Tag Archives: 2009 Songbook

Duran History 2009: Songbook

On this date in 2009, Duran Duran taped a live performance and interview called Songbook in London.  Have you seen it?  Basically, the idea behind the show was a simple one.  The band would discuss the story behind many of their songs then they would perform them.  While there have been many, many, many TV shows or performances that I have appreciated over the years, there was something special about this one.  I’m not sure if it is because I learned something new about some Duran songs, because they played some amazing songs or both.  

The set list for this was as follows:

  1. Planet Earth
  2. Late Bar
  3. The Chauffeur
  4. The Valley
  5. Box Full O’Honey
  6. Do You Believe in Shame
  7. A View to a Kill
  8. Skin Trade
  9. Ordinary World
  10. (Reach Up for The) Sunrise
  11. Rio
  12. Thank You

Thankfully, this show can be found on YouTube.  Let’s watch part one and I’ll comment on some of the highlights.

Part 1:

Like many other documentaries, this one starts out with the band’s history.  While I feel like I know the start of the band so well that I could recite it in my sleep, I never get tired of hearing it.  There is something magical about understanding their influences and how dedicated they were to being a success.  As someone who has tried to organize people for a variety of purposes, I can totally understand how hard and how important it is to find committed people.

Then, to my shock and amazement, they discuss Late Bar!  I love how the Rum Runner and the Tritec bar influenced it.  Likewise, I appreciate how Nick said that when they first started out they didn’t analyze everything to death, which is the mood that produced Late Bar.  There is a big part of me that wish that they could replicate that mood again but I get it.  You cannot go back.  On a related note, this live performance of Late Bar is so, so, so good.  One of my favorites.

Unlike Late Bar, there was some discussion on the Chauffeur, which did not surprise me at all.  One thing Nick said that I really appreciated is that while they were self-taught, the fact that they were such fans taught them a lot.  Rhonda and I often worry about whether or not our education on fandom is good enough since we are self-taught both through our reading and our observations.  Hearing Nick makes me think that we really are.

Similarly, when the band talked about the making of the song, Rio, Nick mentioned about how magical songwriting is in that you never know what is going to get created.  I feel the exact same way about writing.  Sometimes, I reread something I have written and I just shake my head, wondering how certain words or phrases gotten added, gratefully, to the sentence or paragraph.  The creative process is an awesome one, for sure.

Part one finishes up with Skin Trade and the story about how Nick and John weren’t going to let go of the song even when Simon couldn’t develop any lyrics.  Luckily, the lyrics finally came to Simon!

Part 2:

This part opens with a discussion on how tough Seven and the Ragged Tiger was to record and how disappointed they were when the album debuted at number four as they were expecting number one right away.  Clearly, expectations matter.  This was followed up by the story behind A View to a Kill where the pressure continued since they had a week to write it and it was for a Bond movie.

Before the next song, Do You Believe in Shame, Simon shares the death of his friend.  While I definitely appreciated his willingness to be open and vulnerable, I found the discussion surrounding egos to be just as fascinating.  They claimed that the band ego was bigger than any individual so they aren’t too proud when someone finds something amazing to work with for a song.  I know I am grateful for that.  I shudder to think what might have been dropped if they didn’t trust each other and their work.

The logical follow-up was Ordinary World, of course.  Every time I hear the story behind this song, I end up appreciating it a little more. Clearly, it is an essential one to the band’s history.

Interestingly enough, they jump to Sunrise.  John describes it as an “anti-depressant.”  The interviewer bravely asked about Andy Taylor and Simon describes him as “a rock guitarist through and through.”  Fair enough.  Nick shifted gear by explaining that the live version ended up very different than the album one based on audience reaction.  For the record, let me just say here and I’m happy to provide feedback for any future music.

Finally, the show reaches an end with a discussion surrounding the Valley off of Red Carpet Massacre.  What I found hilarious about this story is how much Simon hated it and had a mental block about it.  He didn’t really get what it was about even though John connected with the lyrics right away.  Fascinating.  Sometimes, I guess, people cannot see the quality of one’s work oneself.

Yep, I still love this.  Now, I have to wonder.  If there was another Songbook to come out, which songs would I like to know more about?  Of course, I think about songs from the last two albums that were released after Songbook, but were there others they should have covered?  What do you all think?

-A

Duran Duran Mix Tape Vol 1 Side B

Back for the Duran Duran mix tape B-Side today,  just in time for your New Year’s extravaganzas tonight!

11. One of Those Days

This is the other sneaky good song on the “B” side of Astronaut. According to the liner notes, they wrote it last (only a few months before the album’s release).  I wonder if this song gives us a glimpse into the sound of Reportage. Much of Astronaut feels forced to me, like the band felt pressured to make Duran-sounding dance music for the 2000s. Where it works, it works well (Sunrise, Nice) but in other cases…it just doesn’t (for me). Yet “One of Those Days” has more of an indie rock 90s feel to it…not sure if Simon had the lyric first (probably not), or Andy first came up with the riff, but whatever they did, it worked. It feels out of place on the album but too good to exclude, which is why I’m guessing they buried it on the second side.   On a side note, the band was supposed to play this during the rehearsals for “Red Carpet Massacre” (in fact it’s even listed on the set list for those shows if you look it up), but alas, it actually got cut. I was there…those shows were played five minutes from my house…my one chance to hear this song live and they cut it.

12. Midnight Sun

I wanted to list two tracks on this Duran Duran mix tape that were both 10th on their respective albums…what’s wrong with that? Okay, not true, in actuality…wait for it…I LOVE THIS SONG. Like most of Medazzaland. Again. I’ll stop.

13. Land

This is probably the only mistake I made on this Duran Duran mix tape. I decided to get back to moody songs. Here’s the deal: on Big Thing, Land is a grand, sweeping ballad that is the perfect centerpiece to the second side. But it’s a clunker on any playlist like this. For the last 25 years I have tried to shoehorn it in and to no avail. Will delete it after I finish writing this.

14. Big Bang Generation

I think I’m done with moody songs. Aside from loving the song musically, lyrically it gets me too (more so as I get older). “Now all our heroes gone…” certainly resonates.

15. I Don’t Want Your Love (Shep Pettibone 7” Mix)

The late 80s hit single that NOBODY outside of Duran fandom remembers, until you play it for them. It was all over MTV and the radio in the fall/winter of 1988 but people have collective amnesia about it. Baffling.

16. Falling Down

I know, I know—the only thing worse than creating a playlist with most of Medazzaland included is overloading on RCM tracks. Buckle up, people, because I’m not done. And as tough as that album and its impact on the fandom was, this is a phenomenal song that deserved a better fate.

17. The Valley (2009 Songbook Live version)

An amazing live Duran song; especially the guitar. If you haven’t seen Songbook, go to YouTube and watch it…or buy the DVD, it isn’t hard to find. John’s description of this song and Simon’s lyric is fascinating. The short version is that Simon hated this song and everyone else (including Yasmin) thought it was the best song on the album. The album mix criminally turns down Dom’s guitars (a shot at Andy and the “new sound” the band was going for, which is unfortunate), thus you really need to get this live version.

18. Sunrise ( VH1 Live Special)

The hybrid Nevins remix/album version that they play. I’m glad that something the original lineup did in the early 2000s will at least remain a staple in the set list and resonates with the fans. This song has come light years from the early 2003 version (which Rhonda likes much more than me. It’s all good. We are a “big tent” fandom.) For all of the criticism Duran gets for being “over produced” (and in many cases it’s true), here is an example where production not only salvaged a song but turned it into something special. (Ironically, the complete opposite is true on “What Happens Tomorrow,” with the early 2003 live version being far superior to what ended up on Astronaut.).

19. Nice (2005 Hammersmith Palais)

Another one I wish would get played in the set going forward, although it probably won’t. One of the best songs from Astronaut. My wife and five-year old son heard it at the store recently, so at least it’s getting some satellite radio airplay.

20. Do You Believe in Shame? (Live 2009 Songbook)

I warned you that this Duran Duran mix tape would veer into something different…I wanted some live cuts…but decided to at least go back to the “slow and moody” theme. I may have screwed up by including “Land” but you can’t go wrong with DYBIS.

20. Leave a Light On (Unstaged)

Another favorite from AYNIN. When I first heard this song, I thought it was just a cheap “Save a Prayer” rip-off that Ronson made them do. But the lyrics and music grew on me and the song took on a much more personal meaning. I actually couldn’t listen to it without tearing up. To me, “Leave a Light On” is about hope and written from the perspective of someone who has made it back to the “Ordinary World” that he had to so desperately find. The promise of the “half-dreamed shade of yesterday/in bloom tomorrow” spoken of in “So Long Suicide” is delivered. This person who was grieving is healed now; the void in his life, and heart, is filled: “You ease the lost cause out of me/With your sweet hand to bring me home/I’m not alone.” Am I massively projecting? Yes. But as Simon says in the “Songbook” interview, these songs, once released, belong to us.

And on that note, you have…a December Duran Duran mix tape!

What say you? Should I have put more Medazzaland songs on? Should I be less moody during the holiday season?   And more importantly—what is on YOUR current Duran Duran mix tape?