Category Archives: Music

“What Did I…” (Feat. Dom Brown): Authentically Michael Kratz!

Amanda and I feel extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful fellow fans, and people we would have likely never crossed paths with otherwise. Recently, another such moment occurred when Amanda texted me while I was camping in the middle of a forest in the Columbia River Gorge in Washington (shout out for wi-fi!), letting me know that Dom was a featured guitar player for a new song by someone named Michael Kratz out of Denmark. I diligently downloaded the song when I got home, and enjoyed the slight flashback to the 80s in the process. I blogged about it, and assumed that would be the end of the story, right?

Wrong.

A few weeks later, I got an email from Michael himself, thanking me for writing about it, and offering me the chance to get an early copy of another unreleased song that also features Dom.

First of all, I have to tell you that Michael is the real deal. He’s a very nice guy, with a fantastic career to boot. I don’t know why I hadn’t heard of him prior to August of this year, but like most other things in life—the more you know, the more you recognize you really don’t know.  Secondly, Michael Kratz is a Duranie. Who knew?!? (turns out, a lot of Duran fans did. I’m just a bit late to the party, as usual!)  I promptly asked Michael if he’d be willing to do a short Q&A for me since I know next to nothing about him, to which he agreed, and it wasn’t long after that I had new music and a Q&A in my inbox greeting me.

If I had to sum up Michael in one word,  it would be “authentic”. He is genuine in every sense, including his approach to music, which he describes as “old school”.  His sound gives a loud shout out to the 1980’s, and Michael embraces this.

“I think my sound is pretty old-school. After many years in the music business I figured out, that I must be honest to myself and my roots. I have released several albums with different bands, but it was difficult for me to relate to the way the music was produced.”

He likes to call his brand of music West Coast, and if you think back to bands like Toto, Michael McDonald, Richard Marx, Marc Jordan…and I’d even add a bit of Cutting Crew to that list…his music fits in very well in that lineup.  Rather than try to be something he’s not, he found a producer, namely Kasper Viinburg (and his father Ole Viinburg) who understood and appreciated the sound he was trying to attain. I think any of us who have been around for the entire evolution of Duran Duran recognize how difficult it can be to find a producer that is equal parts of push and pull (pushing to reach new levels, pulling the authentic, real sound out).

Having grown up on the west coast, I certainly heard a lot of that music on the radio.  If you take a look at my iTunes, you’ll see quite a bit of that in my library as evidence. It isn’t a stretch for me to listen to “What Did I…”.  As I listen to the opening notes, I can’t help  but think of Richard Marx, in the same way that I thought of Toto or Michael McDonald when I heard “Never Take Us Alive”.  While sure, the sound isn’t necessarily pulse-pounding, state-of-the-art EDM, it is clear, authentic, and real, which I appreciate.  Dom’s guitar gives the melody a modern edge without completely blowing the song out of the water. There’s something to be said in this day and age for music that holds true to the roots of the writer while seeking to be contemporary. “What Did I…” hits all of those notes. A little something more I picked up on after listening several times— Dom’s blues influence is evident. I challenge anyone to give this a listen, and then take “Please, Please” from Dom’s Blue to Brown for a spin. The similarities are there for the taking.

Overall, I’m thrilled to help out a fellow Duranie. There’s a part of me that finds a certain poetic justice in the fact that once again, it’s Duran Duran’s music that brings people together. I may have never heard of Michael had Dom never recorded with him. Yet here I am, writing about how like many of us, Michael recorded Sing Blue Silver from TV back in 1985, and he rewound and played “Save a Prayer” over and over again because he loved the song so much. Who hasn’t done that with their own favorite song or band member?  Michael has also had the chance to see the band quite a bit over the years, although because he’s a musician in his own right, he’s missed opportunities. Michael cites a story that only seems familiar to me because my overall luck has been similar.

“Back in 2008 when DD played in Odense (DK), I was playing in a venue right next to the stage. I got to see the support act (Saybia) and 10 minutes before DD should enter the stage I had to leave for my own soundcheck. So while tuning my drums I could hear the band’s starter, The Valley, and I couldn’t go out to see them. That was a bad day!”

While we’re on common ground as far as being fans goes, I can’t say I’ve ever missed a DD concert because a gig of my own was happening at the same time! Then there’s meeting and recording with a fellow musician who just happens to tour with Duran Duran…

“I just wrote him [Dom Brown] an email one Sunday afternoon.  I sent him some tracks and we talked about styles etc. and agreed to meet in October last year. My producer and I stayed with Dom at his studio for two days and we did two songs (“Never Take Us Alive” and “What Did I ..?”. He is very nice and it was very easy to work with him.”

Michael Kratz is one hard-working musician. “What Did I…” is due out tomorrow, so grab your copy!  His new album, Live Your Life, which includes “What Did I…”, is due out October 26. In addition to Dom, Michael worked Steve Lukather of Toto, Michael Landau (Michael Jackson, Richard Marx), and David Garfield (George Benson).  He describes the album as ranging from the classic pop/rock vibe heard in “What Did I…” to a more modern Brit-pop, which intrigues me.  He also has re-recorded his first album, Cross that Line, which was just released, and then on November 30, he will release a double live-album that was recorded in February of 2017.

If being hard-working in the studio isn’t enough, Michael is also easy to connect with online. He’s no slouch to social media, and MANY Duranies have already found him on Facebook as well. (I dare say that I know of a guitar player that could learn a little something about self-promotion from him)

I want to thank Michael for pushing me to get back in touch with my own roots. Since first hearing his music, I find myself gravitating to my old Cutting Crew and Toto albums, which has been a refreshing change of pace. There’s something about the authenticity in the music that I’ve been enjoying, and it’s good to hear someone like Michael staying true to himself. The fact that he’s also a Duranie is a bonus! I look forward to staying in touch and keeping up-to-date with what he’s working on.

“What Did I…” and “Never Take Us Alive” are available on all digital platforms worldwide (“What Did I…” drops tomorrow!), and they’re also available as CD’s from Michael’s website http://www.michaelkratz.net.

If you want to connect with Michael Kratz (and I really think you should!), check him out:

Michael on Facebook

Michael on Twitter

Michael on Instagram

-R

 

 

 

 

 

Makes Me Curious

Did you listen to the Katy Kafe this week featuring Roger Taylor?  I did and blogged about it on Friday.  Sometimes, a word, a sentence or a detail from those Kafes stick with me.  That is the case with this one, which is funny because it wasn’t very long or did not feature a ton of news on the Duran front.  Yet, it did give one juicy tidbit.  Duran Duran is planning on returning to the studio before the end of the year.

According to Roger, the band is planning to return to the studio for some “fun” (his word) but it might not be a new album.  I don’t know about the rest of you but I keep thinking about what exactly that might mean.

After the All You Need Is Now album cycle, I felt a sort of desperation for the band to keep active.  That album spoke to me and felt like Duran had embraced themselves and their fans.  Many fans seemed to be active on social media and expressed a lot of happiness about their fandom during that time.  While I say that, I recognize that it wasn’t a complete utopia and I knew that even then.  Nonetheless, things felt good to me and I really believed that Duran was on the “right track,” whatever that means.  Then, of course, the time between that album and Paper Gods rolled around.  2012 turned to 2013 then to 2014.  That tiny sliver of desperation I felt seemed to be growing.  I often blogged in response to this feeling.  Many took some of those blogs as complaining and not being understanding of the creative process.  I kept trying to explain that it had more to do with my concern over their success and the fear that if they took too long, the fans wouldn’t remain.  Those blogs always came from love, despite my flaws.

In hindsight, a lot of it had to do with my own fear that the band wouldn’t come back or that when they did come back, too much would have changed to feel the same.  The fun wouldn’t follow.  In reality, this had a lot more to do with me.  Things were not always ideal in my world and I was putting a lot of my hope and joy onto fandom.  I needed to have something to look forward to, something to give me happiness and not much in my life was beyond fandom.  This combined with the fact that Rhonda and I took our fandom to a more serious level by not only blogging but organizing meet ups and a weekend long convention.  Fandom took on a greater role in my life.

Now, we are witnessing the last dates of the Paper Gods Tour and era.  This time, things seem to be different.  On a personal level, I’m aware of what happened last time and how I reacted and why.  I also understand creative process work in a different way now than I did in 2013.  I have vowed to give them as much time as they need for whatever exactly they are going to do next.  Yes, the plan is just to give as much support as I can.  Funny enough, though, the band seems different this time, too.  The fact that they are planning to go into the studio indicates this.  It doesn’t sound like it will be years between Paper Gods and whatever is next.  (While I type that sentence, I hear many of you pointing out Durantime.  That may be true but I, again, will be positive throughout it all.)  Of course, while the band is planning to return to recording, Roger says that it might not be a “new album”.  So, what could it be?

I have no idea what exactly the band is going to be doing in the studio.  In order to figure it out, I have thought the band’s career.  Is there anything that they have had in the past that could give us an idea?  Maybe.  At times, the band has released a single in between albums.  I’m thinking about songs Iike Is There Something I Should Know or Wild Boys.  Could they think about writing and recording a song to be included on a re-issue or on a live album?  What about a album of remixes or another greatest hits album?  While they have never done a real EP, or smaller album, they could do one now.  Maybe that would be good.

Of course, one factor that makes this time unique is that the 40th anniversary is coming up.  Could that be the factor that is pushing the band back into the studio?  Could they be doing something special for that?  What about the idea of going through some of those demos that we know were close to being ready and finishing them?  I can only imagine that the band has a lot of work out there that could be completed and sent out into the world.  If they did an album of those, that might not be considered a “new” album?  I’m not sure.  Roger sure left me with more questions by this piece of news.

While I’m prepared to be patient and supportive through this time between Paper Gods and whatever come next, I wouldn’t mind getting a little something to ease the anticipation.  I’m okay if it is a song or two or an EP or an album featuring previously unreleased demos.  Whatever and whenever it is going to be, I’m looking forward to it.

-A

Reportage: The Fabled, Fanciful Golden Ticket

Yesterday I wrote about a rumor involving a new Duran Duran album. Apparently, if we are all to believe the rumor, the band has been working tirelessly – fingers to their bones – to record an album entirely on their own in their “spare time”.  I put myself out there and said that based purely on my own past experience as a Duran Duran fan, I really doubted this to be true. That opinion still holds this morning (and I appreciate that I wasn’t burnt at the stake yesterday for saying so).

A few Duranies asserted, probably with a fair amount of wishful thinking thrown in for good measure, that perhaps this could be Reportage.  I have some thoughts on that.

First of all, the existence of Reportage has turned into this fabled, prized, collection of work that has taken on the enigma of being The Golden Ticket.  I myself have spoken to a fan or two that somehow has either heard the album, or that claim to have a copy. One person said, “anyone who is anyone in the fan community has heard it. The music is floating around.”  Well, I haven’t heard it. Not a single note. That means I’m not anyone, I guess. Not really a surprise there, either. I love it when people tell me they’ve heard it, because they have this air about them. You know what I mean.  The whole “Yes, I know I’m on the inside and you’re just a lowly REGULAR fan.” Even if they don’t mean to sound that way….they absolutely do.  And they secretly love it, because they have The Golden Ticket, while you and I do not.

Let’s face it, had I ever heard it – I’m sure I’d come off that way too. But I haven’t. At this point, I’m really starting to wonder why anyone cares. Do any of us really know how many songs and material, have never made it onto an album over the course of their career?  Reportage is probably just a group of 9-12 more songs that never quite made it. Sure, some of you are probably saying, “Yeah, but these might be outstanding!” Yes. That’s true. But Duran Duran probably has quite the archive of songs that had the potential to be outstanding. After all, this is the group that wrote “Rio”, and “Paper Gods”, and/or “Danceophobia”.

Ok, “Danceophobia” aside… (sorry “Danceophobia” fans. I just can’t.)

The point is, while I know Reportage has become this Holy Grail type of thing for the fan community, it is possible we might be putting way too much stock into something that we know next to nothing about.  Sure, we were teased about it for way too long to have never heard it ourselves. Yes, we know Sony turned it down. I have heard there were legal issues. But do those things all add up to it being the golden album to end all golden albums?  I’m just not so sure. And if one more person tells me that they’ve heard it with that knowing look on their face…

Well, I’m just gonna need a vodka tonic in order to deal. And it’s only 10:30 am my time. Oh, and yeah, I’m still nearly 100% sure that they’re not going to be releasing any album next month, Reportage or otherwise. Until someone from DDHQ says otherwise, and I’ve been properly revived from falling on the floor in a dead faint, I’m sticking with it.

But hey, if anyone wants me to hear Reportage, by all means my inbox is open and ready.

-R

 

 

 

Never Take Us Alive feat. Dom Brown

Anyone heard the latest single from Michael Kratz featuring Dom titled “Never Take Us Alive”?

Interestingly enough, we didn’t hear about the single from Dom himself, but instead we caught it “through the grapevine”, and Amanda alerted me while I was…yes again…deep in the forests of Southern Washington. It is a miracle I had cell coverage, but no wi-fi, and unless I wanted to risk life and limb downloading it while using our (VERY!) limited data plan that has to be split between five family members, I had to wait until I got home to download and listen.

I tweeted Dom a few times about this, trying to get him to come out from under his rock (or out of his studio) to share the news of the single, to no avail. Turns out, I think he’s traveling. Having a holiday with family, as if that’s a thing or something. <wink> I did finally see a tweet from him announcing the song on release day, and that was it.

Seems to me he needs a PR person, or at least someone well-versed in social media to help him with this stuff. I know Dom works a lot outside of his Duran Duran touring, and produces for a lot of people. Seems to me he could really publicize far more than he is in order to help make a bigger name for himself…but what do I know? I merely write a daily, very-well read, fan blog that Amanda and I built from the ground up.

Did I mention that I work for cheap? 😀

I digress…

I’m bad with names sometimes, but I couldn’t make a connection to Michael Kratz. So I searched for some basic information. Turns out, Michael Kratz is Danish, and has done session work over the years. He has several albums out in a style called west coast—a style attributed to the coast on which I live in America—and I’ve never heard of it before now.  According to westcoast.dk, it’s a style that emphasizes melody, harmonics and arrangement. When I listen to Michael’s music, I hear heavy 1980s pop with lush electronic backing. It vaguely reminds me of some electronic musicians I’ve seen that tend to play small venues, and it’s usually just themselves and their keyboard set-up, but Michael’s work seems a bit more complex with far more dimension. It’s still very pop compared to anything on our radio these days.

I have a feeling that west coast music is one of those styles that is popular in other parts of the world, unbeknownst to those of us who live here…and so the rest of the world might think everything we listen to here in California sounds that way. Kind of like how most of the country (if not the world) thinks we all surf every day or have lunch with celebrities. Newsflash: we don’t. I haven’t been on a surf board since I was in my late teens, and using the word “on” is exaggerating, if you understand what I mean. I’m trying to remember the last time I saw a celebrity anywhere near me, and unless we’re talking Duran Duran….I think Teemu Selanne is the only one I can brag about. His daughter and mine were preschool chums, and my youngest is now nine.

Aside from being puzzled as to why Dom didn’t take full advantage of those of us who would buy nearly anything he’s worked on, I was happy to hear some new music from him. I wasn’t really ready for the full blast back to 1987 or 1988 when I listened to “Never Take Us Alive”, though, I must admit. That took more than one listen to warm up to, and I don’t want to pan Michael (or Dom) for that, it’s the style – and it’s just very different from what I might hear on any of our radio stations in the US right now.  Dom’s guitar cuts right through the melody, adding much-needed “guts and groove”, and he sounds like he’s having a lot of fun playing it too, which I appreciate.

Yes, “Never Take Us Alive”  is about as pop as you can get, reminding me of when I worked at (dating myself here) Millers Outpost (google it – the store was famous for having a denim “wall” in the back of the store and carried Levi’s 501s, an American clothing staple) in 1988. We had a stereo system in the store that played what felt like a revolving track of late 80s pop. Not a single The Cure or Duran Duran song to be heard, with endless hours of Lionel Richie, Steve Winwood, Terence Trent D’Arby (if I ever hear “Wishing Well” again…), Jermaine Stewart, Richard Marx, and so on. You get the idea. I quit working there after three very long months. I wonder why?

Rambling again…this is what happens when someone stays up until after 1am, watching The Killers concert stream from Las Vegas, I suppose. I need coffee.

Regardless, after many listens, I’ve decided the tune is catchy, and I’m starting to find myself humming the tune and knowing some of the words. Dom’s guitar adds exactly the right touch, and I love hearing his groove in the background, adding backbone and structure to a song that I have to admit would be incredibly shallow otherwise. It is worth the $1.29 download just to hear what he’s worked on. Sometimes it is easy to forget that Dom is a very accomplished session guitarist because he’s been with Duran Duran for so long.  I will brag about him to anyone who will listen (or read!) and say that his session playing has improved a hundred-fold since I first started checking him out. I can hear the emotion and enjoyment in his playing, which can be challenging to do as a session player.

I only wish he’d let some of us help him publicize and brag about him a bit more!

-R

Get your copy of Michael Kratz “Never Take Us Alive” on iTunes! Click on the photo to go to iTunes.

A Good Place to Start: First Day by Anna Ross!

A lot of things happen in a two-week time period! I am back from vacation, although I remained fairly “plugged-in”  while I was gone.   We arrived very late on Saturday night. Yesterday, I spent the day attempting to catch up, do laundry (I am staring at a mountain of clothing yet to be done…), and get my son Gavin ready to leave for his college orientation this morning.

So while I sit here trying not to worry about how he’s doing, I’m going to blog instead! (For those who don’t know, my son Gavin is on the autistic spectrum. He’s very high functioning, which means that for the most part, people just think he’s a little quirky. He is also incredibly smart. His major is physics, if that gives any indication of what I’m up against. He’s also one of those kids that tends to fall through the cracks…and I’m really hoping all of the work we did for the past six years to teach him to ask for help and advocate for himself worked! I’m imagining him wandering the campus for two days rather than asking where the line is for orientation….)

I’m going to take a deep cleansing breath, and try to focus on the task at hand.

Has anyone listened to the new music Anna Ross has been working on? Get on it, people! She is working steadily on completing her first album, which was funded (in part) through a pledge campaign. I’ve taken part in a few of these campaigns for various artists and bands, but I was thrilled to help Anna out. She’s been around since I started going to shows with…how shall I put it…vigor? enthusiasm? unbridled, relentless spending??  Anyway, she’s been around a while, and I’m happy to support!

“First Day” is aptly, her first single. She co-wrote the song with Simon.  Can I just say how fantastic it has been to see Duran Duran not only embrace, but truly support Anna’s music? I love that. I’m proud of my “family”. (Like it or not, Duran Duran – we’re all in this together. Consider me one of the intelligent, precocious younger sisters with a wild side!) I just think it’s refreshing to see Simon tweeting and encouraging Anna, and the reminders from Duran Duran to buy the single (which I HIGHLY RECOMMEND). I like when we encourage our own. I know that some of this comes down to business, but for a minute – I just want to forget about that, and focus on the warm fuzzies I feel when I see us all pulling for one another.

Another striking thing about this song is that it was funded, at least in part, by a pledge campaign. I participated in the campaign, and so I have heard snippets of this work since nearly the beginning. The evolution of the song has been a lot of fun to witness and I’ve enjoyed hearing the way the song grew. I was very excited to finally hear the finished product when I was finally able to download and listen. I have seen some comments that the single should have been given to pledge participants, and while I know some bands do that – this is Anna, not Duran Duran. It’s her first album, and it’s not like she’s a bank. She’s a hard-working artist, and I fully support her efforts. I’d do more if I were able, because I adore her and love music in general. I don’t need a $1.29 single and/or a remix to feel like I got my money’s worth for what I pledged.  Maybe that’s just me, and maybe I’m being naive. I am, however, thrilled she’s getting her album finished. It’s a long road, and I have some sense of how difficult it can be to reach the finish line. I just want to see her succeed and reach her goal – whether that’s completing the album, or eventually touring. (Can you bring Dom with you???)

One of the reviews I read suggested that the song is EDM. I’m not going to lie – this threw me because it’s not what I would have characterized as EDM. Then again, I’m a 46-year old woman. What in the hell do I know? That said, it IS electronic, which is funny – that’s something that typically I notice right off the bat. This time I paid no attention, focusing instead on Anna’s beautiful voice, which really drives the music, in my opinion. I especially love the crispness of her vocals, even when she’s singing at a fairly frenetic pace. The song is uplifting, positive, catchy and promising of what is to come.  Can’t wait to hear the rest of the album, Anna!

If that weren’t enough, the John Taylor/Charles Scott IV remix of  “First Day” dropped while I was camping, deep in the forest of the Washington-side of the Columbia River Gorge area. (Can I just say that there isn’t much more frustrating than being nowhere near wi-fi when new music is released?)

A while back, I was reading something about remixes and how they are the interpretation of what a producer heard when they experienced the song. I thought about that while I listened to John’s remix. He slowed it down, which worked very well for the song and even for her lyrics. There is one section of the song, about 2:40 into the remix, that is very reminiscent of The Universe Alone, as far as effects go, and it really gives the song an ethereal quality. I thought it was done beautifully, and what I really appreciated was that rather than change the song into something completely different, it highlighted the structure that was already there.  As I said yesterday on Twitter, I look forward to playing this, and the original single,  in my car, LOUDLY.  Sometimes I just need a little extra inspiration to get through the day!

-Rd

Get Anna’s music here and enjoy:

First Day single on iTunes

First Day Remix on iTunes

 

A Profound Loss: George Michael dies at 53

I was cooking dinner yesterday, standing at my sink preparing potatoes. My sister, visiting from Chicago, was sitting at the table looking at her iPhone. “Oh my God!” she exclaimed. “George Michael  passed away.”

“NOOOOOOOO!” I yelled, reaching to grab my own phone. Honestly believing it was a hoax, I scanned Facebook and Twitter to confirm my suspicions.

I think we all know that of course, it was true. George Michael left us yesterday. Christmas, of all days. For me, and likely most of you—George Michael was more than just another musical icon. He was a significant part of the soundtrack to my life. I loved Wham!, adored his solo career, and yes—I admired him as a person, too.  Many of my friends met him at various points, and the one characteristic that continued to be mentioned over the years was “generous”. He was generous with his time, his feelings, and even his thankfulness for his fans.

I was in disbelief yesterday when I heard the news. I didn’t have time to really process, and my house was full of people who have no understanding. To them, rock stars are just rock stars…people who make little indent on our lives. To me, they are something quite different. The music and people who matter most to me, and George Michael is/was certainly among them, changed my life forever each time I listened to their songs. They matter. Forever.

Today, I’m sad. The sense of loss is profound. Wistfully, I think back to the times when my friend Karen and I would sing every word to “Young Guns (Go for it)”, or when I discovered “Wake Me Up” (which in my opinion, is impossible to listen to without smiling – no matter how sick of it you might be!). I remember putting “Faith” on repeat in the car when I’d drive back and forth to Redondo Beach to see my then-boyfriend (now husband), or watching the video for “Careless Whisper” over and over.

Yes, I was one of those girls who would squeal for George. He was incredibly good-looking – and just got better with age. Sure, he came out as gay. That didn’t stop me. I had believed those songs were written for me before, and I still believed that after. I worried for him when I heard about his drug problems and his stint in jail. I didn’t look at him with disdain, but with deep concern. I didn’t want anything to happen to George, because for all the happiness he’d already given me over the years, I felt (and still feel) he deserved it all to come back to him at least two-fold. I remember when he was sick in the hospital with pneumonia, and I breathed a sigh of relief when he emerged. I wanted to watch George continue to age gracefully, and still keep singing with that gorgeous, uplifting, incredible voice.

Sometimes, even the most heartfelt wishes can’t come true. I know I’m not alone today when I think about just how many people—really good people—have left us this year. 2016 feels particularly brutal in that regard, but I am also aware that we’re aging, and these things are likely to continue happening. I don’t like it. George Michael was an 80s icon and he was a huge part of my young adulthood. I don’t want to say goodbye to that anymore than I would want to say goodbye to dear friends. The sadness is profound, gut-wrenching, and overwhelming. Knowing that others feel similar should be a help, but truthfully—it isn’t. I wish that none of us needed to weather the loss.

Yes, the music is here forever, and death is a part of life. That does little to stop the sense of loss right now.  In time, the music will help heal, and I look forward to that.

-R

To Lighten Up Your Mood

Do you listen to music to match your mood or to change it?  For example, do you find yourself picking upbeat, dance music to get you moving in the morning or to join you on a workout?  Or is it a situation in which you are angry so you pick a song to scream out your frustrations?  If I was asked this question, I would definitely state that I’m more of a find a song to match my mood kind of person.  Perhaps, this is one of many reasons that I like Duran so much.  I appreciate that they have songs to match every mood.  There are a lot of artists out there with catalogs that all sound the same, in terms of tempo, feeling, etc.  Duran isn’t like that.

It may come as no surprise to anyone reading this who knows me that I have not been feeling particularly upbeat, happy, joyful lately.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that my mood swings from anger and frustration to deep sadness.  Underlying all of that is a strong, unbreakable feeling of anxiety, worry, fear.  I have not even been playing a lot of music in the last month as everything I might choose seemed off the mark.  Again, the goal I have is to match the music with my mood and no songs in my library includes all of those emotions.  I find songs that express the anger but not the sadness or vice versa.  Forget about finding music that really expresses the fear I have.  Because I do love music, I have not given up as I attempt to find the right songs or the right combination of songs to match my moods.

The other morning, I attempted once again to find just the right song while I got ready for work.  I decided to go for shuffle and hope for the best.  Duran’s Paper Gods came on.  Instead of skipping it, thinking it wouldn’t match my feeling, I opted to turn it up.  Soon enough, I found myself singing along.  I noticed that my brain stopped thinking as I let the music wash over me.  I remembered the joy of seeing the band on stage during this past summer.  Then, the next song that came on was a remix of Wild Boys.  I continued to listen and sing along.  I wanted to keep listening but I had to leave for work.  As I locked my house and moved down to the garage to drive to work, I realized that my negative outlook returned but that for a few minutes, while listening to Duran, the cloud lifted.  The songs did not change my mood but offered some relief.

As I drove to work, I allowed my thoughts to turn to the upcoming shows in Washington, DC at the end of the month.  I understood in a new, more concrete  way that I needed these shows.  Now, when I say “need”, I recognize that I won’t die without them.  Duran shows do not equal food, water, shelter or other essentials.  Of course not.  Yet, having the chance to experience some real joy will not only give me a reprieve from the harsh reality of life right now, which is more than welcome, but will also help me get a boost that I need to keep fighting the good fight.

Music is powerful.  It can say what we can’t say ourselves otherwise. It can also sway your mood or provide you with the necessary escape.  More than that, music brings joy which all humans benefit from, but especially when life is throwing a lot of challenges your way.  This week, I was reminded of the power of music.  Add on the fact that Duran’s music also has music for every emotion and the power intensifies.  Right now, at this moment, I am thankful for Duran and their music and really looking forward to those shows.

-A

Its a New Religion: Rio and the Self-Titled Debut

I’ve noticed that Amanda has been telling her own stories regarding each album lately, and so I’ve decided to join in.  Perhaps you’ll decide to share your own – and we certainly encourage that!

I’m going to start with the first album…and actually Rio… since that seems to be the best place to begin! This is going to require some memory on my part.  I cannot guarantee I’m going to get the chain of events completely accurate, but it is how I remember it!

As I’ve mentioned previously, the very first time I heard Duran Duran was on KROQ. What you don’t know, is that I stumbled onto the station by accident, really. I’d overheard girls—popular girls— talking about KROQ at school. I had no idea what it was, or why the station was cool, but I was desperate to fit in. If I remember right, I’d heard the call letters way before I knew what the number was. I never actually asked anyone at school because I was too shy to bother. It was just one of those things I kept in the back of my mind, and once I finally saw where the station was located, I ran home to find it.

I remember trying to find 106.7 on the radio dial. Back then, as I’m sure many will remember – the dials were touchy. I didn’t have a digital display telling me what station it was on, I had to go by this orange little hand that would move as I turned the dial on my radio, and it wasn’t completely accurate. So I’d fidget with it, get it to tune in, and then wait to see if I had the right station.  Finally I must have gotten it, because Rodney on the ROQ was on, and he was introducing this band that he swore we’d hear more from.  The band was Duran Duran and the song was Planet Earth.

I liked the song immediately, but at the time I was far more astounded that I was actually listening to the right station, the one everyone else – or at least everyone who I thought mattered – was talking about. I went back to school and reported it to my group of misfit friends. One of the girls in this group knew all about KROQ and Duran Duran. This is where my memory gets wonky, because I can’t remember how long it was between that time and when they really became popular. In my head it wasn’t that long, but I’m not sure.

What I can tell you though is that I didn’t buy a Duran Duran record right away. Instead, I heard them a lot on the radio – but it wasn’t the first album I was hearing. It was Rio, and it hit BIG here. By then, it wasn’t just KROQ playing them – it was every station. I want to say that Marsha – the girl in the group that had already known who Duran Duran was – invited me to go with her to buy their album at the record store.  This was a major thing for me because I didn’t really own much in the way of music beyond KTEL records: a few Shaun Cassidy albums and a copy of Rick Springfield’s Working Class Dog.

We got to the store (Wherehouse records!), and I remember looking at the Duran Duran albums…but here is where my memory fades again. You see, my very first DD album wasn’t their self-titled one. It was Rio. I bought Rio first, only to find out later that there was an earlier album. (which I then bought, of course!) I can’t remember if the first album was there on the shelf with Rio and I just didn’t know what it was (obviously when I’d heard Planet Earth I didn’t know what album that was from or much else about the band). One might wonder why I wouldn’t have bought both if I saw them, and I can only guess:

  1. I must have only seen Rio?
  2. I only had money for one album and had to choose?
  3. (and this is the one I’m leaning towards because of my memory) The stores only HAD Rio at the time because that was the album that was huge on the radio, and it was later that we got the self-titled one with Is There Something I Should Know on it rather than To The Shore)

I know that it wasn’t long after I’d bought Rio that I then either bought the first one or it was given to me for a holiday or birthday or something. I also remember seeing Carnival in the stores around this same time, but…in my frugal thinking back then…I couldn’t understand buying an album that I already had all the songs from. Yes, I’ve spent time kicking myself (at least up until I actually bought Carnival myself).

At first, I can tell you that I liked Rio far more than I did the first album. To me, the first album was “weird”.  I liked some of the songs on it – like Planet Earth and ITSISK, but I wasn’t a big fan of GOF. What’s more, later on I discovered that one of my KTEL records had GOF on it. It was actually a song on the B side that I tended to skip!!  (Ha, that’s a true confession!)  Clearly, in the years since that initial purchase I’ve changed my mind! But yes, it was probably Rio (and HLTW if I’m being honest) that made me fall for Duran Duran.

My favorite song on Rio was New Religion, although Rio ran a close second along with yes, HLTW.  When I went back and got the self-titled album, I can remember being incredulous that it came out before Rio because it wasn’t until after Rio came out that we heard ITSISK. I just wasn’t aware of the chain of events, I guess.

So, my favorite song on the first album was – yes – ITSISK. I wasn’t aware until years later that the real first album didn’t even have that on it, it was just pressed that way for the US. Live and learn, I suppose.

Someday I’ll have to tell you about the first time I saw their videos with my friend Marsha.

-R

 

My Own Way: Album Ranking

Welcome to Monday. It is my first day back after a nearly a week of festivities, and so I’m going to start slow…by doing my own ranking of albums.

In full disclosure, I read diffuser.fm’s take on Duran’s career, as well as Amanda’s, prior to making my own choices. Both gave me a little more to think about, but neither swayed my decisions. I know we’ve done this before, but as Amanda mentioned, I haven’t even considered it since Paper Gods came out.  Why not revisit?

My own countdown is devised so that I mention the album and the reasons for where it sits. Some albums may have a paragraph, others might have a sentence or two. I left Arena off of my list completely as it only has one studio song on it and if I were to rank live albums I would do them all.

I’ve learned that I cannot hem and haw around while I am ranking things or picking favorites. I feel a little like I’m mowing down the field of Duran Duran albums as I go through the process, quickly deciding what should go where and why – but I go with my first instinct, my gut, and don’t look back. I do fine as I begin, but somewhere around #8 I start worrying, but remind myself to go with  my gut. I look back over the list as I’m finishing and realize that for now – today even – it’s how I feel. Tomorrow?  Who knows.  That’s kind of how it’s always been for me as a fan.

Perhaps it’s really gotten to the point that I identify so closely with their career – each album marking a particular point in my own life – that it’s difficult to be objective anymore. I don’t know, but I tried. I’m sure I’m not the first fan to be stumped by ranking albums or picking favorite songs. In fact, I know I’m not!

Thank You

I just never felt they hit their stride here. While some songs, such as Perfect Day or Lay Lady Lay are so silky smooth you can’t help but enjoy them, others, such as 911 is a Joke, make no sense at all.  Then there’s White Lines, which is great live, but on the album it tends to fall flat. I can’t fault the band too much for trying something few other bands of their calibre have done, but it just does not rank high on my list of favorites.

Red Carpet Massacre

Anyone who knows me probably saw this coming, and I’m sorry for being predictable. I don’t think this album can or should be swept under the proverbial carpet and forgotten – because it is how we got here, to this place we all currently occupy. I can certainly see and hear the parallels between this album and Paper Gods. I’m glad they tried out some of the things they learned from RCM over again to get them right.

Pop Trash

I would characterize Pop Trash as the fast food of Duran Duran’s career.  Perhaps fitting? While the album is nowhere near “bad”, I never felt that there was a lot for me to sink my teeth into and devour.  It lacks the depth of some of their other work, which is why it ended up in this place on my list.

Medazzaland

Ah, Medazzaland.  If there were any album that had changed for me over the years since it’s release – it would be this one.  I just didn’t get it when it first came out. In fact, I listened to the album in full one time before shelving it for many years. Lately though, I’ve listened to it, and I’m finally starting to get it. No, I’m still not a fan of the title track (sorry Nick), or Silva Halo, but I do really like Big Bang Generation, Who Do You Think You Are, and Midnight Sun. There’s a lot hiding amongst the shadows on this album, and I think it’s worth a revisit.

Liberty

How can I rank this above Pop Trash or Medazzaland? 2am drives from Hollywood, that’s how.  Our personal experiences shape our listening choices, and for me – that’s why Liberty works. It kept me awake many times during college and beyond, so I’m going with it.

The Wedding Album

I have to admit that I agree with Amanda – while there are two songs on this album that are iconic for Duran Duran, the album as a whole isn’t nearly as impressive as others (which I recognize is tough to do when you’re Duran Duran and have had so many successes).  So it’s not that I think the album is bad – it’s that the band has too many great ones!

Astronaut

Oh yes I did rank this one about The Wedding Album. Please see the line about personal experiences.  For me, this album is all about the Fab Five. I can’t ignore it, I can’t get past that, and it was a dream come true for me. Yes, it’s pop. Sure, there are songs on it that I didn’t love and I still take it personally that they didn’t include Beautiful Colors, Salt in the Rainbow and Virus on it. Even so, I’ll take it.

Notorious

I am pretty sure that at one point or another, I ranked this lower on my list. Again, I didn’t get it. But just a week ago, I pulled the album out and gave it a good listen. What is most remarkable to me about Notorious, is that it came after Rio and Seven and the Ragged Tiger. Those albums were hugely successful. Then they had two band members leave, and rather than sticking with what they knew, they took the opportunity to blaze new territory. It was like deciding to take a giant left turn out of nowhere. As a child, I had little respect for that sort of thing. In fact, I don’t think I really understood.  Even as an adult I sometimes get caught up in what I think DD should be or should sound like – but I’m working on it.

Big Thing

Another album I didn’t really get until adulthood. The first half is as dance music as I’d expect from DD, and the latter is the culmination of some of their finest songwriting moments. The emotion that comes across threw the B side of this album is astounding, and in my opinion, it is the best DD album that no one has really heard.

Paper Gods

Here’s the thing about Paper Gods for me – I like it. I don’t know that I love it, although I’ve tried. It ticks a lot of the boxes for plenty of people, but it is also an album that I really needed to come to terms with. I didn’t fall in instant love, but I would say I’ve grown to respect each song and the work that went into making the album overall. I can’t fault an album that hit top ten, if only for a brief, shining moment.

Seven and the Ragged Tiger

This goes bad to personal experiences for me. This album is my seventh grade wrapped in vinyl. Awkward, sometimes overdone, but still well-loved. Sure, it might not be their best songwriting, but I love it all the same, and that’s why it is near the top of my list. All I have to do is hear the opening notes to Union of the Snake and I’m back on the lawn with my friends at recess, gawking at the latest edition of Tiger Beat. For me, those memories are priceless, and that is what makes music so powerful.

Rio

I know what you all are thinking.  Yes, I really did put Rio third. The trouble is, it could easily be second. Or first. The final three on my list here are probably interchangeable, if not completely tied. I cannot think about Duran Duran without thinking about Rio. If there were ever a reason why Hungry Like the Wolf is played at every single DD show – it is because of Rio. Try as we might, we simply cannot separate Rio (the album) from the band, in the same way that we cannot separate HLTW from them either. I get it. I may not always like it, but I get it. And I respect it.

All You Need is Now

It pains me that the band left this song, and many songs from this album, off of their set list this past year. For me personally, this album is easily as iconic as Rio. It describes the band, and their relationship with their audience, to a T. To think that Duran Duran wrote this album during their third decade together simply blows me away. It is an album that never got it’s justice, and it is still one of my very favorite.

Self-titled Debut

I really don’t think it is all that surprising that one of my favorite albums is the one that started it all for them, and for me. I love the rawness, the lack of expectation, and the realness of the music. There is no ego here, no trying to outdo what has already been done. It is simply music from  a band ready to take it’s place in the world.  This is an album from Duran Duran before they were DURAN DURAN, and it is the most real we’ve ever gotten from them. that is why it remains number one for me.

My choices weren’t all that surprising, but the exercise was fun. I don’t anticipate others to agree with me – in fact, you shouldn’t. We all have had our own journey, and that is what makes it all fun.  I’m no music expert, and I only have my own taste to rely on, so by all means make your own list and have fun with it.

-R

 

 

My Own Way/Like An Angel 1981

On this date in 1981, the single for My Own Way/Like an Angel was released.

First of all, let me marvel just a bit over the fact that I’m writing about a song that has now been around for winces thirty-five years. I think that must be impossible because I’m only thirty myself, right??

My Own Way was released to kind of “mind the gap” between “Girls on Film” and their next album, Rio.  As you might notice by the date, My Own Way was released before Rio.  My Own Way did fairly well, hitting #14 on the UK charts, and paving the way for Rio.

The single has a much faster tempo along with some very disco-strings. The album version is slower, less frenetic sounding, and the lyrics are very slightly different. The album version is a little more on the new wave end of things, and it was also remixed by Kershenbaum for Carnival. The band has said that this My Own Way is one of their least favorite singles, and with so many different versions out there, it would seem to me that perhaps the song has a bit of an identity problem. Or maybe it just has multiple personalities!

Then there’s the video, which didn’t arrive until 1982.  I’ve always felt the video had a bit of a latin theme going for it, along with the striking red and black staging….and that parrot…which still amuses me.

This leads me to Like An Angel, the B-side. I’ve always felt this was the more interesting song of the two. That seems to happen a lot for me – I end up liking the B-sides more so than the single.  Anyone else?? I like the tonal quality of Simon’s voice in Like an Angel When you hear this song, I think one can really tell it is earlier Duran Duran. One thing I know for sure, they weren’t afraid to use different keys instead of the “golden” rock chords like D-A-G, etc.  I wish I could put my finger on all of the qualities of their earlier songs that just seem to change when the band gets to Rio – maybe it’s just a raw-ness that disappears. I’m not sure, but I love giving myself the opportunity to go back and listen on occasion!

-R