Category Archives: Music

It’s the Learning of this Journey

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.

-R

A Matter of Feeling (and perspective)

How do you feel

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.

Acquaintances smile

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.

Perspective is good. Miss you, my friend.

-R

Thank You, You’re Welcome (Part Two)

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

Some New Romantic Looking For the TV Sound

I heard you making patterns rhyme

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.

Hmm.

Throw your electronic devices away, gentlemen… and good luck!

-R

Makes My Hair Stand Up On End

Synchronize but don’t comprehend

Lately, I’ve been stealing topics from Twitter. Shout-out to @BoysMakeNoise for drumming up such great discussion topics through his album surveys. (He’s also the brilliant mind from yesterday’s blog, and I failed to credit his genius directly!) They get me thinking, and that leads to writing.

The fact is, I have little to discussion in terms of actual “fandom” practices these days (give me time, because shows will be happening and I’m sure there will be much to discuss). So I’ve been going back through albums, listening and rethinking. Today is an Astronaut day.

What got me started on this particular album was a survey that @BoysMakeNoise posted on Twitter. It was a simple question – “What do you listen to more often?” The choices were Astronaut and All You Need Is Now.

All You Need is Now won by a virtual landslide, in case you were wondering.

Another moment I commit

The question itself is interesting because of its wording. He didn’t ask which album is preferred, just which one is listened to more often. Upon first thought, one might scoff and say it’s the same answer, but I’d challenge you to think again. For example, if you posed Notorious against Red Carpet Massacre and asked me – LATELY – I’d have to say RCM. I’ve been listening to that a lot lately for a number of reasons, but I still prefer Notorious!

So back to Astronaut. It was the first, and only album, for the fab five post reunion, and that alone caused me to listen to it non-stop for a long time. I knew every subtle nuance, every change in dynamics, and each drum fill. (probably just like anyone else reading!) However, after the Astronaut tour, I admittedly got tired of it. I put the album away, only to listen to a few songs here or there.

I’ve pulled Astronaut out every once in a while, and each time I do – I notice that I don’t need to hear it from start to finish. I tend to choose a few songs, skip around, and then I don’t need to hear it all again for a while. I can still remember how I felt when I first heard the album: mixtures of pride and excitement leveled with a teeny bit of disappointment that some of the demos I’d originally heard weren’t included or that songs were changed.

I’m addicted to the state you’re in

For a long time, I didn’t differentiate my excitement for being involved in the fan community, the joy of the band being back together, or even the elation of traveling to be with friends and go to shows, from the album itself. Those feelings were all entwined, tangled together, indecipherable from one another. Time has done it’s job, and I feel a bit less biased these days than I might have at the time it was released in 2004.

When I listen to Astronaut now, the album shows some age now. There are a few standout songs for me, like the title track, Sunrise, Chains, and even Still Breathing, but I find that a lot of the rest of the album is easy to leave behind. Unlike albums such as Paper Gods, or Rio, or even Seven and the Ragged Tiger, the songs don’t necessarily flow from one to the next. The theme of the album…if there is indeed one (I’d argue there is not), isn’t carried. There’s very little cohesion. Now, that’s not necessarily a fault of the band as much as it might have been the recording style of the day – I’m just glad that they’ve gone back to recording an album as though it is one complete story from the first song to the last.

Where it’s gonna end up, anybody knows

Oddly, these points don’t make Astronaut less endearing to me. I still love it because of what time it represents during the band’s history. I think there is much to love there – who would have thought in 1997 or 1998 that a brand new album from the original five members was just around the corner?? Instead, I find a great deal of satisfaction from being able to sit back and thoroughly examine Astronaut’s chapter in Duran Duran’s history.

I also think this discussion provides a great springboard into the topic of listening to complete albums versus playlists. Is there still merit to recording a full-album? I have to wonder how the band feels, as well as how fans feel about it in 2019…but that will have to wait for another day.

-R

I know what it is coming over ya

Get in the system

Alright friends, it is time to get real. True confession time! My confession for today is that I never fell in love with “Danceophobia”.

I’m waiting for all of you to get over your shock. It’s okay. Take your time. I can be patient.

As difficult as that might be to come to terms with, it is true. Danceophobia is not on my “most played” list, even after I heard that Dom had writing credit on the song. For several months after the first listen, I only had to hear the first opening chord and I’d hit “skip”. I just couldn’t force myself to cringe my way through it, so I didn’t. Eventually, I started listening to the complete album to get the full experience, rather than skipping around.

Trying to get to you

As the muted sound for Danceophobia would begin, discomfort would settle into the pit of my belly. I’d have to fight the urge to turn up the volume because the sound was muted (I’d already made that mistake several times prior, nearly having my eardrums explode before remembering Duran’s cute little “trick” with first muting and then bringing the volume back to normal). Then I’d force myself to plow my way through it, trying to find something likable about the song.

The more I listened to it, the more I realized that the music itself wasn’t the issue. The lyrics are cheeseball and pretty cringy, but I’ve heard worse and still bobbed my head in time to the beat without a problem. Truthfully, I didn’t mind the music at all. It’s catchy, in it’s own sticky-sweet, popcorn ball sort of way. So what was my problem?

Look around

I can remember when that fateful picture of Nick and Simon with Lindsay and her sister first graced the internet. I was appalled. Why on earth would Duran Duran pick Lindsay, of all people on the planet, to do the voiceover for “The Doctor”? It was so gross. I saw it as a fairly blatant, desperate attempt to stay in the news. (I’m sorry!!) People certainly talked about the picture – Lindsay herself posted it on Instagram, and for whatever reason – people still follow her like she’s some sort of god. For a few weeks, that picture seemed to be everywhere. I still screw up my face and make squinty eyes whenever I think about it. I just couldn’t understand why this band needed Lindsay of all people. Wasn’t there anyone else with a throaty voice who could pull off the part?!?

I doubled down on my dislike when Lindsay appeared with the band at the O2 in London, and wasn’t quite able to remember all the words…and again in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center, when once again she was a little stumped. I just didn’t get the hype.

You don’t dance

I think that in the back of my mind, I knew there had to be a good reason why Duran Duran wanted Lindsay on that album, and I definitely wasn’t buying Simon’s story that they were friends and that she texted him asking to be on the album. It all seemed just a bit too contrived for me to believe. Maybe the band wanted to attract more male fans by having her appear. (Really though??) Was Lindsay really attracting THAT many more first time listeners? In my mind – she was a fairly washed-up American actress (I use that word lightly). Sure, she had followers. However, were they following because they really adored her? Or, were they following because they were voyeurs, wanting to witness the next time Lindsay fell down? I felt, and still feel, it’s the latter.

At some point, I gave up asking myself questions and just went with it. I couldn’t figure out their line of thinking, but I didn’t think I’d ever really get it. Until yesterday.

Sometimes, one has to take a step back away from a painting to really see the big picture. And other times, we need somebody else to point out the obvious. I needed both.

Am I getting through to you

During a friendly discussion about Paper Gods, the topic of Danceophobia came up. I immediately admitted that it was my least favorite on the album. I explained my feelings about the song, and didn’t think much of it until someone offered up a reason I’d never considered for Lindsay’s appearance.

“Maybe she’s supposed to make you cringe. The idea of her being a doctor is incredibly ironic”


Wait, did you just use my favorite word?? IRONY.

The fact that she hasn’t really been relevant or “cool” in over a decade was never lost on me….but did the band know that? Maybe so. I thought about how she still has so many followers, and yet I was convinced the majority of people were simply just there waiting for the next “show”. Even the way the song begins so uncomfortably quiet – like you’ve got to sit up and take notice that it’s different – began to make more sense. It was as though the possibility existed that the band was trying to use Lindsay as a perfect example of a Paper God, and I missed the entire point.  

I am your doctor

To say I’m a little embarrassed wouldn’t be wrong. I don’t know why I didn’t think about this angle before now. I kind of feel like I should have listened more in school….

Duran Duran is a thinking band. Amanda and I have talked about that at length, and we’ve written about it on this blog many times over the years. The messages, and even the laughs and jokes are always hidden. If you think the video to Is There Something I Should Know is really about the military, for instance; or that Rio really IS just about a river in North America…or even that the video for Falling Down is ONLY about models in rehab, you’ve missed out on 90% of the message, and nearly 100% of the bands humor.

It is the same reason I chuckle when people tell me that Simon only writes about sex…”because that’s what he’s said in interviews for years.” (True, when he is avoiding questions about what his lyrics are about….)

You may be experiencing feelings of confusion

So, the next time you listen to “Danceophobia”, think about the irony of someone like Lindsay Lohan being brought in – someone who has had worldwide gossip paper notoriety and has millions of followers, to be “The Doctor”. Yet she hasn’t really been relevant beyond the crosshairs of the public eye for a long time, and I have to think the band knew that. While I don’t believe they purposely set out to make fun of Lindsay – I do think they may see her celebrity as a great example of what the word “Paper God” really is. When I think about the song in those terms, it makes so much more sense, and I can completely understand its placement on the album.

Paper is thin, is fragile, and can be destroyed easily. What is newsprint one day, becomes trash the next. I can think of several celebrities who have faced similar fates over the years, Britney and Lindsay among them. The irony of having someone with that sort of background (earned or otherwise) as “the doctor” makes far more sense.

We can beat this thing

I hang my head in shame only because I should have seen that coming. I was off my game and they got me good.

Bring it, boys.

-R


A Silhouette Begins the Show

So, show of hands….how many of our readers are at home because of snow/cold days?!? I hear that Chicago is going to be colder than the Antarctic this week. Amanda has been telling me about forecasts that have Madison’s wind chill at -50 (Fahrenheit) or more. That’s ridiculous!! I hope everyone stays warm!

I apologize for the lateness of the blog. I used to have this routine down – I’d be up by 7, blogging by 8. Nowadays, I’m dragging myself out of bed at 8:30 and I’m hard pressed to get the blog finished by noon my time. It’s not a great routine yet, but I’m working on it.

A fog is lifting

I came upon something today that reminded me about Reportage. It was a picture of what was obviously a fan-made cover for the album, and it was in turn on the cover a book titled Bootlegs. I’d never seen a cover of any kind for the album until today. That said, as far as I’m aware, no copies exist outside of the hands of the band. Naturally though, this photo got a few of us talking.

It would seem that very few fans have heard Reportage. Most everyone else continues to speak of it as though it is this hidden treasure. To find it is akin with finding the Golden Ticket. I think the expectations of the album have likely been inflated beyond maximum pressure. Those that have listened are usually quick to downplay, and not much of real substance is explained beyond a perfunctory, “Yeah, it wasn’t bad. You could probably find it if you wanted.”

Could I find it? Really? More importantly – do I really want to find it?

In the shadows

These are questions I was asking myself this morning, as I chatted back and forth with friends on Twitter. There are real collectors in the Duraniverse. They are people I very much admire because they work hard to find that obscure poster from 1981 or a specific promo copy of “Hallucinating Elvis”. I have a great deal of respect for people like that, and I tend to learn a lot when speaking with them too. There is a vast amount of expertise to be gained from the collectors amongst us! Me? Nah. I don’t spend a lot of time hunting for albums in old vinyl shops (although I do pop in and check the “D” section from time to time), I don’t hunt online for posters on eBay. I don’t have all of the tour books, pins, or even t-shirts. I do like knowing that I’ve heard all of the variations of music, though.

When it comes to unreleased music though, I’m not sure how I feel. On one hand, I love hearing how Duran Duran went from Point A to Point B. Hearing demos is one way of audibly experiencing that journey. I enjoy having that understanding, because when it comes down to it – I’m still a musician at heart, and I dearly love being able to hear the progression of a song from reasonable beginning to completion. On the other hand though, as I said this morning, if the band wanted me/us to hear it – I would think they’d just let us have it. So to get it from some other means seems, well, not right.

Lit by scandal

As my friend said in reply – I’m no goody-goody here. It doesn’t seem right or fair to the band to get hold of something that they weren’t ready to put out themselves. It is, of course, very different if John or Nick said “Hey, why don’t you take a listen?” But to just leak an album and broadcast its existence wouldn’t be right. As we know, that hasn’t happened with Reportage anyway. I mean, at least not that I’m aware. In some ways I still wonder if I’m among the last remaining DD fans that hasn’t heard it.

I suppose I haven’t really hunted much for Reportage. Several years ago I did try to sniff it out online, but came up empty. After that, I kind of let it go, only to be reminded of its existence every now and again. I’ll think of it for a few minutes, and then I’m off again. I would have figured it would have been leaked by now and be commonplace. It would seem that this is one of the better-kept “secrets” in our fandom, at least from my perspective!

So while I suppose I’m still curious about what it sounded like, I’m also more interested in what the band is working on now, post-Paper Gods. Hearing Reportage now would be like looking back, when really all I want to do is keep moving ahead.

-R


Muse is Hungry LIke the Wolf

Give me a sign

Has anyone noticed that DDHQ has been promoting a cover of Hungry Like the Wolf performed by Muse lately? I did – and filed the information in my head for later.

Today was that day, my friends. I had to mentally prepare myself. I would not only be listening to Hungry Like the Wolf, but sitting through an actual cover of it. Doesn’t everyone do that???

In touch with the ground

In full disclosure, I’ve liked Muse for a long time. They’ve been on my radar since the soundtrack for the first Twilight was released with “Supermassive Black Hole”. (Yes, I did actually read the books and go to the movies with my oldest. I’m a mom. It’s what we do.) I was a little surprised they decided to do a cover of a Duran Duran song, much less HLTW. It seems to be one that many bands choose for their cover. I was curious to see what Muse would do with it.

Covers usually take one of two basic routes: either they are rearranged to the point where they are almost unrecognizable, or they hold true to the spirit of the original. Maybe they have a little flair here and there, but the spirit of the song holds on faithfully. I really wasn’t sure which way Muse would go. I figured it would be a little different, yet recognizable.

I’m on the hunt

Clearly, DDHQ has been promoting the song to some extent – so I wanted to hear what it had to offer! I sat down with my coffee this morning, and clicked play, hoping I wouldn’t be completely disappointed or put off. (one never knows!)

Here is the link if you want to see and hear it for yourself! Muse is Hungry Like the Wolf.

The first thing I can tell you is that Muse held true to Duran Duran. I don’t even know if they changed a single drum beat, which surprised me. Obviously, I could tell it was Muse playing the song, but I don’t think they took much in the way of poetic license with the arrangement or even the rhythm. It sounded like Muse playing Duran Duran, and while that was comforting, it was also strange.

I think that bands are in a no-win situation with covers much of the time. If they take too much liberty – fans will hate it because the original is what they fell in love with, or what they know. If they don’t take enough, then they’ve got yahoos like me saying “Hey, how come you didn’t get more creative with it?”

Straddle the line

In my own defense, I like to see a band choose a song that inspires them, and pushes them to do more with it. Take the song to a different level, or a different place. Explore the sound, create a new environment – that sort of thing. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I want to hear HLTW sound like a ballad, but I want to hear them create something fresh.

In my opinion, the song was good. They didn’t perform it to make fun of it or to change it from pop to classical jazz. They wanted to perform in tribute to a band that they apparently respect and admire, and they were absolutely successful in doing so. I think Muse could have done more with it on a creative level, to be sure, but they chose not to – and I have to respect that because the song was performed incredibly well. Obviously they felt it is amazing as is, and you know, that speaks to Duran Duran’s own songwriting genius. I can’t argue with that!

Discord & Rhyme (my favorite line!!)

I did rather enjoy the end of it, as Matt Bellamy began to launch into a very familiar guitar riff/solo that Dom likes to do during the live shows…and I thought it was an interesting spin to have that part end the song rather than act as the bridge. So in that aspect, they did assert some creativity with the arrangement.

Overall, I enjoyed it, and I still say that “Hungry Like the Wolf” is indeed the song that will outlive all of us.

-R

Make Me Smile

I was in the car a couple of days ago, driving home from dropping off the youngest at school. Traffic was heavy, because it was raining.  I felt fairly brain dead and cold as I would tap the gas, then the brake pedal, over and over. The stereo was playing an endless conglomeration of Christmas tunes, and I was pretty weary of the whole episode. I reached over and switched radio stations, hoping for anything that might wake me up. The familiar backwards-piano sound from the beginning of Rio filled the car, and I immediately grinned. I went from dreary and drowsy to energized in less than a second, because of a single song. 

Rio is one of those songs that I can hear anywhere, and will almost always smile. I say almost because I don’t think I’ve heard it at a funeral yet. I’m not quite sure I’d smile if I did. Never know, but here’s hoping I don’t have to test that theory.  Not every Duran song has that superpower hidden within it’s tracks, at least, not for me.  For example, occasionally I’ll be out at a store and hear Ordinary World. While I will acknowledge it’s Duran Duran (I don’t actually stop people and tell them who it is – I’m not quite that far gone just yet), I might not break into a toothy grin. Though as far as “Rio”goes, that song has just the right magic.  I can feel the smile coming on, almost as a reflex. (Yes, really.)

(Although once again, I must reiterate I haven’t excitedly stopped anyone and said “That’s Duran Duran. I love them!! or “I know them!!” ….probably because I don’t know them.  BUT… I’m not going around shouting that I blog about them every day either. Yet. ) 

I know there are other songs in their catalog that wave a similar wand and cast the same spell on me. The list is rather lengthy when I think about it, which isn’t surprising. This IS my favorite band. I think the rather remarkable point is that like Rio, many of the songs I find myself smiling in response to aren’t necessarily at the top of my list of favorites. They’re unmistakably songs that my memory references as Duran Duran, of course – and typically they are ones that have great memories attached to them. 

For me, when I hear Rio, I think of touring and giant beach balls. The scene of the band kicking said balls in the general direction of the audience, while we attempt to aim them right back… oh wait…I probably shouldn’t have mentioned that. 

Never mind. Nothing else to see or read there…

I think of summer and sand, and seeing pictures of the band in Hawaii.  That moment at the end of the show comes to mind, too. It is when Dom, John and Roger are all watching one another, waiting for Roger to signal that his chops have had enough for one night and he’s about to end the wind-up at the very end of Rio. I think of seeing John, Roger, Nick, Simon, Dom, Simon W., Anna and Erin at the front of the stage waving. I’m back in my happy place. How could I not smile?

What about you? 

-R 

A Special Halloween Playlist

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Today is a “special” sort of Halloween. The kind where you still have school in the morning, a showing at your house in the afternoon, and no time to clean, much less get ready for trick or treating.

I realized this morning that I packed our candles. More specifically, I packed the tea-light candles I typically use for jack-o-lanterns. Those are packed along with the bucket I use for the trick-or-treat candy, our Halloween decorations, and the trick-or-treat pumpkin that my youngest normally uses for collecting her treats. They are in a storage unit approximately 3 hours from my house right now. God, I love moving…and even more so now that we’ve been “moving” for about six months.

Since I was thinking about Halloween, and showing my house later on…and since I also have a real sense of humor, I was considering putting together a special play list to have going softly in the background as people come to see the house today.

Yeah, I’m THAT type of seller. Hard to imagine my home still being on the market, huh?

Anyway, I want the playlist to be Duran-centric, for the most part. It can’t be too long because my house doesn’t take that long to see, but I’ll also use it tonight for the darling little trick-or-treaters as I’m sipping on some sort of apple-cinnamon type of drink. Hey, we ALL should get treats on Halloween, shouldn’t we?!?

Here’s what I’ve got so far:

Night Boat (Yeah, I took DDHQ’s idea. Sue me.)

Out of My Mind

The Flame (Yes, it’s Arcadia. And??)

Tricked Out (I picked this because for some strange reason it reminds me of something Danny Elfman might compose, and he reminds me of Halloween. Yeah, I’m stretching. Again, sue me.)

Secret Oktober (come on now…of course this has to be on it!)

Chains (It has this haunting sort of feel to it that goes well for the occasion)

Red Carpet Massacre (the name alone works for me!)

Only in Dreams (can you pick a song just because it has the word “vampire” in it? I say you can.)

New Religion

Late Bar (legs and arms crawling through. Good enough for me!)

Election Day (Yeah, has nothing to do with Halloween but everything to do with what will come next. GO VOTE!)

The Universe Alone

 

There are plenty more that I could add..but what would you add to your own Halloween playlist? Give it a try and let me know!

Off to go get myself some candles….

Happy Halloween!

-R