Before I dive into the blog of the day, I wanted to give an update on the Daily Duranie 30 Day Challenge! I’m completely thrilled with how many people participated yesterday and loved seeing the challenge on other people’s facebook and twitter accounts. Yesterday’s question was: Your favorite Duran song. 34 different songs were chosen, from what I could see. These songs spanned the whole catalog from the first album to AYNIN and included b-sides and demos. The most popular song on this informal poll was Save a Prayer followed closely by the Chauffeur, New Religion and Ordinary World. Today’s challenge is: Your favorite DD video!
Now back to the regularly scheduled blog!
When I became a Duranie, I was very young, during the height of their popularity when their songs were always on the radio, their videos were always on MTV and their faces were on many magazine covers. Yet, as a kid, I remember listening to the radio and hearing the DJs just make fun of them. I also can recall the kids at school doing this as well. I didn’t really understand how they could be so popular, on one hand, and completely bashed, on the other. As years went by, it continued to be obvious that rock critics and the media treated Duran badly and disrespectfully. Now, that I’m MUCH older, I have really started to wonder why. Yes, of course, some people might argue that it doesn’t matter and that I shouldn’t care. Yeah, yeah. That’s not the point of this blog post. It isn’t about why respect matters; it is about how and why this disrespect came to be. After doing some thinking, making some observations, reading both older and current articles on Duran, and listening to other people, I have some possible reasons.
First, Duran demonstrated a lifestyle that didn’t fit the reality of the times. What images come to mind when the general public is asked about Duran Duran? I suspect that the first one might be that image of them on the yacht in Rio, wearing those lovely Anthony Price suits. Maybe then they will think of them on the beaches in Sri Lanka, which appeared to be an exotic beach vacation filled with beautiful images and champagne. These images and more show a young group of guys with a lot of money, living what seems like a carefree, jet set lifestyle filled with travel, beautiful women and expensive suits. Obviously, we know that there is way more to them than this but if people just wanted to look at the surface, this is what they would see in 1982/1983. Unfortunately, this isn’t what the rest of the world was like as many parts of the world were struggling, economically and socially. Neither the US nor the UK was free from problems. Could it be that to some people Duran was being disrespectful to the struggles that people were going through? Would they have gotten respect if they hadn’t shown these images in which they appeared to be made of money and didn’t have a lot of responsibilities? I don’t know, but it certainly seems possible. Of course, what some might not have understood is that people liked the fantasy, liked the escape that Duran seemed to show.
A second possible reason for the disrespect towards Duran is their fans. Let’s face it. In the early to mid-80s, most of their fans were young and female. I think that anything that kids like gets dismissed by critics as being cheesy, unworthy. Then, if a lot of kids like it, it must be really bad. Why? I guess the assumption here is that kids don’t know enough to judge what is good or bad, right? They don’t know enough music or have enough knowledge to know, as least is the theory. On top of being young, most of us were also female. Could the “critics” be making the assumption that these young girls weren’t really interested in the music at all but instead were interested in Simon LeBon taking his shirt off? Did the fans seem more interested in John raising his eyebrow in a flirty manner? If so, I’m sure it didn’t help that the concerts were so loud that it was hard to actually hear the instruments. I suspect that it didn’t help that Duran was splashed across every teen magazine out there and were featured on many random items from a board game to pajamas (I had both!). Of course, we realize that these products sold and that they helped to sell albums, but, to the critics, was it enough to dismiss them without a second thought? Would it have been different if there seemed to be more males as fans? I remember seeing a clip in Behind the Music where Nick says something about the rock critics didn’t like them because they were for girls. This implies that other bands that seem to be more for boys got more respect.
Speaking of that, I wonder how much of it is because Duran wasn’t more…er..uh..masculine. They wore makeup and cared about what they looked like. I don’t know about the rest of the world but this was a big deal in the Midwest. I heard many comments about how they must be gay then, which, of course, meant that they weren’t worthy as blatant homophobia was alive and well. I remember reading somewhere about how John had some anti-gay slur said to him when he first arrived in America. No, where I am from, it was much more respectful to be someone like Bruce Springsteen, wearing jeans and looking like you work with your hands. I’m obviously not saying that either one “style” is better than the other, just commenting that one was given respect and the other wasn’t. Of course, even when they attempted to seem more tough in videos like Wild Boys, they didn’t. Nick’s makeup was very pretty in that one! I have even heard the band refer to that clip as the “Mad Max Factor” video. Besides, a respectable band shouldn’t be worried about what they look like, right? They should only be worried about their music or so say some people.
Their music didn’t help either. I don’t think. When I think back to those artists who were getting a lot of positive attention from the critics, I don’t remember a lot of them using keyboards or poetic type lyrics. There was more focus on guitars and reality inspired lyrics, for those artists. This situation for Duran wasn’t helped by their attention to videos. Many established acts refused to do them, initially, and most were doing live clips, which I suppose seemed to emphasize the music. Duran didn’t do that as they went on to make little movie like clips. They gave images to their music. Many of them fell in love with that but I don’t think the rock critics did.
Many of the elements of Duran that we know and love are the exact same things that caused them to lose favor with the rock establishment, it seems. We appreciated their style, their videos and the mysterious lyrics. We wanted the escape from reality that they promised us when watching their videos. The rock critics didn’t appreciate these things from what I could see. Whether or not that matters is the topic of a different blog…
Don’t forgot to participate in today’s challenge!!