Celebrating Pop Art and Artistic Influence

On today’s date in 1987, the world lost Andy Warhol. Many, if not most Duranies are at least familiar with the name – if not for his infamous soup can artwork, than definitely for his friendship with Nick Rhodes.

I remember hearing that he’d died, likely from television or perhaps the radio, and wondering how the band was taking it, and of course particularly Nick. Like most fans, I had seen photos with Nick and Andy, and some along with Julie Anne. I also remember feeling particularly sad that there would never come a day when Andy Warhol would do the cover of one of Duran Duran’s albums. In hindsight, the thought seems strange only because at the time, I was 16, fairly self-involved, and I don’t remember ever really paying much attention to their album covers. I hadn’t truly discovered art just yet, but apparently something led me to think that having Warhol do a Duran cover would have been amazing.

I still do.

Most people really only know Warhol for a few pop art paintings. Maybe it’s his soup can series, or perhaps it’s the Marilyns. I think what always attracted me to his work was likely his thought process. “Art is what you can get away with”, being one of many.  I still like that thinking, because later in life, as I took Modern Art and learned more, I realized that is exactly what art is. The difference between Warhol and many others, including myself, is that he dared to put it out there, to think differently, to challenge someone’s ideas of what art is, drawing from every day, simple things – like a soup can – or like celebrity in general.

It is not really a surprise to me, although I have to remind myself from time to time, that the band draws upon a similar spirit when writing and recording. They challenge themselves (and later, their fans) to think about music, about pop…and certainly about themselves as a band, differently with every single album. They are not content to re-record Rio over and over. I think at times, it is difficult to accept progress, as a fan. We somehow program ourselves to believe that Rio, or the first album for instance, is their “signature” sound. Albums should come packaged with a photo of themselves on the cover, and all meanings should be clearly stated, ambiguity need not apply.

When I think about Duran Duran as artists, given those parameters, I realize how unfair fans might be at times. Should they never grow or mature past the 1980s? What about us as listeners? Are we really  to never consider other options, or different sounds?  Over the past several months, I’ve thought about this a lot. I’ve come to the conclusion that if Duran Duran had never changed, I would have gotten very bored by now.  As much as I defiled RCM…and I really did… in a variety of online message boards, I have to give the band credit. They really stepped out of their box for that one. It doesn’t matter now whether or not I think it worked, because through that experience, as well as the one that followed, All You Need is Now, came Paper Gods. The evolutionary process of making music continues, and seeing every day things, even their own music, in different ways continues the pop art tradition.

So when Duran Duran mentions that they’re working to score a ballet out of one of the pieces of music that was left off of Paper Gods, or that they’re devising a musical, my first question isn’t, “Why aren’t you working on another album?”, but instead, “Where can I sign up to help make this happen?!?” I hope it’s incredibly outrageous and forces me to see in yet another different, but equally glorious light.

I would expect nothing less.

-R

 

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