By C.K. Shortell
Let me start by clearly identifying myself as one of those odd Duran Duran fans, i.e. a heterosexual male who has followed the group since the 80s and never left, even when every Taylor and most of the general public did! So for me, it’s really always been all about the music and less about how the guys looked or what they wore or whether it was Andy or Warren (or now Dom) on guitar etc. Like the guy in Office Space says—I celebrate their entire catalogue!
My biggest struggle with their music is objectivity vs. nostalgia. Ever since I can remember, I’ve listened to their latest album over and over again, usually convinced it was their best one to date, until some time went by and I was able to see which songs I tended to revisit vs. skip. I guess my obsessive compulsiveness about the band is the need to put their catalogue into context… I have to understand (in my mind) why, for example, I think Notorious is better than The Wedding Album, or Medazzaland better than Astronaut. And how to be truly objective about the early work, which garnered so much radio play (so as to make me sick of most of the early hits) yet also is so dear to me in a way the subsequent albums just aren’t? For example, my mind tells me that Seven and the Ragged Tiger is a relatively weak album once you get past the 3 singles and The Seventh Stranger. My mind also tells me that pretty much all their other albums—yes even the 90’s work—are deeper and better. And yet…when I listen to “Cracks in the Pavement” or “Shadows on your side,” it’s 1984 again, my parents are both alive and healthy and I’m 12 again…so my heart takes huge issue with any criticism of SATRT even if it may not have 12 songs with 7 good to great ones…
So whether it’s the sports fan in me or just a personality disorder, I need to know where Duran’s records rank…and I’ve found an outlet for this. My job entails a lot of conference calls (doesn’t everyone’s these days?) and they’re bearable because on many it’s possible to multi-task at my desk and get other work done. But there’s still the occasional in-person meeting…and those can be interminable, especially for a relic like me who has refused to get a blackberry or smart phone. Without those toys, how to pass the time in a boring meeting ? I’ve devised two games that are simple—all you need is a pen, some paper, and your imagination.
Create the set list: Pick the venue (not really important but still fun) and the era (much more important) and pretend that Duran is performing for 3 or 4 nights in a row…and create the set list! Sounds easy, right? Of course you have to play by the “rules” the band has established over the years: their concerts will always be about 66% to 75% hits (understandable to draw in the casual fans) with the other 25%-35% of songs being from the latest album and/or crowd favorites. (New Religion etc.) Then there’s Nick’s rule about never playing all of the hits in one show. You can’t have them play for 3 hours— you need to be realistic and have anywhere from 14-18 songs, include one or maybe two encores, save a hit or two for the encore, etc… NOW go and create 3 or 4 nights worth of set lists in the same venue that will appeal to a broad audience while not boring the hard core fans like us. You will kill all sorts of time doing this and it will likely lead to bitter arguments with yourself (e.g., “so is ‘Sunrise’ now a hit? Do I have to include HLTW? Would they realistically play “The Flame” in 2004?”) etc….) At the end of it all, you’ve hopefully killed time in an otherwise boring meeting. Maybe you’ve even been inspired to write a guest blog!
Duran brackets: Other sites do these with albums and bands: Pair them up in brackets and have fans vote round by round until there is a winner. Well, take this concept and apply it just to Duran Duran songs, and you’ve got a way to kill a good hour or so in a boring meeting. There are easy ways to do this (e.g. pair up songs from Rio and Liberty in one bracket) or just list songs as they come to your mind. The fun of this exercise is that eventually, in the later rounds, you will be faced with impossible decisions. Sure, “Hold Back the Rain” may easily blow by “Hothead” and “I take the dice” but what happens when it’s matched up against “Last Chance on the Stairway”? Or if you’re a big fan of their late 90s work like me, what to do with a “Midnight Sun” vs. “Pop Trash Movie” match up? (Note: Rhonda and Amanda have been doing this on twitter and even their one question a day has had me writing, erasing, and rewriting my tweets in response…multiply this out by an entire bracket full of Duran songs and you’ll be muttering to yourself and shaking your head all through that boring meeting!)
Another potential outcome of either of these games is that it may prompt you to go back and listen to a song that you haven’t heard in a while and maybe even form a new opinion. This has happened on several songs for me. I rediscovered my love for “Vertigo,” finally acknowledged how much I can’t stand “Lava Lamp,” and also made a weird connection between “Friends of Mine” and “All You Need is Now” (the song)—that they seem to be very similar in structure and style, with soaring choruses that don’t quite fit with the grinding verses…
Finally…I will close this by leaving you with my dream set list (at least as of today)…in this scenario, I’ve won the lottery and hired the band to play at Madison Square Garden and gotten Nick, er, I mean all of them to agree to play this list exactly as requested. I’ve blatantly decided that, since I’m paying the band, the general public doesn’t need to hear all the hits… many thanks to Rhonda and Amanda for allowing me to guest blog…happy summer to all, and let the music play a little longer…
All you need is now
Hold Back the Rain
Union of the Snake
Planet Earth (night version)
Pop Trash Movie
Shadows on your side
What Happens Tomorrow (original version w/ 3rd verse from 2003 tour)
Save a Prayer
Tel Aviv (air studios version)
I don’t want your love (single version, not 2004 tour version)
Sunrise (current tour version)
Girls on Film (w/ band intros, 1984 tour version)
C.K. Shortell is a lifelong Duran Duran fan who lives in the northeast with his wife and two sons, one of whom loves watching concert footage of the band. When he’s not struggling to explain to a two year old why the guitarist always looks different or just what exactly Nick is doing, C.K. is constantly reminding co-workers and friends that the band never broke up.