Three To Get Ready

the lasting first impression is what you’re looking for – “First Impression”

The excitement of unwrapping a new cassette, CD, or vinyl record, and settling into a new listening experience retains its sense of excitement no matter how old we get. There is something magical about hearing new music from a favorite band and, often, the first three songs of the album are a strong indication of where you are headed together. The trio of songs that open U2’s The Joshua Tree and Prince’s 1999 are astoundingly good and a huge reason both are considered classic albums. Does Duran Duran have a trio on the same level? Maybe not but it made for a fun Duran Dissection project.

Duran Duran (1981)

The camera shutter of “Girls On Film” is certainly prophetic given Duran’s success in front of it on MTV and countless teen magazines. Then you get “Planet Earth”, a song that encapsulates a moment in time when all the various styles of the 1970s were coalescing into a new sound that would change the world. While “Anyone Out There” might have made it back into recent set lists because of the NASA show, it would be hard to find someone unhappy about it. Not necessarily single-worthy, “Anyone Out There” remains one of the strongest album tracks the band would ever record. 

Verdict: A- (I decided to use letter grades since Amanda is a teacher and we need more heroes like her on the front lines of education)

Rio (1982)

From the dark clubs of the New Romantic movement to the world stage, the more colorful sound of “Rio” is pop perfection and succinctly captures the spirit of the 1980s. The trio gets a little shaky, however, with the album version of “My Own Way”. No matter how much I love this album, there is always a voice in the back of my head telling Roger to speed it up on this song. I much prefer the Carnival remix and the night version to the original album version but maybe that’s just me. I also prefer the longer version of “Lonely In Your Nightmare” on the remixed US version of the album. The mood and atmosphere are allowed more time to capture your imagination. 

Verdict: B+

Seven & the Ragged Tiger (1983)

Nile Rodgers gets the A for his remix of “The Reflex” because the original is pretty flat overall. Given the anticipation for this record, it is a disappointing start. “New Moon On Monday” feels more fully realized but then the album loses momentum again with “(I’m Looking For) Cracks In the Pavement”. While not a horrible song, it isn’t essential to the album. One of the weakest opening runs of any Duran Duran album, it might have frightened casual fans away from the magic that awaits on side two. 

Verdict: C-

Notorious (1986)

A statement of purpose, the title song ring in a new era of Duran Duran that feels a little chippy (at least towards a flaky bandit). Then, “American Science” sways like a palm tree in the dark. Full of sophistication, the new Duran Duran were growing up faster than some fans; including me. The sexy “Skin Trade” should have faired better as a single and rounds out a thrilling opening suite of songs. The overall mood of the album comes through on these songs and all hold their own individually. 

Verdict: A

Big Thing (1988)

I sense that the title track is a love it or hate it moment in the band’s history. In 1988, I was definitely a little hair metal kid so the punch of it instantly appealed to me. Then, the band delivers two of their finest singles. I’ll argue all day that “I Don’t Want Your Love” and “All She Wants Is” are stronger singles than “The Reflex” and “New Moon On Monday”. OK, maybe I’m stretching it, but this album was criminally ignored by the industry. 

Verdict: A-

Liberty (1990)

I just waxed nostalgic over Liberty here so I’ll keep this brief. The first two songs are solid introductions to a slightly uncertain time for Duran Duran. That uncertainty turns into a hot mess on “Hothead”. I’ll leave it at that.

Verdict: D+

Duran Duran (1993)

Please, please let me know. Are we officially calling this The Wedding Album now? Despite the slight hypocrisy of the lyrics in “Too Much Information”, the song practically explodes from the speakers after the timid Liberty. Where would Duran have ended up had “Ordinary World” not turned the tide on their commercial free fall? I’d rather not think too hard about that. Unfortunately, “Love Voodoo” hints at some of the uneven music that follows on The Wedding Album

Verdict: B

Medazzaland (1997)

Experimental, bold, fresh. There are so many words to describe the mysterious Medazzaland album. The opening three songs are all of the above-mentioned adjectives and more. The album loses its luster the deeper you go but the opening trio lays to rest any concerns about Duran Duran bouncing back strong from the critical mess that was Thank You. It is hard to resist “Electric Barbarella” as a single. The percolating synths and guitars work well together. Its classic Duran Duran even if the video’s stab at humor fails to overcome the sexist premise.

Verdict: A-

Pop Trash (2000)

A new century of Duran Duran began with “Someone Else Not Me”, a fine song but a difficult album opener. Bordering on 60s psychedelic folk-pop, the song challenged us to open our minds to what Duran Duran could sound like. The opening guitar and drums of “Lava Lamp” could pass for a Matchbox 20 song before Nick and Simon arrive while the swirling “Playing With Uranium” manages a decent chorus. I find that I enjoy Pop Trash in a single listen so any three song run from this album leaves me indifferent.

Verdict: C-

Astronaut (2004)

And then they were back. “(Reach Up For the) Sunrise” has a chorus worthy of a stadium. It is contemporary but without sacrificing the values of early Duran Duran. “Want You More!” is the sort of synth-pop gold that the band used to dispense with ease. LeBon’s voice sounds particularly strong on “What Happens Tomorrow”, a mid-tempo rocker the band seems determined to put on every album since the success of “Ordinary World”. This time, it works out beautifully.

Verdict: A-

Red Carpet Massacre (2007)

Opener “The Valley” suffers from confusing production. This song should be a distant cousin to The Normal’s “Warm Leatherette” but it ends up trying to be something urban and hip. The title song and “Nite-Runner” are better examples of what the band was aiming for. It might have driven Andy to Ibiza and left me dreaming of what Reportage will someday sound like but this project has grown on me.

Verdict: B-

All You Need Is Now (2010)

Such an incredible album, the band hasn’t kept any of the songs in the set list since the tour ended supporting it. I’m not bitter. Yet. The title song is the best Duran Duran single since “All She Wants Is” and introduces an album that holds its own with the band’s best work during their imperial phase. “Blame the Machines” and “Being Followed” get the adrenaline racing with the perfect balance of synths and guitars. This is Duran playing to their strengths in every respect.

Verdict: A+

Paper Gods (2015)

One of the most instantly intriguing opening tracks the band has ever done. When the instruments come in, you can hear a little of M’s “Pop Muzik” buried in the DNA of the track. It’s an instantly likable blend of the band’s pop aspirations and art-school fixations. Of all the band’s albums, this one suffers the most from the sequencing. “Last Night In the City” is the sound of a screeching car crashing into a wall with some EDM blasting through the stereo. It feels out of place after the moody opener. “You Kill Me With Silence” feels like the appropriate follow-up to “Paper Gods” and doesn’t create such a disjointed listen. I could write an entire Daily Duranie piece on restructuring Paper Gods. Maybe, I will.

Verdict: C-

Someday, We Won’t Have a Choice

So in the interest of full disclosure, I’m writing this on Sunday night as opposed to trying to squeeze in writing time in the morning between school drop-off, groceries, and laundry.

Just a couple of hours ago, news broke that Ric Ocasek of The Cars was found dead in his NYC penthouse. He was 75. Earlier this week, news hit that Eddie Money passed away from cancer. Both musicians were a near constant on the radio back in the day, although I will admit that The Cars were much more of a personal favorite for me.

I was sitting outside on my patio, relaxing when I saw the news on Twitter. It was shocking enough for me to do a double take, and even as I sit here typing, I really struggle to believe it is all true. For me, The Cars were a mainstay. I have all of their albums, and I really can’t think of MTV
without remembering “You Might Think”. Tears sprung to my eyes as I read the vague news story about his death, thinking to myself that I would never have the chance to see The Cars live again.

This is why you buy the concert tickets.

Those words slammed into my heart as I thought about an argument I’d had yesterday morning with my husband. I’ve been priming him for a possible UK trip next year. I haven’t been abroad since late 2011 when I traveled with Amanda to see Duran Duran in December of that year. The trip was fantastic, and I knew even then that it wouldn’t be the last time. That said, timing is of the essence. We can’t travel when Amanda is teaching, and it is much harder for me to get away when I’ve got a child in school, too. The summer months are the only way, and naturally – I have no way of knowing when or if the band will do another tour in the UK. I’m hopeful.

The more I talk about our hope of returning, the more Duranies seem to be on board with the idea. Granted, it all hinges on whether or not Duran Duran decides to grace it’s own country with shows to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the band with Simon as frontman. If they do, I think we have enough people wanting to go to seriously consider chartering our own plane. (not that we would…but we could!) Of course, this excites me even more, and I mentioned it yesterday morning.

The response was not positive. In addition to a litany of other things that are neither here nor there, blog-wise, he questioned why on earth I need to keep going. “Haven’t you seen enough??”

I couldn’t put it into words yesterday, but upon hearing the news of Ric Ocasek dying, I had no trouble. THIS is why.

Like many of you, Duran Duran saved me when I was in middle school. The band was the one thing that kept me going. I felt like such an outcast back then. You think I’m socially awkward now? Ha! I’m not being melodramatic – I’m being real. Adolescence was a tough time. I hated nearly every part of it, except for the moments when I would lazily thumb through a teen magazine in search of new Roger Taylor pinups or articles about the top ten things John misses most while on tour, or when I’d listen to “Is There Something I Should Know”, or even when I’d see the video for “Hungry Like the Wolf” on MTV. Their songs are my songs – they are the soundtrack to much of my life. This fan community is my family. I already miss many of you, and it’s barely been a week. Someday, perhaps even very soon – I’m not going to have the choice to buy the ticket, or take the trip. I’ll be completely done seeing the band, whether I like it or not. Until then, I’m in a race against time to squeeze in as many shows, and joy, as I can.

I dread the day when we won’t have a choice to attend or not. Earlier this year, my friend Alana passed away after a serious bout with cancer. Not too many days go by before I think about how she and I talked about meeting at the next show. You just never know when it’s going to be the last time.

Buy the concert ticket.

RIP Ric Ocasek. Thank you for being just enough weird balanced with just the right amount of rock star greatness to keep me interested!

-R

Guest Blog: Lake Tahoe Review

By Shonda Talerico Dudlicek

Is there anyone out there who doesn’t know the words?

It was the last night in the city and everyone came to party. And it was a full moon and Friday the 13th.

It was enough of a weird combination to prompt Nick to “grope” Simon at the end of the show, for Simon to forget the next line in “The Reflex” and say: “I don’t know the fucking words,” and for Simon to miss catching his tambourine, only to see it bounce out into the audience, never to return. 

Duran Duran played the final evening of the summer series at the Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys and they were clearly in the mood for fun. Sure, Simon declared we were the best audience on this tour. I’ve seen them enough times to know this is a common refrain. But this performance brought out the best of our band.

Songs strayed from recent lineups and well-rehearsed beats, with touches of remixes that reminded me of the old 12-inch singles.  

And why not add those riffs to songs that we’ve memorized? Duran Duran was notorious for releasing album after album of remixes after remixes. Let’s hear some of them! John gave us some funkier bass lines on “Planet Earth”, and Dom threw in some even-more-Andy-like guitar licks on “Sunrise.”

Which is to say that the last few times I’ve seen them on the never-ending “Paper Gods” tour – New Orleans 2019, Las Vegas 2017, Atlanta 2017 and Minneapolis 2016 – the shows seemed more rehearsed with precise timing. Who amongst us doesn’t yell out “Switch it on!” during “Planet Earth” or “1-2-3-4” or “Uno, dos, tres, quatro!” during “Rio?” We’ve got “Arena” and “Sing Blue Silver” etched into our brains, so our responses are Pavlovian.

But first, the negatives I must get out of the way that really have nothing to do with the band, and more with the venue. 

Harveys posted online a few days before the show about the bag policy. Only clear bags and clutch-sized bags would be permitted. My trusty crossbody concert purse – the one I use to tie my concert tees to the strap, in which I can easily slip my Hasselblad zoom lens attachment in a side pocket so I can clip it to my cell phone for those breathtaking close-ups – was banished to the car. I had to stuff my wallet, ticket and phone into pockets of my jeans that were now constantly pulled down by the extra weight. 

I was really ticked about leaving my camera attachment behind, especially when I rely on it for concerts and was depending on it for photos for this guest blog.

But I was pleasantly surprised to see Duran Duran take the stage only 20 minutes late, an improvement from so many shows. No opening act, no booing from impatient fans, which especially wounds my soul.

The band jumped right in with “Hungry Like the Wolf,” a song traditionally farther down the lineup or even at times as an encore. It was a great burst of energy that other shows lacked that began with the choir opening and “New Religion” and the title track from “Paper Gods.” The first New Orleans show had a fan pass out after three hours of waiting, and those of us around her tried to get security’s attention at the Fillmore just as Simon took the stage. Kinda cast a somber note on that show.

In Lake Tahoe, we were treated to all the concert favorites you’d expect (see the set list). “A View to a Kill” and “Wild Boys” seem to strain Simon’s voice with each passing year. But after these songs, Simon’s voice always springs back to life. I’ve been at shows when he was fighting some malady and his voice wasn’t as strong or maybe be moved around less. But tonight, Simon was the host, and he was clearly out to show us a good time. 

There were a few odd moments: Simon brought up a fan who held up a YES sign in reply to “Is anybody hungry” at previous shows and had her sing part of “The Reflex,” Simon recited the poem “The Thread” with no explanation before launching into “Ordinary World” and ended another song with three simple words: “Little Red Corvette.” Why? It just ended there. Making a statement? They performed “Purple Rain” at a show in Minneapolis a few months after Prince’s death, which made sense, but this did not.  

“The Reflex” had playful banter with Simon striding back to Nick’s kingdom and when Simon asked “Why?” Nick replied, “Because it’s Friday the 13th!” The crowd went absolutely wild.   

Pensive John on the bass during “The Chauffeur.”

The last couple shows Duran Duran trotted out some deep cuts, gems like “The Seventh Stranger,” “Friends of Mine” (the last two I saw in New Orleans and the former brought me to tears) and “Anyone Out There.” Not tonight, which was a little disappointing, but we were treated to “The Chauffeur,” which had been shelved for my last few shows, and “Planet Earth,” both huge favorites of mine. They ditched the “Space Oddity” add-on and the NASA graphics post-July were absent. These both have run their course. But I would have liked a song or two from “All You Need is Now,” one of my favorite albums from start to finish and a memorable tour.

Simon has a spanking good time during encore “White Lines.”

Some veterans of the “Paper Gods” tour may tire of “Pressure Off” and “White Lines,” but honestly, the energy both tracks evoke from the band are throwbacks to when we were younger. The band just crackles with both performances. And the dreamy scenes with the stark B&W video of the band in “Pressure Off” is a highlight of every show for me. Yes, “White Lines” is a cover and yes, with only 17 songs Duran Duran could choose so many others. But the band genuinely has so much fun performing this one.

“Wild Boys” encore is always a crowd favorite.

The band took a brief break after “Girls on Film,” which made me worry we wouldn’t get a full encore. Don’t you always think that? “Oh no, what haven’t they played?” “What might they skip?” Instead we were treated to four songs instead of three: “The Universe Alone”/”Save a Prayer,” “Wild Boys” (with lots of extra guitar riffs from Dom) “White Lines” and “Rio.”

Speaking of “Save a Prayer,” Simon added a nice touch: “Is there anyone in the audience who doesn’t know the words to ‘Save a Prayer?’ Yeah, well, you’re standing next to someone who does. So we want you guys to sing the whole song with us.”

Having fun at the end of the show and the four-song encore.

And that we did, from the days of holding up lighters to waving cell phones. From old school to today, Duran Duran brings the joy, the party, the emotion. Impossibly so, they get even better with age. They never sounded stronger and the frequent grins from Nick show this was more than just another gig. We all felt and embraced it. 

Yes, that’s the usually reserved Mr. Rhodes “groping” Simon after “Rio.”

Set list for Lake Tahoe, Stateline, Nevada:

“Hungry Like the Wolf”
“I Don’t Want Your Love”
“A View to a Kill”
“Come Undone”
“The Reflex”
“Last Night in the City”
“The Chauffeur”
“Ordinary World”
“Notorious”
“Pressure Off”
“Planet Earth”
“Sunrise”/”New Moon on Monday”
“Girls on Film”
“The Universe Alone”/”Save a Prayer”
“Wild Boys”
“White Lines”
“Rio”

Shonda Talerico Dudlicek is a Duranie all the way from junior high in 1982 when she first heard “Hungry Like the Wolf” on B96 in Chicago. She even dyed her hair various shades of red to keep up with the ever-changing hues of her favorite keyboardist. She was reprimanded for covering her school uniform with homemade DD buttons. She’s never seen the original lineup live, but saw Power Station in 1985 and the Strange Behaviour tour in 1987 … then enjoyed her middle-aged renaissance with the “Astronaut” tour. Lake Tahoe marks her 16th Duran Duran concert – she thinks, because every time she counts, she remembers yet another show. A journalist/writing instructor by trade, she’s never met or interviewed the band and admits that it’s probably for the best because she would likely faint. 

LIght My Torch and Wave It for the Last Night in the City

I left Vegas and our little mini-tour on Monday. It is now Saturday and, yet, I’m still thinking about the setlist that we were lucky enough to have on Sunday night. In case you have not seen it, here it is:

Hungry Like the Wolf 
I Don’t Want Your Love 
A View To A Kill (with 007 intro) 
Come Undone 
Anyone Out There 
Astronaut 
The Reflex 
Last Night In The City 
Chauffeur 
Ordinary World 
Sunrise / New Moon 
Notorious 
Pressure Off 
Planet Earth / Space Oddity 
Girls on Film 

Universe Alone/Save a Prayer 
White Lines 
Rio

Do you know what struck me that night and has stayed with me since then? I noticed how many of the songs had some connection to fandom. Some could relate to Duran fandom in general while others make me think about my own personal fandom. Let me explain what the heck I mean.

The first song that comes to mind is New Moon on Monday. I have often said that the chorus about lighting one’s torch and waving it is the essential lyric of fans. When you become a fan, it is because something grabbed you, something lit your torch. Then, when you are ready to show that you are passionate about that someone or something, you begin to let the whole world know. You wave that torch.

Next, in the process of waving the torch, you search for others out there who feel like you do, who can share your passion. You ask if there “is anyone out there”. Once you find the people who feel like you do, you realize that “the music is between you.”

Soon enough, it isn’t enough just to talk about the subject of your fandom. You need more. You need a “thrill and you know just what it takes and where to go.” So, you go on tour. You go to shows. You go on tour. Then, you recognize that this experience is the best EVER. “There is nothing gonna ace this.” In fact, it is so good that each and every time you do it, you get the same “pleasure when you take the hit.”

Then, of course, there is Last Night in the City. If that song does not capture touring, I don’t know what does. Being on tour is, indeed, “our time.” It results in not sleeping. Heck, even this last tour meant little sleep. I think that I got about 11 hours of sleep in three nights. I also love the sentiment of really focusing on that night and not worrying about “tomorrow”. The show, of course, features a lot of “hearts spinning all around” and I definitely believe that shows, meetups, is “where we get connected.”

If all those fandom related songs weren’t enough, the band played other songs that reminded me of my personal fandom journey. For instance, they played the Reflex, which normally doesn’t do much for me live but at the end of the night, I remembered that this is the song that made me a Duranie for life. If that wasn’t enough, they performed my very favorite, Planet Earth.

Did Sunday’s set list have everything I could have possibly wanted? No. There are a few songs that I would have exchanged (*coughComeUndonecough*) but the fact that it featured so many songs that relate to fandom made it “extra” special. As I walked out that night, I felt nothing but love for the band and secure in my fandom. My next show cannot come soon enough!

-A

Happy Birthday to Us! 9 Years and Counting!

So, on this fateful day in 2010, Rhonda and I decided to venture into the blogging world. The premise of this blog was a simple one: let’s blog everyday about Duran Duran. How hard could it be? We could talk about a video, something in history or whatever. Easy. No problem. Somehow, someway, we have managed to post over 5000 times. Dedication? Insanity? You decide. Rhonda thinks that it is already quite clear. Instead of writing our tremendously witty and insightful comments, we thought it might be slightly more interesting to do a video blog (with drinks!). On that note, here is our delightfully lengthy video. We recommend getting provisions before you start. In particular, you may want your favorite beverage to toast with us at the end of the video.

-A

An outspoken examination and celebration of fandom!