Palomino is on the “B” side to Big Thing. It is one of their dreamier ballads and may not have gained much notice from casual listeners, as it was not released as a single. The song was derived from another called “Welcome to the Edge,” during recording sessions, and has an entirely different set of lyrics.
Aside from some background synthesizers, the song opens only with Simon’s voice, and it makes you feel as though you’re in the beginning of a dream. I really like the background sounds of what sounds like drumsticks being hit on the floor or on metal just for timing. The guitar doesn’t really come in until the second stanza of verse, and even then it is used very sparingly, only to add a bit of texture…and then during the chorus you hear bass and drums to round out the rhythm. During the break, the synthesizers come in with some random (and echoed) partial note successions – not quite a real solo, but not really melody either, just very unique, and it works. This is a case where not one instrument aside from Simon’s vocals are the highlight – everything else is perfectly balanced, and yet there is an incredible amount of tracks and layering. I think the song is a perfect example of how Duran Duran felt comfortable with musical “quiet”. The spaces were as important as the notes, and the result is a beautiful number.
All I can think of to say right now is how much I wish they’d play this song live. Simon’s voice is incredible, and as I listen with my earbuds I would swear I could feel him whispering words in my ear. There is no straining, and the dynamics he uses – going from singing loudly to dramatically whispering – really add to the song. There are really no critiques I could make here, except to say that this is Simon at his finest.
According to an old Ask Katy found on Duran Duran wikia – the chorus lyric comes from a quote from Picasso. Apparently when Picasso was asked during the height of his blue period what he does when he runs out of blue, he replied, “Why, I use red instead.” I love this anecdote…and it is a great example of where Simon seems to get his inspiration. (From everywhere!!) As for the rest of the lyrics, I am not sure what they mean. I know what I draw from them – and the line “If there’s secrets she has to be party to,” kind of makes me think of hiding something. How this person puts on an act, maybe pretending to be happy and content when in fact she’s not – and during the moments when she’s able, she runs free. I especially like the line Simon uses from the Picasso story “When I run out of blue, give me red instead, now let me run.” That line speaks to me and reminds me of when I escape reality once in a while. I love the lyrics because I don’t necessarily understand what Simon was really trying to drive home – but I’ve found my own meaning for the song. (Yes Simon, your lyrics are for thinking people, which I love most about this band!)
Here’s the strange thing about Big Thing and this song in particular…I don’t think I really appreciated the B sides until I was in my thirties. I’m not sure if it’s life experience or my tastes have generally changed, but when I listen to this song, I just wonder what critics are missing. (Brain cells, most likely.) Everything we want from Duran Duran is evident right here. There is so much here to like, and really nothing I can find fault with – typically I might complain about the lack of guitar, bass and drums, but in this song it feels natural and perfect as is.