Category Archives: Mr. Hudson

If Notorious and Big Thing Could Talk…

by C.K. Shortell

Sometimes, I think Duran Duran albums talk to each other. Specifically, they talk to their predecessor. I remember the first time I listened to The Wedding Album and hearing the line “You rescued me from liberty” in Love Voodoo, and wondering if I was reading too much into the lyric to wonder if Simon wasn’t taking a shot at the last album.  Or the beginning of “Hold Me,” when he starts with “This time…” — somehow I got into my head that “Hold Me” was one of the first songs written for Notorious and that line/ad lib was basically Simon’s way of expressing the uncharted territory the band was in, now down to a trio.  Additionally… all the lyrics to “Still Breathing,” which I took as a declaration against the previous lineup of the band. I can’t prove any of this, it’s just in my head when I listen to these songs and albums.

This topic circles in my head for a few reasons. First, we are between albums. Speculation abounds about the sound of DD14. We know the band never does the same thing twice. We also know that, on AYNIN, they finally felt comfortable “reclaiming” some of that old ground/sound. So what will happen on the next album? In what way will it be a reaction to what they did on AYNIN?

Additionally, Notorious, the album, has been in heavy circulation on my iPod for the last few months. I think there are a lot of parallels between Notorious and All You Need Is Now. Both feature very strong title tracks that will likely be a staple of the band’s live set as long as they continue to tour (I don’t think it’s going out on a limb to say that the song AYNIN will continue to be featured, but you never know).   Both were heavily anticipated after a pause in the band’s career in which it was uncertain what direction they would take. Both were heavily influenced/co-written by the album’s producer, and both featured a mix of guest musicians on other tracks (and in the case of Notorious, it remains the only Duran album that features the work of both Andy and Warren).

Why do I bring up these parallels? I am trying to draw conclusions about DD14, and I think we might gain insight by understanding the relationship between Notorious and its follow-up, Big Thing.

I’ve always viewed Notorious as being a very solid, “orderly” album, with perfect alignment between the A and B sides, the Hitchcock theme, and the neatly packaged video that tied back to the album artwork. Big Thing is the exact opposite. It’s noisy, disorganized, loud (at least the first half), moody (the second half) and unconventional. Notorious features a virtual all-star cast of guest musicians, including Nile Rodgers, Andy, Warren, and Steve Ferrone, not to mention the album cover featuring super model Christy Turlington. Big Thing boasts no such lineup—it is the truly the first (and ultimately only, as it would turn out) Taylor-Rhodes-LeBon collaboration, with Warren sprinkled in, albeit in a non-writing role.  On Notorious, the songs tend to follow the standard verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus/outro format, which the exception of Winter Marches On. On Big Thing, it’s the exception when a song follows that format. Notorious is defined by its title track; the song Big Thing mocks itself and the music industry in general, and is probably one of the more forgettable songs on the record.

When John, Nick, and Simon hosted an hour-long countdown of their favorite Duran videos on MTV in 1988, they commented that on Notorious, they were very polite to each other and trying to figure out how to function as a band. Not so during the Big Thing sessions, where “we were all screaming at each other.” This is not surprising. The trio had weathered the uncertainty of the Notorious era; they had put out an album and toured and had success despite the loss of Andy and Roger (of course, they were no longer the biggest band in the world, but at least they knew there was still an audience for their music, albeit a smaller one than before).

So, with that out of the way, they pushed themselves creatively on Big Thing. What resulted was an album of disparate sides: the first consisting mostly of noisy, dance “house” music, and the second slower, moody ballads. Side one featured the hit single “I Don’t Want Your Love,” that is possibly the band’s most underrated and forgotten hit (and one of my personal favorites), and the follow-up single “All She Wants Is” which didn’t chart as well, but did see a lot of club play. The B-side is built around the lush anthem “Land,” one of the longer Duran songs in the catalogue that clocks in at just over six minutes. Preceding it are the haunting “Do You Believe in Shame?” and airy “Palomino.” I remember first listening to Big Thing and strongly disliking the second side, and then about a week later I had a strange tune stuck in my head…and it turned out to be “Palomino.”

Conversely, I did love “Edge of America” the minute I heard it, and still do to this day. And I always have considered “Edge of America” and “Lake Shore Driving” to be one song, even if they have different titles and are on separate tracks. It’s an unconventional way to end Big Thing but it works, as the Nick’s synths and Warren’s guitar bring the proceedings full circle to how the album started.

There are many other details about Big Thing that we could cover (the two different producers, the controversy over the mixes of “Drug” that highly annoyed John, etc.) but those can be left to another blog. The question is, how can Big Thing’s differences from Notorious inform us as to DD14’s differences from AYNIN?

For starters, I suspect that there will be more of a balance between ballads and dance songs on DD14. AYNIN was heavily skewed toward upbeat music (much like Notorious) with several well-placed slower songs to even out the album’s pacing. I think it’s natural for the band to be inclined to write some more moody material after an album as upbeat as AYNIN.

And speaking of the band…by all accounts, it’s just them, just like it was on Big Thing. Or at least it’s more of “just them” than the AYNIN sessions, which included Mark Ronson, Ana Matronic, Kelis, Owen Pallett, and Nick Hodgson, as well as newscaster Nina Hossain. There was a report that Ronson worked with them initially but every quote I’ve read since indicates that it’s just the five (Rhonda says four…because we certainly don’t hear much of Dom being there lately. Just saying..) of them in the studio.

Is this a good thing or not? I think time will tell. Duran has made some tremendous music when they close ranks and keep it “in house”—see Big Thing and The Wedding Album and Astronaut, at least as originally conceived. But therein lies my concern: Duran Duran also seems to make ill advised decisions when there is no outside producer to referee things. (I’m convinced that Ronson or even Timbaland—yes, Timbaland—or any of us, for that matter—would have told them to keep “Beautiful Colours” and “Salt in the Rainbow” on the Astronaut album.  As it was, they went through three producers on that one.)

Do you think I’m reading too much into the relationship between Notorious and Big Thing to infer anything from AYNIN and DD14? And are you worried about the apparent lack of an outside producer tied to this project?

438d2-ckshortellC.K. Shortell is a lifelong Duran Duran fan who lives in the northeast with his wife and two sons, one of whom loves watching concert footage of the band.  When he’s not struggling to explain to a two 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.

 

April Katy Kafe with Roger Taylor!

It’s April Katy Kafé time…and that means Roger Taylor is in the Kafé!

As always, I dutifully listened to the Kafé, took copious notes, and am ready to once again summarize, translate, commentate, and flat out poke fun at Mr. Taylor, although I will go easy on him since of course it is his birthday month. (Happy Birthday Roger!!)  It is a very tough job, but I do it all for you.  For YOU.

I will reiterate my disclaimer: I am not rewriting the Kafé word for word (are you kidding me?), you are merely getting my point of view, and if you were to listen to the Kafé yourself (and I wholeheartedly recommend that you do), it is extremely likely that you might hear things differently.  This is my blog, I write it as I hear it. Done.  

Mr. Hudson:  While I was a little confused as to whether Mr. Hudson was writing with the band or producing (and I still kind of am), Roger said that Mr. Hudson approached management about working with the band. Wendy called the band, mentioned that he was interested in working with them, and the band agreed to have him join them in the studio for a meeting and go from there.  From what I could gather, it sounds as though he worked with them on two songs – this Kafé was done a week ago or so (I’ve lost track of time) when Mr. Hudson was currently in the studio with them.  One of the songs is slower but is still “groovy” and has an “amazing chorus”.  The other is more uptempo.  Roger says that Mr. Hudson brought some new energy in the studio and quoted John as saying he gave the band a “musical face lift”.  It wasn’t made clear as to whether he was continuing to work with the band or if he was just doing those two songs .  What WAS made clear is that the songs he was working on with the band were both brand new in addition to the breadth of material they already have written, and they do not know what will actually be on the album yet.  As Roger put it, all of the songs are kind of fighting for placement on the team at this point.  At the end of the process,  they will sit down and decide what 9-12 songs belong on the album.  They try to keep an open mind throughout the process…which by the way Roger says they are 3/4 of the way through at the moment.

DD14: Personally, I cannot wait until I can start typing the name of the album. I know that’s a long way off, but it’ll be nice.  I have a feeling though that DD14 has earned it’s way into being the “forevermore” loving-moniker for this album by the fans.  In any case, Roger feels pretty sure that fans will have new music to hear by the end of the year.  He said that it would be finished by summer. I had a difficult time trying to decide if he meant one song, the writing for the album, or otherwise, but given that he believes they are 3/4 of the way through the process, I would have to assume that he means the writing and recording, but if someone wants to clarify that for me – feel free. I am not very privy to the process of mixing, but I gather that can take a very long time, which must be why Roger said “Obviously the album will not be out this year”, but they are really trying for early 2015.  I have to believe him, and hope we’ll have much more to talk about in the latter part of this year into 2015. Katy mentioned (and I thank her for this) that it’s been stone silence from DD in the studio.  She’s right, it definitely has, and Roger was quick to explain that right now, they’re in the mode of keeping their heads down, keeping focused, and working.  Again, I believe that, and have no doubt that is how it has to be in order for them to ever get this album finished. But, we’re human and can’t help but mention that we miss them.  Right?!?

The Reflex: Katy mentioned that they were working on something really cool for the fans to commemorate the anniversary of this album. I can only imagine…and chances are it’s being posted somewhere as I type this, because that’s typically how it all goes down.  Things happen when I’m not looking.  She asked Roger how it felt to be celebrating this anniversary.  Roger said that he’s gotten “used” to these anniversaries.  (Me too – although 30 years still feels like a really long time!) He said that he feels The Reflex is one of the most important songs they’ve released.  The album version didn’t “jump out” at them until Nile got hold of it and “turned it on its head” As I mentioned in my earlier blog from today, a good many fans look to this song as the one that turned them into Duranies.  I’m still wondering what DDHQ has cooked up for fans…

Fan Q&A:  (I tried to get names. I am probably misspelling them, and I apologize!!)

Michelle wanted to know if Roger has any hearing damage from playing drums all of these years.  Roger said that he was tested four or five years ago and was told that he had the same hearing as someone who has been through a war.  Roger takes this in stride, saying that it’s to be expected when you’re a rock musician, but that his hearing really isn’t too bad.

Christine asked about whether or not Roger contributes to lyrics or song titles at all.  He said that on this particular album there has been a lot of discussion amongst the four of them regarding titles and lyrics, but that Simon has taken the helm with the bulk of the writing on this one.

Athena asks about places that Roger hasn’t been on tour that he’d like to go, and Roger said he’d like to go to India, China and Israel.

Maia wanted to know if he’s used new technology on this album.  Roger said that he’s been using the brand new Roland TD40 kit a lot for this album and he seems to really like it.

Sam asked when Roger knew he’d made it as musician (pop star) and how it felt. He answered saying that at one time early on he and John went record shopping right after the release of Planet Earth and their appearance on Top of the Pops. Girls recognized them and they ended up having to run down New Street in Birmingham.  It was about that time that he’d been asked for an autograph for the first time, and he said that’s kind of about the time you start realizing that you’re famous.

Marilyn wanted to know if Roger would marry her to which Roger said that he would NOT say it depended on what she looked like but that it depended upon how she is, and that he liked her name.  But then Katy reminded him (good save, Katy!!) that yes, Roger is in fact already married.  “Oh, that’s right!!  Rewind…rewind!!”

Roger is lucky he is not my husband today…because he’d be getting a phone call.  😀

Lastly, what does Roger want for his birthday if he could have anything?  (I didn’t catch who asked this and I’m sorry!)  Roger said that he would like a brand new Aston Martin in dark grey.  Yes…because wouldn’t we all???   But he’s also going to the Maldives for a vacation for his birthday, and the only way you can get to the island is by sea plane (note to fans who might be thinking they can go find him there – I hope you are good swimmers!), which worries him a bit since he is not a fan of small airplanes.

He thanked everyone in advance for their good wishes, and was back in the studio within a flash.  Nice, short and sweet Katy Kafé.  No spoilers. No song titles…but we did hear a little bit about what’s going on in there, which is something!

-R

 

 

 

 

Duran Duran and Mr. Hudson

That title sounds like a movie in the making…

Did anyone see that the band is in the studio working with Mr. Hudson?  I won’t lie, I didn’t know much about Mr. Hudson, other than he’s worked with Kanye West – in fact he was signed to Kanye’s label and his recent effort, Straight No Chaser was recorded with Kanye West as the Executive Producer, so I took to Spotify to check out his work. I’ve heard a couple of his songs before, but as is typical for me, I’d never really listened. One thing I immediately detect is a sort of shout out to the 80’s.  Not cheesy 80’s, mind you – not throwaway top 40’s pop from the 80’s (thank goodness) – but some of those elements you might hear from Duran Duran, Missing Persons, Joy Division, New Order, ABC…(I could go on and on really).  The arrangements might not be entirely obvious, but you can certainly hear the influences of bands we know and love in the background, despite the fact that the music as a whole is solidly modern.  While I might not be a fan of some of the more urban sounds he seems to favor – I’m hopeful that he’ll work with to maintain respect for the sound we know, recognize, and love.

I also checked out Google to gain understanding of where he’s from, what he’s been up to, etc.  He’s from Birmingham (that can’t hurt!), and he’s toured with everyone from Amy Winehouse to Jay-Z.  As I mentioned, he was signed to Kanye’s label, and has worked with Kanye, Jay-Z, Miley Cyrus…and even dub step artist Caspa.

It will be very interesting to hear the final product, but I suspect that the band is looking to breath some modernity into the musical space that they own. As the band has often said, they want to keep looking forward.  I like that Mr. Hudson seems to be able to span the distance between the best that the 80s had to offer and some of the more urban, modern sounds of today.  If he can do that without destroying the band’s musical identity for their fans – then we’re on to something.

If you’re like me and aren’t entirely familiar with Mr. Hudson’s music  (I think I’d only heard Supernova and maybe a couple other songs of his???) – you should check him out, you might just be surprised.