Category Archives: Music

May The Force Be with…Duran Duran?

Several years back, I found an article online that compared the first three Duran Duran albums to the original Star Wars trilogy. It was a brilliant comparison; unfortunately, I never bookmarked the article and have since been unable to track it down. (Note to readers: ping
me on Twitter (@ckshortell) if you happen to find it.)

I think a similar comparison could be made with some of Duran’s post-reunion albums and the newest Star Wars trilogy. Actually, there’s probably a longer comparison that could compare the entire Star Wars canon with all 14 Duran albums and side projects. But for now, let’s stick to a simple, but apt, comparison.


The Force Awakens/All You Need is Now

The latest Star Wars trilogy launched with 2015’s The Force Awakens. Ten years after the end of the financially successful but critically panned prequel trilogy, The Force Awakens, directed
by J.J. Abrams, was actually as much a “soft reboot” of the Star Wars franchise as it was a sequel trilogy. Hugely successful, the movie introduced new characters into the mythology while employing some heavy nostalgia. A bunch of plucky rebels must destroy a big bad planet killing machine! Or, in this instance, a star system killing machine! There were some changes, however. The hero was now a woman, played by the very charismatic Daisy Ridley; the bad guy, Kylo Ren, was still “in training” and not all powerful; and overall, the cast was much more diverse than the original.


Sound familiar?

Think back to nine years ago and All You Need is Now. That album came on the heels of 2007’s Red Carpet Massacre, itself a massacre of circumstance (after Andy’s departure and the shelving of Reportage) and collaboration (with very un-Duranie collaborators like Timbaland joining the team.) (For the record: I mostly like RCM. But for the purposes of this comparison, I’m going with how most of the fanbase reacted to it. Which was badly. Very badly.)

Where did Duran go? To Mark Ronson, as much the “hot” producer as J.J. Abrams was the “hot” director for the Star Wars franchise. And what did Ronson do? Basically “reboot” Duran by helping them craft an album closer to their original, early 80’s sound than anything they had done since. The video about the creation of “Girl Panic” is a microcosm of this approach. “Play the drums like ‘Girls on Film’, Ronson told Roger. And the guitar, asked Dom? “Like Andy played it…on Girls on Film.” And on and on.

But All You Need is Now was more than just a retread of the early material—it genuinely worked, with catchy hooks and classic Duran choruses that had been lacking from many of the previous albums. One review asked, “Where have all these songs been hiding all these years?” Yes, there were clear nods to Rio. But the album also paid homage to other Duran eras. “Safe” channeled the funk from Notorious. The industrial sounding keyboard synth on the title track,
coupled with Dom’s guitars, brought to mind the more rock-oriented 90’s Duran sound, while the chorus was vintage Duran.

Like The Force Awakens, All You Need is Now did add some diversity to the mix. Simon shared the vocals more on AYNIN than on any previous album, with guest appearances by Kelis and Ana Matronic, as well as broadcaster Nina Hossain providing spoken word codas to two songs.

Overall, All You Need is Now succeeded for the same reasons that The Force Awakens did: it created something new, yet familiar, with a broad appeal to both core and new fans alike.

Paper Gods/The Last Jedi

There was a great deal of anticipation following the huge success of The Force Awakens. Specifically, the next movie was set to feature the return of Luke Skywalker, the hero of the original Star Wars trilogy. Mark Hamill reprised the role and was in the closing seconds of The Force Awakens, teasing fans and making the two-year gap between movies seem interminable. The Last Jedi also featured a different director—Rian Johnson—who took over the reins from
J.J. Abrams.

Unlike The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi proved to be a very divisive movie within the Star Wars fanbase. Luke Skywalker’s portrayal as a bitter, older Jedi who intentionally cut himself off from the Force came as a shock to fans, who wanted to see their childhood hero wield his lightsaber and confidently bring the First Order (the bad guys in the movie) to their knees. It didn’t help matters that Mark Hamill was quoted as questioning the script.

The b-plot of the movie—the flight of the Resistance from the First Order—also ends in disaster for our heroes, which didn’t sit well with fans, who thought that much of that plotline was pointless. And, spoiler alert: most of the Resistance dies. In fact, there are so few remaining rebels that they are all able to fit on the Millennium Falcon at the film’s conclusion.

The movie also seemed to gut the new trilogy of any sense of mystery by resolving (or simply negating) far too many plot points than a middle act typically would. Who, exactly, was Supreme Leader Snoke? Apparently, it didn’t matter as he was cut in two by Kylo Ren. Who were Rey’s parents? They were “nobodies” – a major subversion of the “Luke, I am your father” revelation from The Empire Strikes Back.

Meanwhile, on planet earth, Duran Duran followed up the fan friendly All You Need is Now with Paper Gods, an album seemingly as divisive among the fan base as the loathed Red Carpet Massacre. Again, I will freely acknowledge my bias: While I don’t love every single track on Paper Gods, on balance, I think it’s an amazing album, possibly their best since The Wedding Album. As usual, my opinion is likely in the minority among the Duran fan base.

Like The Last Jedi, Paper Gods subverts expectations. The title track is like nothing we’ve really heard from Duran before—it’s an epic opener, a cross between “New Religion” and “The Valley” in sheer scope. And therein lies the problem for some—why would you ever want to channel “The Valley” in any way, shape, or form? (For the record: I love “The Valley”. So I’m fine with it.)

“Last Night in the City” follows, and once again, we’ve shed the 80’s formula from AYNIN. Synths dominate; guitar is largely absent. The band seemed more concerned with a sound that would find chart success in 2015 vs. 1983.

Paper Gods, ultimately, feels like a bunch of different albums lumped onto one playlist. There’s the modern, dance oriented, sequel to Red Carpet Massacre that can be heard on tracks like, “Last Night In the City,” “Danceophobia,” “Face for Today,” and “Change the Skyline.” Then there are darker, more experimental cuts like the title track and “You Kill Me With Silence.” There’s more funk on this album than anything since Notorious, as found on “Butterfly Girl”, “Pressure Off,” “Only in Dreams,” and even “The Universe Alone.” And then there are songs that refuse to fit in any box: the dreamy “What Are the Chances,” in the classic tradition of Duran ballads; the 70’s sounding “Sunset Garage,” which sounds like nothing heard before on any previous Duran album. Even “Face for Today”—which I lumped in with the “modern dance” set of tracks—features as classic a Duran chorus as you will ever hear, that could hav been ripped from 1983’s Seven and the Ragged Tiger sessions.

Paper Gods, like The Last Jedi, dared to be different; it dared to cover new (and old) ground. And both caused their respective fan bases some consternation, as they seemingly failed to live up to the expectations set by the preceding work.

DD15 / Rise of Skywalker

Which brings us to the present. Expectations are high across both the Duran and Star Wars fandoms. In a little over a month, the new Star Wars trilogy concludes with the highly anticipated Rise of Skywalker. The trailer has offered some tantalizing clues, but overall, the plot continues to be shrouded in mystery.

Likewise, the next Duran Duran album is slated for release…possibly in the spring of next year? We all know not to give too much credence to when the band claims its new album will be out. But everything seems lined up for a new album and tour to (finally!) commemorate the 40th anniversary of the band. We’ve gotten a few details on it—Simon claimed recently that it’s an album that will “make you dance” like “Rio”—but we’ve heard similar claims about previous albums that didn’t necessarily turn out true.

What is true is that both the next Star Wars movie and Duran Duran album are highly anticipated by their fans, and many are hoping for change of direction. Will fans be happy with the finished product? Or after so many hears, is it an impossible task that we’ve set up these artists to accomplish?

Stay tuned…and May the (Duran) Force Be With You

The Heart, The Mind, The Albums

a dialogue between the ego and the alter-ego

As a music writer who recently lost his primary publishing outlet, the kind offer from Daily Duranie to be their intern and write once a week really softened the disappointment. Over the last few weeks, I have dove back into every corner of my Duran Duran memories and music to establish a mental base of operations for future writing. I’ve listened to every album again and watched some DVDs that I had missed. In the end, I realized one thing about myself. I am a divided self. At least, I am with Duran Duran albums. 

When I think about Duran Duran albums, there is a friction between my critical mind (which reviews an album or two each week) and my nostalgic heart. If you asked either piece of me to rank the albums, the lists would look quite different. So, I had to make a list. It’s a guy thing. We like making lists and arranging our taste in some sort of hierarchy that proves how smart we are. We are aware of this issue and we are working on it. 

The Best Duran Duran Albums

Heart/(Mind)

1. (1.) Rio

Rio is never a debate. From the artwork to the videos to every single song, the album captured a moment in popular culture and convinced us the our lives could be a James Bond film in some way. The bass lines are the stuff of legend and the band never again found such a perfect balance between Andy’s aggressive guitars and Nick’s carefully arranged melodies. Every band has “that” album where they are in the zone but sometimes you get tired of it. Not with Rio

(What he said.)

2. (2.) Duran Duran

A formidable debut album. From the Buzzcocks’ 1977 Spiral Scratch EP to this sounds like an eternity but it was only four years from punk to post-punk to Duran Duran. The musical maturity is already there in the arrangements and the band still sounds young and hungry. If this and Rio were all they ever released, Duran Duran would be revered like Joy Division. 

(OK, not Joy Division. But this debut rocks harder than people remember. The later addition of “Is There Something I Should Know?” in 1983 actually disrupts the album with Alex Sadkin’s production sounding too bright and colorful amongst the Colin Thurston tracks. Rarely talked about by critics, this is one of the strongest debuts of the decade.)

3. (5.) Big Thing

Experimental with purpose and the proper dose of Warren on guitar has aged this album extremely well. “All She Wants Is” still sounds pristine with a low-end that can shake the room. From moody ballads to driving dance tracks, Duran Duran colorfully (those outfits…) flaunt the ease with which they juggle pop and art. 

(Your neon colored eyes were at this show in 1989 and the band was fading in popularity. This album’s lukewarm success further pushed the band asunder of popular culture so how grand could it all be? Well, it is pretty grand but “Drug (It’s Just A State of Mind)” sounds completely out of place and is a total duff. If only there was an incredible B-side that should have replaced it. Hmm.)

4. (14.) Arena

The opening drums of “Is There Something I Should Know”. Is anybody hungry? Switch-it off. Was I chasing after rainbows? So many lines ignite the memory of listening to and watching this concert. Hearing “Seventh Stranger” on the last tour with the footage from 1984 playing above the stage was truly special. 

(How many live albums are really not that “live”? Probably most. How many of those also “live albums” include a studio recording mid-set? “Wild Boys” drops out of the sky into the middle of a concert and nobody thinks this is weird? When you can actually hear John’s bass, the songs sound better but the original version of Arena sounds like it was mixed in a soup can.)

5. (7.) Seven & the Ragged Tiger

As a kid, the build-up to the video premier of “Union Of the Snake” felt as exciting as watching the Space Shuttle launch. Lizard people in a desert. An underground society of freaks. The song and video ushered in the band’s most saturated time in popular culture. Soon after, “The Reflex” brought Duran their first US #1. As good as the singles are, the desolate “Seventh Stranger” remains the masterpiece here.

(Nile Rodgers saved this album by fixing “The Reflex”. There are three songs in the middle of the album that I have always confused. As I try to hear them in my head, “(I’m Looking For) Cracks In the Pavement” is the one I like best and the one that isn’t about dice is the one I like least (at a loss for what it is called right now and I listened to this cassette every day for a year when it came out). This album is inconsistent and the band sounds stressed that the fans might catch on.)

6. (4.) Notorious 

I wasn’t ready for it when it arrived but this and Big Thing really stand-out in the band’s career. The band really fought themselves out of a corner with Notorious and established themselves as musicians, not teenage heart throbs. The musical talent was always there but the band sounds more focused and precise.

(Notorious was when Duran Duran stopped trying to be James Bond and took a deeper interest in the relationships of our beloved 007. “Skin Trade” is as sexy as Duran has ever been. Even with Andy gone, the guitars are still keeping Mr. Rhodes’ more pretentious proclivities in balance yielding a mature and confident Duran Duran. Song for song, there is a consistent quality to the album where every song serves a purpose.)

7. (3.) All You Need Is Now

Without a doubt, my favorite Duran album post-80s. Mark Ronson keeps it simple by focusing on what works best. They might not be hits in a commercial sense but fans of a band know when a song is a “hit”. The title track and “Girl Panic!” were top-shelf singles in any decade. An unfair criticism but the fact that we don’t listen to albums on repeat day after day anymore probably makes this slightly under-appreciated by me. 

(Slightly under-appreciated?! Song for song, this belongs in their top three. The artwork, the analogue synths, the stellar guitar work of Dom Brown, and an arsenal of hooks makes this an unforgettable Duran Duran album. What is harder than following up a massive debut album with an even bigger one that conquers the world? Recording an album two decades later that holds its own with the first two.)

8. (6.) Medazzaland

Mid-period Duran Duran without a Taylor was a little uncertain but Medazzaland remains an experimental delight. The video for “Electric Barbarella” might stir debate but the song sounds futuristic and kitsch. They even erupt like Tesla on the chorus of “Who Do You Think You Are?”. A few anonymous tracks drift-by but the album never loses its grip on you. 

(Not releasing it in the UK was a tragedy. The UK audience would have appreciated the cold electronics. While not exactly Bowie’s Low, the band’s experiment pays off with a strong collection of songs. Warren colors between the lines when he needs to and enhances Nick’s digital landscapes. Best experienced as a whole, Medazzaland sounds like a place we should visit.)

9. (11.) Red Carpet Massacre

The follow-up to Reportage (apparently), suffers from a case of uncertainty but there are some genuinely killer dance tracks on here. Hearing “Tempted” live sent me back to this album and I found more than I remembered. Simon’s voice on “Box full o’ Honey” sounds exquisite, for one. “Dirty Great Monster” sounds like a lost Cheap Trick gem and “Last Man Standing” is the sort of album track that can carry an album beyond the singles. 

(Parting ways with Andy should have ignited a spark of swagger from the band but they sound content to the let the high-priced producers do the driving. Timberlake really brings little to the party besides being popular at the time. He is a once-in-a-generation talent but the collaboration was stale. Chasing a more “authentic” club sound only reminds us how important Roger Taylor on real drums is to the Duran Duran formula.)

10. (8.) Liberty

Unfairly maligned for some misteps like “Hothead”, there is some really great material on Liberty. Every critic said the lead single was a terrible choice but I actually dig “Violence”. The second side of the album definitely loses some focus but the first half proves worthy of frequent listens and “My Antartica” is nothing short of beautiful. 

(The modern-pop of “Serious” and the fierce “First Impression” showcase a band considering future paths. At the time, it was easy to call this indecision but I think it was borne from curiosity the more I listen to the album. The myth that Wedding Album “saved” the band implies that Liberty was a catastrophe. Nothing is further from the truth.)

11. (12.) Wedding Album

The first time I heard “Ordinary World”, I was crossing the railroad tracks near Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach, FL. I remember it that vividly. Duran Duran was back! Three classic singles and some interesting filler made for a respectable but overrated album. 

(No matter how successful “Ordinary World” was to the band, it still doesn’t sound like a classic Duran Duran song. While the liquid grace of “Come Undone” and the attitude of “Too Much Information” were dynamite, the rest of the album is far less coherent than Liberty.)

12. (9.) Astronaut

Andy Taylor’s guitar tone has a unique frequency that just soothes my soul. His style is a breath of fresh air after Warren’s antics on the fretboard (and in the bedroom). Even if there was only the reunion tour, it was worth it but the band took the time to deliver new material that often reminds you of their best work while not quite getting there.

(I would have liked to see them hit the studio after a reunion tour while the juices were flowing but “What Happens Tomorrow” and “Nice” will always make my Duran playlist. Rest of it is somewhat forgettable but I enjoy it when I listen to it.)

13. (10.) Paper Gods

Living in Vegas, you build up an instant distain for anything that smells like EDM. So, “Last Night In the City” will always be an album killer for me. The ballads lack the necessary hooks and the best songs from this period were relegated to b-side status. Paper Gods took too long to record and there were too many cooks in the kitchen. 

(Not nearly as bad as I think. “Sunset Garage” could almost slip into a Motown playlist while “Danceophobia” is a legendary band having a laugh. The bold title song shows confidence at the front of the album and the band sounds ready to keep the party going for at least another decade.)

14. (13.) Thank You

What they should have covered.

(The critics were savages when this came out but the production is quite good. “Perfect Day” is full of grace and “White Lines” captures the paranoia of the original. Still, it could have been much better than it is. )

15. (15.) Pop Trash

This was mostly trash.

(Yep.)

Big Trashy Thing

No one cares, but this is their best by miles. – Robert Christgau

As much as I love and appreciate every word Robert Christgau has ever written on music, he has never been a fan of my favorite bands. The Big Three for me as I turned 13 were Duran Duran, Howard Jones, and Thompson Twins. It wasn’t until 1989, well after their commercial peaks, when he gave one of them a B+ using his school-grade methodology. For those wondering, a B+ from Christgau equals “a good record, at least one of whose sides can be played with lasting interest and the other of which includes at least one enjoyable cut.” You’re telling me Rio isn’t at least a B+? Dude. 

Moving on. According to Christgau, the first “good” album from my Big Three artists was Big Trash by Thompson Twins. And it is, at least, a “good” album. In fact, it is arguably their best album but anyone claiming to love it more than Into The Gap has put too many shots of hipster in their chai latte. Then it occurred to me that another one of my favorite bands had released a “Big” album six months earlier. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that Big Trash and Big Thing have a lot on common.

I recognize that I am assuming a certain level of awareness of Thompson Twins beyond the basic MTV stuff but the Daily Duranie audience knows music. However, I don’t blame you if you lost sight of Thompson Twins after Live Aid; most folks did. In a lot of ways, the Twins were on a similar trajectory to Duran Duran after Live Aid. Both lost band members before working on their next album and the resulting albums were more subdued, less colorful affairs. 

Earlier I mentioned the six-month gap between Big Thing (October ’88) and Big Trash (March ’89). Oddly enough, each band’s preceding album had a similar gap with Notorious (November ’86) arriving seven months before Close To the Bone (March ’87) As the decade traded “greed is good” for “feed the world”, both bands had to adapt their image and the albums reflected a more informed, mature take on the styles that made them successful. From Duran’s undeniably sexy funk of “Skin Trade” to the buoyant acoustic guitar of the Twin’s “Get That Love”, both albums showed musical growth and were able to slow the erosion of casual fans suddenly enamored with Jon Bon Jovi’s abs.

Two years later, the band’s went even further with their most experimental albums of the decade. Thompson Twins’ Big Trash turned up the guitars and the rhythm. “Bombers In the Sky” rocks harder than anything they ever did and “Sugar Daddy” showed they still had plenty of sweet hooks left in their Halloween bag. Sound familiar? Big Thing also finds a way to rock without taking you off the dance floor. 

Why weren’t Trash and Thing bigger? As a fan of both bands, these albums were strong artistic statements – hell, Christgau gave a rare B+ to a, as he loved to call them, anglo-disco group! Of the two, I get the most animated about Big Thing. There should have been four hit singles on that album not counting “Palomino” which belongs in the same special corner where us fans love to keep “The Chauffeur”. The band’s amped-up funk (“I Don’t Want Your Love”), post-punk despair (“Do You Believe In Shame?”), electro-pop (“All She Wants Is”), and command of atmosphere (“Too Late Marlene”) are all memorable examples of Duran Duran’s unique alchemy. Had Christgau given it a listen, I dare say that he might have conceded an A- for the effort. 

After their “Big” albums, both bands went through a bit of an identity crisis while trying to find the right sound for a new decade. Thompson Twins dove into the rave culture with 1991’s Queer while Duran opted to throw a bit of everything against the wall in hopes of something would stick. Hey, that’s their liberty. Evaluating those albums is best left to another day; if only to prove Christgau wrong. Someone does care. 

Post-imperial funk: Notorious

In 2010, Pitchfork contributor Tom Ewing helped define the concept of imperial phases as it applies to popular music. Coined by Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant, also a music critic, it’s the sort of term that obsessive music fans and writers grasp immediately. Ewing laid out certain parameters for what constitutes a band’s imperial phase while also noting that empires eventually crumble: “it holds a mix of world-conquering swagger and inevitable obsolescence.” On October 20, 1986, Duran Duran released the single “Notorious” and rose up from the rubble of an empire in tatters. 

Without discrediting their success in the UK, the entire concept of an imperial phase implies an empire that stretches beyond borders. For Duran Duran, that meant conquering the United States and the world. I would make the case that the band’s imperial phase began in March 1983 when “Hungry Like the Wolf” peaked at #3 in the U.S. and came to a close with “A View To A Kill” becoming the band’s second #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 in July of 1985.

For those twenty-eight months, Duran Duran possessed the three traits required of a band’s imperial phase as laid out by Ewing. The band’s sense of command was impeccable. The original idea of a band that blended Chic and Sex Pistols had become a reality. The New Romantic scene was left behind and the band was creating a singular style all their own where over-driven guitars and textured synths could dance in harmony. Secondly, they had permission – the world was listening and the hysteria was deafening. Finally, the band’s imperial phase set the tone for the rest of their career. Within the sounds of Rio and Seven & the Ragged Tiger are the seeds of everything that would come after. 

It was the unpolished performance at Live Aid in July of 1985 that put all the internal issues of the band in front of the world and they were overshadowed by everyone from Howard Jones to U2 that magical day. The fragmentation into two camps: rock (The Powerstation) and art-pop (Arcadia) were both successful but the band’s imperial phase was grinding to a halt. The loss of Roger and Andy should have been death blows to the Duran Duran empire. Can you imagine The Beatles moving on if Ringo and George Harrison had left? It was time to burn out or fade away. Thanks to a little help from a friend in Nile Rodgers, Duran Duran emphatically chose to do neither.

The release of “Notorious” thirty-three years ago this month ushered in the band’s post-imperial phase. As Tennant once said, “what’s interesting is what you do after” and Duran Duran lived up to that immediately with a funky single that introduced us to a leaner, more mature band. While the single performed admirably, the album stalled outside the Top 10 in both the UK and America even though it remains one of the deepest albums they have ever released. From start to finish, there isn’t a song on there that makes you wonder if maybe they could have found something better for the album. 

The follow-up singles to “Notorious” are two of my favorite Duran Duran singles, especially “Skin Trade”. The fact that it barely nibbled the Top 40 remains one of the biggest mysteries in their career. The video, the bass line, the vocal, everything came together on “Skin Trade” but most people had already made the decision to either move on to new bands and styles as the decade wound down. It’s a shame. Things were starting to get really interesting….

Paper Gods 2.0

As the curtain (finally) comes down on the Paper Gods era, we turn our attention to what lies ahead. While I saw more Duran Duran shows then ever before during the Paper Gods tour, it was more a matter of geography than passion for the new material. Their booking agent seems to have a thing for Las Vegas! While I’m not terribly sad about Paper Gods being shelved for a bit on the set lists, I did eventually realize that the album is stronger than I give it credit for.  

Duran Duran, while incredibly successful in terms of hit singles, are an album band by nature. The balance of pop and art that infuses their best albums creates a journey for the listener that demands proper sequencing. The first three albums were masterclasses in how to sequence an album with a lot of hooks early and then slowly working in the moody, darker aspects of the band’s character. By the time you reached “The Chauffeur” or “The Seventh Stranger”, you had been changed by the songs that brought you there. Paper Gods never found that flow.

Maybe it is the changing ways in which people consume music. Listening to an album might be a lost art as far as a major label is concerned. Warner Brothers might have had Spotify and i-Tunes in mind when assembling Paper Gods. Or maybe it was the band? Regardless, the way Paper Gods unfolds when heard as an album has never felt right to me. Through the magic of computers, I have tried to remedy that, at least digitally. Not much can be done with the slab of wax on my turntable.

Here is one fan’s re-imagining of the album. Let’s call it Paper Gods 2.0.

1. Planet Roaring

2. Change the Skyline

3. Pressure Off

4. Valentine Stones

5. Sunset Garage

6. What Are the Chances?

7. Northern Lights

8. Danceophobia

9. Cinderella RIde

10. You Kill Me With Silence

11. On Evil Beach

12. Paper Gods

I originally loved “Paper Gods” as an opener, and enjoyed it live, but the album never builds upon the themes put forth by it. As a statement of purpose, I’m all onboard especially if it’s a commentary on today’s vapid pop music. But then the album veered into that world with the screeching “Last Night In the City” which I’ve omitted from my 2.0 version. There are some brilliant remixes of it but the album version haunts me. 

So, let’s open Paper Gods with “Planet Roaring”, one of the better Duran Duran anthems of the century. Seriously, how did this get relegated to a bonus track? Lyrically, it works as a welcome to the fans who have been with them since “Planet Earth”. The first five songs demand we move our feet especially the Motown-meets-Spice Girls sweetness of “Sunset Garage”. As a vinyl listener, I imagine “What Are The Chances?” ending side one, much like “My Antartica” does on Liberty

I sense that “Danceophobia” has a lot of detractors but it is senseless fun. “Face For Today” could slide in the spot and the momentum would not be lost. After “Cinderella Ride”, the album gets a little more artsy but the more dedicated fans live for these tracks. As a closer, “Paper Gods” can be seen as a sly commentary on the mainstream critics who love to label the band as “paper thin” and all about the “head shots”. Four decades into their career, the band have proven to be more than just paper gods and, with a little tinkering around on the sequencing, Paper Gods ultimately proves another successful chapter in their evolution. 

Headline Shows and Hall of Fame

Welcome to another fun-filled work week! today, I have two main topics for discussion: Andy Taylor, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Andy, Andy, Andy!

For those who haven’t been paying attention, I am here to catch you up a bit. Not long ago, out of a heavy fog over the horizon, stepped Andy Taylor, guitar in hand. During the weeks since, he has been fairly active on social media, catching us up on his career, and little bits and pieces of his life (his grandson is clearly the apple of his eye!).

Andy has been working occasionally with Reef. Andy cites meeting Reef vocalist Gary Stringer as he (Gary) agreed to do vocals for Andy’s upcoming album. In turn, Andy stepped on stage at Glastonbury with them, and has now announced another show. This time, he’ll be doing a full-set with the band on November 7th during Hard Rock Hell in Great Yarmouth. Reef is a hard rocking band, and it isn’t exactly a surprise (although very welcome!) to see and hear Andy performing with them.

If that weren’t enough, Andy has announced his own solo headlining show – his first in 30 years! Serving as today’s reason I continue to kick myself for not living in the UK, he will be performing at the 100 Club in London on November 27th. Gary Stringer (Reef) will be on vocals, along with a whole new band to back Andy. The show is in support of his soon-to-be-released album on BMG Records. Let’s hope there are more to follow! Tickets will be available on Live Nation at 10am on Friday morning (that’s 10am UK time!)

Should any of our readers be attending his gig, we would be overjoyed to have someone willing to write up a quick review for us here at Daily Duranie. Send us an email if you plan to go!

One window closes, and a Hall opens up…

While I recognize that for fans outside of the US, chats of Hall of Fame might seem silly, I would simply remind that America has it’s own history with rock and roll. As such – the Hall of Fame is at least noteworthy on a blog owned and operated by Americans.

Over the years, Amanda and I have been contacted more than a few times to throw support behind public (but fan-organized) efforts to get Duran Duran nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

On one hand, we’ve always been supportive. Of course we’d like to see the band recognized for their career! Who wouldn’t? That said, we’ve never publicly gotten involved with such efforts beyond mentioning them here and occasionally tweeting about it here or there. We’d been told many times that the band recognized the politics behind the organization (Hall of Fame), and as such – it hardly seemed worth the effort. Sure, of course they’d like to be recognized. I can’t imagine they would have turned down the offer to be inducted, had it been extended. That said, there were some organizational roadblocks in their way, and it likely seemed that there were better ways to spend their time. We understood those concerns and issues, and chose to follow the band’s lead. After all, if they didn’t see the need – who were we to say otherwise?

That party line held for a long time, up until last year when Duran Duran were invited to induct Roxy Music into the Hall of Fame. What most fans may be unaware of is that nominated bands/artists who are chosen to be inducted do not necessarily have a choice of who actually inducts them. As I understand, bands such as Roxy Music give some suggestions for whom they’d like to have induct them, and then from there – the board and organizers of the HoF make the final decisions based on a variety of criteria, including what might make the biggest ratings grab.

For Duran Duran to even be given “stage time” at the induction was a huge stride. In the past, such a thing probably would not have happened, for a variety of reasons…not the least of which being the man in charge.

Jann Wenner is the current chairman of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The HoF was invented in the 80s alongside Ahmet Ertegun (Atlantic Records), and Seymour Stein (Sire Records). Jann is the co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine, and set the tone for the types of bands and acts who were nominated and inducted…to say the least. Wenner’s own heyday took place during the 70s. The Hall of Fame hasn’t necessarily championed the cause of many black acts over the years, although some have certainly been included, pushed through by Ertegun. Stories of ballots being destroyed by Wenner, and rallying for favorites are not unusual.

Unfortunately, these tales have done little to prove that the Hall of Fame is anything more than a ridiculous popularity contest. However, last week it was announced that Wenner would be stepping down. During the past years, he has withdrawn from public eye, given up day-to-day operation of his precious magazine, and seems to be retiring.

Equally interesting is the replacement for Wenner as Chairman of the HoF, John Sykes. For his place in the music world, Sykes helps run iHeart Radio, but more importantly to Duran fans – he helped to invent MTV and VH1. He seems to be well liked, and with any hope he will right some of the wrongs that took place during Wenner’s tenure.

While I do believe it is time for bands like Duran Duran to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, make no mistake – there are many other bands and artists that should already be in there. Even though there might be an open door, there’s a long line to get in.

-R

The Music is Louder than All of their Roar

August is a tough month for blogging. You’d think by now, Amanda and I would have figured this out and agreed to take the month off from blogging each year. For most of the world – August is a vacation month. For us, August is a rush to get back to school, all the while thinking about all of the things we didn’t finish this summer.

One of those things we didn’t finish is a project that we’re going to keep working at. Part of me wants to hurry up and write because I don’t want to miss a window of opportunity. The other part knows that this is going to take a while, and I shouldn’t beat myself up because I wasn’t able to get anything done this week.

I’ve promised myself that I wouldn’t talk about our project online. Some of that is because I don’t know where it will go – if anywhere. I also don’t want to put pressure on myself to get something done. That said, I like throwing ideas out there via blogging, because sometimes it sorts through what I’m thinking.

Shackled and raised for a shining crowd

Lately, I’ve been reading about pop music. Not really a stretch, I know. However, the research I’ve been working on has to do with WHY people like pop music.

Did you know that pop was originally created for women? It’s true. Even back in the days of Frank Sinatra – one of the original poster boys – the point was to attract women. It was created so that women could listen to it at home while cleaning house, or later on -piped into businesses because it kept women calm, and productive. There was even a thought that if women listened to music at work, they’d be less apt to gossip, or form groups (unions) to protest work issues.

Pop music wasn’t meant for listening, oddly enough. It was originally created as music to be played on cheap speakers, so it didn’t need to have the depth or the musical texture that rock music – music made specifically for men to listen to on expensive sound systems – required. Pop stars weren’t picked because of their talents or musical abilities. They could be taught how to sing. They were marketed based on their looks, as a package deal. If you don’t quite buy into what I’m attempting to sell you, just ask yourself one simple question:

Having the time of your life

How many times did you read Tiger Beat, Seventeen, Smash Hits, Bop! Magazine, or Jackie (among a myriad of others) and actually read about the music? How many times did you read music reviews in those magazines? Concert reviews?

When I first stumbled across this notion, I immediately started going back through old teen magazines. Was it really true? They never talked about music? Really? NEVER? I couldn’t believe it. What’s more – I was appalled at myself for never noticing, but it was true. The true “teen” magazines didn’t cover music. Ever. They might suggest in an interview that a new album is coming out, or a tour might be taking place – but there were never in-depth looks beyond that. They’d be more apt to discuss Nick’s fashion sense than what keyboards he used. Why is that? Just think about it.

What’s more, I never noticed.

Scandal in white on a tangled vine

I would gleefully tear through those magazines each month, scouring each issue for all the articles on Duran Duran. I’d dissect the magazine, making sure to carefully remove pinups or photos I wanted to keep. Never once did I ever consider WHAT I was reading. I just knew that Nick loved champagne and strawberries, Roger was incredibly shy like me, and John’s nickname was Tigger. What more did I need to know?

It kills me that I never wondered why the music wasn’t discussed…and it wasn’t! Not only did they sidestep the issue, they completely and totally ignored that “small” facet of the career of any pop star. It came down to top ten lists of things they liked, and why they would “break your heart”.

Gross. And I fell for every word. Hook. Line. Sinker.

It can only bend to a tune of its own

This isn’t to mean I never cared about the band’s sound. I very much did. I would study each new album as though it were a textbook. In fact, if I had spent half as much time studying for school as I did Duran Duran, I would have easily been my class valedictorian.

I just don’t remember reading that much about their music in magazines. The pop magazines didn’t cover them, and critics mostly ignored Duran Duran. I’d grab whatever books I could find (Book of Words, anyone?), and much of what I learned came far later.

Spinning a compass to choose your way

I also talked with friends about music. The funny thing is, when I think back on it – there were friends I could discuss music with, and friends I could not. The first group were the people who listened to a broad variety of bands. These were people who subscribed to Billboard, or collected albums. They would sit on the concrete sidewalks, leaning their backs up against the school building and talk about the latest music.

Then there were the small circles who spent far more time trading pinup images in the quad area at lunch. They’d spread out their jackets for sitting, flatten their brown lunch bags on the grass, and set their sandwich, baggie of potato chips, and Hostess Twinkie on top, along with a napkin. They’d quickly munch on the sandwich, and then unzip their backpack and pull out the latest issue of Tiger Beat for group perusal.

I always felt too intimidated to share much in the first group, and would quickly bore of the second. I wasn’t a moody artsy type, but I also wasn’t quite the clothes, hair and shoes, type of girl, either. I would flit back and forth, trying to soak up as much as I could.

Which ever way you can be sure

I still feel the flush of heat in my cheeks when I think about the magazines I loved as a kid never covering the music. I’m embarrassed to admit that I was swept into the “romance” of it all, without even thinking twice. I’d venture to guess I wasn’t alone.

-R

Important Albums

My friend David has a new episode of his podcast, The D Side, out now. If you haven’t checked it out yet, you should. It’s available at the link or through iTunes, Spotify…and other places I’ve forgotten to mention.

The thing I love about David’s podcasts is that the topics he tends to choose encourages thinking. While Daily Duranie tends to examine social aspects of fandom much of the time, David focuses on music. Episode 6 continues that well-established pattern.

A lonely figure there

This new episode centers around important albums. David makes sure to note that an “important” album is not necessarily the same thing as a “favorite. We all have that one album (or a few) we love to bits, but typically there are several in our arsenal that maybe spoke to us in a different way, introduced us to a new type of music, or otherwise opened our eyes and ears.

While listening to his descriptions of his own favorite and important albums (No spoilers here – go listen!), I thought about my own potential choices.

Not long ago, someone told me that this site is obviously biased towards Duran Duran. I’m glad that’s coming through, given that the name of the blog is Daily Duranie. I would think my loyalties for this blog would be fairly clear with that sort of name. If you’re looking for unbiased commentary on music of all kinds – this isn’t the place to get it, nor was it designed with that purpose in mind.

Hanging dust clearing from the air

It seems to me, based on a few conversations I’ve had over the nearly nine years I’ve blogged, that there’s an assumption that Amanda and I must only listen to Duran Duran – as if that’s the only music we know. It’s appalling, really, especially given that my minor in college was music theory. I am left wondering if the same assumptions would be made if we were male, rather than female. (another topic for another blog!)

Simply put, just because we’ve chosen to write a blog and manage a website dedicated to our favorites doesn’t mean that we don’t also have many other bands, artists and musical genres we love. While we write about Duran Duran fandom, this does not mean we are unknowledgeable about music. The music is what brought us here to begin with. This concept should not be difficult to grasp. I suspect that those who say such things are people who aren’t regular readers. While I could write volumes (and someday will), today is not that day.

It occurred to me that my job isn’t to win over the naysayers. However, I will take the time to share some important albums (for me) that do not have Duran Duran’s name on them. In a future post, I’ll share some of my favorite non-Duran albums as well.

The Firebird Suite – Igor Stravinsky

Igor Stravinsky was a Russian composer, and at the age of 27, The Firebird was his first international success. The reason why this piece of music is so important for me is because it is the music I first conducted. I spent months learning both how to play the clarinet part, and then learning to read the entire band arrangement. Ultimately, it became the piece of music I auditioned with to be drum major of my high school band. (I was a very different sort of kid, we’ll just say that. Most kids choose marches, and I chose one of the most difficult pieces for a high school band to play on a field) I learned so much from just this one ballet. Yes, it’s actually a ballet, not a march. Anyway, it holds a very special place in my heart.

If you’re curious, here’s a video from the YouTube Symphony Orchestra (yes, that was a thing in 2009 and 2011) – it is their finale concert at the Sydney Opera House. The entire suite is much longer than this – most orchestras play just one movement. My marching band in high school obviously didn’t play this arrangement – there’s a audio of The Ohio State University playing the exact arrangement we did (but GALAXIES better than my marching band ever did!) on YouTube here. The YSO is performing Berceuse – the Infernal Dance, my favorite movement of the suite. This video is great because Michael Tilson Thomas is the conductor (one of my heroes), and the visuals taking place behind the orchestra add a fabulous element. Oh and yes, I wish I was in that clarinet section!

Blue to Brown – Blue to Brown

Another important album that is a little (well, a lot) closer to Duran Duran would be Blue to Brown. Yes, this is one of Dom’s projects – a blues album he recorded with his Dad When I bought this album, I knew it was probably going to be a struggle. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the blues. I can’t even really say I’m a fan at all. except that American rock and roll owes it’s backbone and emotion to the blues, so…. (I’m sorry Dom. I hang my head in shame) Anyway, I listened, and listened, and listened. I learned that the blues has so much more to it than just it’s twelve-bar progression. While I’m still not going to call myself a fan, I have a much bigger appreciation for the blues now.

It is a little tougher to find good quality video of Blue to Brown on Youtube, but I found “Going Down But Not Slow“.

Revolver – The Beatles

This was a tough choice for me…but when I think back to times when I really listened, and took the time to learn and absorb albums – Revolver was one of the first. My friend Marsha was a huge, and I mean enormous Beatles fan. She knew every single thing there was to know about that group. I can remember the day John Lennon was shot in 1980 – we were in sixth grade, which was middle school. News broke around campus at lunch time and if I remember right, Marsha heard from one of her teachers. She came out of class absolutely hysterical, and had me walk her to the office to call her mom and go home. I hadn’t yet discovered Duran Duran, and was fairly incredulous to the idea of leaving campus because a favorite singer had been killed.

The album itself is, in my mind, a masterpiece. I struggled choosing this one because it is also one of my favorite albums, but it has songs on it that just spoke so deeply to me at the tender age of what…ten(?), that I can’t let it go. From “Eleanor Rigby“, which is a song that I identify with to this very day, to “Yellow Submarine”, which is my least favorite, but still important stylistically. This album became that to which all others were judged by, including Duran Duran’s, so it is indeed an important album for me.

Your assignment is…

The “homework” that David had assigned near the end of his podcast was to choose an important album from Duran Duran, as well as an important non-Duran album, both being from adult years as opposed to albums that had maybe struck us as adolescents or children (as a couple of the ones I shared here did). I sent him my answers, that I’ll also post here:

  • Red Carpet Massacre – Duran Duran: I chose this because as most know, it is definitely not a favorite of mine. However, it is incredibly important. The album was released during the most turbulent time of my life, while I was pregnant with my youngest (at the “tender” age of 37, I might add!), and my father was incredibly ill. It is impossible for me to recall the period around this album’s release and promotion cycle without thinking about everything I was going through. Additionally, this album taught me an incredibly important lessons about fandom, music and even the recording industry. It is still not a beloved album, but an important one to me all the same.
  • Clear Static – Clear Static: This choice is simple, and inexplicably complicated all at once. I met this band in Chicago, 2005. They were opening for Duran Duran, and had all of the potential in the world. I became friendly with them, and even ran their MySpace page for a while, helping with their mail and their street team. I learned a lot from these wealthy and entitled group of kids from the northwestern edge of Los Angeles County. Not long after this album was released, the cracks in the group were evident. It takes far more to truly “make it” than simply opening for a well-established band. That is where the work begins, not ends. Unfortunately, that is where this band finished. I never listen to this album – nor do I plan to start now – but it did change my life and my thinking in many ways. I include it as an important, yet cautionary, reminder to myself.

At a later date, I’ll go back and offer my thoughts on my favorite albums, but for now, it’s your turn! What would you consider your favorite and important albums? Send a tweet to @GuyFansofDuran on Twitter!!

-R

Only After Dark

Have you heard of Only After Dark? It is a compilation of songs from the Rum Runner Days, released by none other than John and Nick!

Essentially, the album recreates a night at the Rum Runner, and for those of us who weren’t lucky enough to experience the club—the album served as the next best thing.

In 2000, John and Nick chose 50 tracks for a 4-hour radio show called “A Night at the Rum Runner”. The 18-track CD was released on this day in 2006 and even had some photos included in it’s gatefold sleeve that were from Paul Edmond’s book Duran Duran Unseen.

The tracks:

  • Being Boiled – The Human League
  • Computer Game – Yellow Magic Orchestra
  • Always Crashing in the Same Car – David Bowie
  • Sister Europe – Psychedelic Furs
  • Changeling – Simple Minds
  • Only After Dark – Mick Ronson
  • Underpass – John Foxx
  • Warm Leatherette – The Normal
  • The “In” Crowd – Bryan Ferry
  • The True Wheel – Brian Eno
  • Are Friends “Electric”? – Tubeway Army
  • Robots – Kraftwerk
  • I Feel Love – Donna Summer
  • I am the Fly – Wire
  • Shot by Both Sides – Magazine
  • Private Life – Grace Jones
  • Passenger – Iggy Pop
  • Slow Motion – Ultravox

If you want to hear the tracks, and experience the Rum Runner groove from back in the day, I found the Only After Dark playlist on Spotify.

If you happen to find yourself in the UK – you might want to check out the Only After Dark club nights, organized by David Wright. I had the opportunity to go to one in 2011, and to this day it remains one of my happiest memories from that trip. Only After Dark is celebrating it’s tenth anniversary this year, and they’re doing it in style with three very special club nights! The first is happening on June 29th and features a guest-DJ set from Martyn Ware. You can find updates on Only After Dark club nights on David’s twitter @DavidWrightOAD. I highly recommend following him and going to one of his club nights – they are incredibly special.

-R

To Find the Twist in Me

There must be somebody

I butted into a Twitter conversation this morning about “getting it”. How many times do you need to listen to an album before you connect, or “get it”? Is it a case of, “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again?” Or, do you figure that if the ears don’t like it, you’re done?

Naturally, we brought the topic right around to the band at hand. I will confess that there have been a few albums where it’s taken me plenty more than one listen to really get there. Paper Gods is one of them.

When I first listened to Paper Gods, I really don’t know what I was hoping to hear. I’d already heard several songs by the time I’d had the full album in my hands. My love for “Pressure Off” began with the first listen. I still contend it to be the best hook the band has written in years. That feeling still stands and one needs to look no further than their live show to see how the entire audience comes alive when they play it. (Sure, the confetti helps.) That said, much of the album was still a mystery. So, when I finally played the entire thing from start to finish, I came away with it not sure of how I felt.

Blow the rules away

On one hand, it sounded similar to Red Carpet Massacre, with the beats and slightly electronic feel. I didn’t hate it, but I also wasn’t sure I loved it. Amanda and I called it RCM-lite for a while, because it did feel very much like the halfway point between the urban sounds of Red Carpet Massacre and the more mainstream, slightly retro-sound of All You Need is Now. Even so, I have to be honest and admit that I really had a hard time deciding that I liked the sound.

Anyone can go back and read my blogs on Paper Gods to see what I mean. I’m not exactly proud of the fact that I didn’t jump in with both feet and say I loved it. It just took me a long time to come to terms with Paper Gods I had friends – patient, kind and very well-meaning friends – come to me and explain that I reviewed it way too early after far too few listens, and that my feelings about the album may have tainted other fans from supporting it. I felt terrible because A. the last thing I want to do is ruin someone else’s listening experience; and B. I didn’t want to upset the band, either. They’d worked hard on the album, and here I was – a long time fan with a fairly big mouthpiece, even if at the time I didn’t realize. I was souring the water without really meaning to do so. I did what any other fan might do (in silence!) – I kept listening.

Working up to something

I can remember the day when my feelings began to turn around. Mop in hand, I’d been cleaning my house. I had the album on, earbuds in, listening to each and every word and note. I noticed the lyrics during “Last Night in the City” were things with which I could directly identify. In fact, I was pretty sure Amanda and I had actually said some of those lines in the song ourselves! “Pressure Off” was and is (to us, anyway) the story of Amanda and I. We feel every note of that song and then some. “Butterfly Girl”, “What are the Chances”, and even :Only in Dreams” all had lyrics that meant something to me personally.

Musically, the album started to work for me too. I enjoy the depth and meaning of the lyrics. Yet the music is light and fun. I use the word “juxtapose” fairly often when I describe DD’s music – but it works here. Even that though, there is music depth on that album. “The Universe Alone” uses a multitude of electronic effects, but it is also one of the toughest songs I’ve ever had to come to terms with as far as content.

Can you handle it?

So how many times did it really take for me to get it? I don’t know for sure, but it took many listens. I just knew in my heart that I wasn’t a “one time” fan of Duran Duran, and that I was probably going to have to work for it in order to really feel the album get under my skin. Some people will tell you that if you really love an album or really love an artist that it doesn’t work that way. Love should be instantaneous. Is there really a point where you should just give up? How many times do you listen before you shelve it and move on?

-R