On today’s date in 1984, The Reflex hit the glorious spot of #1 in the UK.
Truth be told, this is one of those Mondays when I couldn’t decide if the historical waypoint should be about The Reflex hitting number one, or if we should celebrate that on this date in the year 2000, The Flintstones: Viva Rock Vegas with John Taylor was released.
Come on…who doesn’t want to start their Monday with that??
On today’s date in 1993, Duran Duran played the Durban Expo Centre in Durban, South Africa. This is not an area of the world where the band tours often…so I have to ask, did any of our readers attend??
Also on this date in 1984, The Reflex reached it’s peak of #1 in the US!! Not too shabby for a little band from Birmingham….
If you’re a Duranie and you have a heartbeat (which is likely since you’re reading), chances are, you already KNOW what today is in Duran history. If you’ve been on Twitter or Facebook this week, you should know this, but I’m not into Pop (Ha ha, I made a funny) Quizzes, so I will spill: on today’s date in 1984, The Reflex was released.
Thirty years ago, people. Thirty years.
Now, I’m not saying you’re getting old or anything, particularly if you weren’t around to hear The Reflex on the radio the day it was released…but I was. So….there’s that. Happy days!!
For many Duranies, this was the song that made them cross the bridge, dance on the valentine, and swear they would be Duranies forever more. I wouldn’t know about that, because well, I was already a Duranie for a few years before this song came out. (again, we’re not saying old, but…) My partner-in-crime claims this date as her Duranniversary (I have played around with the spelling of that word more than I ever care to count…I’m going with this one!), so Happy Anniversary, Amanda!! Thirty years, thirty some shows??? (There would be more if the band ever decided to do some more shows. Just saying, because I can.)
I can remember hearing The Reflex on the radio in 1984, but it really wasn’t until I was in marching band in about October of 1984 that other kids in band started telling me about the song. I would patiently stand there, listen, and roll my eyes back into my head when they would say it was new…because by then it was SO six months ago…but that Nile Rodgers remix did something special with it, and I can remember friends, even friends who *gasp* were not into Duran Duran, thinking it was cool. Because it was. Maybe it wasn’t the best DD song ever written, maybe it was. One thing is certain: there was something special there…and here we are thirty years later.
#DDReflex8414 (I probably don’t get extra brownie points for posting the hashtag on the blog, but that’s OK!)
On this date in 2001, John Taylor did promo work in Tokyo…and since I don’t have any other exciting information to add to that (if anyone else does, send it in!), I’ll also add that on this date in 2011, the band played the Fox Theater in Pomona California as part of their All You Need is Now Tour! I was there for this one, and I can say – it was a great show. They played Friends of Mine on this night and nearly brought the house down when it played.
Lastly, I have it on good authority from DDHQ that The Reflex has an anniversary coming up. #30 is coming up on Wednesday. If you’re on Twitter, they’ve been using the hash tag #DDReflex8414 to celebrate.
Busy week ahead – my kids are on Spring Break, so a very Happy Monday to you and yours! If you caught the blog earlier, you may have noticed that I had the wrong month’s worth of dates today.
All I will say is that it’s Monday and my children are home on break. I think that explains it all.
My friend Jessica will love (too strong a word, maybe??) me for pointing out that on today’s date in 1984, parts of The Reflex were filmed.
I won’t lie. I LIKE the video for The Reflex. I always imagined what I might have been like in that audience. (I’d have lost my teenage mind, I’m sure) I wonder what it was like to be in the arena, knowing that if you were anywhere near the front – you’d be seen in a DD video for all eternity. I can certainly think of worse things! And then there’s John Taylor, all up on stage and cute in his red/silver/white jacket/shirt/I-really-don’t-know-what-to-call-it up there with his bleached bangs and cheekbones, alongside Simon and Andy, with Nick and Roger towards the back but still ever-present. I still like the video. How could I not?
Yes, you all read that title right. We are moving on to Seven and the Ragged Tiger. I know. We need to get working if we are ever going to get through the entire catalog. It is true. We do and we will get through it. We promise! Anyway, this song, obviously, was a huge hit and was their first number one hit here in the United States. It is also the song that Amanda blames for turning her into a Duranie. It is important to know that we are reviewing the ALBUM version of this song. We know that there are, obviously, different versions out there, which may be significantly different (better) but we are going with the album versions, first. On that note, let’s dive into the first song off Duran’s third album.
Rhonda: Musicality/Instrumentation: This is a song where I tend to think about the production first – because on this one, it seems to be all about the effects…so I need to retrain myself to actually listen to the real instrumentation. To begin with, the style of this song is completely different from anything we’ve heard from the band before. There’s quite a bit more “funk” in this one than say, Rio….or Save a Prayer for that matter. There’s some syncopation with the rhythms, and many many many tracks of every instrument in the band, layered one on top of another. The “simple”, “raw” style of albums past is long gone, and this is where you really start to hear the tension between the varying instruments, because everybody wants to be the star, and yet nobody really owns that space yet. One of my favorite parts of the song is during the chorus where you hear Andy’s guitar deep in the track layers – it’s one of the few parts of the song where you can really hear him – which I think becomes the downfall of this band (but I’m getting ahead of myself). No longer is the music really the star, it’s the innovation of the effects, the production, and yes – even the frontman.
Vocals: I have to say, Simon sounds smooth on this one…many thanks to the production in order to make it that way, because if you really listen, there are plenty of places where I can hear at least the potential for vocal strain, but they are completely smoothed over and perfected. Even the style of Simon’s vocals have changed. He’s not afraid to add in glottal stops in various places for interest – which I suppose work well on this song, and the added effects on his voice also help to create a much different style of “voice” for the band. I am sure I wasn’t the only kid to wonder how he made his voice sound so distinctive during the melody (this was of course before I realized that they actually have effects to help that sort of thing) This is a long way from the likes of To the Shore, that is certain.
Lyrics: What in the hell is this song really about? I’ve heard every possible explanation from it being about John (I don’t even want to know…) to being about sex. Maybe it’s both! Some of my very favorite lyric lines come from this song “I’m on a ride and I wanna get off but they won’t slow down the roundabout”….”I’m dancing on the valentine”….”I’m watching over lucky clover, isn’t that bizarre?” Not a single clue. I always felt like Simon was describing a game of hide and seek at the park, but of course in my then 13 year old head, I had nothing but the most innocent of thoughts. (I dropped my halo again somewhere around here…) No matter, I have no idea what these lyrics mean, and I can honestly say it’s the ONE song in their catalog that I’ve never been able to figure out. That means that while I will willingly sing along at a show, I have absolutely no connection to the lyrics whatsoever. I don’t sit around saying “Yeah, the band really gets it with this one.”, because let’s face it – I don’t get them.
Production: In my opinion, this is the point when production begins to get ugly. This song is so smooth for everything that’s going on – I just find myself wishing they’d left just a little bit more well-alone. You can’t really discern one instrument for another, and it ends up just hitting me with a wall of effects and sound. That said, when I think back to the year this came out – 1984 – and I must give credit for innovation. Songs just did not sound like this back then, and I can remember all of my friends being enamored with the “why-yie-yie-yie” sounds during the chorus. The band was right to shoot for this being a single, and it was one of the first songs of this period where a white band was allowed to cross the R & B lines and draw from other styles of music. About time, really. On the other hand, it’s amazing how clear you can see the train getting off the rails here. No longer is the band about the band, but it’s become it’s own monster – and as Amanda aptly puts it, individuals are getting lost in the machine. This song is directly evident.
Overall: For as much as this song has been a number one hit in America, I can say that it’s never been a favorite of mine. I realize it’s a beloved song, and whenever I listen I can remember exactly what it felt like in 1984 – and for that it is a beloved song in MY musical history as well, but I feel as though there are just so many other songs in the band’s back catalog that have gone almost completely unnoticed in comparison – I find it sad. I knew I was a Duranie well-before this song ever came out, and yet I remember that time in my life so well, I can remember sitting outside the band room in school talking about this song, and what’s funnier – I can remember the photo shoots that went along with this album and single. For that reason, it does hold a special place for me in my memory. Even today as I listen though, I find myself wishing for a little less effect and production. I like the rawness of the earlier songs, I don’t like all of the gloss and perfection here as much.
Cocktail Rating: 3 cocktails!
Amanda: Musicality/Instrumentation: This is one of those songs in which the instrumentation is not the first thing that pops into my head. Instead, of course, I think about the lyrics. Nonetheless, I did my duty and listened to the song a few times in order to focus on the instrumentation. (It is a rough job, but, somebody has to do it!) Immediately, you are hit with upbeat, repeated notes. There is no real lead-in except a note from the bass and, of course, no ta-na-na on this version. The upbeat nature as well as the repetition definitely makes you want to dance. This continues through the song, except that it is slightly different for the chorus. The instrumentation for the chorus has a greater tempo but also has more going on–more sounds, more layers, more tension between the vocals and the instrumentation. Of course, there is the real big build-up in sound leading to the main part of the chorus. Everyone could tell when the chorus came in. The instrumentation worked to showcase the vocals here. This song has less obvious individual instrumentation, which is very different than their first album or even Rio. Probably, the only time that any specific instrument could be picked out would be the very beginning and the bridge about 3 and a half minutes into it. Around those points, they really blend together.
Vocals: These are the vocals that I grew up with. This has a very smooth sounding Simon. He is comfortable with the range. Perhaps, this is why the vocals seem to be emphasized for this song. Maybe, the vocals seemed to be the focus because the lyrics were so interesting. Yet, the vocals, like other parts, seem almost too perfect, almost unnatural. I am not surprised, in some ways, when I listen to this song to realize how critics began thinking that they were a contrived act. Lyrics: There is much that can be said and has been said about these lyrics. There is lots of speculation about what the song means without any real statements from Simon or even the rest of the band. No matter the meaning behind the lyrics or the cryptic nature, they still capture my attention. Maybe they do because I don’t really get them. Maybe they do because I look for the little hints that would reinforce my idea about what the song is about. Perhaps, the lyrics don’t really matter that much. I do adore, though, the reference to Renoir, which reminds me of the reference to Voltaire in Last Chance on the Stairway. It shows a continuity. It shows an appreciation of the arts. Beyond the art reference, I remember how the rest of the lyrics caught my attention as a kid. What was the situation? It sounded scary and dangerous but exciting. There is a roundabout. There is a park. Someone is hiding cards in what seems like some sort of high stakes game. It made me wonder. The lyrics seemed like something that a whole story could be inspired by. Plus, he used the word “bizarre”. How cool is that, or so I thought?!? I have no emotional connection to the lyrics, but they will always fascinate me. I remember watching an interview once where John mentioned about how people have been trying to deconstruct this songs for years and how that was like poetry. True. Yet, I have to wonder if there was too much of a push to be “creative” with these lyrics. Production: I found it interesting that when I really stopped to pay attention, I noticed that the instrumentation would be almost quiet at the beginning of every line of lyrics. The mix clearly seems to emphasis the vocals, which might be why I don’t think about the instrumentation when this song is mentioned. I also noted that the instruments seem far more blended than what they were in the first two albums. It isn’t as easy to separate one instrument from another. Now, it seems smooth, but almost too smooth. Here is where I think the overproduction of this album and era begins to be felt. It is almost too perfect. Perhaps, this is a sign about life was like in the Duran world at that time. Individuals were getting lost in the giant monster that was Duran Duran. Nonetheless, I prefer my Duran with less production, a little more individualistic. Overall: I still to this day have a hard time really being objective about this song. It isn’t my favorite, by any stretch of the imagination but it will always have a special place in my heart. It is the song that made me a Duranie. While I liked a lot of the songs I had heard before, this one made me an addict. Whenever it would come on the TV, I would run to the phone to call my best friend, at the time, and she would do the same. To say that I was overexposed is an understatement of epic proportions. While that might be a good reason that I don’t love it, I think it is safe to say that I don’t like the overproduction of it. I miss the individual spotlights within a song of every individual band member. It just feels too perfect from top to bottom. It doesn’t feel as natural as it could have.
As you all know, we post a “Today in Duran Duran History” fact on here, on our facebook and on our twitter. It made sense to add this since we are “daily” in our posting. Plus, I love acknowledging events of the past. I suspect this might be the historian in me who has always loved the story of history. The fan in me has always loved the Duran story as well. I think many/most/all of us could probably describe the story of Duran Duran, at least in general terms. Some of us would include more details than others but I suspect that the framework would all be basically the same. Anyway, this historian/fan historian (maybe that should be my dream job!) not only acknowledges the history of the band but acknowledges her own history as a Duranie. After all, we all have a story to tell about our lives as fans. In my research on fandom, over and over again, I see that when most fans reach out to make connections with other fans, they discuss their fan histories, so to speak. When fans introduce themselves, it is common for them to discuss how long they have been fans and what made them become fans. Fandom research refers to this sharing of one’s beginnings in a fandom as one’s coming out story. I suspect that there will be a great deal of sharing of coming out stories at the convention. I hope there will be as I never get sick of hearing/reading about others’ stories about when and why and how they became fans! This week, my personal “Today in Duran History” saw my Duranie anniversary pass by as April 16th, 1984, is the day I mark my beginning as a Duranie.
Why April 16th? It is the day that a certain single was released. What song? The Reflex. It isn’t even my favorite song now but it was so dang important in 1984. Had I heard Duran Duran before that? Of course. I lived in the Chicago suburbs then, which meant that I listened to B96 (Top 40) and watched MTV. I remember Hungry like the Wolf playing on MTV. I also remember watching their performance on MTV’s New Year’s Eve in 1982 at my cousin’s house. I knew that it seemed cool to like them (at least among my older cousins). I started inching towards being a Duranie when Save a Prayer got in my head and I couldn’t get it out to save my life. I have a very vivid memory of singing it over and over again late one afternoon as I hung out in my backyard with my best friend at the time. It was okay, though, because she liked the song, too. Soon enough, though, Seven and the Ragged Tiger came out and my best friend and I were spending more and more time watching MTV or spending the night at each other’s houses on Friday nights so that we could stay up to watch Friday Night Videos. At that time, Duran was on constant rotation and certainly the Reflex got played over and over and over and over and over. We probably saw it thousands of times and that was just in 1984. To say that we became addicted is an understatement. We were so addicted, in fact, that I remember how we would call each other up each and every time it aired. I remember so many times that I would call her while I was setting the table for dinner as the small black and white TV in the kitchen showed the video.
What was it about the song and/or the video? I remember trying to analyze the lyrics with my friend. We couldn’t figure it out, which we liked. It seemed different and made us feel a little smarter. The video, on the other hand, was all about John Taylor. While we thought everyone looked good in the video, John caught our attention and hasn’t freed me yet. That look of his in that video is pretty famous with the blonde bangs, the leather pants, the white jazz shoes. Perhaps, more importantly, the way he looked into the camera felt like he was looking right at us. Another element of the video that I remember focusing on was the crowd. The images of the fans looking cool, rocking out and screaming for the band burned in my head. The desire to go to a show was born in that video. Obviously, that still lives on with me to this day as well. The bigger issue, though, was that it was something I shared with my best friend. We got excited together. We squeed together at those essential John Taylor moments. It created a bond. Interestingly enough, our brand new fandom put us against the common grain where we lived.
At that time, Michael Jackson was the be all and end all. Break dancing was common and Duran Duran was made fun of on a daily basis at lunch. My friend and I spent our time at school defending Duran Duran. By the time We Are the World came out, I was ready to declare war. I kept trying, with no luck, to explain that this American song had copied the idea from Band-Aid. The kids at school wouldn’t hear it. I tried everything I could to prove that Duran was better. No luck. By the fall of 1985, I had moved to a new town. This small town, unlike the suburbs, had no MTV and no Top 40 radio. The kids didn’t know who Duran was and certainly didn’t care to find out. My reaction to all of this was simple. I held on to my fandom and wouldn’t let go. While I’m absolutely sure that part of this was my love of the band, part of it was my need to cling to my old home and to my best friend who I missed terribly. By 1986, I was ready for Notorious and tried to share my excitement with her once again. She had already moved on. Things had already changed. Yet, my fandom remained and continues to this day. Why does fandom live on? Anniversaries like this one make me think back to when I fell in love with Duran in the first place but they also make me think about why I stay. That’s the topic for tomorrow. Until then, I would love to hear your coming out as a fan story! When, why and how did you become a fan?
I knew that as soon as I mentioned diving into the various songs and their meanings one song in particular would come up. Of course, that song is the Reflex, Duran’s first number one in the US way back in 1984. This song means a lot to me and not because of what it means or how I interpret it but because of where it fits into my Duranie history. In the spring of 1984, I was pretty young. I was very young. My best friend and I were spending a lot of time watching MTV and singing Duran Duran songs. Yet, I wasn’t a Duranie, officially, until the Reflex came out and began its non-stop playing on the radio and on every video show imaginable. My best friend and I were pathetic about it. Why? We would actually call each other up whenever we saw the video even if that was during dinner time or if it was the 15th call of the day. To say that we were addicted would be an understatement. Perhaps, more importantly to my Duranie history, it was this video that made me a John Taylor fan. One look into the camera and I was a goner. A complete goner. Before that, I might have even said that I liked Simon best (*gasp*). After that, though, I was a John girl all the way and still am, twenty-eight, almost twenty-nine years, later. Thus, this song is an important one to me and one that I have thought quite a bit about, both musically and lyrically. Today’s blog, of course, focuses more on the lyrics. Before we get into it, let’s take a look at the video and check out the lyrics.
Here are the lyrics:
You’ve gone too far this time But I’m dancing on the valentine I tell you somebody’s fooling around With my chances on the dangerline I’ll cross that bridge when I find it Another day to make my stand High time is no time for deciding If I should find a helping hand
CHORUS So why don’t you use it? Try not to bruise it Buy time don’t lose it The reflex is an only child he’s waiting in the park The reflex is in charge of finding treasure in the dark And watching over lucky clover isn’t that bizarre Every little thing the reflex does Leaves you answered with a question mark
I’m on a ride and I want to get off But they won’t slow down the roundabout I sold the Renoir and the TV set Don’t want to be around when this gets out
Oh the reflex what a game he’s hiding all the cards The reflex is in charge of finding treasure in the dark And watching over lucky clover isn’t that bizarre Every little thing the reflex does Leaves you answered with a question mark
Now, of course, because I’m a researcher, I was curious as to the interpretations that can found on the internet. There are many. I will list the ones I found that were either plausible and/or interesting.
*About an erection/sex/masturbation
*Drugs-use and/or selling
The majority of interpretations online seem to either be about the erection idea or the drug idea. What, of course, is interesting, in and of itself, is that no one really knows and yet the discussion, even after this blog, will remain. Let’s comb through the lyrics and see which of these theories make the most sense.
Do the lyrics support the idea of something sexual, maybe an erection, maybe masturbation? Could “dancing on the valentine” refer to something sexual? Valentine could refer to affairs of the heart and dancing could lead to sexual activity or could be a metaphor for sex. “Make my stand” definitely could be a reference to an erection. “High time” could also be a reference to an erection and “helping hand” could refer to masturbation, specifically. What about the other verses? Do those match with this idea? “I’m on a ride and I want to get off” definitely could be a reference to sexual activity. I’m not sure what the Renoir or the TV set would have to do with sex other than, maybe, people get sexually aroused by what they see in art or on TV. Now, what about the chorus? An erection is definitely something that is used and, certainly, stretching time during sexual activity is something appreciated. The only child part could be more of a reference to masturbation again. The treasure in the dark seems like it could be sexual. I’m not sure why it would be left with a question mark but, in general, the song really could be about sexual activity, specifically masturbation.
The next theory as to the song’s meaning is about gaining confidence. Making a stand could be about standing up with pride, with confidence. Would help be something wanted to get confidence or when one has confidence? Not sure. That first verse doesn’t hold up as well. The second verse doesn’t help much either. Why wouldn’t you want to be around when “it” gets out if the “it” is confidence? That doesn’t make much sense to me. What about the chorus? Would confidence leave you with questions? I get that you would want to use it and wouldn’t want to bruise it but that still feels like a stretch. Likewise, the idea that it is about following instincts seem like a stretch, too. I get how the word “reflex” means just reacting, which could be an instinct but I struggle with the rest of the lyrics beyond the chorus of using it and trying not to bruise it. What about dancing on the valentine or high time? That doesn’t seem to follow easily, either.
I’m not sure what to say about the idea that it is Nick. There are some lines that fit. He is an only child, for example. We all know that Nick likes art and was collecting art in the 80s. Likewise, he took many photographs for his book, Interference, from TV sets. Is Nick in charge of finding treasure in the dark? Musically, that might be the case. Does Nick’s behavior leave us or the band with questions? Maybe so. What is the “it” in the chorus, though? Nick’s talent? Maybe. I’m not sure how to evaluate the first verse. Who has gone too far? Nick? Who is fooling around? Was the band fooling around when Nick wanted to work? Maybe. From what I have read, the song was written on John’s birthday after enjoying some wine or champagne. Thus, it is possible that some members weren’t very focused when they should have been. Maybe they were a bit drunk and/or high and that wouldn’t be a good time to battle Nick.
Speaking of the partying, a lot of people on the internet seemed to think that it really could be about drugs. Is that possible? “Gone too far this time” could mean that someone enjoyed a little too much. “Dancing on the valentine” could translate to being high. Using alcohol or drugs could be dangerous, for sure. Yes, decisions probably shouldn’t be made during “high time”. The next verse could imply that the “high” went wrong and that the person isn’t enjoying the high anymore with the line, “I’m on a ride and I want to get off”. Also, one could sell art and TVs in order to pay for the drugs. What about the chorus? The “it” could be drugs and using it is obvious then. Why would time need to be bought? What about the bruising part? Is that a reference to using needles? As for the reflex “waiting in the park” that could be the drug deal and the treasure could be the drug. The use would leave many with questions.
So, what’s the conclusion? Honestly, it could be about drugs, masturbation or Nick. There are lines that could translate well to those theories. Of course, the reality is that the song could be about none of those or it could be about all of those. We won’t ever really know. Yet, if pushed, I can’t imagine that they would make a song about drugs despite their use of drugs. It just doesn’t feel like Simon’s style. Could it be about sex or about masturbation? That seems like a likely topic of Simon’s, especially in 1983. I could also see Simon writing a song about Nick, especially one done in a cheeky fashion. Which theory do you think makes the most sense or do you have a different idea?
P.S. Which song should I tackle next week?
An outspoken examination and celebration of fandom!