I am finishing up my weekend by taking some precious time to go through and read more of the Classic Pop: Special Edition for Duran Duran’s 40th anniversary. Today, I will cover the Rare Photos and Rio album articles.
Apparently, this photos that are deemed “rare” came from Kings of the Dark Moon, by Justin Thomas, which is described as a candid photo book that focuses on the rise to fame. I’m unfamiliar with this book. Anyone know anything about it? In looking at these 6 pages of photos, I notice that many of them have a familiar flavor to them. It feels like I have seen other photos from the same time or place but not these specific ones. No matter, I love seeing new (to me) photos of the band. I suspect that this is a carry over from my childhood when I, like so many others, could not get enough pictures of Duran. I remember trying to one up my friend by having a new picture that I could share with her. It was like some sort of weird competition except that I don’t recall ever getting angry or annoyed by the results. After all, we both benefitted by having new pictures to look at!
Classic Album – Rio:
This article obviously dived deep into the band’s second and arguably their most popular album, Rio. It includes sections on the songs, the band members, the videos and more. This is one album that I feel like I know a lot about so I wondered if I was going to learn anything new. I cannot say that the article did have a lot of new information but it did a nice job of combining different sources to tell the story including interviews, John’s autobiography, and more. I appreciated that they covered the context of recording (the band had just returned from the US), to the album cover, to the remixes, and to the videos. It was nicely done and would be a great introduction to the album’s history.
The column about the songs on the Rio album was also nicely done. Again, I’m not sure how much new information I learned but the author summarized what is known about the songs well. It seems to me that each song has a fun fact included in the article. For example, it mentions about how the beginning sound in Rio came from Nick throwing iron rods into a grand piano, played backwards. I love those cool little bits of info!
The little blurbs on the band members were interesting and unlike what I was expecting. I figured that they would be like how band members’ bios were written in the teen magazines I had read as a kid. The bios would include family information, birthdates, how they got into music, etc. These only really included information on influences, when they joined the band and their history within. For example, Roger’s talked about when he left and when he returned. What was interesting was Andy’s. It mentioned that he left in 1986 but did not include any statement about how he returned for awhile during the reunion. Weird.
The videos section highlighted some of the videos from the Rio album, including Hungry Like the Wolf, Save a Prayer, Rio and the Chauffeur. I have to say that this section disappointed me the most. Perhaps, I feel this way because I didn’t learn a whole lot new. Plus, I disagreed with how the Rio video was interpreted, “Rio encapsulated everything that they were about…a glorious depiction of Eighties excesses: girls, glamour, yachts, sunshine and fashion, all set to a high-octane soundtrack.” I think that is what everyone thinks Rio is about. Yet, I view that video completely differently. I see a bunch of guys who should have no problem winning over a woman with their money, fashion, location, etc. but they end up falling on their faces as the woman is unimpressed no matter what they do.
Overall, though, this next section of the magazine was well-done. I look forward to reading more (and reviewing more!).
Finally, I get my chance to dive into the celebration surrounding Duran Duran’s second and most successful album, Rio. May 10th marked the 35th anniversary of the album’s release. Since then, many articles have been written, many videos have been viewed and many personal celebrations have been shared. It is like a Duran holiday! Woohoo! On the anniversary, I couldn’t do much to mark the special occasion as it was a work day for me. I did what I could, though. Before and after each class period, I showed a video of a song from Rio. Many of my students didn’t know anything about the band but some did come in with knowledge about the band and this album. Still, I felt good about sharing my favorite band with my high school students. They need a good music education, right?
Since that date, I did have a chance to listen to the oral history posted on the band’s official fan community’s website. They called this longer version a “night version” just like the night versions of the band’s singles in their earlier days. Overall, I found the oral history fascinating! Not shockingly, I ended up taking copious notes as I didn’t want to miss anything. In thinking about blogging about this, I decided to treat like just like a regular Katy Kafe, which means that I’ll give some highlights. I recommend, though, that you listen to it yourself and as there is much that I didn’t get to in this blog!
The oral history began with each member sharing about the album as a whole before diving into each track individually. I liked being able to hear all of their voices about each track. While I appreciated this easy-to-follow format, I’m going to describe the highlights in a slightly different way based on themes or highly fascinating statements.
In the beginning of the oral history, each member discusses the feel of the album as a whole, including the title. Much of what they mentioned, I knew. For example, I knew that the trip to America for that first tour impacted the band and that the song “Rio” is a reference to America. I found it interesting that Simon said it symbolized the love they have for America. Of course, there is more to it as Rio, Carnival and South America also were ingredients on the album and title.
For many of the tracks, the band described specific influences. For example, Roger mentioned Quiet Life by Japan for Rio and Michael Jackson for My Own Way. Both John and Roger stated that the fretless bass on Lonely in Your Nightmare was similar to Japan’s. Simon talked about Gordon Lightfoot’s If You Could Read my Mind in connection to Hungry Like the Wolf. Early hip hop was brought up with New Religion. I appreciated hearing all of those examples and am thinking about checking out those songs next to the Duran ones to see if I can hear those influences.
Behind the Scenes:
As much as I loved to hear about the influences, I loved the behind the scenes scoop even more. I loved hearing about how My Own Way is a “problem child” according to Roger because the single version was too fast. Another behind the scenes story that really caught my attention was the discussion around Hold Back the Rain. As many know, this song’s lyrics were written by Simon about John partying too much. Both John and Simon openly talk about this in the oral history. I appreciated their openness and being willing to share with all of us. It made my heart feel full when I heard John describe the song as “bittersweet” which is a “punch in the face” with a hint of sadness. Indeed. I might not be able to listen to that song in the same way again.
There were many times when a band member would say something profound, meaningful or even jarring that I had to pause and write it down. Sometimes, those quotes were about the album as a whole or about a specific song. One example of this is when John talked about how the album was a kind of narrative about these suburban kids who had left their comfort zone and were now experiencing fame. I have never thought of Rio in that way, but I have often thought fame was a big theme in both Seven and the Ragged Tiger and Notorious. It makes me want to look at all three in order to see if there is a running undercurrent of a storyline.
Got Me Thinking:
One thing about Duran that I have always loved is that as much as they entertain me and provide me with an escape from real life, they also make me think. They don’t beat me over the head with intellectualism but it’s there and I love it. Funny enough, Simon even got me thinking about Hungry Like the Wolf in a different way. He talked about why it is “THE” wolf as opposed to “A” wolf. He wanted to get people thinking, “Which wolf?” He likes getting people to ask questions as that means that they are engaged. I couldn’t agree with him more.
Speaking of agreement, I also found myself nodding along when John talked about how Simon is underestimated as a lyricist and that New Religion was a “lyrical tour de force”. Interestingly enough, John shared that Simon used to describe that song as a dialogue between ego and alter ego. Hmm…
By the time, the band got to discussing this track, I had taken two and a half page of notes. I started to put away them, figuring that I had heard all the stories about this song before. I knew about Simon’s time in Israel, that it was the last track recorded, and that Roger and John come in late on the track. There was no surprise when John described as dark and “underground” Duran. What did catch my attention is how he stated that it is the song for intellectuals. In fact, he said that a friend of his says that there must be at least one track on every album to appeal to intellectuals. For Rio, it is the Chauffeur. That really got me thinking. Do not be surprised if there is an additional blog about that coming up soon!
Let Roger decide the setlist:
Roger stated that the band should dust off New Religion and bring it back into the set. Ummm…YES, PLEASE!?! He also said that the Chauffeur should be played more live. Seriously, can we let Roger decide on the setlist? Please…
Overall, I found the entire oral history to be well-worth the time to listen (and to take notes!). I learned a lot by listening and was able to fill in some gaps. Now, I’m tempted to go pull out my copy of Classic Albums: Rio DVD and compare what they said there about the various tracks. One thing is clear. The album, Rio, was a real game changer. Not only did it change the band in ways that cannot be measured but it changed the lives for so many fans all around the world. Truly, May 10, 1982, the ground shifted for those five guys and the fans that would follow. Every time I listen to it, I recognize it as the masterpiece it is, which leads me to feel nothing but extreme pride to be able to call myself a fan.
I was thoroughly spoiled on Friday night, as I stood less than 30 feet away from Simon Le Bon as he sang Is There Something I Should Know AND Late Bar in a single set in a small, intimate bar in Fullerton, California. Of course, John, Roger, Andy and Nick were there too, and Duran Duran was on fire…playing everything from Sound of Thunder to Notorious, deep cuts to big hits. Duranies lined the stage, and while I only saw one pair of panties thrown…it was a good night.
Ok, so maybe it wasn’t really Simon. Or John, Roger, Andy and Nick for that matter. Particularly given the fact that they were in Argentina that night, and oh yes – Andy is no longer with the band – I kind of knew it was going to be tough to sell anyone on that story. So who was the band and where was I? The band was of course Rio: the Duran Duran tribute band, and the venue was the Totally 80’s Bar and Grille.
Here’s the thing – as far as bars go, the Totally 80’s Bar is every 80s cliché wrapped up into one building. Neon, black lights, TV monitors on the wall playing completely different videos from the music pouring out of the speaker, even the same really gross, dank, but not entirely off putting, “ick” oozing from its walls. As I stood at the bar, nursing one of the worst vodka tonics I’ve ever had, I watched a guy dancing and spinning alone in the corner of the dance floor. I almost had to pinch myself, because I’d swear I saw that same dude thirty years ago at Fashions on the Redondo Beach pier. Yeah, for me, Totally 80’s was nearly like stepping back in time….and falling flat on my face in a sea of neon paint with Apollonia 6 serenading me like carnival music in a fun house. In a word: weird. Fun, but weird.
I think that in order to appreciate the sights and sounds, you must have a sense of humor about the whole thing. Some do, as they come dressed proudly in 80s garb with a side ponytail and enough neon lighting bolts to power their own homes. Others, like me, are little more apprehensive and less likely to fully embrace 1980-something coming back to life. We come to see bands we think we know play music we rarely get to hear live.
As showtime neared, I was once again flabbergast to see Duranies – and yes, you can tell they’re Duranies because some even wear their Paper Gods touring t-shirts, which is both appropriate and cute in this setting – grabbing the front and center spots. They were ready to do battle if necessary to defend their territory from the few women (oh yes, even here) that feel they should always be awarded a spot directly in front of the singer, even if they drunkenly arrive mid-set. Truthfully, I can’t find fault with the Duranies in front, even if I chose not to join them in favor or standing back to watch the scene unfold. The die-hard in me screamed to go to the front, while the more reasonable side constantly reminded me that this was not really Duran Duran. The dance floor filled nicely for Rio, and once the band took the stage, even people from the back of the bar came to check the band out.
I hadn’t seen Rio perform live for about a year, and it might have been longer than that, now that I think about it. I can’t always make it to their shows (this is a tribute band that plays regularly so that Duranies can always get their fix, should the need arise!), but I go when I can. Since my last trip to 1985 (with Rio, of course), they’ve had a personnel change. Not to be confused with the real Duran Duran (although they will tell you that they are in fact the real Duran Duran), in this case it is their keyboardist who has recently changed. Not sure if the sub “Nick” will stick around, but he was good.
I know a lot of people wince at the idea of a tribute band. I was one of those, once. Two things make Rio different: 1. They take the music seriously, even though sure – the “act” is a schtick of sorts. They’re not making fun of Duran Duran, they’re emulating them as they tell the crowd that we’ve all been taken back to 1985 in a time machine and that it’s going to be a party. These guys are fans – and I know this because I’ve hung out with them after Duran Duran shows! In turn, they make their own show fun, and do the music all kinds of justice. I’m picky about my Is There Something I Should Know, and they play it true to form….every time. EVERY TIME. 2. They don’t just play the hits. They also play the deep cuts only Duranies know. That’s the one thing I have to say, even when they’re playing Late Bar, everyone is dancing on that floor. I wish Duran Duran (the real band) could see it, because it’s a sight to behold. John Taylor may say that only die-hard fans in the first row or two know the song at his shows – but at these shows? Everybody knows it, or it’s so damn good they dance anyway.
So while Duran Duran may never play Late Bar or Sound of Thunder, Rio does…and they do it brilliantly. If you haven’t had a chance to see them, you should make the time. I’ll even save you space on the dance floor.
Last week, I asked people to rank the first album from their least favorite song to their most favorite song. I had a number of people participate (although I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to have more)! Despite a bit of a debate about the addition of Is There Something I Should Know since it was not on the original UK version, I do have the results! Based on the participants’ responses, here is how the fan community ranked the songs off the first album from LEAST favorite to MOST favorite:
Girls on Film
Is There Something I Should Know
To the Shore
Anyone Out There
Friends of Mine
Sound of Thunder
Anything surprise you? I was not surprised to see Careless Memories at the top as it often ranks high in other polling and tasks we have done. The same is true with Planet Earth. I was surprised, though, to see Night Boat as high as it is! I certainly would have expected Friends of Mine to be higher. Perhaps, Night Boat is a track, then, that Duran should bust out and do!! Now, I can’t just let people sit back and enjoy the results. Oh no, we need to move on! Here is your new homework assignment!!
Directions: You will rank the songs off RIO from LEAST favorite to MOST favorite. Please note: In order to make your determination, you may need to re-listen to the album one or more times.
The songs that need to be included in your list are:
My Own Way
Lonely in Your Nightmare
Hungry Like the Wolf
Hold Back the Rain
Last Chance on the Stairway
Save a Prayer
How to turn in your homework: Once you have completed your ranking and are ready to turn in your homework, you will need to head over to the Daily Duranie message board. Specifically, you will post your homework in this thread here: Rank RIO thread. Please note: You may have to register for the boards in order to complete your assignment, if you are not already a member. Of course, even after you post your assignment, you may want to go back to the thread in order to see others’ homework! You can compare your homework to others as cheating does not exist for this assignment!
Your assignment is DUE by SATURDAY, DECEMBER 12TH.
What is your assignment worth? It is worth being a part of the larger fan community and having YOUR opinion count! Besides, this is all just for FUN!!! Another recommendation is not to think TOO MUCH! Just go with your gut on how you rank the songs!
I will compile all of the results to determine how fans rank the songs off of Rio. From there, we will move on to the other 12 albums. Have fun!
Who wants another remaster of Rio? Anyone?? Buehler??
Recently, Duran Duran announced that the band was about to set sail with another remaster of everyone’s favorite album….Rio. As explained through the band’s Facebook page:
The only difference between this and the 2009 Special Edition (which is no longer available) is that this is in a digipak and not in booklet form. So it is a sort of repackage/reissue of that release.
That said, many in the community are wondering pretty loudly as to why this release is so necessary. The overwhelming majority of comments I’ve seen have had this sentiment, “With all due respect, how about stopping the reissues and finishing the new album?”
Fair enough. I suppose that upon first glance it does seem a little…well, overdone at this point. After all, it’s been wisely pointed out by more than one fan that Liberty, The Wedding Album, Thank You, Medazzaland and Pop Trash have yet to receive this kind of treatment. Is it really smart to reissue Rio again?
Originally Rio was owned/distributed/etc. by EMI – a label that is no longer in existence. The 2009 remastering was also done by EMI (with very little input from the band, as I seem to recall). The remasters of Rio, along with the others done by EMI, did not continue to be printed after EMI was sold off.
So where did that portion of Duran’s catalog end up? At Warner. For the first time in many years, the band has been reunited with their catalog, which is something John in particular has mentioned. I don’t think it’s really much of a surprise to see that Rio is being reissued once again. The album continues to sell well for the band because it is the music that made them most popular, so why not reissue it under the Warner label? Warner didn’t buy the catalog for it to sit somewhere and just collect dust, after all.
Also, Isn’t it the least bit interesting that this summer, Duran Duran will play festivals, introducing that music to people who, unlike the rest of us, might not have been around to hear it in the 80s? Even if they never play a single new song from the “yet-to-be-named-publicly” album that we call DD14 at any of these festivals, they will expose new audiences to songs like Rio and Save a Prayer…and those songs can be found where?? On a fantastic remastered digipack of Rio. This reminds me a little of the summer TV reruns, “If you’ve never seen it, it’s new to you!” ….”If you’ve never heard it, it’s new to you!” Say what you will about reissues, if they’re trying to find a new audience, it’s not a bad way to go.
Furthermore, if you were a band from the 80s that is looking to reinvigorate your fan base and bring in some new lifeblood…why wouldn’t you play festivals known for attracting young people, and reissue your biggest selling album at the same time? You play some festivals, get people interested and talking about you, make some sales on an older, yet still very viable release, and then release your brand new album…which is reportedly meant for a much wider audience than their current fan base. (I’ve had people ask where I’m getting that – listen to the final 20th Anniversary Katy Kafe with Simon. They talk quite a bit about it, and yes, it really DOES make sense!) Those same people who bought your older music, thinking they’ve found a new band, will then hear new music and make those purchases. It happens all the time with plenty of bands, and it is a proven marketing method. Whether it will work as well for Duran Duran or not is yet to be seen, but I’m very curious to see if it will.
I know that there are many in the community that scoff at the idea of Duran Duran’s attempts to bring in new vitality to their long time fan base. I can understand why. We all were witness to what happened with some of their previous attempts, and I think to a certain degree, we’re selfish as all get out. We don’t necessarily want to share the band with new generations of fans. We’ve loved them since Day One, and dammit they’re OURS. Those are honest feelings, and I get it. I don’t know if the band or label really gets that, but I’m not sure it’s necessarily important that they do. Is it really healthy though to expect the band to cater solely to their long time fans and NOT grow their fan base? Is it really smart for them not to try? I don’t think so.
Selling music is a business. The band has to make money or else it’s really just a very expensive hobby. Duran Duran, while they say they’re not in it for the money, they are definitely accustomed to living a certain type of lifestyle that is beyond the reach of most. They want to see their music reach as many people as possible…and last I checked, the population of 40-somethings in the world isn’t necessarily growing. It isn’t as though we’re all going to bring a friend who has never heard Duran Duran to their next shows and suddenly convert them. No…it’s younger people coming up in the world that they’ve got to expand and reach to find. Like it or not, that’s the reality. If they want to sell their album beyond the 300,000 or so copies that they might be able to sell to their fan base in varying forms…they’d better come up with some music that has a snowball’s chance in hell of being played by people who aren’t already their fans. Again, like it or not, that’s the cold, stark truth.
While sure, I sit back and wonder aloud here on the blog about whether they’re going to alienate long time fans in the process, there is a huge part of me that wants to see them do well. Why wouldn’t I? I’m a FAN and I support this band. Isn’t that the point? I’d love to see the album take the world by storm, all the while knowing that I’ve been around to watch the entire plot unfold. I haven’t heard the album yet, I don’t really know what they’ve got up their sleeve(s), but I’m trying to keep an open mind. It really is what we should all be doing, and yes, it can sometimes be difficult.
I think that as long time fans, Duranies, die hards….whatever you’d like to call us, we have a habit of being overly cynical. I certainly fall into that ditch on occasion, without question! We think we’ve seen it all and we think we know the band’s career better than they might – because you know, we’re objective. <wink, wink> There are a good number of fans out there that believe the band has already reached the apex of what they can hope to achieve. I’ve witnessed the discussion, I’ve heard the chuckles when the idea of reaching beyond the fan base and finding a younger audience is mentioned, and I’ve read the comments of, “good luck with that. Hope you don’t end up losing your entire fan base in the process.” I’m ever-so cautiously thinking that maybe we shouldn’t all be quite so sure. This is a band that I wouldn’t necessarily count out, and wouldn’t it be AMAZING to see them take off like a rocket or hear them on the radio again? It’s not wrong to hope for that, or at least be open to the possibility. After all, I still love them, and I want to see them do well with music that they are really and truly proud of creating. Don’t you?
We’re back looking at some cover versions of Duran songs, and on a whim I decided to see what might be out there for Rio. If you haven’t had the chance to check out what Moby chose to do with Rio – you can find a blog on that here.
Additionally, I searched on YouTube and found a few to share. Curiously, many of the covers I found out there were acoustic – and many isolated that incredible bass line that fans know and love.
So I couldn’t help but include this one because BNL is well…BNL. You either get them or you don’t, but you can’t deny that they can sing and harmonize. Unfortunately this is another band that has split over the years, but I still love their old stuff…
I never quite know what I’m going to find on YouTube…and this is one of those kinds of covers. This one is slower and more subdued than the original, but the spirit of the song is still there, and it reminds me very much of being on a boat…which is appropriate given the song and the video I’ve linked for this takes place on a boat!!
This one claims to be the rocking version. I have to say that if they’re gonna claim something like that, they’re gonna need to rock a little harder than Duran Duran does when they play it live, and I’m not hearing that here…but a valiant effort nonetheless. I’d have liked seeing what else they could do with it, but I sense this is one of those songs you don’t dare change too much. Unless you’re Moby. 🙂
Ok, so I cheated. One of the versions I found online was uploaded by someone named Dam Breetai, and when I read that it’s the heavy metal version, I had to hear it. I mean, what could they POSSIBLY have done to the song? Turns out, it’s a remix (of sorts) of the original. A little turned up guitar (I actually think it’s an entirely new track), but Simon is still there to remind one where this song came from. I don’t know how great this really is, but I had to include it just for kicks.
This version is the edgiest rock version I found. It’s hard rock, and I have to say that musically – I like it. Vocals, in my opinion aren’t really that great, but he does do this whisper of “I’ll tell you something, I know what you’re thinking” before he launches into the chorus that is kind of cool. Instead of the typical saxophone solo we’re used to hearing, this one has heavy guitar and an even heavier short drum fill that makes it his own.
Check out the covers and let us know what you think. There are pages and pages of Rio cover versions on YouTube and I only chose a few… but if you’ve got one that we absolutely have to hear or post, send it or comment below with the link!
Guess what I did this weekend? I went to see Duran Duran! Didn’t you hear about the show???
Gotcha. It wasn’t quite Duran Duran, although it was a pretty close facsimile thereof. This weekend I jumped at the opportunity to go and see Rio, the Duran Duran Tribute Band at Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach. They played there a couple months back, and I was made a believer at that show. So when this show was announced, I was ready to go again. What’s more, I was given the opportunity to sit down with all five guys before the show and have an interview. This was a very big deal, because I’ve never done an in-person interview before. Of course, I didn’t tell them that as I sat down with my cheat-sheet of questions that I almost didn’t refer to at all and nearly forgot some of the questions I’d meant to ask. I just tried to stay composed and keep it more like a conversation, less like a drill session. Remarkably, the band didn’t throw me out, nor did they seem too terribly bored. I’m working on getting the interview transposed, and you’ll be seeing that interview in the next couple of weeks here on the blog.
Not only did I get an interview that night, but I also finally have my very own picture with the band. This is miraculous (for me)…and I think it’s rather fitting that my first picture with a band as a blogger for Daily Duranie (quite frankly its my first picture with any full band) is with Rio as opposed to the well, real band. That’s OK by me, and they were great sports. I dare say that “Nick” (he actually goes by “Click” in the group, but that’s just too confusing for my feeble brain) has a pout that rivals anything I’ve seen from the real John Taylor, and “Simon” is a better dancer…but you didn’t hear that from me.
From L:”Simon”, “Nick”, me, “John”, “Roger” and “Andy”
While I’ll admit I’m among the converted for this band, and I’m happy to be of any help I can to these guys, I think it’s interesting to note just how difficult it really is for a tribute band to be taken seriously – or even to be embraced at all by the diehard fans out there. The subject came up quite a bit during our interview, and I can tell you – it took me going and actually seeing a show of theirs to really be won over.
No one wants to see their band, the band they’ve grown up listening to and (in my case) plastering their bedroom walls with pinups of turned into stinky cheese on stage. Nobody wants that, and yet there IS a certain schtick that goes along with being a tribute band in many, many cases. Yet, for the ardent few – there truly are tribute bands that take their craft seriously. The way I see it, there are two roads for a tribute band: one that makes a joke out of their predecessors, and one that truly treats their work as an art form and duplicates their work to the very best of their ability. Now, both ideas can work nicely. Some people enjoy going to see a swanky, over-the-top Elvis Presley impersonator. They want to laugh, they want that comedic tinge to the performance. Then there are others that want the true Elvis Presley experience brought “back to life” (yes, I really did need to use those words, thankyouverymuch). The same holds true with The Beatles. I’ve seen three Beatles tribute groups now. Two out of the three took their jobs very, very seriously – and the third made it a joke. I liked the first two best, but that’s just me. I know of people who were with me that absolutely loved the over-the-top jokes of that third group. So, it takes all kinds.
I suspect that the diehard fans amongst us tend to want to see as authentic of a performance as possible, and Rio very much has that about them. They aren’t trying to mutilate the bands music, they’re definitely not trying to turn Duran Duran into a synthetic, neon-fringed, circa 1980s “statement” of how pathetic that decade must have been. (I LIKED that decade!) They get up on the stage and for that performance, become Duran Duran. I fully believe that there is a place for that in this fandom, and believe me – I wouldn’t support them if I didn’t buy into what they were selling 150%. One doesn’t write a daily blog about being a Duran Duran fan and then go see a tribute band turn them into a joke with each performance. I stake my “incredibly illustrious” reputation as a blogger on that. (For those of you who do not understand sarcasm…that was definitely a dose of pure sarcasm right there.) In all seriousness though, I know what Duran fans are like. We’re just a little on the snobby-side about our band. Maybe ALL the way on the snobby side. It takes a lot to convince us to go to a tribute show without serious eye-rolling. I don’t honestly know if that’s just a US fan thing, a California fan thing, or if it’s a symptom of being a diehard fan across the board, but it absolutely exists. I know because I recognized it even in myself.
The Duran Duran fans I know are a tough group to crack. We’re opinionated. We’ve been around a very long time, and I think that to some small degree, there is a sense of ownership, entitlement and privilege about us that makes us incredibly snobby at times. Hell, we’ve had an extremely tough time just convincing people to part with some precious dollars and come spend a weekend having a party with other fans in Chicago. They’re not interested unless my name is Simon, John, Roger, or Nick….or at the very least…if I can get them there. That’s been a serious blow to my ego at times this year. No, not the part where my name isn’t LeBon, Taylor, Taylor or Rhodes (I gave that up a few decades back!)…the part where people aren’t even interested in coming to meet and hang out with other fans at a weekend that I’ve devoted much of my time to planning. They want the band, and only the band. They aren’t interested in spending time with other fans, and they’re not interested in making friends unless those friends can get them in front of the band. I can’t quite figure out the thinking there, and perhaps that’s a fault of my own rather than that of others. My own thoughts are that it’s not as though I’m destined to become a friend of the band…the real band in this case… if I can just get myself in the same room with them for long enough. Friendship and relationships aren’t something that can be forced. John Taylor or Nick Rhodes isn’t going to suddenly decide you’re OK to befriend if you’ve been outside their homes, or their hotels while on tour, or anywhere else, waiting for them every day for the last month, for example (I might argue that perhaps that would be reason to call for extra security). Even if we have a great moment with them while they’re on stage, that’s probably not going to be enough to make them think that we’ve got some amazing connection that is worth checking out. Those friendships happen organically, on their own, and not likely in situations where one has used pinups of said potential friends as bedroom wallpaper. I understand that, and I have much respect for that boundary. It’s a strange place to occupy, as much for me as the fan as it might be for them as the idol. In any case, trying to surmount that obstacle to convince people to come to the convention in Chicago has been incredibly tough, and at times I found myself really wondering if it was all worth it. So, when the band and their manager explain this as being a major challenge for them – convincing fans like me to even give them a chance – I completely understand. It’s difficult for us to convince fans to even give our BLOG a chance.
The only thing Amanda and I have done to combat the resistance, so to speak, has been to try our best to keep our heads down, keep writing, and stay out of the drama. Naturally, that doesn’t always work. Sometimes our subject matter causes a minor uproar, and sometimes we take natural offense to some of the conscientious objectors out there. I suspect that our route – to just keep going – is the route that Rio should take as well. The more they continue playing, the better skilled they will become, and word of mouth about that talent will spread. There is no way it cannot. Even so, friends are helpful. They become a source of support, and they make the journey fun. One of the questions I asked that night during the interview was about long term goals for the band, and one of the more insightful answers I received was from “Andy” (Chadwick Steinmetz), and basically he said that they’re having fun, and that it’s about the journey, not the destination.
Tribute bands have never been my thing, to be honest. I’ve typically found them to be a bit more on the side of cheesy than I like at times, utterly cringeworthy at others. The tribute band has a difficult decision to make: do they choose to recreate the past and risk alienating the diehard fans? Should they recreate the music, using the bands original framework as merely a guide (and once again alienate diehard fans who know every single note?), or do they go over-the-top with bravado, knowing that they won’t be taken at all seriously, intending for the act to be seen as more of a joke than anything else (and again, risking the scorn and alienation of diehard fans)? The slope seems to be a rather slippery one at best, and I’m curious what drives a musician to go the route of tribute band member.
As a fan, let’s face it – I want the real thing. Who doesn’t? In my head I’m thinking that whatever tribute band I see is a distant, yet semi-effective (at least in some cases) “second” of whatever band we’re talking about. What I’m about to say will sound like the words of a desperate addict, but it’s true: sometimes, you just need a fix!!
Rio, the Duran Duran Tribute Band, has had a few shows this past year or so, and invariably, I haven’t been able to attend. So when I saw that a show for this past Friday was announced at a club in Hermosa Beach California called Sainte Rocke (Very cool club – if you live here and can make your way over there for a show, you absolutely should!), I jumped at the opportunity. Was the jump due to lack of show desperation? Curiosity? YES. My plan was simple: go to the show, sit near the back or at the bar, and watch the scene unfold. I had no intentions of getting near the front or dancing like a Duranie with her head cut off, I just wanted to give the band a fair listen and really see how they were in person.
The first part of my plan went just fine. My husband and I got to the club early and found a great spot at near the back that was at the bar (my favorite place to be, don’t you know?) – we were at the very corner, and it gave me a great vantage point to watch the crowd and get the greatest effect from the band. Funny, I can’t remember the last time I willingly sat in the back to listen to Duran songs… The band came on precisely at 10pm (already they were impressing me), making their way to the stage as the background song of Tiger Tiger played. That song is like the Pavlov bell of Duranies. We come when called, and this night was no exception. The front of the room near the stage was already filled, and I found myself wondering: were they Duranies or fans of Rio? “Simon” (Jake Jacobs) made his way to the stage, announced – in full character – that we’d be taking a trip back in time to 1985, and it quickly became clear that this was no ordinary tribute band as they began their opening song, Planet Earth.
I’m really not one to gush…much…but I was shocked at how good they were. This is a band who has taken their time and watched Duran’s performances over the years. It is obvious that Jake in particular has studied LeBon’s movements because every hand gesture, hip sway and yes…dance move…has been replicated. I found myself giggling in delight and my eyes floating from band member to band member to see if all play their part. “John” (Gil Barron) has the brooding shyness and bleached bangs of a young JT, “Andy”(Chadwick Steinmetz) plays his guitar with all of the towering overconfidence of Andy Taylor (minus the cigarette, because let’s face it – this really is 2013), “Nick” (Curt Clendenin) takes photos during the show and STILL doesn’t sweat much, and “Roger” (Danny Alfaro) very much reminds me of a young Roger Taylor back on his set – although he seems to be a bit more comfortable with the crowd.
Almost have to take a second glance…this is pure JT!
As the band began Hungry Like the Wolf (oh yes…even that one) and “Simon” asked if anyone was hungry and I groaned in response, I really paid attention to the music. Let’s face it – fans are tough. We know every single note, and I don’t think I’m the only fan out there to say that if a band is going to play Duran Duran – especially as a tribute, they’d better do an outstanding job. While there may have been differences in some of the arrangements (they definitely do not have the same set up as our Nick for synths and I’m sure that has to make a difference somewhere) – the differences are not glaring, and in some cases, I think they’re even better than what the band plays. I had to wonder if there was a backing track somewhere to make up the back end that they might be missing – it was truly that close to the original. This continued throughout their set, which included songs such as Friends of Mine, Save a Prayer, Careless Memories and even The Chauffeur (“Andy” did a fantastic solo on this one). I meant to watch the end of Notorious very carefully to see if “Simon” could replicate the cool karate moves of our fearless leader – but somehow I got distracted and forgot to look, which only means I’ll need to see them again at some point to watch.
The audience did not disappoint either – although I will admit there wasn’t quite as much exuberance with clapping or hands in the air as there is when Simon and John are in command. However, the crowd was good and very welcoming. I did make my way down to the front for a couple of songs thanks to a few friends, and the effect was no less powerful in front than in the back. At one point “Simon” sang to a girl in the audience, literally grabbing her hand and singing to her – and I honestly thought oxygen might be needed. Yes, even this “Simon” has an effect on women. Clearly the rock star training works, and let’s face it – Jake Jacobs has all of the good looks necessary to pull it off. If Simon looked like Jake, I might have just been a Simon-girl after all.
Well, probably not…Roger always did have my heart back then…but you get my point.
At the end of their 50 minute set, they played the classic Girls on Film, where they had women from the audience get up on stage (a very tiny stage at that) with them and dance. I did not partake…choosing instead to sit at the bar and continue to nurse my vodka tonic and watch. I suppose there are some benefits to a tribute band, one of which being that the band isn’t afraid to have fans on the stage with them, and they do seem to have their fans! The best moments of the show were yet to come as they played Rio. Out of their entire set that night, it was this song that had me doing a double take at several points. “Simon” remained in full-command of his audience and the stage, and if I would have shut my eyes, I would have believed it really was Duran Duran playing. Yes, they really are that good, and I hope to be a more frequent visitor to 1985 from here on out, and I would encourage fellow fans to make a point to catch them at a future show.
Here’s a small taste for the curious and doubters alike out there…it’s Girls on Film from a previous show at the Waterfront Center (I especially love the passing of the shot in this one, but that’s just me.) It’s very easy to see this is a party – and all are welcome!
Yes, my evening at Sainte Rocke didn’t disappoint, and more importantly I found a new band to follow during my Duran downtime. I look forward to seeing great things in years to come out of this one, and so should you. Their next scheduled show is October 11th at the Spotlight 29 Casino in Coachella. I hear that this may be a free show, so I think we should make this a Duranie get together. More on that in the coming months before the show!
For more information on Rio, the Duran Duran Tribute Band, check out the following:
Yes, you read that title right. We are not only doing another review but we are finally moving on to the second album and to the title track of Rio. Let’s applaud the fact that we’re finally onto Rio! Obviously, this song is an interesting one to review as it has become so commonplace, so iconic both for the band and their fans. Nonetheless, we attempted to take a step back to really think about the quality of this song.
Rhonda: Musicality/Instrumentation: What song is really more iconic of the 80s than this one? Even non-fans know this song, if not from the moment they hear the wave of sound that begins the song, then most certainly from the moment you hear Roger’s drums at about 18 seconds in. I know I’m not the only person to recognize how fantastic John’s bass line is in this song – I love the fact that it wasn’t enough just to play a simplistic bass line, he went for interest, and it’s adds just the right touch of drama. To me, Rio is a well-layered song, and if you listen to each layer as I’ve just done, you realize that each layer, from Nick’s synth loops and chords to John’s bass, Andy’s guitar, Roger’s drums and finally Simon’s voice nearly plays as a melody on their own. Yet we’ve got this complicated, layered song and when it comes together – it’s simple, light and fun – and extraordinarily written. I liken the musicality to the personality of the band itself. Upon first glance, the song seems simple and fun. When you get past that, you can hear the differences, the give and take, and the complications contained within.Then this saxophone cuts through all the red tape, and gives this fantastic solo that brings it all back to basics….it’s a fantastic juxtaposition to the rest of the song and does exactly what a solo should. When you take this song and position it side by side with the songs on the first album; however, it is clear that the band took a big departure from the dark, slightly punk-like sounds on the first album, creating a much more complex style of music.
Voice: Simon’s vocals on this song are spot on. I appreciate that his voice is clear, harmonious and in-tune (it’s the little things!) There is a difference between his voice on this album and on the first – it’s not something I can really put my finger on, but I will say that I think it’s on this album that we get that first listen of what becomes Duran’s iconic vocal sound. Simon’s voice doesn’t have that same dark vocal quality it did on the first, but to be fair I wouldn’t expect it here and in fact it would not work with Rio. This is the voice we’ve grown to know and expect over the years, and even today it’s comforting to hear him. It’s funny that I can hear the band live many, many times, but it’s when I sit down and truly just listen – I appreciate Simon’s beautiful voice. Amanda and I have always been careful to say that it takes all five members to make up the band, and we feel that not one should be more or less important than anyone else – but Simon’s voice is incredibly unique and I’m glad he’s the lead singer – I can’t imagine it any other way. Lyrics: I love the lyrics on this song. No, they might not be incredibly poetic, but I don’t think they are lyrics that make you feel good, and to be honest I think it’s one reason the band had such a huge hit with this one. When people listen to this, I don’t think many stop to consider what Simon is going on about. Most people I know think it’s really about a woman. Others say it’s clearly about the United States. I really don’t care one way or another – to me, this song encapsulates my middle-school years in the 1980’s. It is a song that has grown beyond it’s own boundaries at this point. But really, what *does* Simon mean when he says “You know you’re something special and you look like you’re the best”?? What about “When she shines, she shows you all she can”?? I guess for me personally, I think about being a fan here in the states…(but to be fair it’s because every time I hear this song I can’t help but think about all of us standing up and clapping along with Simon – it feels like SUCH a triumphant song at the end of a show) I know I should be going for the hard-hitting poetic meanings here, but the fact is, this song is about so much more than JUST the original meanings at this point, I wouldn’t be doing it justice to attempt to pick it apart.
Production: When I think of good production, this is really the song I consider. There is a little more splash and finery put into this one than the last album – I can definitely hear the evidence of a larger recording budget here – and it’s not nearly as simplistic, but there is still balance. I can hear every instrument, and I think, at least for this song, there’s not much in the way of ego showing. Yet. That said, there is a marked change from the incredibly simple production on the first album. You can’t help but notice the difference, and yet when I ask people who are not fans to name a Duran Duran song, this is easily the first or second song mentioned. It’s what people know, and it’s the sound and production quality that people expect. While I still adore the rawness of the first album – I completely appreciate the polish that comes with this song. The elements of Simon’s harmonization, the more complicated synth loops and the layering – I think these are all things that I can attribute to Colin Thurston’s production, and they are elements that the band has since tried to keep in one fashion or another, and we can thank Colin for that. These elements, along with many others contribute to what we know to be the Duran “sound” no matter whether the music is funky, in a groove, disco or old-school Duran.
Overall: I mistakenly thought that reviewing Rio would be a cake-walk. Ha! It’s not easy to review something you’ve heard literally thousands of times at this point, and listen with new ears. There is so much in this song that I have heard so often I take for granted. I have much learning to do with regard to reviewing, but it is good exercise, both for my writing as well as my listening. The fact is, Rio is iconic, like it or not. When we go to a Duran show, we expect to hear it. When we are listening to a flashback 80s weekend, it’s blasphemous not to hear it played, and for many people out there – Duran Duran IS Rio. Or vice-versa. The song has come to mean more than it was originally intended, and if the band was hoping to shake this song from themselves and get away from the nostalgia….I’m sorry, but it’s not going to happen. Better to embrace the space they clearly own, and be happy. For me, this song feels like pure joy. Pop. Triumph. Fandom…in every sense. I think this is the song that gets everyone, fan and not-quite-big-fan alike up and dancing, and with good reason. There are not many songs that reach the status that Rio has somehow achieved – it’s the song that marks a decade, and I think it will be the song that my grandchildren will hear and think of their long-since-gone grandma and her crazy concert-going days. (because by then I am sure my children will make the stories out to be that of family legend…) How can that be bad??
Cocktail Rating: 4.5 cocktails!!
Amanda: Musicality/Instrumentation: As the introduction to this review stated, this song is a tough one to really review. As I started my part, I did what I always do, which is to listen and re-listen to the song to refresh my memory, pay attention to the nuances and really get a feel for all aspects of the song. For this song, it was hard for me to do as I kept thinking about how WELL I know the song and how I didn’t need to listen to the song again. Yet, I’m glad that I did. Of course, the song opens with that slow building up wave of sound that has Nick Rhodes all over it that we ALL recognize in an instant. It truly is a great way to begin a song and an album. Then, of course, the well-known instruments show up in full force with John’s bass and Roger’s drums forming the foundation with that Andy Taylor guitar on top. Of course, one of the things that makes the song special, musically, is all of the musical changes that transpire, including the noticeable transition from verses to chorus. The most important transition is that part of the song that features a sax solo with that underlying but important bass line. I can’t think of many songs that feature a sax solo like this, especially in pop songs from 1982. It seemed and still seems very brave of the band to include instrumentation such as that. This shows that the band had really shifted away from the basic instruments of punk rock to a much more sophisticated style.
Voice: Simon’s vocals are definitely different in this song than the first album. On one hand, they seem more polished, smoother. The chorus, in particular, really shows off Simon’s skills. Perhaps, there was more focus spent of Simon’s vocals in the studio for this album over the first album. These vocals are the vocals that we are the most used to. They are not the deep, raw vocals of songs like Friends of Mine or Sound of Thunder. It feels to me that the first album’s vocals represented more of that post punk vibe that was definitely around in 1980/1981 whereas these vocals are more much pop friendly and represent more of the expected sound of what is thought of when people say and describe the 1980s. Lyrics: While I wouldn’t say that the lyrics to Rio are Simon’s most poetic lyrics, by any stretch of the imagination, there is something special about the lyrics. On the surface, they appear to be feel good lyrics about a woman named Rio and how she makes Simon feel “alive”. Yet, this “woman” could represent something completely different, especially as the pronoun “she” is used to describe everything from cars to countries. In this way, of course, I can’t help but to think of a recent song like, The Man Who Stole a Leopard, which does the exact same thing. There are many within the fandom that believe this song is exactly what it appears to be, about a woman, and there are others who believe it to be about America, especially with references to North American geography like the Rio Grande river, which forms the natural boundary between the state of Texas and the country of Mexico. In the end, the meaning doesn’t matter as the mood the lyrics work to create is the same. The listener feels just like Simon does. The listener feels like it (whatever it is) means as much as a “birthday or a pretty view” and that it looks like it’s the best because it does make you feel “alive, alive, alive”. Here is where the beauty of the lyrics lie. It works so well to create this mood that it completely overtakes the listener, which is also why it is such a great song to end a concert with! (On a side note, I always feel like giving Simon an A grade for his wonderful use of alliteration!) Production: What amazes me as I listen to Rio is how clear it is from the first 30 seconds of this song that this album is very different from the first. This fascinates me since it is the same band, same producer and not that much time had passed between the two releases. On one hand, the production still shows instrumentation that is essential Duran Duran. For example, Andy’s guitars are clear to pick out. Yet, the song has a much more polished feel. Is that due to production? I think there were things that were done in the studio to create this. For example, Simon’s vocals were different. I can only think this is how Colin directed them and how the songs were mixed to emphasize elements like Simon’s ability to harmonize. Overall: Rio, the song, is well-put together. Do I think it is the best Duran song? No, but I do think it represents a time period well and shows Duran’s ability to create that fun, feel good mood. The lyrics combined with the upbeat instrumentation has the ability to make everyone get up and dance. It is definitely catchy and stays with you long after listening. Again, these elements make it an ideal song to end a concert with! It leaves you with a smile on your face while still clapping along in excitement. Cocktail Rating: 4 cocktails!
If you follow the blog, our Facebook page or Twitter, you probably know that last week there was quite the discussion over why it is that the press tends to keep Duran Duran tucked into the nostalgia box. I think it’s fair to say that by and large most fans have at least a certain amount of distain for the statement “That band you were all fond of in the 80’s – Duran Duran – is BACK.”
One comment that was infrequently made, but still very well read/heard amongst the calls for slaughter(ing the press), was that it’s not just the press who tends to keep Duran Duran in that memory box from 1984. Many fans believe that other fans are just as responsible for this characterization. My knee jerk reaction is of course to deny, but when I sit down and really consider the truth, perhaps fans including myself in that group are at least partially responsible. How can this be?!?
Let’s go back a bit before you all decide to call for my beheading. (Besides, as you read this – I am definitely sitting under an umbrella, reading a great book and enjoying the heat of the day while on a very peaceful vacation sans children. I don’t return home until later in the week, so calling for the guillotine is a bit premature. You’ve got time.) I’m sure most of you remember Duran from the mid-80’s. They were difficult to forget, am I right? Then Notorious came along, Big Thing, Liberty, Thank You….and none of these were blockbusters. We lost some Taylors, gained a Cuccurullo and a couple drummers…you know the drill. Then around about 2001 or so, we heard murmurs of a reunion of the “Fab Five”. How many of you did NOT immediately think back to the times of Planet Earth, Friends of Mine, Rio or even Hungry Like the Wolf (I won’t hold it against you)? My point of course is that at least initially as a gut reaction we tend to associate the original band members with a certain period of time. Then Astronaut was released, and while I can’t be sure of how many people absolutely hated the album – I know I heard more than a few comments that attempted to compare the music to what had come previously. On Rio. On the first album. That continued through the years after and including the release of Red Carpet Massacre. What comment did I hear (and make) most during that period of time? “It sounds nothing like the Duran Duran I know and love.” I stand by that statement, but I also recognize the idiocy behind feeling that way as well.
So that brings us to All You Need is Now, naturally. I distinctly recall panning the band (and Mark Ronson) for making comments about how that album was intended to be the follow up to Rio. (How dare I say such things after being so critical of Red Carpet Massacre? I know. My worry wasn’t that they were dating themselves, but rather that they’d never be able to live up to such a statement. I was wrong. You can read that blog here.) Of course now in retrospect I can see that it wasn’t necessarily about making the album sound like it was Rio’s child – it was the spirit with which it was recorded. Even so, if we continue to laud the band for attempting to spread their wings, evolve and grow their sound beyond what we knew the 80’s to be – how are we helping them to feel confident in their abilities to remain relevant? I’m not sure.
On one hand, I really do believe that All You Need is Now is fresh, relevant and living in the moment. The very theme of the album speaks to the concept and I feel the album is extremely solid, even if it didn’t perform well on the charts. Some say it flopped. While I hate using that word, I don’t know how the band feels about it. I really hope they don’t look at the album on those terms. I love this album on a personal level as much if not more than Rio – I just can’t look at it as a failure because for me, it’s anything but. On the other hand, I can’t be the only one to recognize that the chords from Leopard or the tom-toms from Girl Panic sound vaguely familiar. It’s not that I don’t welcome the music (Hardly!), but I think we have to be honest with ourselves as well. Duran Duran has never been the band to “play it safe”, and I’d hate for them to stop taking chances at this point in their career simply because the fan base (including myself) through a monster sized tantrum over Red Carpet Massacre. Was All You Need is Now purely an album to placate the fans? I really hope not. The album is worth so much more than that.
At least one fan out there mentioned that she felt the characterization of Duran Duran as an 80’s band was spot on. Her comments were that when she goes to the shows, they transport her back to her childhood, and she welcomes that. Duran Duran isn’t known for songs like Undergoing Treatment, Chains, Sunrise, Falling Down, Nite Runner or even All You Need is Now. They’re known for songs like Rio and Hungry Like the Wolf. She feels that the band tries much too hard (I would probably at times agree). While she still loves the band, her opinion is that they’re an 80’s band and should accept that rather than fight it. I’m not pointing out her difference in opinion as a way to flog her, but rather to prove that while many of us want to continue to insist on their relevance, many are happy to accept them for what they once meant. Neither way is wrong.
I fall back to the statements I meant last week. This album and this band has fostered a relationship between their fans and themselves that cannot be denied. We stand here in this moment, and we all want the music to last a little longer. For many, this band was iconic of the 80’s. For others, it was the quintessential band of the 90’s. Still plenty more see this band as the music of a lifetime…with more to come.
An outspoken examination and celebration of fandom!