On today’s date in 1987, Duran Duran played the Five Seasons Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. This show took place during the Strange Behaviour tour, and most notably for many fans – it was the first tour after Live Aid which signified the end of the “Fab Five”.
Happy (early) 4th of July to my fellow American fans, and to the rest of the world – have a lovely weekend!
On this date in 1987, Andy Taylor played at New Georges in San Rafael, California. 1987, of course, was when Andy had released his first solo album, Thunder, and had contributed to the soundtracks of American Anthem and Miami Vice II. Did you get a chance to catch one of these solo shows? If so, what were they like?
On today’s date back in 1985, John and Andy (remember that guy?) were interviewed on KMEL radio in San Francisco, CA.
Ever curious about the back story, I did a search for KMEL radio, and it turns out that it’s “San Francisco’s home for Hip Hop and R&B these days. Somehow, I suspect the format may have changed a bit since John and Andy graced their doorstep. So I dig further to find that yes, when the station began in 1977 (prior to that it was known as KGO), it had an Album Oriented Rock format. It played cuts from about 30 known rock albums. (Only thirty? Huh…and we wonder why some bands get no airplay…) Then in 1984, they changed the format from AOR to modern rock (same basic idea as AOR, but the albums played were new as opposed to only playing rock from the 70s), and finally to contemporary hit radio. An example of a contemporary hit played? Well, the music coordinator at the time, Nick Bazoo, was credited with breaking the hit “One Night in Bangkok” in May of 1985. So it’s easy to see where Duran might have fit into their formatting at the time. And now KMEL plays Hip Hop. You just never know…
Sometimes, I think Duran Duran albums talk to each other. Specifically, they talk to their predecessor. I remember the first time I listened to The Wedding Album and hearing the line “You rescued me from liberty” in Love Voodoo, and wondering if I was reading too much into the lyric to wonder if Simon wasn’t taking a shot at the last album. Or the beginning of “Hold Me,” when he starts with “This time…” — somehow I got into my head that “Hold Me” was one of the first songs written for Notorious and that line/ad lib was basically Simon’s way of expressing the uncharted territory the band was in, now down to a trio. Additionally… all the lyrics to “Still Breathing,” which I took as a declaration against the previous lineup of the band. I can’t prove any of this, it’s just in my head when I listen to these songs and albums.
This topic circles in my head for a few reasons. First, we are between albums. Speculation abounds about the sound of DD14. We know the band never does the same thing twice. We also know that, on AYNIN, they finally felt comfortable “reclaiming” some of that old ground/sound. So what will happen on the next album? In what way will it be a reaction to what they did on AYNIN?
Additionally, Notorious, the album, has been in heavy circulation on my iPod for the last few months. I think there are a lot of parallels between Notorious and All You Need Is Now. Both feature very strong title tracks that will likely be a staple of the band’s live set as long as they continue to tour (I don’t think it’s going out on a limb to say that the song AYNIN will continue to be featured, but you never know). Both were heavily anticipated after a pause in the band’s career in which it was uncertain what direction they would take. Both were heavily influenced/co-written by the album’s producer, and both featured a mix of guest musicians on other tracks (and in the case of Notorious, it remains the only Duran album that features the work of both Andy and Warren).
Why do I bring up these parallels? I am trying to draw conclusions about DD14, and I think we might gain insight by understanding the relationship between Notorious and its follow-up, Big Thing.
I’ve always viewed Notorious as being a very solid, “orderly” album, with perfect alignment between the A and B sides, the Hitchcock theme, and the neatly packaged video that tied back to the album artwork. Big Thing is the exact opposite. It’s noisy, disorganized, loud (at least the first half), moody (the second half) and unconventional. Notorious features a virtual all-star cast of guest musicians, including Nile Rodgers, Andy, Warren, and Steve Ferrone, not to mention the album cover featuring super model Christy Turlington. Big Thing boasts no such lineup—it is the truly the first (and ultimately only, as it would turn out) Taylor-Rhodes-LeBon collaboration, with Warren sprinkled in, albeit in a non-writing role. On Notorious, the songs tend to follow the standard verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus/outro format, which the exception of Winter Marches On. On Big Thing, it’s the exception when a song follows that format. Notorious is defined by its title track; the song Big Thing mocks itself and the music industry in general, and is probably one of the more forgettable songs on the record.
When John, Nick, and Simon hosted an hour-long countdown of their favorite Duran videos on MTV in 1988, they commented that on Notorious, they were very polite to each other and trying to figure out how to function as a band. Not so during the Big Thing sessions, where “we were all screaming at each other.” This is not surprising. The trio had weathered the uncertainty of the Notorious era; they had put out an album and toured and had success despite the loss of Andy and Roger (of course, they were no longer the biggest band in the world, but at least they knew there was still an audience for their music, albeit a smaller one than before).
So, with that out of the way, they pushed themselves creatively on Big Thing. What resulted was an album of disparate sides: the first consisting mostly of noisy, dance “house” music, and the second slower, moody ballads. Side one featured the hit single “I Don’t Want Your Love,” that is possibly the band’s most underrated and forgotten hit (and one of my personal favorites), and the follow-up single “All She Wants Is” which didn’t chart as well, but did see a lot of club play. The B-side is built around the lush anthem “Land,” one of the longer Duran songs in the catalogue that clocks in at just over six minutes. Preceding it are the haunting “Do You Believe in Shame?” and airy “Palomino.” I remember first listening to Big Thing and strongly disliking the second side, and then about a week later I had a strange tune stuck in my head…and it turned out to be “Palomino.”
Conversely, I did love “Edge of America” the minute I heard it, and still do to this day. And I always have considered “Edge of America” and “Lake Shore Driving” to be one song, even if they have different titles and are on separate tracks. It’s an unconventional way to end Big Thing but it works, as the Nick’s synths and Warren’s guitar bring the proceedings full circle to how the album started.
There are many other details about Big Thing that we could cover (the two different producers, the controversy over the mixes of “Drug” that highly annoyed John, etc.) but those can be left to another blog. The question is, how can Big Thing’s differences from Notorious inform us as to DD14’s differences from AYNIN?
For starters, I suspect that there will be more of a balance between ballads and dance songs on DD14. AYNIN was heavily skewed toward upbeat music (much like Notorious) with several well-placed slower songs to even out the album’s pacing. I think it’s natural for the band to be inclined to write some more moody material after an album as upbeat as AYNIN.
And speaking of the band…by all accounts, it’s just them, just like it was on Big Thing. Or at least it’s more of “just them” than the AYNIN sessions, which included Mark Ronson, Ana Matronic, Kelis, Owen Pallett, and Nick Hodgson, as well as newscaster Nina Hossain. There was a report that Ronson worked with them initially but every quote I’ve read since indicates that it’s just the five (Rhonda says four…because we certainly don’t hear much of Dom being there lately. Just saying..) of them in the studio.
Is this a good thing or not? I think time will tell. Duran has made some tremendous music when they close ranks and keep it “in house”—see Big Thing and The Wedding Album and Astronaut, at least as originally conceived. But therein lies my concern: Duran Duran also seems to make ill advised decisions when there is no outside producer to referee things. (I’m convinced that Ronson or even Timbaland—yes, Timbaland—or any of us, for that matter—would have told them to keep “Beautiful Colours” and “Salt in the Rainbow” on the Astronaut album. As it was, they went through three producers on that one.)
Do you think I’m reading too much into the relationship between Notorious and Big Thing to infer anything from AYNIN and DD14? And are you worried about the apparent lack of an outside producer tied to this project?
C.K. Shortell is a lifelong Duran Duran fan who lives in the northeast with his wife and two sons, one of whom loves watching concert footage of the band. When he’s not struggling to explain to a two year old why the guitarist always looks different or just what exactly Nick is doing, C.K. is constantly reminding co-workers and friends that the band never broke up.
When Daily Duranie first began, I thought the blog would be a great way to talk about the band and maybe tell my own story of being a fan. I really felt (and sometimes still do) that there was a disconnect between the band and their fans. I couldn’t begin to imagine how they would get any REAL idea how their music may or may not have “gone over” with the fan base – or how they could ever even get to know who we really are with some of the insanity that happens on tour. While I obviously can’t speak for everyone, I felt that this blog would be a good place to start, figuring that others would chime in eventually, as some have definitely done at times. Keeping in mind that I figured there was also no way that any band member would care enough to sit down and actually keep up with this blog – all I had really hope for was that maybe SOME of the communication would somehow filter it’s way up to the band. That was a pretty lofty goal, in my head – but I figured that the only way to go was to just try. Even if that never happened, and who would really know if it has or hasn’t, I felt certain that the blog would at the very least be a good way to keep the community – the whole lot of us if possible – communicating. I’d love to say we’re one of the central fan “hubs” out there, and while I don’t really know if we’ve quite met that goal, I just keep working hard and hoping we’re doing something of at least a little use to somebody out there. That is really all I’ve ever hoped, and continue to hope, to accomplish.
In some small way, I also wanted to use the blog as a way to honor the band. Perhaps that is really just a natural by-product of the blog existing, but it is the spirit in which I try to write. In honoring them from time to time – one of the things I started doing was not only mentioning their birthdays, but dedicating entire blogs to each of them on their special day if it fell on one of my blogging days. It was fun for me, as it was the one day I really tended to gush on each of them each year (except of course for the days after having seen a show or something), and it’s always fun to fangirl out just a teensy bit! Over time, those birthdays haven’t always been on my blogging days, and I feel like now I’ve gotten out of the habit a bit…so today I’m taking Andy’s birthday back, even though it was yesterday.
I know that Andy isn’t in the band any longer, and I realize that for many there are feelings of misgiving. I can understand that, and I have to think Andy would understand as well. I have no way of knowing what happened or how raw the feelings still might be between himself and the band, and to be honest – I don’t care. For all intents and purposes, Andy was the guitar player that *I* grew up with at the helm. He was the one I would listen for on the albums (oh yes, I’ve always been a guitar girl at heart), and it is his style of playing that I find most recognizable as Duran Duran. (Yes, I really did just say that, and somehow I am sure that other guitar players that have come along since Andy would completely understand what I mean here, and likely applaud my saying so as well.) So yes, I miss Andy. Very much.
I always enjoyed and respected Andy’s “devil may care” attitude. I felt like he was truly the ying to Nick’s yang – and while many may disagree, I’ve felt the band needed that. They need the hard edge. I had the luck of chatting with Andy once during a marathon tweet session he had on Twitter – I still cannot believe he spent so much time with us that day (he was basically online to talk ALL DAY) – to this day it was the one and probably only time I ever felt like someone from the band actually cared enough about what we had to say and who we were as people to put aside time to just talk to us. I came away from that day with so much respect for Andy, I really did. Talking with him was like talking to any other regular person. I felt comfortable, and when I think back on that day – which oddly enough wasn’t very long after one of my “Happy Birthday Andy” blogs – I am glad I had the opportunity to interact with him. It made a difference.
Nowadays, I suspect Andy is enjoying being a grandfather and probably has learned to look back on his time in Duran Duran with a sense of peace and fondness. I highly doubt he’d ever really consider returning – seems to me that he’s finally been able to put the past in the past where it belongs and go forward on his own accord – and I completely respect that.
Not long after news broke that Andy and the band had split their partnership again, I spoke to a very dear friend on the phone. Through our sadness, we mused over how lucky we each had been to see the original five together on stage, and how perfect those moments had really been. I know that for many fans who became fans in the 80s and knew Duran Duran to include Andy on guitar – having him return to the band (along with Roger and John of course) was a dream come true. It was something we couldn’t even dream about back then because it would have just seemed too far fetched. So, when the reunion news broke, after I picked my jaw up off of the floor and realized that the faces in front of me (on my computer screen) were in fact those of the five original band members (and believe me, I must have stared at the opening screen on dd.com for several minutes before I finally allowed my brain to believe what my eyes were seeing) I felt like it was my chance. My chance to finally put some closure to what I never saw for myself in the 80s. So those few years that Duran Duran included John, Roger, Simon, Nick and Andy were nearly perfect. It was like this shining, perfect moment that wasn’t ever meant to last, but something that you didn’t dare blink or you’d miss.
I just wanted to take a few minutes on this Monday morning to wish Andy Taylor – even though I am very confident he isn’t reading The Daily Duranie these days – a very happy (belated) birthday. I am positive he knows he’s missed and still loved by many, but it never hurts to see or even hear about the reminder. Cheers, Andy!
An outspoken examination and celebration of fandom!