Duran History 101

This morning, I was treated to a new Daily Duranie “Would You Rather” question on Facebook.  The question was “Would you rather listen to The Devils or Neurotic Outsiders”.  Two completely different sounds from completely different ends of the musical spectrum.   Many, many fans had distinct favorites between the two, which is natural – I wouldn’t have expected any less!  More alarming, however were the comments from those that had never heard of either one.  I know how that can be – you get involved in real life, you don’t pay attention to every single thing that goes on.  It happens.  That said, I simply cannot stand by and not do something to remedy the situation properly.  So today, we’re going to have ourselves a little Duran history, thanks to a couple EPK’s and videos I found on YouTube. (thanks to Nick Rhodes, Stephen Duffy and John Taylor of course!)

A little background on The Devils is probably necessary…and it’s the beginning, which is a very good place to start.  (Be careful or I’ll start singing Do Re Mi from Sound of Music.  A frightening thought by any means.)  In 1978, Nick Rhodes and Stephen Duffy started writing music together, and ran into John Taylor who was performing with a group called Dada.  At some point later Stephen walked to art college, and met up with John Taylor, who was not doing anything at that time – and Duran Duran was born.  The music that we know as The Devils is basically the first album that Duran Duran would have made had the original original original (yes, that wording IS necessary at this point) stayed together.  (does anyone else ever get the feeling that the constantly changing lineups is just part of what makes Duran Duran, Duran Duran?!?)  This my friends, is why every Duran fan on the planet, every single Duranie, should know The Devils.  No, of course you don’t have to like what you hear and I’m the last person to condemn anybody for not loving something Duran has done…. but I do think you have to know where they started to truly appreciate the band they’ve become.

I’ve posted both parts of the EPK that Nick and Stephen produced – they’re on YouTube.  (and I’m extremely thankful for that!)  For the first EPK, my advice is to watch the whole thing through, and then take special care to listen from about 13:20 to the end again several times.  The song is called Big Store, and if you don’t hear Duran Duran in there, listen again.  I have a deep appreciation for the dark and innovative sound…if only they had more clarinet in there…

(psst, Nick!!  I’m free…and I can really play clarinet!!)  

One of the more amusing and interesting things on this first EPK are the slides that are interspersed throughout.  They are from John’s geography field trip, and there are several from streets in Birmingham.  What tickled me personally was that I could actually identify several of these shots and where they were taken.  I guess that first trip to the UK back last May was beneficial in many ways!

On the next EPK, it opens with Dark Circles.  This song would have EASILY fit on the first album.  I love it dearly, and what’s more – it reminds me of why I fell in love with Duran Duran in the first place.  Then we get to hear what Nick coins as being “the most goth sound on the record”.  This is the darkest, scariest song that I think I’ve ever heard, and chances are – I’m going to have nightmares with this song as the soundtrack for the rest of my life.  I think you’re right about the goth thing Nick, and the video makes it even scarier!

(note to self: do I really ever hear music in my dreams?? Good question!)

I’m not sure how much Duran I hear in that particular song, but Nick’s innovative mind is right there, and Stephen’s voice is downright haunting.  Take a listen to Barbarellas and even the Tinsel Ritual, and really look at those old slides – that was the Birmingham from which the band emerged in 1978.  (which is really not all that unlike the town *I* came from here in the states, which is probably why I felt so at home walking around.) They have come very, very far.

And now that you’ve come up to breathe after that long trip down memory lane, here’s some Neurotic Outsiders to wake you up!

The Neurotic Outsiders is a band that John was in during the time he was not a member of Duran Duran.  The other members included Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols, along with Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum of Guns n Roses.  I feel as though this band held much of his healing – as of course did his solo work.  In some ways it seems as though Neurotic Outsiders helped him see that being in a band could still be fun.  Their music was as much hard, dirty rock as The Devils was all about art, experimentation and the bridge between punk and alternative in 1978.  If there was ever to be a cosmic opposite to The Devils, Neurotic Outsiders would be that band.

I hesitate to include this next video, primarily because it’s a Duran song being covered….but I must because I really kind of like what they did with it.  Get through the first verse before you judge, and yes – the video is not an official one.  Ignore the video and just listen.  

The next one is live….

Sorry for the quality, but to get a good idea of what Neurotic Outsiders was like I think you have to see them.  I have to say, they rocked it, and I love that about them.

What is fascinating to me…and should really be to the rest of you as well, is that yesterday we asked if you’d rather listen to Arcadia or Power Station.  To the best of my count, Arcadia won that question by a landslide.  So far today, however – Neurotic Outsiders fans far exceed those of The Devils.  One could argue that The Devils and Arcadia are similar types of music, very “art school”, very experimental; and of course conversely, Power Station and Neurotic Outsiders are both rock, although Neurotic Outsiders comes from a far heavier place.  So, is it that The Devils just isn’t well known?  Is it that Simon isn’t singing??  Even better – what about John Taylor fans out there?!?

Watch the videos, take notes, because at some point, there might even be a test!  Enjoy!!

-R

7 thoughts on “Duran History 101”

  1. I am an 80's hard rock girl at heart, thats the stuff I really grew up with through my teens (after my 1st Duran Duran obsession), so it's VERY odd to me that I am not liking Power Station & Neurotic Outsiders more. I guess it's my age (39), my musical preferences have changed. But I am totally in love with The Devils and Arcadia, and I couldn't care much less for Power Station & Neurotic Outsiders. I think a band's singer is a huge deal, at least to me. I've rarely gotten into a band if I didn't like the singers voice. And Simon's is WORLDS apart from Stephen & John's voices, that might be it, but I think the songs are better in Arcadia & The Devils, and thats really what it comes down to in the end. This was a very good blog post, probably one of the most important ones for sure! Very thought provoking!

  2. And to think I thought I knew everything about the “early years” of Duran Duran. I knew about Duffy, but not that they recorded any music under the name The Devils. I blame the magazine selection I had in my small town for that. Most of what I read started out with Andy answering the Melody Maker ad and SLB showing up in pink leopard skin print trousers… I can hear some early Duran in that clip – certainly rough, and certainly not the same without Simon's vocals, but it's there.

    As for the NO's – not my bag – which is why I chose Andy in today's “Would you rather” question. I really like Andy's solo work and even the album of covers he did. I am really looking forward to his new album. ~Betsi

  3. I prefer Arcadia over Power Station, the songs seem more complex and more complete(not to mention fantastic guest artists) and lyrically they are just, in my opinion, deeper and more meaningful–there is some achingly beautiful stuff on Arcadia, lyrically and musically. I enjoyed Bang A Gong and the other single whose title escapes me atm. But otherwise nothing else worked for me whereas I can easily listen to So Red the Rose all the way through. The songs have a lot going on but they are also hummable and catchy. I think The Devils' songs are better than NO as well, they just sound like better songs to me. I love hard rock, the local station that's on in my car is the local hard rock station, but I don't think Neurotic Outsiders songs are all that special.

    As for Simon's presence re: the Devils, though he doesn't musically tend to get much credit in D2, I've always thought he brought a certain melodic sense with him as part of his contribution to the band, not to mention knowing a lot about harmonies. The few solo songs he's done and I've heard seem to be rather melodic, lovely little tunes. It kind of glues everything together and when you've got songs where the arty side and funky side are sort of at odds, it's often what helps bring it all together. So that could be what makes The Devils sound like Nearly but Not Quite Arcadia. 🙂 But I quite like the atmosphere of The Devils songs which has always been Nick's strong point I think, he's really great at creating atmosphere, of all types.

  4. I admittedly have a difficult time picking a favorite between Power Station and Arcadia – it depends on my mood, but I kind of think that's the whole point of music anyway. You can like a variety of different types of music – and those are definitely on opposing ends of the spectrum – depending upon your mood at the moment. As far as Neurotic Outsiders goes, it was a good project for John at the time. I'm appreciative of the role it filled. Was it my favorite? Probably not, but that's OK. I still really enjoy the version he did of Planet Earth – and I don't care that Simon wasn't singing it at the time. Cracks me up when other fans point that out, as if that should somehow make it not OK to enjoy the song.

    As for the Devils, I really enjoyed Stephen Duffy's vocals, believe it or not. It's not as though I would have enjoyed Simon less – I just appreciate them for what they are. Had Simon sung them, it would have been Duran Duran, right?? 😀 You are correct though that Simon knows his harmonies and how to build vocals, we're lucky to have him. -R

  5. Oh… and I forgot to add that Nick is brilliant! There is absolutely no one out there that can play the way Nick can. Talk about taking the guy for granted…I just did. 🙁 I have to admit that I almost prefer the earlier work that Nick did (The Devils included although technically that was recorded much later…) simply because I love those atmospheric sounds over some of the more “melodic” synthesizer and keyboard things he has done later. I don't know, now that I'm sitting here really thinking about it, I do like a lot of the later stuff too. Maybe I just like that darker earlier music?!? Hard to say. There's a time and place for all of it though, isn't there? -R

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