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
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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.
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.
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?
Happy Monday! I trust everyone had a lovely weekend? Mine was spent digging!! In the continuing saga of becoming a farm family – we are building some basic infrastructure around here, including a chicken coop and run (outdoor pen area). In order to build one that will withstand and prevent potential predators – a narrow one-foot deep ditch had to be dug around the entire coop and run. We’ll bury hardware cloth (think heavy duty wire fencing) to stop animals from digging their way in. I didn’t need a gym or additional workout this weekend, that is for sure. Our soil is great, until we hit the bedrocks about six inches down. Suffice to say I’m glad the rest of our supplies don’t get here until Friday. By then I will have given my back a chance to recuperate!
Going to who knows where
Despite the hard work and a bit of rain on Saturday, we’ve been enjoying some beautiful weather, and gave ourselves a little time on Saturday night to thumb through some old vinyl. My evening was spent retracing some of my steps through music. We started by listening to Shaun Cassidy! I chuckled when Walt brought out the short stack of Shaun’s albums – I don’t think I’ve listened to them since about 1980! They had that classic 1970’s “pop” vibe to them – I don’t know how to describe it except to say that if you’ve ever heard smooth 1970’s rock – it was kind of like that, with a definite bubble gum edge (or lack thereof) to it. Listening now, I really don’t know how I ever got into it back then.
No offense to Shaun, of course. He is a lovely, kindhearted man – I follow him on Twitter and on Facebook. Once, he commended me on having a mint, unopened copy of his Born Late album. Unfortunately, he also suggested that perhaps I shouldn’t bank on it funding my retirement. Well alright then. There goes that idea! Back to Duran Duran blogging I go then…
Not knowing where you’re rolling
We moved on to Rick Springfield from there. Decidedly rock, I had no problem understanding why I liked him – because I still do. Rick was a huge step from Shaun, really. Where “Da Doo Run Run Run” didn’t have a hard edge to be felt – Rick kept the rock vibe moving. Even at the age of 69 (that can’t be right. It just can’t), Rick can tear up a room with his music, and back in 1979 or 1980, it wasn’t much different. I can’t remember what drew me away from Shaun or towards Rick Springfield – only that it happened. I distinctly remember taking down the Shaun Cassidy pin-up from my door and putting up Rick Springfield.
While my love for Rick didn’t last long (after all, “Jessie’s Girl” came out in 1981 and I believe that was about the same time I heard “Planet Earth” for the first time), I still remember getting into TV soap operas purely because of Rick playing “Dr. Noah Drake” on General Hospital. The summer of 1981 was all about General Hospital for me! Forget Luke and Laura (my apologies to those not from the states that don’t know what I’m talking about) – I was there for Dr. Drake! Age difference? What age difference???
Yes, the age difference between Rick and I is about 19 years. Isn’t it strange how in 1981, I didn’t even think about that? The guy is literally six years younger than my mother! <insert shock and horror here>
Being what makes you breathe is enough
Hearing Rick’s albums versus Shaun’s made me consider the entire journey. I began with 1970’s smooth bubble gum pop and ended up in New Wave/1980’s alternative. I’m not quite sure I’ve ever really left, to be honest.
Each year during award shows, I’ll see a friend or two who clearly pride themselves heavily on enjoying the latest artists, basically chastise those who find today’s music (or much of it) abysmal. Here’s the thing: IT DOESN’T MATTER. I am not in a race with my kids to see which of us has the broadest tastes, nor am I trying to remain relevant. I’m relevant just continuing to breathe and take up space!
The fact is, I like my music. I’m proud of what I listen to – whether it is Rick Springfield, Pink Floyd, Shaun Cassidy, Led Zeppelin, Duran Duran, Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Def Leppard, The Killers or even Lykke Li. I like it all. But, I cut my musical teeth, so to speak, on the music I grew up with. I have a special place in my heart for the sounds that got me through middle school, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. I still laugh at the trajectory that got me from Disney records to Duran Duran, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Every once in a while, it is good to gain new perspective. I used to do this pretty frequently when I lived in Orange County by going to see other bands – essentially cheating on Duran Duran when they weren’t looking – right?? Since moving up to the central coast, it is a bit more challenging, particularly in my small town. While I have definitely gone to see live music, they are typically unknown bands, and more often than not – the style they play is a little less rock and a little more folksy in nature. Not my favorite, but…when you’re desperate…
However, on Saturday night, I saw Rick Springfield. I think I might still be a little giddy from the evening! He played at Rava Winery in Paso Robles, which is a gorgeous setting. If you’re ever in Paso, it is worth the drive to go and taste there just for the peace and beauty alone. Known for their sparkling wines, Rava also hosts quite a few bands and artists each year, Rick being one of them. He was doing his “Stripped” show. (get your minds out of the gutter – he was fully clothed, told stories, and played without a backing band)
I bought these tickets not long after moving into the house, and couldn’t wait to see him once I realized just how small of a setting it would be (think ballroom rather than theater). On Saturday, our seats were about in the middle, and in fact – I’ve been much farther back with VIP seats for Duran Duran than I was that night with our regular “no frills” tickets. The venue is just that small, really.
I have no real experience seeing Rick Springfield, but I had an angel on my shoulder that night. My dear friend Laurie, who was killed in a car accident several years ago, was a huge fan. She was easily as much of a Rick fan as I any of us are of Duran Duran. In fact, she was such a pillar in his fan community, that Rick sent a huge spray of flowers for her funeral. I have no doubt that Laurie was there with me that night, as I stood up with other (far more intense) Rick fans around me and sang the words to his music with him.
Speaking of those Rick fans – prior to the show, there were food trucks and tables to buy glasses and bottles of wine outside in their patio and garden before the show. As I walked around, I did some people watching. I overheard people talking about traveling from show to show on the tour, the VIP packages, and basically all of the same things we tend to chat about with one another before the DD shows. I saw fans greeting one another exclaiming how surprised they were to see each other, “I didn’t know you were coming to THIS show. How did you get here so fast?!?” I couldn’t help but smile, knowing that the basic “fan” stuff is pretty universal.
After we took our seats, two women sat down next to me on my left. They immediately apologized (in advance) for screaming or standing up and dancing. I replied that they didn’t need to say sorry, that I’d be doing it right along with them. We talked a little bit about being fans, and then I mentioned that I’m a huge Duran Duran fan and even write a blog about them. The woman next to me poked her friend and said “That’s her favorite band!”
Try to explain it
I laughed because we (Duranies) are EVERYWHERE. My husband, who had been watching this scene unfold, nearly rolled his eyeballs right out of his head. I could almost hear the “Good lord, I cannot take you anywhere without Duran Duran coming up in the conversation…”
He’s right. He can’t.
At that point, Rick took the stage. I have to admit that as excited as I was to see him, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I know some of his music, but most of it is earlier – not the more recent stuff – and although I’ve read his autobiography, I just didn’t know what he’d be like on stage telling stories.
My fears were completely unfounded. He is fantastic live. Not only did I enjoy the entire set he played – the stories were what made the show. The reality is, Rick was my crush just before Duran Duran. I started watching General Hospital because he was on it. So seeing him live and in person in front of me was kind of like traveling back to my tween years. Awkward, kind of goofy, and pretty damn giddy. The only thing really missing was my friend Laurie. Just prior to the accident, we’d met for lunch with our other friends, and we’d agreed that the next time Rick toured – I’d go with her.
Nothing really gets them that high
This was not the first time he’d been in my area since that last lunch together, but it was really the first time I felt like I could be there and enjoy it without her. And…I did. That doesn’t mean I didn’t think about her as I sang “Jessie’s Girl” or stood and cheered during “Human Touch”, or my very favorite, “I’ve Done Everything for You”. It was hard not to, but rather than sadness, there was joy. Total joy, the way I know she would have wanted.
One of the things Laurie and I spoke about often before she died was that we were going to stop feeling bad about buying the concert tickets. Laurie wasn’t married and didn’t have children, but she still felt some of the same misgivings I did about being so thick in fandom at our age (which at the time, was right around 40). She was one of my very few friends outside of the DD community who really “got” it, and I remember that last lunch, she looked at me and said “You know, we have no idea how long we’ve got. You’ve got to just LIVE. Buy the tickets. We have to stop worrying about what other (assholes – Laurie had quite the mouth, even worse than my own!) think. Have fun, because who knows when our last time will really be.”
It was a matter of days before Laurie was gone. She wasn’t wrong that day and I’ve never forgotten what we talked about over margaritas that afternoon.
Emotion’s a game
It is hard for me to live up to her words at times. I do spend less time apologizing for being a fan, and more time rejoicing that I am a small part of this wonderful community of people. Although, I still let a lot of other things play on my mind, and guilt me out of taking risks that might make me happier in the long run. I’d say I was trying to find balance, but the reality is that I’m always worried about upsetting something or someone.
Having “covered” who would do some amazing Duran Duran songs in Part 1, I’m ready to take a deep breath and assess Thank You. Was it the worst album of all-time as some snarky critics have said? Of course not. Something called nu-metal locked down the top spots years ago. However, it was a misguided album born from good intentions. Let’s try to figure out what went wrong.
David Bowie’s Pin Ups seems to be the logical impetus for this project given the song choices. Bowie’s decision to cover The Yardbirds, Pink Floyd, and The Who was unexpected and Bowie knew that. Coming off Aladdin Sane, Bowie was at the peak of his creative powers and Pin Ups remains one of the most challenging and rewarding covers albums of all-time. It isn’t a stretch to think a band which emerged from the New Romantic scene born, at least partially, from Bowie’s artistic vision would try to emulate the project.
Duran Duran were riding high after “Ordinary World” and “Come Undone”, so they had some creative and commercial freedom when they undertook Thank You. History has shown that the band often does their least interesting work in such situations. From Seven & the Ragged Tiger (saved commercially by a remix of “The Reflex” that wasn’t on the album) to Paper Gods, the band’s follow-up to a truly special album has been uneven at best. Thank You falls into that category but imagine what could have been if they took a slightly different path.
Thank You Redux
1. Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel – White Lines
Such a fun cover that it has to stay. The band’s roots in NYC club culture via Birmingham justify this crossover into hip-hop. They could have taken this somewhere special, though, if they had paid respect to Liquid Liquid’s “Cavern” at the same time since that is where Melle Mel “borrowed” the song from.
2. I Wanna Take You Higher David Bowie – Fashion
As much as “Ashes to Ashes” makes sense, “Fashion” would be a more fitting Duran Duran song. John Taylor’s bass guitar would suit this track and Warren’s guitar playing fits the solo like a glove. You HAVE to have at least one Bowie song on the album, right?
3. Lou Reed – Perfect Day
A surprisingly well conceived cover of Lou Reed that pays homage without trying to change who they are as a band. It has a beautiful polished sound and LeBon’s vocal works. There is a hint of despair in his voice and the production keeps every instrument in their lane. There is restraint in the playing that would have served the band on the rest of the album.
4. Watching the Detectives Roxy Music – Both Ends Burning
Another field day for John Taylor on bass and an appropriate nod to one of the biggest influences on Duran Duran in Roxy Music. All these years later, Duran are inducting Roxy Music into the rock-n-roll hall of fame because the connection is so strong. If you listen to “Planet Earth”, you can hear some influence from this song on Siren. A lesser known Roxy song works well here because the most popular stuff would be difficult for Duran Duran to re-invent in a unique way.
5. Lay Lady Lay New York Dolls – Lonely Planet Boy
I never hated this cover but the guitar tone was “Come Undone” all over again. Dylan influenced everyone so there is no need to point it out. I’m leaving T. Rex out of the discussion since the band (i.e. Nick) would have never allowed them to cover it in the wake of The Power Station. This New York Dolls song is begging to be turned into a synth-pop dance song like Duran pulled off with Bowie’s “Boys Keep Swinging”.
6. 911 Is A Joke Blondie – Fade Away and Radiate
Yeah, it is cool to namecheck Public Enemy to earn hipster points but no, just no. The band owes a huge debt to Blondie for bringing dance music into punk and for giving the band a support slot when Duran Duran were trying to crack America. This moody track from Parallel Lines has enough texture to satisfy Nick and Warren in equal measure. And why not bring in Clem Burke on drums for this cover?
7. Iggy Pop – Success
It works. Only Duran Duran could turn an Iggy Pop song into a Gary Glitter stomp. Given the band’s commercial highs and lows, it could almost be the theme song for their career. Turn it up!
8. Crystal Ship The Normal – Warm Leatherette
The band already showed how good this sounded during a tour and this is the most seminal track in the history of synth-pop. The Doors cover sounded like a cloud of pot smoke which isn’t the Duran Duran way. Bonus connection: Grace Jones covered this once.
9. Ball of Confusion Japan – Gentlemen Take Polaroids
Let’s see. Nick Rhodes “borrowed” his look from Japan’s David Sylvan. The Japan albums were a direct precursor to Duran Duran’s sound with funky bass lines and sweeping synths. And, best of all, this cover would be a cheeky nod to “Girls On Film” which, for all I know, was a concept lifted from this Japan song. Too close to home? Perhaps, but Duran Duran earned their success and a little nod to Japan is warranted.
10. Thank You Sister Sledge – Lost In Music
Don’t touch Zeppelin. Every instrument in Zeppelin comes from the opposite place of Duran Duran. There has to be a shout-out to Nile Rodgers somewhere on Thank You Redux and I think “Lost In Music” would keep the band in a safe place for a disco cover. This could be played loud with a hint of the “White Lines” sound they had at this time. Turn it into a real rocker without losing the dance vibe. It would be dangerously fun live.
11. Drive By
It doesn’t fit into a covers album and I need to save space so this album will fit on vinyl.
12. I Wanna Take You Higher Again ESG – My Love For You
Maybe a little obscure at the time but ESG’s influence has come full circle in music. They have been sampled (mostly illegally) by hundreds of rap producers and their funky dance sound influenced everything from post-punk to house music. Rather than Public Enemy, Duran Duran can point to ESG as an influential band on their modern mix of funk, rock, and dance music without sounding so desperate. Duran Duran could have a lot of fun with this track especially if Nick added some melodic synths over the melody
If you had to categorize Duran Duran in a word, what word would you pick?
Are they pop? Rock? New Wave? Synthpop? Electronic? New Romantic? I think Nick described the band as Modernist once or twice?? What would you say?
My head is stuck on something precious
Yesterday, there were a few tweets going back and forth between several fans about DD’s music. Classic Pop Magazine has a Synthpop issue out on newsstands now. Although Duran Duran aren’t really mentioned in the magazine much, one of the editors put Ordinary World in their top ten synthpop songs. I find that interesting, because I wouldn’t characterize Ordinary World that way at all.
That got me thinking, of course. If Ordinary World isn’t truly synthpop, then what? I don’t think I ever came up with a reasonable answer for that. I always struggle with calling them a pop band because in my head – they’re not. They’re not music you’d hear on Top 40 radio (although we certainly did once). They might have some pop songs in their catalog, but I really hate the idea of categorizing them just as pop. It seems so pedestrian, boring and kind of cringy. Clearly, they’re not rock either. I mean, yeah, they’ve got guitar, but they don’t rely on it. I’d say similar for Synthpop – in my head, a synthpop group relies on the synthesizer for the melody lines. Is that the case with DD? I’d argue no on that.
Does it help to take one album at a time? I’d say no. For example, I mean, what do you call their debut? New Romantic? The problem with that, of course, is that the moniker isn’t as much about the music as it is about the fashion of the time. The reason we think of Planet Earth as New Romantic (aside from the words being in the lyrics…thank you Duran Duran…) is because of the ruffled shirts, the over the top hair and make up, the pirate look. To use a similar idea to what was discussed yesterday on Twitter, bands who were classified as New Romantic had synthesizers, but not all bands who had synthesizers were New Romantic. (nor were they New Wave – thanks @GuyFansofDuran!)
My eyes so cloudy, I can’t see
I think that for me, one of the reasons I’ve always valued Duran Duran so highly is that they didn’t CARE about boxes marked “New Wave” or “New Romantic”, or even “Pop” or “Rock”. The one thing I loved most about the band was also the one thing that challenged me from album to album. I never knew what a finished, new album would sound like, and there was never any way to prepare. As an aside, I’ve learned to never, EVER review one of their songs publicly after only a few listens. I have to sit with the music for a while. Paper Gods took me a good solid two or three weeks before I finally had that light bulb “I GET IT!” moment. I still don’t know what I’d characterize Paper Gods as, musically, though. Does it matter?
For those of us who tend to value a sense of routine and normalcy, Duran Duran has sometimes been the very opposite.
They’ve created music they liked. In their purist, most raw moments as a band in the very beginning, I don’t think they were worried about marketing or labels. Sure, they wanted fame and fortune. They wanted to be the biggest band in the world. But I don’t know that they were overly concerned with the minutia in getting there.
Can you hear me now?
What do I mean by that? Well, what I’m NOT saying is that they were careless for detail. That isn’t it at all. I just don’t think that they consciously sat back and tried to figure out what music might sell best, or get radio time the easiest. There was a certain kind of bliss with industry ignorance in that respect. How self-aware was the band before they really “made it”? I believe it was simple enough for them to get out of their own way back then.
Writing and recording under those conditions had to have been easier in that aspect. I mean, once you know who you are, and what you’ve done in the past, I suspect that has the potential to set the bar incredibly high. When I compare Rio and Seven and the Ragged Tiger, I see the latter as evidence of being far too self-aware, despite my undying love for the work.
I’m not sure how Duran Duran gets past all of the mind games that come along with recording nowadays. The ghosts of albums past, the requirements of record labels to deliver at least one verifiable, marketable, top 40 hit coupled with the notions of playlists, streaming, and the idea of how much differently music is consumed these days than forty years earlier. On top of all that, deciding what kind of music they’re actually going to record, and fighting whatever label people want to put on them now? Pop? Rock? Electronic? EDM? Urban? Contemporary? Oh hell no. How can anybody be creative in that environment?
Is there anybody out there trying to get through?
If I were them, I’d want to throw my phone in the trash compactor, unplug from society, and forget the labels. It seems to me that it might be the only way to record an album with honest, pure, organic intentions.
Of course, if they did that, then they wouldn’t be able to read my incredibly humorous and intelligent fodder.
Throw your electronic devices away, gentlemen… and good luck!
An outspoken examination and celebration of fandom!