Today, we’re talking Planet Earth. I am certain that most everyone has seen the video at this point, but in case you haven’t…or you just need a good excuse to watch it again…
Before I jump in, let me take a second to explain how this is going to work. First off, this isn’t going to be an academic discussion of the subtle nuances of each video, what they mean, or even a review. I’m not that great at the technical stuff, and I want this to be more fun than just another essay. Each one of these Video Vanguard posts is likely to be different. I’m just going to talk about the video – however I want to talk about the video. I hope that people will read and want to further discussion, but if not, that’s totally fine. I’ve been writing for eleven years, I’ve been a mom and wife for twenty-six, and in case you haven’t noticed, I’m pretty good at talking (and writing!) to myself. So, let’s get started!
Roger’s Adams apple. I really think that I could pretty much cut through the layers here, write those three words and be done with it. I am not above being a fan girl, and at eleven or twelve – the age when I first saw the video – I can only imagine my reaction. I seem to recall some squealing. I mean, there was no hope after the initial shot. I never could understand why more fans weren’t Roger girls back then, but as I’d tell myself back then – please feel free to go ahead and fight over John and Simon. I’ll just be over here watching the drummer.
Unlike a lot of fans, I can’t remember what video I saw first. For some reason I think I saw Hungry Like the Wolf or Rio first, thanks to my friend Marsha, but I can’t swear to it. I just know that after picking myself up off of the floor, I had a lot of thoughts about the video.
Those were certainly some frilly shirts. If I ever had to wonder where the frilly shirts in 7th grade fashion came from, I obviously was too busy looking at Roger’s throat. While I was no slave to fashion myself, I did recognize the frilly shirts, pirate sashes around the waist, and even the short pants we called pedal-pushers or knickers. (if you’re wondering why we called them the slang for underwear, it’s because they looked like the pantaloons that were once worn under skirts back during American colonial days)
If there was ever a more “new wave” video… Sure, we can call it New Romantic, but to me, this was new wave, complete with the geometric designs and the way the video was edited and “cut”. I always liked the colors and geometric backdrop, but I adored the way the band looked like they were in the middle of a spectacular platform hanging in midair on an iceberg…or on another planet completely…which sort of makes no sense given that this is Planet Earth. Like I said, I’m not great at the technical, “what does this mean” sort of analyzing. I’m too busy looking at Roger’s Adams apple!
Admittedly, I can’t remember all of the trivia that scrolls across the screen in the video, but I do know that the worlds oldest song is NOT the Shaduf Chant, and that little incorrect factoid helped me fail a particularly difficult music history quiz in college, so thanks Duran Duran! Okay, so while my email box fills up with people telling me I am wrong, allow me to explain that my professor knew about this Planet Earth video, and liked to tell students that the band was wrong. He thought he was pretty funny. I thought he was really kind of an ass, but since he was the one giving out grades…I kept that thought to myself. Shaduf Chant is the first known VOCAL, sung by Egyptians on the Nile River. The first known melody or piece of music, however, is the Hurrian Hymn No. 6 (Which is odd because it’s the sixth. What were the hymns that came before it? Silence?) Anyway, my professor tricked everyone with this one question quiz the first day of class each semester. The only way to get it right was to answer with three correct parts to the question. The first vocal song, the first melody, and… the final portion of the answer was that the first known full composition was a Greek song called “Seikilos Epitaph”. All three got you an A. Only one correct got you a 33%, which is an F. Rock on! The good news of course is that while I can’t remember when I first saw Planet Earth, or what other trivia scrolled on screen, I do remember all three parts to the question of oldest known song. Imagine that!
Moving on, can we talk about that hair? First of all, if my mom wants to know why I loved dying my hair, it’s the fault of this very band. Oh, how I wish I’d tried burgundy when I was young. Alas, I didn’t, and now….well, it’s too late and too dark and I have far too much glitter (grey hair for those of you who are too young or too freaking LUCKY to know what I’m talking about) to pull it off. Kids, go do the things you want to do when you’re young. Dye that hair any color you want before you go grey and can’t!
Then there is the dancing. Oh, the glorious dancing. And hair… And clothes that I wouldn’t have dreamt about wearing when I was a kid. For the longest time I believed those dancers – the ones in the picture above – had to be people from the band, but the dancing was too amazing for me to believe Simon was involved (sorry Simon). Only during recent years have I learned they were two friends from the Rum Runner. Okay, fine then. Boring answer, but fine. My biggest goal in middle school was to do the dance at a school dance, which made me not so very cool in seventh and eighth grade, as my friends and I cleared the center of the dance floor, made a circle and took turns getting out into the middle and doing our Planet Earth best. Not that I would have ever been cool otherwise, but you know, I didn’t help myself much, either.
Planet Earth was a video that made me wonder. Given that it was among the first videos produced by this band, I learned very quickly that videos don’t always have to make sense. In fact, they’re probably better if they don’t. For instance, who was that blonde chick with Simon, and why did she seem so frightened? Roger and Simon were filmed shirtless. Why not anyone else? How come Andy’s hair was so blonde and looked like he’d stuck his finger into a light socket? Maybe he and Nick were going for the twinsie thing? Those questions, among many others, were never answered, and maybe…they just weren’t meant to be.
What I remember most about this video though, aside from Roger’s perfect throat, was the way it made me feel. Even when I watched it again today, before writing, I felt that same giddiness I did when I was young. There’s something about those Duran videos that just makes me happy, and gives me the space to fangirl, if even just for five minutes or so!
While the majority of Duran’s videos have been larger than life, shot in exotic locations or storyboarded to the extreme, this video, in contrast, seems pretty down to…well, you know…earth. For me, there’s something nice about getting back to the basics, even if it does happen to take place in the middle of an iceberg, or on the face of a diamond.
This is how the band looked when I first discovered them, and I think it’s interesting that while many fans of the 80s think of them from that Rio era, with Simon’s blonde hair and John’s bleached bangs, a lot of the time I think of this period. I suppose it is because this is how I first discovered them. This video comes to mind whenever I think of early MTV, or coming home from school to watch music videos. To imagine that it came out over 40 years ago now? That’s absolutely ridiculous, isn’t it?!?
Next time, we’re going to take a look at Girls on Film, so get ready!