Category Archives: (I’m Looking For) Cracks in the Pavement

May 2019 Katy Kafe with John

Monday brings good news on occasion, and thankfully, today is that day! After what was a very long and emotionally exhausting weekend for me, I crawled out of bed this morning knowing I’d need to blog. My brain was blank. Honestly, at no fault of the band, it was a case of “Duran Duran, who?”

My oldest graduated from college this weekend. We drove to Orange County early on Saturday morning, and all three of my children were in the same room together for the first time since December. I bit my lip and held back tears when I saw my son get out of his Uber. He’s grown since Christmas, both in size and in maturity. Above all, my oldest is now completely, and totally grown-up. We did our job. Part of my heart is walking around outside of my body with very little of my input, now. I’m still kind of struggling with that this morning. I’m thrilled, don’t get me wrong. Walt and I seriously high-fived one another when her name was called and she walked across the stage during graduation. I’m a teeny bit sad, I guess. Motherhood is weirdly bittersweet that way.

Anyway, I stumbled out to my kitchen and got online, with very few ideas of what I could write about. I needed a very large coffee and a huge sign to point my way. Lo and behold, thanks to Katy – I stumbled upon news of the May Katy Kafe with JT being ready for listening! Problem solved!

Again – these are the highlights, and if you want to know everything he said, go get your DDM membership!

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

John said it was a tremendous honor to be asked, and thought that he surely would get a call saying they’d (R&RHOF) made a mistake, that they had someone else down to present to Roxy Music. (Something I myself would have said if I had been asked to do such a thing!) John loves to analyze, breakdown, deconstruct—and in writing the script of what they’d say that night, he had to really immerse himself in the music and how he related to Roxy Music. He enjoyed that. John said it was very special, and he “just enjoyed being there.” He didn’t feel like he and Simon were out of place (I took pause when he said that – because 100%, Duran Duran deserves to be there in any and all capacities), but that there was just a lot of art (arty rockers) in the room.

He specifically mentioned how he hadn’t really connected with Def Leppard in a long time but that it was really fun to reconnect with them and appreciating where they were from. They had come from very similar places but went in “slightly different directions.. in 1982 felt miles apart but in 2019 doesn’t really seem so apart anymore.”

“Sometimes it is nice to be in a situation where there are a lot of people like you.” (quite frankly, this is exactly I feel when I go to a Duran Duran show where I know a lot of the people going. It feels like home. A reunion.)

Art

A fan (Monica Sage) asked John what paintings and/or artists he likes. One painting that took John NO time to mention was Pablo Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon”. It is in the New York Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), and he goes to see it whenever he’s able.

Fond of Matisse as well as all of the big painters. He’s always liked paintings, since he was a kid. John is attracted to color, and the subject matters less. That’s why abstract art works for him. Painting is a singular expression, and since music is such a huge collaborative medium – visual art is a great parallel universe to music.

Paint on canvas is his favorite medium.

Whenever Katy asks fans for questions – I try to come up with one to ask. Many times, I forget to send it as myself rather than Daily Duranie, and other times – I can’t even think of something good to ask that hasn’t already come up 5,000 times. Usually my mind goes blank, but apparently not this time, because I finally asked a question that was answered!

On a Kafe back in late 2018 at some point, Katy and JT talked about what John might do when he retires. For all I know, this could have also been a fan question then – I don’t remember. Anyway, John mentioned that he’d like to get into painting. The reason this stuck with me is because I love art – specifically paint on canvas. Both Amanda and I do, and we go to museums together whenever we can. Typically those times are when we’re going to Duran Duran shows, so it serves as a sort of daytime activity. Many times, those paintings inspire us in one way or another, too. I’d wondered what kind of art John might want to try painting – so I asked!

He said he’d probably start with landscapes, but he’d really like to paint people. They’re the most interesting subject to him. (I have to share that in one way, I was surprised and then in another it makes perfect sense!) I get a ton of anxiety from actually interacting with people (at times), but by the same token – I love studying and writing about them. Painting people is probably not something I could do myself, but writing about them and studying the human condition? You bet!

It (painting, and in particular painting people) is less of a thing since photography, he added. Just as quickly, he said he doesn’t know if he will end up actually painting, he’s too much of a perfectionist. I get that. I can’t draw to save my life, much less paint. It’s never too late to have a new hobby, and it is great exercise for the brain and spirit.

Summer shows

He isn’t sure how Iceland came about, but they had a great experience last time – between there and Denmark, they agreed to do the odd show even though this is a “no tour” year, He follows up by saying “there’s something about keeping that side of the engine turning over” This sort of thing just keeps their chops up and they bring that energy back into the studio. He didn’t say anything about Vegas or the west coast shows, but it sounds as though he’s happy to have the opportunity to get out in front of audiences again.

Back in the studio

“Duran Duran doesn’t make the same album twice”, Katy said. “It’s quite difficult to do that, actually,” John laughed. She gently asked another fan question (I’m sorry but I didn’t catch the name!) about the music they’re working on.

“These are early days”, John answered. Erol Alkan is producing, and Graham Coxon of Blur is playing guitar. He said having these two guys there is making for a very exciting time, making mention of the fact that they’ve never worked with either of them. It’s a little early to talk about what the music is, though. They’re already excited about going back into the studio in July after they are finished with the Danish show. John explains that after forty years, on a certain level they’re totally done with one another (the four band members), and on another, there is always the sense of possibility. They’re holding the candle to dig deeper, believing there’s something more worth mining. They’ve also worked with Mark a bit in Los Angeles when they were here. However, the bulk of the work they’ve been doing in London with Erol, and it has been exciting to get to know both Erol and Graham.

“It is very much about teamwork, and everybody has certain responsibilities”, John explained. As a bass player, he wants to
“drop a bomb of a bass line” that in turn inspires Nick or Roger. Maybe Simon will come up with a line of lyric that blows them all away and they say “I love that!” This doesn’t happen everyday, but maybe a couple of times a week it happens.


“Everybody needs a little encouragement. We all need that.” John mused. That’s the thing about producers for them. They know what they’re capable of, but the right producer will take them past that point. Errol isn’t afraid to push, and producers as a whole are going to make them do more than what they would normally do. “It’s been fantastic so far” John mentioned, adding that every session they’ve had on this album has been good.

Katy suggested that maybe working with a producer is something the band has only settled into doing recently, but John disagreed. He explains that during the 80s – they worked solidly with Colin Thurston, Alex Sadkin and Nile Rodgers. But during the 90s they took control themselves, and the results (in John’s opinion), were less-than-optimal. Working with Mark on All You Need is Now really brought them back to the practice of working with a strong producer.

Record Store Day

RSD has become an annual opportunity to produce something. This one (ATLGD) was very special, and they’ve already figured out what they want next year’s to be! (can’t lie – I am wondering what they’ll come up with!) Left to their own devices, they might not have done as much. However, labels have come to them and suggested doing something for Record Store Day – which in turn is a win for fans, right?? (Those are my words, not his of course!)

He wished they had some unreleased stuff that wasn’t on Arena, but it’s still very special. I couldn’t hear for sure whether or not he’d listened to it – either my hearing is slowly dying (it is), my earbuds weren’t worth the money I paid (also true), or the quality of the recording was bad (not really sure). Alas…

Favorite Song

Definitively, John offered up Beethoven 3rd Symphony – “Eroica”. You all better go hop onto Spotify right now and give it a listen, because he’s not into anything more modern at the moment. I was a little surprised by that comment, but also just a teeny bit gleeful.

I already have “Eroica” in my playlist, and it’s been there for years because I’ve performed it before. Sure, I’m sitting here feeling ridiculously smug and validated by my own silly play list. I’ll call myself out for that nonsense, no problem!

Yes, I still fangirl too. Usually a bit quieter than this, but I couldn’t help smiling when he mentioned that particular symphony.

Birmingham

John said that he doesn’t spend enough time in the Midlands. He really misses the Birmingham of his youth, adding that it isn’t the same city now, but it was an experience to go back last year. When he was there, he went and stopped by his old street. He finds it hard to believe that he once had a life that was constantly lived in that city, and now he spends very little time there. I think any of us who have moved away from our childhood home and city (or country) should be able to relate.

John continued on by saying the same thing holds true with family. You spend the first part of your life surrounded by these people, and now most of them have passed on. He finds that sad (as anyone might), but also remarkable. Katy replied by saying you don’t really appreciate that until you’re much older. He still hates the word “nostalgia” but Gela suggested to him that maybe that’s what it is.

Sorry John, but it is exactly that word. Just acknowledge it, embrace it even, and then move on. It’s okay – it makes you human. Feelings happen, and they don’t mean you aren’t fully embracing the present. I think it is all really about seeing and feeling the emotion of the big picture. In fact, I would go as far as to say that appreciating the nostalgia helps one embrace the present.

Personally, I love John’s Kafe’s. I feel as though after 40 years, I like getting to know the band, and even Katy, as real people. Yes – the music is important, but I believe that at this point, at least with me, I’m already sold. “All-in”, even. Knowing the band isn’t always that important to me – I mean, I don’t wonder about Brandon Flowers the way I do John Taylor, for example. Duran Duran, for me, are different. I write about them, or at least about being a fan of them, every single day. I appreciate knowing who they are.

That doesn’t mean I agree with or run parallel to everything they say or do. I’m no puppet, nor do I believe Simon, John, Roger or Nick want us to be. They’re people. We are people. The exchange of different ideas and feelings is a good thing. I enjoy good conversations and digging deeper than Rio or “Hungry Like the Wolf”. I can appreciate that these Katy Kafes (and yes Katy, I think John would do a remarkably interesting podcast if he were ever so inclined!) get us past the surface questions from time to time. Thank you!!

-R

(I’m Looking For) Cracks in the Pavement — The Daily Duranie Review

Last week marked the 30th anniversary of the release of Seven and the Ragged Tiger.  These kind of anniversaries always remind us of the longevity of Duran Duran as well as how long we have been fans. Many fans use these anniversaries to celebrate a favorite release, song or video. We are just glad that our reviews right now are focusing on this album. After all, what is a better way to celebrate an album then to REALLY listen to each and every song. This week finds us examining the third song on the album, (I’m Looking For) Cracks in the Pavement, which is the first “album” or non-single track we have looked at from this album so far. Will it be similar to the first two songs, which were singles or will it be dramatically less quality? Here is what we thought:

Rhonda: (Who does not mind mentioning that this is the second time she’s had to write this entire review because Blogger ate it the first time…)

Musicality/Instrumentation: My ears hear a lot going on here. It’s not just a simple melody -but there are many layers of extra tracks going on, and the focus seems to be very heavily on the synthesizers. I do hear bass, though not quite as strongly as it should come through. I feel the bass more than I actually hear it, and the same goes for drums. There is little guitar, but it’s definitely not quite as out front as on previous records, and when you’d most assume you’d hear it – the chorus – it’s buried deep in the mix. Too deeply, I might add. The guitar solo, which comes about 2/3 of the way through the song, blends very well – tying the entire song together, along with a tasty bass groove. When Andy and John were at their best together, nothing could stop them. I haven’t mentioned drums because like a lot of things with this song, they feel more like an after thought. Overall, the music doesn’t feel very balanced. It’s top-heavy with no real “bottom” to root everything. There are significant elements to the song which I love – such as Nick’s chords during the chorus: they remind me of pipe organs or what gets played in a fun house, and I like the effect. I think the bass is outstanding, if it was only heard more. Andy’s guitar, when allowed to play, is terrific. This is one of the first songs that we’ve reviewed where it starts to become obvious that the band is changing musical direction and becoming far more synth-heavy rather than a balanced five-piece. Naturally, that is said with hindsight in mind, as we know what faces the band ahead, don’t we?

Vocals:  I dearly love the way Simon begins the song – his vocals are soft, yet powerful.  They draw you in. However, this doesn’t last. The closer Simon gets to the chorus, the more strangely it sounds. Rather than singing the songs with a quiet sort of power to them, he adds quite a bit of dramatics…like way more than what was ever needed to get the point across. As a result the song comes off very fake and forced in sections. That said, his vocals play off of Nick’s pipe-organ chords very well, and I have to wonder if the over-dramatization was really intended. I have never liked the way this song was sung. It’s almost comical, which really shouldn’t have been the goal. The line, “Don’t wanna be in public, my head is full of chopstick I don’t like it.” grates on my nerves as much today as it did when I first heard it, yet I love the lyric.

Lyrics: Simon was speaking my language when he wrote this song. For me, this is all about escaping the insanity of large crowds. I hate them. I’m not much for mingling, and small talk is not my idea of a great way to spend an evening. Even when we do events as Daily Duranie, there comes a certain point in the evening when I feel like I’ve got to find some quiet to be myself again, and luckily for me I can find that time and place pretty easily. Yet I know that for Simon, this song was about dealing with the new-found hysteria back in the 80’s. It was about running from the public, back to friends and family and being himself – as though the public persona could put away, and he could be himself again, although he’s not really sure of exactly who he is anymore. Funny how celebrity will do that to a person. It seems like something anyone could want. Fortune, fame…but it all comes at a price, and sometimes that price is incredibly high. I enjoyed these lyrics from the very first listen, so it’s no surprise that I still do.

Production: This is one song where I wish they hadn’t done quite so much to it – the effects are cool, but there’s just so much going on. I don’t know what the producer was really going for, maybe he liked that frenzied nature to all of the background tracks. I just think the song tends to lose its effectiveness, which is a shame. I also feel as though more balance needed to be given, particularly in the chorus – Nick is turned up pretty darn loudly, and I think the sound would have been so much better had they brought up the bottom end. Again, I feel as though this song marks a turning point for the band – because Nick is clearly highlighted here, and in a band where there was once no ego and no stars…I think we see some changes emerging.

Overall: Lyrically, I think this song is as good as it gets from Simon. I also really like the way he sings in the chorus and also at the beginning of the song. I like certain elements of the music, I just wish it had been recorded with a bit more simplicity and a lot more balance in mind. The guitars, bass and even the drums are pretty low in the mix, which is a shame because they certainly would have added the balance mentioned earlier. The dramatical way of Simon’s vocals are also a disappointment. The song would have made so much more of a powerful effect without the silliness. The potential for greatness was there with this one. Overall, it adds up to something that is far less than what the band was capable of creating.

Cocktail Rating:   2.5 cocktails  (And yes, it was hard for me to score it that low, but I had to be honest!)



Amanda:

Musicality/Instrumentation:  This is one of those songs that I never feel like I could even tell you without re-listening what the instrumentation sounds like. For me, this song’s lyrics have always grabbed my attention but I’m getting ahead of myself. In typical Duran fashion, this song starts with a shimmering sound of sorts. It isn’t the same as other songs that has such a well-known beginning that we know it as soon as we hear it but the style remains consistent across songs. As the song really gets underway, I can hear/feel the foundation of bass and drums as well as Nick’s keyboards and even Andy, front and center, briefly. What I am almost overwhelmed by, though, is all of the little extra sounds that have been added in.  While individually, those extras sound really cool, collectively, it might be a bit much in the beginning of the song. As the song moves closer to the chorus, it seems to settle down into an established set of notes with less notes. As common, the chorus seems to pick up tempo some but not a lot, not as much as normal. Then, I do love how Andy’s guitar is so beautiful as the song transitions back to a verse. What is interesting is how the volume of the song seemed to make a difference to what I noticed to when listening to just the instrumentation.  At a quieter volume, guitars seemed to be lost more, but at a louder volume, I noticed them more.  Now, I’m sure this is just me, but I wonder why that is the case. The chorus also seems much more intense at a louder volume. I should also mention the bridge of the song, when, of course, Simon finally sings the title. Initially, the music seems to take a back seat until Simon is done then the instrumentation is loud and clear with some nice moments from Roger and Andy.

Vocals:  I love how Simon’s vocals are during the verses. They are low and rather sultry.  Then, of course, as moves into the song, they move to a higher range with more intensity.  I have to say, though, that I have never been a fan of how he sang the lines about “chopsticks” and driving the car insane. Yes, the fact that it was so high compared to the rest of the song got my attention, but never in a good way. I also get that it was to express an emotion.  It just seemed and seems overdone a bit like a bit of overacting, especially when Simon is able to convey so many emotions on his own. The choruses feel like the Simon we know and love.  One of my favorite parts of the song is when Simon sings the “I’m looking for cracks in the pavement” line. He truly sings it so beautiful and makes it truly heartfelt.  

Lyrics:  As a kid, the lyrics to this song always caught my attention. I wanted to figure it out and never thought that I really did. My head is full of chopsticks? I didn’t get it. Clearly, I was a kid. Life experience hadn’t taught me what that felt like yet. I couldn’t relate to the rest of the lyrics then either. What does it mean to not want to be in public, I wondered. What is with these sealed up doors? I had no clue. Songs like Rio, my childhood brain could understand but not this one. Now, as an adult, I get it. I completely get it. I understand searching for something. I understand looking back in one’s life and rethinking things. I get what it feels like to have one’s tree or foundation being shaken. I get all of it. I feel like that is a lot of what my life has been like in the last four or five years. Despite feeling some connection to the lyrics, they still don’t grab me. I’m not sure why. Maybe it is because of my childhood confusion. Maybe it is because the lyrics seem too clear to me now.

Production:  As I was listening to the song to really think about and analyze the instrumentation, I keep finding myself thinking about the production and the mix. This song, in particular, has some nice moments, musically. In many ways, I think that the instrumentation is great. Yet, there is something about the production, the mix that the greatness often gets hidden. The specific instruments seem to get muffled here or lost here.  It is too refined, too perfect or something. Maybe, there are too many things going on. I think if this song had been mixed differently, it might be one I could really love.

Overall:  There are elements of this song that I really love. There are some beautiful moments both with the instrumentation and with the vocals, especially around the bridge of the song. I find the lyrics completely easy to understand and feel a connection to. Perhaps, I can relate to the “anxiety” of the song as Nick just mentioned on a podcast about the 30th anniversary of the album. All of that said, I dislike the over-production and the occasional burst of high notes with Simon’s vocals. Great potential that, perhaps, was over thought a bit.

Cocktail Rating:  3 cocktails!