forward after facing a roadblock.  Do any of you?  I would honestly love to know their secret as I could use a little of that now myself.  Maybe then, I would be able to comment on Duran news or move forward to find my new ordinary world.

-A

Revisiting the Past: Lead Singers

There were lead singers in Duran Duran before Simon LeBon.  I know it is shocking and horrifying!!!  Nonetheless, it is true.  The two that I’m aware of are Stephen Duffy and Andy Wickett.  This week saw a birthday for Stephen Duffy, which led to a brief discussion about which lead singer gave up his rights to some of the songs that he had been involved in writing.  It seems then that now would a good time to revisit who is who and who did what.

Andy Wickett was the lead singer after Stephen Duffy and joined the band in the summer of 1979.  He had previously been a member of the band, TV Eye.  During the time that Andy Wickett was the lead singer, the band recorded their first demos.  Here is one of those demos.  As you can tell, this one has a VERY familiar title!

Some of the other demos included Working the Steel, Reincarnation and See Me, Repeat Me, which was an extremely early version of Rio.

Andy Wickett wasn’t in the band long, though, as he left by late 1979.  By 1981, a legal agreement was made between the band and Andy.  As the band paid him some money for his rights of the song, Girls on Film.

Stephen Duffy, on the other hand, was the lead singer before Andy.  Unlike Andy, Stephen had more contact with the band after he left.  If you have been reading this blog for awhile, you might have read about his involvement in a little project known at the Devils, which you can read about here.

While neither lead singer lasted beyond 1979, both had some impact with the band.  Andy left the band with the skeleton elements of Girls on Film and Stephen impacted the early Duran sound.  I think it is good for us to know that other singers were around before Simon.  I can appreciate what they gave and then appreciate that Simon and the rest of the band found each other in 1980!

-A

*****Edited to add that there have been some Duranie alerts regarding US shows!  I wouldn’t be surprised if the other half of the Daily Duranie would cover some of this in tomorrow’s blog!*****************

Determination

One thing I have always admired about Duran Duran is their determination.  They have always demonstrated a focus on being successful no matter what they are focused on, whether it is an overall career goal or a specific project.  One of my favorite stories of all time in Duran Duran history is the game plan that they had back when they started.  This game plan included the venues they hoped to play and when.  I believe it was Hammersmith in ’82, Wembly in ’83 and Madison Square Garden in ’84.  I believe that they met this goal.  Now, of course, they didn’t stop there.  They seem to be willing to put in the hours to make a quality product.  Sometimes, this time and effort frustrates us fans as we can and often do wait for years for an album to come out!  Somehow, this length of time is acceptable to me when the album comes out and is fabulous.  It is not as tolerable when the album isn’t what I hoped to be.  Nonetheless, the point here is that I admire their ability to be focused and determined.
One thing is certain.  Duran Duran wouldn’t have gotten where they are today if they weren’t determined.  I keep thinking about how Simon joined the band in the spring of 1980 and their first album was released in 1981!  Think about how much work they had to do in such a short window of time!  They also had to do this with minimal money.  Yes, they were lucky in finding their managers at the time, the Berrow brothers.  Yes, they were fortunate to have been signed to a major record label.  Nonetheless, they still didn’t have a ton of time or money to make what is for many of us a fantastic album!  Clearly, this task required determination and intensity!  It also needed teamwork.  They all had to be focused on the goal.  I’m sure that they didn’t always agree but they stayed on course.  To me, this is impressive, particularly when noting their young age, at the time.  Strangely enough, Duran’s early days have been particularly motivating to me right now.  
Today marks the last day before the Get Out the Vote effort here in Wisconsin.  For those of you who are not involved in campaign politics, Get Out the Vote (GOTV) is the last 4 days of any campaign.  These days are filled with tons of volunteers reaching out to the voters through phone calls and going door-to-door.  As a team leader, I have been involved with organizing and getting ready for these essential days on the campaign trail.  I will also be leading the effort at a temporary field office.  If you are still reading, you are probably wondering what the heck the point of me telling you this or how it relates to Duran Duran.  It has to do with little time and money combined with sheer determination.  On my side of the election, we have only had a candidate for governor since May 8th.  This is an extremely short amount of time with which to make the case that this person would be the better choice.  On top of it, GOTV is a relatively short amount of time to get voters out to the polls.  Like the short amount of time and like Duran, our side has very little money with which to accomplish this task.  Many people already have donated resources like clipboards and many have made treats for us to have during the effort.  All of these people are coming together to work together to accomplish something.  Like the band, we definitely don’t agree on everything but we do agree on the goal.  Lastly, the intensity level for an activity like this is VERY high.  I feel like I have been living and breathing campaign.  I bet the band felt the exact same way about that first album.  
The campaign I’m involved with has many parallels to the early days of Duran.  Both have a short time to get the job done.  Both have few resources and both are intensely focused on the goal.  I hope that on Tuesday, I will feel like this determination results in victory.  I want to feel a little like what Duran probably felt like when they got that first album out or when they made those venue goals.  I want Tuesday night to be like Duran Duran’s first night at Madison Square Garden as both are moments of triumph despite the odds against success.
-A

Rio Anniversary

This week saw the 30th anniversary of the release of Duran Duran’s Rio album.  As part of the celebration, many people listened to the album, posted videos, talked about it and more.  We didn’t do much here or on our facebook or twitter.  I could do that here, but I won’t.  Instead, I want to analyze why/how Rio has come to represent the ultimate Duran Duran both musically and visually.  How come this album came to be the best?  Is it really the best or is it due to the context in which it is surrounded?

Before I analyze why/how Rio became a favorite, I think a little history lesson is due.  Duran Duran started the Rio album in January 1982, not even a full year after the release of their first single, Planet Earth.  The album was recorded in London and was produced by Colin Thurston, the same producer as their first album.  Of course, before the album was even released, the band traveled to the island of Sri Lanka to film a few videos:  Hungry Like the Wolf, Save a Prayer and Lonely in Your Nightmare.  From there, they began a tour of Australia and Japan in April.  Of course, the album was basically done by that point as Nick even stayed behind in London to finish the mix.  He would travel to Sri Lanka after the rest of the band.  By the time the album was released on May 10th, the band had an album cover that featured Patrick Nagel artwork and had already released My Own Way and Hungry Like the Wolf as singles.  The Rio album did well in many places, the UK and Australia, in particular, but did not do well in the US until after MTV began airing their videos.  The album was, in fact, re-released in November 1982.  Then, it peaked at number 6 on March 12, 1983.  Since the release, the album has reached double platinum status (2 million copies sold).

So, how come the album found so much success and managed to capture many of the fans’ place for the ultimate Duran Duran?  The first and most obvious answer is that the music is good.  Great.  Fabulous.  Many fans will say that they don’t hear a bad song or a filler on the album.  As we all know, it is an album mixed with ballads like Save a Prayer, more atmospheric pieces like the Chauffeur, and more rockin’ songs like Hungry Like the Wolf.  This album is what every other piece of Duran Duran music is compared to now.  I think back to right before All You Need is Now came out and the statement that Mark Ronson made that got quite a bit of attention about how AYNIN is the real follow-up to Rio.  Yet, I think there is way more to it than just the music.  After all, many of us got introduced to the Duran Duran not through the music but through their videos.

I, personally, don’t remember the first Duran Duran song I heard.  I don’t remember the first video I saw either but I can tell you that, as a kid, the videos were what got my attention.  I remember a time when I was really, really horribly sick as a kid.  My poor mother was staying up with me to take care of me.  Back in 1983/84, there wasn’t much TV on at 3 in the morning and we watched MTV.  I remember seeing the video for Save a Prayer over and over and over that night.  Not only did I think the song was beautiful, not only did I think the band members were cute, the images shown were such that they were hard to forget.  My goodness I think I still get goosebumps at the end of that video when they are all standing there looking up in front of the enormous statue with bare feet.  I wasn’t sure what it meant but it had to mean something, I figured.  Of course, I thought the same about Simon’s lyrics.  I wasn’t sure what the heck he was singing about but they always made me think, made me want to figure them out.  Anyway, the videos of this album really captured my attention and clearly captured others’ attentions as well since there was a very obvious connection between those places that had MTV and Duran Duran album sales.  If you had MTV, you bought the album.  If you didn’t have MTV, you didn’t buy the album.  It was as simple as that.  Yes, it helped that MTV didn’t have a ton of videos and that they aired Duran over and over and over again.  We were also a captive audience.  If we wanted to see videos, we had to see a lot of Duran videos.  Many of these videos or images from these videos are still used today.  It seems to me that 98% of interviews with Duran shows the image of the band on the boat during Rio or Simon running through the jungle in HLTW.  At this point, you can’t separate these images from the music.  Speaking of images, that album cover is still very popular and well-known.  Do all of these images add to the specialness of Rio?  I think they do.

The Rio era also saw two really important things take place.  First, their popularity exploded during this time.  Duran Duran started becoming a real household name, a name that got real attention in places beyond the UK, Australia and Japan.  Duran got real worldwide success with this album.  Second, for many of the original Duranies, this is when people became fans.  It seems to me that whenever you become a fan, that time seems to be the best, most important time for that fan.  Thus, if someone became a fan in 1993, s/he is not probably going to say that Seven and the Ragged Tiger was his/her favorite era.  No, one’s favorite era is the time when that celebrity caught your attention and caught your attention in a way that was no longer easy to walk away from.  A special memory is created then.

So, what is it that makes the Rio album so special?  Honestly, I think it is the combination between the music, the videos, the images, the worldwide popularity and one’s own personal fandom.  No matter the reason, it is hard to argue that Rio hasn’t made its mark with Duran Duran, with their fans and with the public at large.  It is one of those must-know, must-own albums.

-A

Song Meanings

This week, as part of the Would You Rather Game, I started to ask people about their preferences between two songs.  Right now, I’m picking songs that are on the same album and ones that seem similar.  I am not putting a ballad against a fast song, for example.  I might, at some point, but not yet.  I have enjoyed this game immensely.  I like learning about what other Duranies think.  It is cool to have something that people can talk about each day, I think.  In fact, one of the things that I think is super cool about Duran is how much there really is to talk about.  Even if the band ended tomorrow, our discussions can continue for years, even decades to come.  Part of the reason that there is so much to talk about is, of course, that it is a band.  It isn’t about one person, but many.  On top of that, their musical catalog is quite extensive now.  They have released many, many albums, including the songs that I’m asking people to choose between.  While I like to find out which song is more popular, what is more interesting to me is the reasons that people give.  The reasons vary but one that I have seen a number of times is the history behind the songs.  I, then, started to think about whether or not the song history impacts my opinions and I have to say that it does.

This part of the game started with two album tracks off the self-titled first album:  Sound of Thunder and Friends of Mine.  It seemed that most people preferred Friends of Mine.  Yet, when thinking about Duran Duran, Sound of Thunder has a more significant history.  I’m sure that I’m not telling anyone anything new but it was the very first song that the Fab 5 wrote together.  The legend has it that the band wrote the song as soon as Simon came and auditioned.  On top of that, I remember reading, maybe in an Ask Katy question, that Sound of Thunder captured the sound that they hoped to create.  After all, Duran Duran was designed to be a combination of punk and disco, right?  I have heard that John wanted to combine the sounds of Chic’s Good Times with the Sex Pistols’ Pretty Vacant.  Apparently, they thought that Sound of Thunder did that the best.  As for Friends of Mine, I do know that Georgie Davis is a real person who was sentenced to prison and recently got out, I might add.  Yet, that story doesn’t strike me as much as Duran’s first song or the perfect combination of influences does.  Thus, in terms of sentimental value, Sound of Thunder wins the competition, hands down.  What do you think, Duranies?  Would you still vote on Friends of Mine?  Obviously, that’s cool if you would.  You might just think that the song sounds better. 

Then, yesterday, I asked about Last Chance on the Stairway and Hold Back the Rain.  Many people talked about how Hold Back the Rain was played at a gig where it was actually raining.  Some mentioned about how NASA used it in the hopes of keeping a storm away in order for the space shuttle to land.  Yet, a few more mentioned about Simon wrote the song about John.  Here’s a clip from a documentary that explains the story:
   

 Like the story behind Sound of Thunder, as a Duranie, I can’t ignore it.  It tells so much about the band.  It shows how much Simon cares about John.  It shows how far John Taylor has come.  It shows what life must have been like for them at this time with the partying and the women.  This history, this feeling speaks to me.  Of course, many people have personal connections to Duran songs.  Memories, feelings become attached to songs.  I can’t help but to think of touring life whenever I hear this song.  Specifically, the lyrics:  “No time for worry cause we’re on the roam again”.  For me, then, the personal connection combined with the Duran history puts this song way at the top of my list of favorites.  Of course, I think it sounds good as well!  😉

Maybe, my desire to know the story behind the song is strange.  Perhaps, I’m the only one who cares about stuff like this.  After all, I do have a history degree so I do tend to think about what is historically important.  Obviously, in my opinion, both Sound of Thunder and Hold Back the Rain are important to the Duran story.  What do you think?  Do you think the story behind a song matters?  How much does it matter?  Does it change the way you view a song?  Does it change how much you like or don’t like a song?  Then, do you think these two songs are important in understanding Duran Duran?  

-A

Duran History 101

This morning, I was treated to a new Daily Duranie “Would You Rather” question on Facebook.  The question was “Would you rather listen to The Devils or Neurotic Outsiders”.  Two completely different sounds from completely different ends of the musical spectrum.   Many, many fans had distinct favorites between the two, which is natural – I wouldn’t have expected any less!  More alarming, however were the comments from those that had never heard of either one.  I know how that can be – you get involved in real life, you don’t pay attention to every single thing that goes on.  It happens.  That said, I simply cannot stand by and not do something to remedy the situation properly.  So today, we’re going to have ourselves a little Duran history, thanks to a couple EPK’s and videos I found on YouTube. (thanks to Nick Rhodes, Stephen Duffy and John Taylor of course!)

A little background on The Devils is probably necessary…and it’s the beginning, which is a very good place to start.  (Be careful or I’ll start singing Do Re Mi from Sound of Music.  A frightening thought by any means.)  In 1978, Nick Rhodes and Stephen Duffy started writing music together, and ran into John Taylor who was performing with a group called Dada.  At some point later Stephen walked to art college, and met up with John Taylor, who was not doing anything at that time – and Duran Duran was born.  The music that we know as The Devils is basically the first album that Duran Duran would have made had the original original original (yes, that wording IS necessary at this point) stayed together.  (does anyone else ever get the feeling that the constantly changing lineups is just part of what makes Duran Duran, Duran Duran?!?)  This my friends, is why every Duran fan on the planet, every single Duranie, should know The Devils.  No, of course you don’t have to like what you hear and I’m the last person to condemn anybody for not loving something Duran has done…. but I do think you have to know where they started to truly appreciate the band they’ve become.

I’ve posted both parts of the EPK that Nick and Stephen produced – they’re on YouTube.  (and I’m extremely thankful for that!)  For the first EPK, my advice is to watch the whole thing through, and then take special care to listen from about 13:20 to the end again several times.  The song is called Big Store, and if you don’t hear Duran Duran in there, listen again.  I have a deep appreciation for the dark and innovative sound…if only they had more clarinet in there…

(psst, Nick!!  I’m free…and I can really play clarinet!!)  

One of the more amusing and interesting things on this first EPK are the slides that are interspersed throughout.  They are from John’s geography field trip, and there are several from streets in Birmingham.  What tickled me personally was that I could actually identify several of these shots and where they were taken.  I guess that first trip to the UK back last May was beneficial in many ways!

On the next EPK, it opens with Dark Circles.  This song would have EASILY fit on the first album.  I love it dearly, and what’s more – it reminds me of why I fell in love with Duran Duran in the first place.  Then we get to hear what Nick coins as being “the most goth sound on the record”.  This is the darkest, scariest song that I think I’ve ever heard, and chances are – I’m going to have nightmares with this song as the soundtrack for the rest of my life.  I think you’re right about the goth thing Nick, and the video makes it even scarier!

(note to self: do I really ever hear music in my dreams?? Good question!)

I’m not sure how much Duran I hear in that particular song, but Nick’s innovative mind is right there, and Stephen’s voice is downright haunting.  Take a listen to Barbarellas and even the Tinsel Ritual, and really look at those old slides – that was the Birmingham from which the band emerged in 1978.  (which is really not all that unlike the town *I* came from here in the states, which is probably why I felt so at home walking around.) They have come very, very far.

And now that you’ve come up to breathe after that long trip down memory lane, here’s some Neurotic Outsiders to wake you up!

The Neurotic Outsiders is a band that John was in during the time he was not a member of Duran Duran.  The other members included Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols, along with Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum of Guns n Roses.  I feel as though this band held much of his healing – as of course did his solo work.  In some ways it seems as though Neurotic Outsiders helped him see that being in a band could still be fun.  Their music was as much hard, dirty rock as The Devils was all about art, experimentation and the bridge between punk and alternative in 1978.  If there was ever to be a cosmic opposite to The Devils, Neurotic Outsiders would be that band.

I hesitate to include this next video, primarily because it’s a Duran song being covered….but I must because I really kind of like what they did with it.  Get through the first verse before you judge, and yes – the video is not an official one.  Ignore the video and just listen.  

The next one is live….

Sorry for the quality, but to get a good idea of what Neurotic Outsiders was like I think you have to see them.  I have to say, they rocked it, and I love that about them.

What is fascinating to me…and should really be to the rest of you as well, is that yesterday we asked if you’d rather listen to Arcadia or Power Station.  To the best of my count, Arcadia won that question by a landslide.  So far today, however – Neurotic Outsiders fans far exceed those of The Devils.  One could argue that The Devils and Arcadia are similar types of music, very “art school”, very experimental; and of course conversely, Power Station and Neurotic Outsiders are both rock, although Neurotic Outsiders comes from a far heavier place.  So, is it that The Devils just isn’t well known?  Is it that Simon isn’t singing??  Even better – what about John Taylor fans out there?!?

Watch the videos, take notes, because at some point, there might even be a test!  Enjoy!!

-R

Duran Duran 101

Outside of my career here as a professional Duranie (ha!), I actually get paid to teach.  While most of my days are spent thinking about the exciting subjects of Math or English, I do think about what it would be like to teach popular culture, specifically fandom.  I also think about what it would be like to teach about Duran Duran.  This thought, in conjunction with some conversations on twitter, led me here to today’s blog post.  Let’s pretend that I was going to teach about Duran Duran (how fun would that be!).  What should my lesson plan(s) look like?  Well, most lesson plans start with an ultimate goal.  What do you want the students to learn?  This is usually a big idea.  In this case, I think we want the students to learn that Duran Duran is one of the best bands to ever be in existence, right?  Then, we should start to think about how we show that.  In education, these are usually referred to as objectives.  On one hand, since Duran is a band, we could just talk about and play music.  We would then have to figure out which songs would best represent them.  These songs should reflect the spectrum of Duran’s sound from rockier numbers like Careless Memories to ballads like Ordinary World.  Of course, we would need to decide what types of songs should be included and the best representation of each type.  On the other hand, if I was teaching a class on Duran, I would want my students to know so much more than just the music.  For example, video has been an essential piece to Duran and I don’t think you could truly understand Duran’s greatness without talking about videos.  So, what should the objectives to knowing Duran Duran be then?

I have some ideas of essential elements or objectives that need to be taught.  One element is obviously video since video did play such an essential part to their commercial success and did grab so many fans’ attention.  It is a part of Duran that has existed from the first single to current times.  Another element that needs to talked about, I think, is their commitment to the complete package.  Duran isn’t just music or video.  They are a complete package from artwork to fashion.  The images they created from their album covers to their merchandise are long lasting and captured our attention.  I would, obviously, include all of those fabulous photographs of the band members, themselves.  Then, of course, we have the proof of their success.  This objective would include information about album sales, awards received, and media attention.  While the fans could be a part of this object, I think we deserve an objective all by ourselves.  While we had direct impact on their commercial success, especially “back in the day”, we are still an essential part of the story by continuing to follow them, buy their products, and more.  I also think there needs to be an objective on Duran’s philosophy.  While Duran has never clearly come out to state a “philosophy” or “mission”, I think that there is one.  After all, this is the band that declared that they wanted to be playing when the bomb dropped in their first interview.  It is also the band that states frequently at shows that they are the band “designed to make you party”.  Clearly, the band isn’t about politics! 

Now, that we have the goal of proving Duran is great and our objectives of their musical spectrum and quality, video, packaging, commercial success, fans, and philosophy, we have to decide how to present them.  In education, this could be called the procedure.  One way, we could present the material would be through the differing musical styles.  Thus, we would pick songs that both represent a certain style of music and represents one of the remaining objectives.  For example, Save a Prayer might be used to showcase their ability to write and play ballads while also showing the use of video.  Another way, we could present the objectives could be through the band’s story.  Their story now spans over thirty years and I’m willing to bet that each major piece to their history could be explained through their music.  Thus, lesson one might be on forming the band.  I could then explain how the different members came to join the band.  I could play the song, Late Bar, to showcase this time in their history and also lead the students to questions regarding their philosophy through analyzing the lyrics.  Hopefully, they would get that an all-night party means that they wanted for everyone to have a good time!  A later lesson could be how the critics did not appreciate them despite or because of their commercial success, which would be accompanied by the song Notorious. 

In case you are all wondering, I have put together a list of songs that best represent Duran’s history and those essential elements that make up who Duran is.  I could share it, if people are interested.  What I would like to know is how you would teach Duran Duran.  Would you just focus on the music?  If so, what songs would you include?  Would you focus on those other elements that I referred to as objectives?  Maybe you would talk about some of those elements but not all of them.  Perhaps, I forgot something essential to understanding Duran.  Would you then organize the lessons like I would, through Duran’s history and music?  If not, how would you do it?  Then, I would also love to know if anyone has tried to actually teach someone about Duran.  How did you do it and how did it go?

-A