Tag Archives: Astronaut

The Heart, The Mind, The Albums

a dialogue between the ego and the alter-ego

As a music writer who recently lost his primary publishing outlet, the kind offer from Daily Duranie to be their intern and write once a week really softened the disappointment. Over the last few weeks, I have dove back into every corner of my Duran Duran memories and music to establish a mental base of operations for future writing. I’ve listened to every album again and watched some DVDs that I had missed. In the end, I realized one thing about myself. I am a divided self. At least, I am with Duran Duran albums. 

When I think about Duran Duran albums, there is a friction between my critical mind (which reviews an album or two each week) and my nostalgic heart. If you asked either piece of me to rank the albums, the lists would look quite different. So, I had to make a list. It’s a guy thing. We like making lists and arranging our taste in some sort of hierarchy that proves how smart we are. We are aware of this issue and we are working on it. 

The Best Duran Duran Albums

Heart/(Mind)

1. (1.) Rio

Rio is never a debate. From the artwork to the videos to every single song, the album captured a moment in popular culture and convinced us the our lives could be a James Bond film in some way. The bass lines are the stuff of legend and the band never again found such a perfect balance between Andy’s aggressive guitars and Nick’s carefully arranged melodies. Every band has “that” album where they are in the zone but sometimes you get tired of it. Not with Rio

(What he said.)

2. (2.) Duran Duran

A formidable debut album. From the Buzzcocks’ 1977 Spiral Scratch EP to this sounds like an eternity but it was only four years from punk to post-punk to Duran Duran. The musical maturity is already there in the arrangements and the band still sounds young and hungry. If this and Rio were all they ever released, Duran Duran would be revered like Joy Division. 

(OK, not Joy Division. But this debut rocks harder than people remember. The later addition of “Is There Something I Should Know?” in 1983 actually disrupts the album with Alex Sadkin’s production sounding too bright and colorful amongst the Colin Thurston tracks. Rarely talked about by critics, this is one of the strongest debuts of the decade.)

3. (5.) Big Thing

Experimental with purpose and the proper dose of Warren on guitar has aged this album extremely well. “All She Wants Is” still sounds pristine with a low-end that can shake the room. From moody ballads to driving dance tracks, Duran Duran colorfully (those outfits…) flaunt the ease with which they juggle pop and art. 

(Your neon colored eyes were at this show in 1989 and the band was fading in popularity. This album’s lukewarm success further pushed the band asunder of popular culture so how grand could it all be? Well, it is pretty grand but “Drug (It’s Just A State of Mind)” sounds completely out of place and is a total duff. If only there was an incredible B-side that should have replaced it. Hmm.)

4. (14.) Arena

The opening drums of “Is There Something I Should Know”. Is anybody hungry? Switch-it off. Was I chasing after rainbows? So many lines ignite the memory of listening to and watching this concert. Hearing “Seventh Stranger” on the last tour with the footage from 1984 playing above the stage was truly special. 

(How many live albums are really not that “live”? Probably most. How many of those also “live albums” include a studio recording mid-set? “Wild Boys” drops out of the sky into the middle of a concert and nobody thinks this is weird? When you can actually hear John’s bass, the songs sound better but the original version of Arena sounds like it was mixed in a soup can.)

5. (7.) Seven & the Ragged Tiger

As a kid, the build-up to the video premier of “Union Of the Snake” felt as exciting as watching the Space Shuttle launch. Lizard people in a desert. An underground society of freaks. The song and video ushered in the band’s most saturated time in popular culture. Soon after, “The Reflex” brought Duran their first US #1. As good as the singles are, the desolate “Seventh Stranger” remains the masterpiece here.

(Nile Rodgers saved this album by fixing “The Reflex”. There are three songs in the middle of the album that I have always confused. As I try to hear them in my head, “(I’m Looking For) Cracks In the Pavement” is the one I like best and the one that isn’t about dice is the one I like least (at a loss for what it is called right now and I listened to this cassette every day for a year when it came out). This album is inconsistent and the band sounds stressed that the fans might catch on.)

6. (4.) Notorious 

I wasn’t ready for it when it arrived but this and Big Thing really stand-out in the band’s career. The band really fought themselves out of a corner with Notorious and established themselves as musicians, not teenage heart throbs. The musical talent was always there but the band sounds more focused and precise.

(Notorious was when Duran Duran stopped trying to be James Bond and took a deeper interest in the relationships of our beloved 007. “Skin Trade” is as sexy as Duran has ever been. Even with Andy gone, the guitars are still keeping Mr. Rhodes’ more pretentious proclivities in balance yielding a mature and confident Duran Duran. Song for song, there is a consistent quality to the album where every song serves a purpose.)

7. (3.) All You Need Is Now

Without a doubt, my favorite Duran album post-80s. Mark Ronson keeps it simple by focusing on what works best. They might not be hits in a commercial sense but fans of a band know when a song is a “hit”. The title track and “Girl Panic!” were top-shelf singles in any decade. An unfair criticism but the fact that we don’t listen to albums on repeat day after day anymore probably makes this slightly under-appreciated by me. 

(Slightly under-appreciated?! Song for song, this belongs in their top three. The artwork, the analogue synths, the stellar guitar work of Dom Brown, and an arsenal of hooks makes this an unforgettable Duran Duran album. What is harder than following up a massive debut album with an even bigger one that conquers the world? Recording an album two decades later that holds its own with the first two.)

8. (6.) Medazzaland

Mid-period Duran Duran without a Taylor was a little uncertain but Medazzaland remains an experimental delight. The video for “Electric Barbarella” might stir debate but the song sounds futuristic and kitsch. They even erupt like Tesla on the chorus of “Who Do You Think You Are?”. A few anonymous tracks drift-by but the album never loses its grip on you. 

(Not releasing it in the UK was a tragedy. The UK audience would have appreciated the cold electronics. While not exactly Bowie’s Low, the band’s experiment pays off with a strong collection of songs. Warren colors between the lines when he needs to and enhances Nick’s digital landscapes. Best experienced as a whole, Medazzaland sounds like a place we should visit.)

9. (11.) Red Carpet Massacre

The follow-up to Reportage (apparently), suffers from a case of uncertainty but there are some genuinely killer dance tracks on here. Hearing “Tempted” live sent me back to this album and I found more than I remembered. Simon’s voice on “Box full o’ Honey” sounds exquisite, for one. “Dirty Great Monster” sounds like a lost Cheap Trick gem and “Last Man Standing” is the sort of album track that can carry an album beyond the singles. 

(Parting ways with Andy should have ignited a spark of swagger from the band but they sound content to the let the high-priced producers do the driving. Timberlake really brings little to the party besides being popular at the time. He is a once-in-a-generation talent but the collaboration was stale. Chasing a more “authentic” club sound only reminds us how important Roger Taylor on real drums is to the Duran Duran formula.)

10. (8.) Liberty

Unfairly maligned for some misteps like “Hothead”, there is some really great material on Liberty. Every critic said the lead single was a terrible choice but I actually dig “Violence”. The second side of the album definitely loses some focus but the first half proves worthy of frequent listens and “My Antartica” is nothing short of beautiful. 

(The modern-pop of “Serious” and the fierce “First Impression” showcase a band considering future paths. At the time, it was easy to call this indecision but I think it was borne from curiosity the more I listen to the album. The myth that Wedding Album “saved” the band implies that Liberty was a catastrophe. Nothing is further from the truth.)

11. (12.) Wedding Album

The first time I heard “Ordinary World”, I was crossing the railroad tracks near Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach, FL. I remember it that vividly. Duran Duran was back! Three classic singles and some interesting filler made for a respectable but overrated album. 

(No matter how successful “Ordinary World” was to the band, it still doesn’t sound like a classic Duran Duran song. While the liquid grace of “Come Undone” and the attitude of “Too Much Information” were dynamite, the rest of the album is far less coherent than Liberty.)

12. (9.) Astronaut

Andy Taylor’s guitar tone has a unique frequency that just soothes my soul. His style is a breath of fresh air after Warren’s antics on the fretboard (and in the bedroom). Even if there was only the reunion tour, it was worth it but the band took the time to deliver new material that often reminds you of their best work while not quite getting there.

(I would have liked to see them hit the studio after a reunion tour while the juices were flowing but “What Happens Tomorrow” and “Nice” will always make my Duran playlist. Rest of it is somewhat forgettable but I enjoy it when I listen to it.)

13. (10.) Paper Gods

Living in Vegas, you build up an instant distain for anything that smells like EDM. So, “Last Night In the City” will always be an album killer for me. The ballads lack the necessary hooks and the best songs from this period were relegated to b-side status. Paper Gods took too long to record and there were too many cooks in the kitchen. 

(Not nearly as bad as I think. “Sunset Garage” could almost slip into a Motown playlist while “Danceophobia” is a legendary band having a laugh. The bold title song shows confidence at the front of the album and the band sounds ready to keep the party going for at least another decade.)

14. (13.) Thank You

What they should have covered.

(The critics were savages when this came out but the production is quite good. “Perfect Day” is full of grace and “White Lines” captures the paranoia of the original. Still, it could have been much better than it is. )

15. (15.) Pop Trash

This was mostly trash.

(Yep.)

Astronaut Anniversary and Turning Points

This past week, Duranland celebrated the 15th anniversary of the release of Astronaut. As we all know, this album was the first album after the Fab Five reunited and certainly represents a time in which Duranies flocked back to the fold, excitement was at an all-time high and the future seemed nothing but bright. I, for one, always appreciate acknowledging the big dates for my fandom but this one make me think on a more personal level.

Feel the New Day

Duran’s reunion in the early 2000s came at the perfect time for me, personally. I had spent much of the late 1990s and early 2000s settling into my adult life in a new city. I remember how laser focused I was at that time to get started in my career and to do what needed to be done just stand on my own two feet. I only thought about how to get a full time teaching job and how I would pay the bills. There was little time and money for much else. Then, I found a way in to the district with a teaching job, but outside of my original license. I still had much to learn. In this quest, I found myself back at school. This time I was adding a master’s degree and additional teaching certifications. Finally, after a few intense years of teaching full time and going to grad school, I graduated.

At that moment, I literally felt like my world opened up simply because I would no longer struggle as much, financially, and had more free time. I was ready to turn my focus, my energy into some other aspect of my life even if I didn’t know what that was. Enter Duran Duran. Now, I had been a fan since I was a kid but I was no where near the fan community at the end of 2003. I knew that there was a reunion and shows but that’s it. I avoided looking too carefully, too closely to not lose my focus on grad school and my career. But once I was settled into my career, I was ready. At the same time, someone I knew mentioned that she, too, was a big Duran fan. After a quick search, resulting in me hearing Sunrise for the first time, that’s all it took. I became obsessed.

I sought out everything. Internet searches helped me to fill-in any gaps that I had, including the band’s history, albums, videos, solo and side projects and more. Everyday felt magical and like my birthday because there was so much to find, to watch, to listen, to buy that I couldn’t get enough. This, of course, combines with all of the new news that came out. In 2004, for example, it seemed like there was something new each and every day from hints about the album, to appearances, to video clips from the band and more. In the process, I found my new focus. I had to find others who felt so much for this band, too. Message boards called out to me and I tried out many before I found the right one. This led to much time spent on those boards, chatting with other fans, and making plans to attend a fan convention and begging for a tour.

Looking back, that time was so fun as it felt like all Duran, all the time in my mind, in my free time. Everything felt so positive and I ignored anything that potentially would put a damper on my fandom.

Is it out of choice that you’re here next to me, or just the aftermath of moments as they pass?

15 years have gone by. My love for Duran Duran has not waivered. Looking back, I recognize that in many ways, my love has been weaved into my life. It isn’t this special, must spend 24/7 on it to express it, to reinforce it, to find others with the same feelings. No, it is now way more secure. It isn’t like a flame burning bright while being under threat to burn out. Let’s be real here. A lot of Duranies during the Astronaut era went all in and did not come out the other side. It is like they checked off some boxes on their fandom bucket list. Once that was done, they were out, ready to move on. I chose the other route. I chose to normalize my fandom, to just make a part of my existence in order to keep it going.

Here is where I think the fandom analogy of romance works. In 2004, it felt like I had just started a new romance in which the subject of that romance could do nothing wrong. It was definitely the honeymoon period. Many fans want to live in that honeymoon and are not willing to hang out passed that. They don’t want to deal with the negatives or the less-than-exciting times and others of us accept all of it. Again, in a early romance, you might spend most of your waking hours with the subject of that romance. I did that in 2004 with Duran Duran. Now, I don’t. It is like my parents who have been married for 52 years. They don’t need to constantly talk about each other or be with each other all the time to know that they love each other. The same is true with me and Duran Duran. I can and do have many things in my life that get my focus, including teaching, politics, my family, writing and researching and Duran Duran. For me, I need all of those in my life to be happy. So, at times, I miss the intensity of those Astronaut days but I recognize that where my fandom is now is more securely fastened in my heart and in my life.

-A

September 2019 Katy Kafe with Roger

There are days, and then there are days. Today is the latter. I’ve spent my morning neck deep in the throes of webhosting madness, and now I am rewarded with a new Katy Kafe!

Roger was still in LA for one more day before traveling home, and found time for a chat with Katy to fill us all in on the DD happenings over the summer.

Mini-Tour

They just finished the mini tour and KAABOO Festival in Del Mar (just north of San Diego). Roger said he loves touring the west, making note of our constant sunny days and the positive energy he felt from all of the audiences. He and Katy also made note of the audience in Tahoe, saying that they were surprised by the amount of people who came out to see the show, saying that it felt more like a festival. They moved Wild Boys to the encore that night and ended up doing four songs for what he thinks may have been the first time.

Roger commented that he was happy to get “Anyone Out There” back out, along with “Astronaut”, and mentioned how lucky they were to do the NASA gig, too. He ended by saying how it “gets to a point in life where you’re really happy to still be in the room”, referring to the hundreds of other bands out there who were just as talented, but for some reason didn’t go the distance.

Above Ground

While in LA, Roger found time to attend a charity show benefitting Above Ground, an organization committed to working with musicians with varying types of mental illness including depression. The show featured many artists, including Billy Idol, whom Roger met that night for the second time.

The first meeting took place many years ago after Billy and his band Generation X played at Barbarella’s in Birmingham. Roger told a story about how he’d gone to see them play (they were his favorite band at the time), and they were booed offstage! During that time in Birmingham, punk was still very much on the scene, and Generation X had begun to slide a bit more mainstream – which did not go over with the crowd. Roger met Billy and had him sign his Generation X album, which remains the only album Roger has ever gotten signed.

When Roger met Billy in Los Angeles, he shared the memory of the show at Barbarella’s, and Billy remembered. I loved the anecdote, simply because it is endearing to hear of my own biggest idol meeting his idol. The only difference is that I’m still shy enough to where if I ran into Roger, I’m not sure what I’d say!

Album update

I know everyone chomps at the bit to hear news of what may be on the horizon. I’m happy to say that Roger was pretty forthcoming! He didn’t even need much prodding, and said that they are pretty well advanced on the album, citing Erol Alkan’s influence as producer, “He has given us a good boot up the backside!” Katy asked if there would be other producers on the album, and Roger said they worked a little with Mark (Ronson), and that there has been talk of Giorgio Moroder…but the bulk of the album would be completed with Erol Alkan.

The greatest news is that they’re hoping to have the album out by SPRING…which is amazing. Roger said that they had really only gotten back into the swing of things this past year, which means they’ve worked at a pretty decent speed.

Katy spoke of how it has been five years in between Paper Gods and this one (assuming it is released in 2020). I took pause at that. Has it really been that long?? I suppose so. I know that Amanda and I have tried to talk about just about anything but the album they’re working on – figuring that it will happen when the band is ready. Meanwhile, I guess we’ve all been busy!

Paper Gods was released in 2015, but as Roger explained – they toured the album extensively for a couple of years. So while it will be five years in between albums, it doesn’t seem like it has been that long to me. I would also say that having the band break up that time with the occasional run of shows has also helped!

The touring question

That brought the discussion around to why they haven’t toured in many of the places fans wanted. **Please note the disclaimer here. Do not shoot the messenger. **

If the band was able to tour so much with Paper Gods, why is it they focused on so few regions of the world?

Roger was very clear, explaining that “in America in particular, people do not forget [them] and show the love.” They are able to fill arenas, no matter how long the span of time has been from show to show. Katy continued, saying that she feels bad because she receives emails from fans wondering why the band doesn’t go other places. She says they don’t understand that while “they, and their friends…and even their friends friends will go see them, that just isn’t enough to fill an arena.”

In order to make touring in many places of the world economically viable, they don’t just need to fill an arena once, either. They need to be able to fill more than one, multiple times. Otherwise, the cost to ship and rent equipment along with transportation, housing, food, etc etc means that essentially, the band would be paying to tour, which wouldn’t work for long.

Vegas Residency Revisited

Katy asked Roger if they’d do a Vegas Residency. In my head, they’ve just done one – having played the Chelsea at the Cosmopolitan six times over the past 18 months or so. That seems like enough, doesn’t it? Roger paused, and said that it would have to be something very cool, mentioning the show, Love, the Michael Jackson show, Cirque du Soleil and even Elton John. He mused over how it would be to stay in Vegas for any length of time, suggesting that it is not the same as LA or New York, and he doesn’t know if he’d like that. Katy suggested living in LA and then commuting to Vegas for weekends. While I don’t think a residency is really on their radar, it didn’t sound to me as though Roger was ready to write off the possibility, either. We’ll see!

New dates??

Katy suggested that maybe there might be new dates prior to the release of the album, saying that maybe the East Coast would get some love this time – although they did do the NASA show in Florida. So, my East Coast people – don’t be surprised if the band suddenly pops dates and pre-sales on you before the holidays!! That’s your warning….

Until next time…

-R

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-

And we’re Gonna Go to Space…

Welcome to Thursday, everybody! I’ve been semi-absent the last few days because all three of my kids have been at home. I took full-advantage of the time I had with all of them. Alas, those moments are fleeting these days, as my oldest heads back south today.

Even during my little mini-vacation, I mostly kept up with the news. Duran Duran had a great show in Iceland, and I saw plenty of pictures to continue convincing me that I need to visit at some point. If you missed out on Anna Ross’ video from the Blue Lagoon, you need to find it. Facials, anyone??

Makes my hair stand up on end

I was also treated to a bit of a surprise when I noticed an email from DDM. They were announcing a very special show on July 16 in Florida at none other than the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral!

The concert is a 50th anniversary celebration of Apollo 11, the shadows of the Rocket Garden serving as the backdrop for this exciting event! Tickets are $300, and those who are current members of DDM are able to participate in the pre-sale. Profits from the concert will go to benefit several charities, including the Aldrin Family Foundation’s STEAM educational organization. Entry will begin that evening at 8pm with a special guest DJ opening before Duran Duran takes the stage for a full set.

Where it’s gonna end up, anybody knows

The launch of Apollo 11 was a major milestone in American history. My father-in-law worked on that mission, along with several others. First as an engineer, and eventually as a director – I can’t honestly explain what specific portion he was responsible for, other than to say it was one of the rocket engines. Science was never one of my strong points, much less engineering! Listening to him speak about Apollo, his pride is evident. One might think it only happened a few years back. Hearing that my favorite band will play a concert to celebrate such a pivotal and important point in our history is something very special, indeed. I am once again envious of all who are able to attend.

According to the band’s announcement, which came via email to all current members of Duran Duran Music—the band is creating a special set for the show. If there was ever a time to break out “Astronaut”, I dare say this would be it.

Thankfully, none of us have to wait that long before hearing what unfolds at the show!

-R

Makes My Hair Stand Up On End

Synchronize but don’t comprehend

Lately, I’ve been stealing topics from Twitter. Shout-out to @BoysMakeNoise for drumming up such great discussion topics through his album surveys. (He’s also the brilliant mind from yesterday’s blog, and I failed to credit his genius directly!) They get me thinking, and that leads to writing.

The fact is, I have little to discussion in terms of actual “fandom” practices these days (give me time, because shows will be happening and I’m sure there will be much to discuss). So I’ve been going back through albums, listening and rethinking. Today is an Astronaut day.

What got me started on this particular album was a survey that @BoysMakeNoise posted on Twitter. It was a simple question – “What do you listen to more often?” The choices were Astronaut and All You Need Is Now.

All You Need is Now won by a virtual landslide, in case you were wondering.

Another moment I commit

The question itself is interesting because of its wording. He didn’t ask which album is preferred, just which one is listened to more often. Upon first thought, one might scoff and say it’s the same answer, but I’d challenge you to think again. For example, if you posed Notorious against Red Carpet Massacre and asked me – LATELY – I’d have to say RCM. I’ve been listening to that a lot lately for a number of reasons, but I still prefer Notorious!

So back to Astronaut. It was the first, and only album, for the fab five post reunion, and that alone caused me to listen to it non-stop for a long time. I knew every subtle nuance, every change in dynamics, and each drum fill. (probably just like anyone else reading!) However, after the Astronaut tour, I admittedly got tired of it. I put the album away, only to listen to a few songs here or there.

I’ve pulled Astronaut out every once in a while, and each time I do – I notice that I don’t need to hear it from start to finish. I tend to choose a few songs, skip around, and then I don’t need to hear it all again for a while. I can still remember how I felt when I first heard the album: mixtures of pride and excitement leveled with a teeny bit of disappointment that some of the demos I’d originally heard weren’t included or that songs were changed.

I’m addicted to the state you’re in

For a long time, I didn’t differentiate my excitement for being involved in the fan community, the joy of the band being back together, or even the elation of traveling to be with friends and go to shows, from the album itself. Those feelings were all entwined, tangled together, indecipherable from one another. Time has done it’s job, and I feel a bit less biased these days than I might have at the time it was released in 2004.

When I listen to Astronaut now, the album shows some age now. There are a few standout songs for me, like the title track, Sunrise, Chains, and even Still Breathing, but I find that a lot of the rest of the album is easy to leave behind. Unlike albums such as Paper Gods, or Rio, or even Seven and the Ragged Tiger, the songs don’t necessarily flow from one to the next. The theme of the album…if there is indeed one (I’d argue there is not), isn’t carried. There’s very little cohesion. Now, that’s not necessarily a fault of the band as much as it might have been the recording style of the day – I’m just glad that they’ve gone back to recording an album as though it is one complete story from the first song to the last.

Where it’s gonna end up, anybody knows

Oddly, these points don’t make Astronaut less endearing to me. I still love it because of what time it represents during the band’s history. I think there is much to love there – who would have thought in 1997 or 1998 that a brand new album from the original five members was just around the corner?? Instead, I find a great deal of satisfaction from being able to sit back and thoroughly examine Astronaut’s chapter in Duran Duran’s history.

I also think this discussion provides a great springboard into the topic of listening to complete albums versus playlists. Is there still merit to recording a full-album? I have to wonder how the band feels, as well as how fans feel about it in 2019…but that will have to wait for another day.

-R

How do we really feel about Autumn Albums?

I think we can all agree it’s been pretty quiet recently. I can appreciate friends who post topics to get a conversation started, particularly when it comes to Duran Duran.  Personally, I love surveys and polls. They’re fun little “litmus” tests for the fan community, and they’re fun to look back on from year to year to see if there’s been any changes.

One of my Twitter friends, @BoysMakeNoise (you should follow him!) likes putting together surveys. This week, there was a survey on Autumn albums. Each of the albums that Duran Duran has released in Autumn months was given a star rating of 1 to 5, and then that information was compiled to find out what album was most liked.  He ran the same survey last year at about the same time, and now we’d have a comparison.

2017 Results  (average rating)

  1. Red Carpet Massacre  (2.95)

  2. Medazzaland (3.06)

  3. Astronaut (3.73)

  4. Big Thing (3.78)

  5. Paper Gods (3.96)

  6. Notorious (4.00)

  1. Seven and the Ragged Tiger (4.07)

2018 Results (average rating)

  1. Red Carpet Massacre (2.99)

  2. Medazzaland (3.06)

  3. Astronaut (3.63)

  4. Big Thing (3.74)

  5. Seven and the Ragged Tiger (3.86)

  6. Notorious (4.06)

  1. Paper Gods (4.28)

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that I like to extrapolate information from results like these.  There were 100 participants in the survey. The number isn’t enormous, but I think it is fairly representative. Chances are, the people who participated are not simply “fair-weather fans”. These are people who know the band’s catalog, and know it well-enough to debate the components.

Astonishingly, the real movement here was between Paper Gods and Seven and the Ragged Tiger – one of the “Holy Trinity” albums. (First album, Rio and SATRT). Rarely do I ever see any of the initial three knocked out of the top three of any survey ever taken. They tend to be considered Holy Grail, virtually untouchable. The rest of the results stayed within a reasonable range of last year’s survey results, but most did vary.  Medazzaland, pinpointed at an average rating of 3.06 stars each year, was the only album with stagnate results.

Nostalgia at Work

It is rare to see any of the first three albums removed from the top of any “favorites” list. There are a number of reasons for this. The album was released in 1983, there was a reasonably huge tour to support it, and it came out at the height of their popularity. This album marked the end of the initial “Fab Five” era, and for that reason alone, even post-1980’s fans hold it close to their hearts. The nostalgia for this album is enormous, and that alone keeps it afloat.

Over the years I’ve been participating in social media, I’ve been involved in more than one discussion about Seven and the Ragged Tiger. It is a difficult album for me, because I remember how much I adored it when it was released. The funny thing is that even in 1983, I don’t think I really “got” it. I can remember thinking how strange it sounded compared to anything else out at the time—and I liked it that way. Even today, I’m astounded by just how much is going on in every single song. There are no “empty spaces”.  There are layers upon layers of music and background effect. The question, is whether or not it was overdone, and that’s always up for debate.

I can see the first three albums in a definite progression. The first album was pretty raw and natural. In my opinion, that album remains the most uniquely untouched “Duran”. No egos, no fame, no fortune to muddy the picture. Rio, has far more finesse. A little more ego, but not too much. After all, they didn’t “hit” in the USA until much of Rio was remixed (Kershenbaum) and re-released here in the states. They were UK stars, but America was another challenge. Next was SATRT, and they pulled out all of the stops for this one. There’s a lot going on, and I don’t just mean musically. The band clearly had an ego by this time, and they felt like they had something to prove, with all the resources in the world to do it. I can hear the inner tug-of-war going on within the band, and if you listen closely – you can hear Simon tell you all about the struggles of fame, too.

The trouble is, at least in my opinion, as much as I loved this period of time – the album has its challenges. In hindsight, Seven and the Ragged Tiger is representative of the band’s excesses on nearly every level. Even so, I can’t quit it, and likely – neither can you.

What about Paper Gods?

In the other hand lies Paper Gods. Upon first glance, you might not even recognize that it’s the same band, particularly if you’re not a diehard fan. As I bow to my fellow nostalgia-nerds out there, I can’t help but say that Paper Gods is the better album. The quality of construction is there. It has all of the finesse of Rio, with the same quality of ingenuity that created Seven and the Ragged Tiger. On the same token, Paper Gods is not a one-listen album. In order to fully appreciate the music, it takes time. Once again, if you listen closely, you’ll even hear Simon tell you everything you need to know about their career. Paper Gods is truly a survey of their career, and a hallmark album. I believe these to be the reasons for the growth in the survey results for Autumn albums over last year.

In other words, it is not so much that Seven and the Ragged Tiger has lost a huge amount of favor with fans as it is that Paper Gods is becoming more beloved. I don’t think there will ever be a time when a significant number of fans won’t include SATRT in their top three or four list of favorite DD albums, much less Autumn album. The nostalgia for the time, paired with the album’s historic status (it was the last album with the original five until 2004) continue to keep it balanced on a narrow pedestal. Perhaps though, Paper Gods will occupy its own nearby pinnacle. Time will tell.

-R

“Hold Back the Rain” for Astronauts in 2001!

Most Duranies seem to recognize a space theme within Duran Duran. Songs like “Planet Earth”, albums like “Astronaut”, and the alien manning synthesizers back on the risers, all support the idea. But did you know that Duran Duran even helped NASA once?

During the summer of 2001, the Space Shuttle Atlantis was due to land at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida after a 12-day mission to the International Space Station. At the time, they were still assembling the space station, and so there were many of these missions taking place. In fact, there were 3 spacewalks on this particular mission.

The shuttle was due back on July 24, but Mission Control was concerned about the landing due to poor weather. Yet, they really needed to get the shuttle back on the ground.  So, who and what did they turn to in their time of need??

Duran Duran and “Hold Back the Rain”, of course! They played this song for the shuttle crew, motivating them for a safe landing in bad weather. The shuttle made it back on the ground without a hitch, and this mission became another part of history, so they say.

Unfortunately I can’t seem to find a NASA clip of it being played for the astronauts on YouTube, but I do have the 2017 performance from the Fox Theater in Oakland. I was in the audience that night, and nearly lost my mind. It was a thrill to have it included in their set that night.

The power of Duran Duran. Even NASA gets it!

-R

 

Trampled but Still Breathing and Reaching for the Sunrise!

Good morning, everyone! (It’s still morning in California!)

This is going to be a crazy week, and I feel compelled to share. I don’t know what anyone else did over the weekend,  but I rebuilt part of our back patio cover, alongside my husband and son. This morning, every part of my body is loudly reminding me that I am no longer a teenager.  I’m very thankful that at the last-minute, my husband decided to hire a painting company instead of going with the original plan to do it all ourselves (a task beginning this morning, as I type).  Today it’s only the outside being washed and painted, but tomorrow they’ll be prepping inside for similar treatment. Not a single wall is to be spared, and we’re going with the popular millennial color choice of “minimalist grey” to clean and update the inside of the house. We’ve hired a realtor, and within the next couple of weeks the house will be on the market. Writing the blog continues to be my source of refuge, particularly during the insanity of this moving process!

I love some of the questions that DDHQ has posed to the community over social media lately. While some of them allow me to answer within a second or two, others challenge me to really think. Today’s question nearly has me stumped.

“Of all the FIRST and LAST songs on Duran Duran albums, which opener and closer do you think make for the most powerful combined listening experience?”

Initially, all I could think about was that I hadn’t yet had my standard cup of coffee and that this question was far too deep for a Monday morning. Or at least my Monday morning.  I also was envious, because it is a great question, and I wish I’d thought of it myself so that we could have used it for Daily Duranie!

It is generally easier for me to consider the most recent album – in this case Paper Gods – because I’ve been listening to it for the past few years. So my knee jerk reaction was to say “Paper Gods” and “Universe Alone. The thing is, if I were in charge, I’d put “Before The Rain” as the opener and “Universe Alone” as the closer.  Not that I don’t like “Paper Gods”, but I personally feel that “Before The Rain” is a stronger song (For me.  Perhaps not so for you, but for me.), and  would have been an outstanding opener for any album. Granted,  “Before the Rain” and “Universe Alone” are on two completely different albums, and “Before the Rain” wasn’t even an opener!

The best news in this case, is of course, that I’m not in charge.

So I’m back at square one. I have to go back and actually look at all of the albums now, which is both pathetic (shouldn’t I know this offhand by now?) and also diligent. (if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it right!)

Right off the bat, there are album openers/closers that I discarded. I’m not going to say which ones, but for me, there are albums that just don’t seem to have strong openers or strong closers…or maybe an album has a strong opener but not a strong closer, or vice versa. I’ll be honest, I found this to be the case more often than not at the beginning of their career as opposed to more recently. Whether this is because I have a serious lack in good judgment (!!!) or because the band has gotten better about the song order of their albums is hard to say. (both??)

For me, the answer to this question does not have a lot to do with whether or not I “like” an album. After all, I love the albums of the 1980s, but song order never entered into that. (For me) One of my strongest contenders would be the opener “The Valley” and the closer “Last Man Standing” because I always felt that both of those songs were strong, and even conveyed where the band stood in that moment, and yet Red Carpet Massacre is not one of my more beloved Duran Duran albums.

For me, it comes down to three:

“[Reach Up for the] Sunrise” and “Still Breathing”

“Big Thing” and “Lakeshore Driving”

“The Valley” and “Last Man Standing”

Of these three, I struggle at first, thinking I must pick a favorite. In the midst of my short reverie, I realize that the question isn’t about my favorite, but what is the strongest opener and closer for an album. When I think about that, I think the choice is clear – “Sunrise” and “Still Breathing”.  Aside from maybe “Rio”, I really can’t think of a Duran Duran song written that conveys more joy.  It is a very strong opener, and in my mind, “Still Breathing” is a strong, introspective way to close an album. The song isn’t incredibly loud, but it is powerful in meaning, and even musically – I think the word I’m looking for is “stoic”.  No, it’s not world-ending in the same way that “The Universe Alone” might be, but I have to love that the band chose to end an album meant to signify the reunification of the fab five with a song titled “Still Breathing”. As they were then, as they are now. And so are we.

-R

Breakfast with the Arts 2005

On this date in 2005, Duran Duran appeared on A&E’s Breakfast with the Arts. They were deep in the publicity stage for Astronaut, and this was just one appearance of many on television programs throughout the world.

I had hoped to find a clip of the entire interview, but I was only able to find the last part, including a performance of “What Happens Tomorrow”, thanks to Lizard King.

 

I know that this would stir up all kinds of legal trouble – definitely more than I could ever handle – but it would be wonderful to have one central place to host every appearance, interview, video, etc. that the band has ever done (or that we could compile). Kind of like an archive, but for tv/video/media clips.

It’s a dream, but I think it would be wonderful to be able to access all of that.

-R