Tag Archives: Big Thing

Movement is Unstoppable. Welcome to the Edge

The Edge of America

This is a song that has always sent shivers (the good kind) down my spine, as I consider each word.  The words and music are as robust now as they were when written. Up until today, there’s been no video for the song.  I’ve always wondered if it was a missed opportunity.

I don’t need to consider that possibility any longer. Today, Duran Duran released the video for The Edge of America. A song that was included on their 1988 album, Big Thing. Some things need very few words, and little fanfare to make them powerful. They simply stand on their own, creating their own energy.

In today’s world of music videos, very few have the kind of power to change or challenge someone’s thinking. I just don’t feel there’s that same positive push of boundaries as there might have been in the past. This video for The Edge of America is remarkably different. It is not one that folks might cheer over in the same way they would for The Reflex, or even All You Need is Now—after all, the band does not even make an appearance in it—but it absolutely should make one think.  David Medina, the genius behind the work, should be incredibly proud.

There is so much I could make commentary on, but there was one thing – well, two things really – that blew me away when I watched the video. The first was that this song is hundreds of times more powerful and timely now than it was when the album was released – even without a video, and now – we even have that. The second is how incredibly proud I am of them.

I am well-aware that the video does have its implications, and that there are likely some who have plenty to say in response. In this moment, talking is OK. Listening is even better. Some might say it is time to do more listening.

Purity is impossible. Movement is unstoppable.”

-R

 

30 years of Big Thing!

It is amazing how quickly life can take a turn. In 24-hours, I went from feeling happy and content to worried and insecure. The charter school where my youngest attends suddenly closed down. There is much more to the story – as there always is – but the bottom line is that we had to say goodbye this morning. It was emotional, and I still feel pretty raw.

I worked there for the past two years, and quit at the end of May in order to move….which hasn’t happened quite yet. It was very hard watching my colleagues and friends be treated as though they were criminals by the executive administration. Even more difficult was watching the kids faces as they looked anxiously to their parents this morning while being told by someone they had never met that they couldn’t go into the center. I was on a short list of people not allowed in the learning center at all, for any reason – which makes me laugh. I don’t even think I’m on Duran Duran’s short list for that kind of thing yet!

Those of us who worked there gave it our all. Blood, sweat and even tears went into each school year, and I am very proud of the work I did there. To this day, I can’t sneak into the learning center without small (and smallish) children running to give me hugs and tell me they miss me, which I cherish.  I miss being a part of their world each week. Sometimes though, regardless of how much heart, joy, love and affection someone puts into something, it just doesn’t work out. Sometimes things fall apart, no matter how much we work at them to succeed.

This is just one reason why I am thrilled to think about the 30th Anniversary of Big Thing today. Many fans talk consider the front side as the real genius of the album, but I believe the real gems are on the back!

The trifecta of “Palomino”, “Land”, and “The Edge of America” continue to rock my world to this day. Any one of the three could be entered into direct evidence for why Duran Duran should be in the Hall of Fame. Combined, they become the cornerstone of why I, along with so many others, are fans of this band.  Heartfelt, personal, poignant,  ground breaking are all words I would use to describe the project. Big Thing may be one of Duran Duran’s most underrated albums, but it is also among their best. Coincidence?

Sometimes, no matter how much heart and soul you put into something – the work goes unsung by the masses. Those losses are often the hardest to overcome, but they’re also teachable moments.

I’m hoping the same for my family in the coming weeks.

-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

Brothers and Sisters We Can Take It

Lyric Saturday has brought an interesting lyric to respond to.  Actually, I picked the song last night when I was sitting in my local Barnes and Noble, offering free gift wrapping along with my school’s Gender Equity, a student club that I advise.  I asked one of the students to take a look at the lyrics and pick something that grabbed her.  Her choice:  “Brothers and sisters we can take it.”  Hmmm…

The first thought that popped in my mind when I read the lyrics was work.  Perhaps, that was the first thought because I felt like I was still at work since I was surrounded by teenagers.  Still, the lyrics could definitely represent teaching.  At work, I’m surrounded by staff members who work hard everyday and take whatever is thrown at us, whether that is criticism by the public or parents or new state mandates or kids demonstrating less than respectful behavior.  We take it all.  Plus, the “brothers and sisters” part reminds me of our teaching union as union members refer to each other as brothers and sisters.  That said, the lyric could also relate to politics.

Politics is not for the weak.  Political candidates must know that they will face extreme criticism, negative attacks and more.  Likewise, political campaigns, as representing and working for a candidate, have to deal with the same negativity.  Heck, at this point in time in the U.S., I don’t think that people have to be part of a political campaign to feel attacked on the political front.  As much as it sucks, I think that a lot of us have to have that attitude that we can take it and will keep standing and fighting.  What helps many to project that strength is due to the unity they feel with others and knowing that they are not alone in the fight.

Yet, beyond all that, the lyric could definitely also relate to Duran Duran and their fans.  How so?  Well, from what I have heard the song has to do with trying to get an album/single to make the charts. If that is, indeed, the case Duran Duran and everyone on their team has to be prepared to take whatever is thrown at them, including those bad reviews and criticism from so-called music journalists and critics.  Certainly, Duran Duran has had a ton of criticism throughout their career.  How many reviews have I personally read calling the band names or dismissing their music or making fun of this, that or the other?  I’m afraid the answer to that is more than I can count.

Beyond the band, the fans have certainly faced our own judgment for being Duran Duran fans.  As a kid, I remember spending hours defending the band.  I have vivid memories of explaining to kids at school how cool they were because of their videos, the fact that they wrote and recorded their own music and more.  Strangely enough, as an adult, I have had similar conversations with friends and family members who want to dismiss the band due to the use of keyboards or the fact that they wore make-up or whatever.  Then, of course, some of this disapproval carries over to how I express my fandom now.

For many people, it is bad enough to be a fan of Duran Duran, but to blog about being a fan?  Wow.  That often equals true insanity, especially when people find that out that Rhonda and I blog each and every day.  It is almost funny to watch people’s minds get blown when they realize that I also travel to go see shows.  Too many people cannot wrap their heads around the level of dedication that I have to this little fandom of ours.  Again, though, like with teaching or being politically active, I believe that having other fans on the same side as me fortifies me to be able to take whatever negativity is thrown my way.  Perhaps, Duran Duran experiences the same thing with having an army of fans behind them.

-A

Brothers and Sisters Let Me Hear It: Big Thing at 29

I was busy waxing nostalgic over past fan conventions yesterday, so I didn’t get to write about Big Thing. The album was released 29 years ago yesterday, which is impossible.

I’m pretty sure Big Thing was the first Duran Duran album I bought on cassette. I slightly cringe as I remember buying and storing it in the creaky, fabric-covered, plastic case I kept on the floor of the front seat in my Suzuki Samurai. I can still remember the sandy feeling the fabric of the suitcase had because I would drive with the top to the Samurai removed for most of the year. The nearly threadbare carpet on the floor of the car caught sand and whatever other grit was blowing through the air as I’d speed along the freeways of southern California. The case and tape, which I still have somewhere in this house, is pretty scratched up. I haven’t tried to play the tape in years, probably not since I traded in the Samurai.  For quite a while, I didn’t have Big Thing on any other playable media in the house, and it wasn’t until I bought the MP3 that I had the chance to listen to the album in its entirety. Not that long ago, I added the vinyl of the album to my collection, along with the remastered CD, so I can fully appreciate its place in history.

When I first listened to Big Thing back in 1988, the album sounded like it had multiple personality disorder. I loved the song “Big Thing” even though I wasn’t sure I wanted to know what it was about. I liked the difference of the heavy beat to begin the album, but also appreciated the stacked harmonies that made it sound like a Duran Duran song.  “I Don’t Want Your Love” was the song I would sing at the top of my lungs while driving back and forth from Cal State Fullerton during my freshman year. Let’s just say it healed many a wound during that time. It was a tumultuous time for me as I adjusted to college and dorm living.  I wanted and needed recognizable Duran Duran – something that I never felt like I got from Notorious – and at least the first two songs off of Big Thing felt like they were in the right direction.  But from there, the album changed direction, with the club-beat heavy “All She Wants Is”. At the time, the song felt out-of-place, even though it was (and remains) a hit in the ears of many Duranies. But then again, the album completely changes pace completely, with beautifully simple ballads like “Too Late Marlene”, “Do You Believe in Shame”, “Land” and “Palomino”. These are what a friend once characterized as Duran’s watershed moments. Never to be dull, a song like “Drug” was thrown in the mix to throw listeners completely off-kilter, the sudden change always unnerved me. Ending with “Edge of America”, flowing into “Lakeshore Driving”, Duran’s answer to jam-session recording carries out the uncomfortable pacing of the album as the tape abruptly ran out as I would begin to settle into a daydream.

I never could find fault with any one song on the album, although I certainly have my preferences, but as a whole, I never cared for the constant change in direction or personality. Did the band want to go for a club sound? Why was the back half mainly ballad? I can remember not loving the ballads back in the late 80s, as I was more of a guitar-driven hard-rock kind of gal, but they’ve grown on me in years since, as has the entire album.

Big Thing is one of those Duran albums that, for the longest time, I didn’t really count among my favorites. It has grown to be one that I consistently play. I know why Duran Duran looks to “Ordinary World” as the ballad to play live, but I believe that gems like “Palomino” and “Land” have been completely overlooked in the process. There is really no other song I would rather crank up to “10” in my car than “Edge of America”, and I can zone out to “Lakeshore Driving” pretty much anywhere. “Big Thing” is a great song to wake me up, and when I’m feeling melancholy, I tune in to “Do You Believe in Shame”.  What once felt like a personality disorder now feels a lot more like the emotional roller coaster of any week in my life.

Big Thing has not only aged well, the rough transitions have mellowed out, and it plays fantastic at the ripe age of 29. Once again, Duran Duran proves they write to withstand the course of time.  Happy Birthday, Big Thing!

-R

The Big Egg in 1989 – do you remember?

Oddly enough, I barely remember 1989.  I can tell you that on this date in 1989, I was living in the dorms at Cal State Fullerton, and I’m pretty sure that I knew my (then) boyfriend and I were going to go see Duran Duran at the Universal Amphitheater in March. Aside from those two things, I can’t tell you much about what was going on in the world back then.

HOWEVER…I do remember this show for a couple of reasons. First of all, they played at a venue named The Big Egg.  Come on now.  Who forgets a name like that?? Secondly, I have seen video from this show. The wardrobe choices alone are burned into my memory for all eternity. Yes, I’m poking fun…because I can, and because none of them are standing in front of me. <insert big wide grin here> Listen, the 80’s happened to ALL of us. I just thank my lucky stars that me and my frizzy, peroxide-bleached hair from back then is nowhere to be found online.

So, while I wasn’t at the show (how many of us really traveled to Japan back then anyway?)…I still enjoy when this date comes up each year so that I can search for just the right YouTube video to share.

Enjoy Maximum Big Surprise (mash-up medley of Election Day and Some Like it Hot)  The video quality isn’t great but it was the best I could find this year…

 

Happy Wednesday!

-R

 

 

 

My Own Way: Album Ranking

Welcome to Monday. It is my first day back after a nearly a week of festivities, and so I’m going to start slow…by doing my own ranking of albums.

In full disclosure, I read diffuser.fm’s take on Duran’s career, as well as Amanda’s, prior to making my own choices. Both gave me a little more to think about, but neither swayed my decisions. I know we’ve done this before, but as Amanda mentioned, I haven’t even considered it since Paper Gods came out.  Why not revisit?

My own countdown is devised so that I mention the album and the reasons for where it sits. Some albums may have a paragraph, others might have a sentence or two. I left Arena off of my list completely as it only has one studio song on it and if I were to rank live albums I would do them all.

I’ve learned that I cannot hem and haw around while I am ranking things or picking favorites. I feel a little like I’m mowing down the field of Duran Duran albums as I go through the process, quickly deciding what should go where and why – but I go with my first instinct, my gut, and don’t look back. I do fine as I begin, but somewhere around #8 I start worrying, but remind myself to go with  my gut. I look back over the list as I’m finishing and realize that for now – today even – it’s how I feel. Tomorrow?  Who knows.  That’s kind of how it’s always been for me as a fan.

Perhaps it’s really gotten to the point that I identify so closely with their career – each album marking a particular point in my own life – that it’s difficult to be objective anymore. I don’t know, but I tried. I’m sure I’m not the first fan to be stumped by ranking albums or picking favorite songs. In fact, I know I’m not!

Thank You

I just never felt they hit their stride here. While some songs, such as Perfect Day or Lay Lady Lay are so silky smooth you can’t help but enjoy them, others, such as 911 is a Joke, make no sense at all.  Then there’s White Lines, which is great live, but on the album it tends to fall flat. I can’t fault the band too much for trying something few other bands of their calibre have done, but it just does not rank high on my list of favorites.

Red Carpet Massacre

Anyone who knows me probably saw this coming, and I’m sorry for being predictable. I don’t think this album can or should be swept under the proverbial carpet and forgotten – because it is how we got here, to this place we all currently occupy. I can certainly see and hear the parallels between this album and Paper Gods. I’m glad they tried out some of the things they learned from RCM over again to get them right.

Pop Trash

I would characterize Pop Trash as the fast food of Duran Duran’s career.  Perhaps fitting? While the album is nowhere near “bad”, I never felt that there was a lot for me to sink my teeth into and devour.  It lacks the depth of some of their other work, which is why it ended up in this place on my list.

Medazzaland

Ah, Medazzaland.  If there were any album that had changed for me over the years since it’s release – it would be this one.  I just didn’t get it when it first came out. In fact, I listened to the album in full one time before shelving it for many years. Lately though, I’ve listened to it, and I’m finally starting to get it. No, I’m still not a fan of the title track (sorry Nick), or Silva Halo, but I do really like Big Bang Generation, Who Do You Think You Are, and Midnight Sun. There’s a lot hiding amongst the shadows on this album, and I think it’s worth a revisit.

Liberty

How can I rank this above Pop Trash or Medazzaland? 2am drives from Hollywood, that’s how.  Our personal experiences shape our listening choices, and for me – that’s why Liberty works. It kept me awake many times during college and beyond, so I’m going with it.

The Wedding Album

I have to admit that I agree with Amanda – while there are two songs on this album that are iconic for Duran Duran, the album as a whole isn’t nearly as impressive as others (which I recognize is tough to do when you’re Duran Duran and have had so many successes).  So it’s not that I think the album is bad – it’s that the band has too many great ones!

Astronaut

Oh yes I did rank this one about The Wedding Album. Please see the line about personal experiences.  For me, this album is all about the Fab Five. I can’t ignore it, I can’t get past that, and it was a dream come true for me. Yes, it’s pop. Sure, there are songs on it that I didn’t love and I still take it personally that they didn’t include Beautiful Colors, Salt in the Rainbow and Virus on it. Even so, I’ll take it.

Notorious

I am pretty sure that at one point or another, I ranked this lower on my list. Again, I didn’t get it. But just a week ago, I pulled the album out and gave it a good listen. What is most remarkable to me about Notorious, is that it came after Rio and Seven and the Ragged Tiger. Those albums were hugely successful. Then they had two band members leave, and rather than sticking with what they knew, they took the opportunity to blaze new territory. It was like deciding to take a giant left turn out of nowhere. As a child, I had little respect for that sort of thing. In fact, I don’t think I really understood.  Even as an adult I sometimes get caught up in what I think DD should be or should sound like – but I’m working on it.

Big Thing

Another album I didn’t really get until adulthood. The first half is as dance music as I’d expect from DD, and the latter is the culmination of some of their finest songwriting moments. The emotion that comes across threw the B side of this album is astounding, and in my opinion, it is the best DD album that no one has really heard.

Paper Gods

Here’s the thing about Paper Gods for me – I like it. I don’t know that I love it, although I’ve tried. It ticks a lot of the boxes for plenty of people, but it is also an album that I really needed to come to terms with. I didn’t fall in instant love, but I would say I’ve grown to respect each song and the work that went into making the album overall. I can’t fault an album that hit top ten, if only for a brief, shining moment.

Seven and the Ragged Tiger

This goes bad to personal experiences for me. This album is my seventh grade wrapped in vinyl. Awkward, sometimes overdone, but still well-loved. Sure, it might not be their best songwriting, but I love it all the same, and that’s why it is near the top of my list. All I have to do is hear the opening notes to Union of the Snake and I’m back on the lawn with my friends at recess, gawking at the latest edition of Tiger Beat. For me, those memories are priceless, and that is what makes music so powerful.

Rio

I know what you all are thinking.  Yes, I really did put Rio third. The trouble is, it could easily be second. Or first. The final three on my list here are probably interchangeable, if not completely tied. I cannot think about Duran Duran without thinking about Rio. If there were ever a reason why Hungry Like the Wolf is played at every single DD show – it is because of Rio. Try as we might, we simply cannot separate Rio (the album) from the band, in the same way that we cannot separate HLTW from them either. I get it. I may not always like it, but I get it. And I respect it.

All You Need is Now

It pains me that the band left this song, and many songs from this album, off of their set list this past year. For me personally, this album is easily as iconic as Rio. It describes the band, and their relationship with their audience, to a T. To think that Duran Duran wrote this album during their third decade together simply blows me away. It is an album that never got it’s justice, and it is still one of my very favorite.

Self-titled Debut

I really don’t think it is all that surprising that one of my favorite albums is the one that started it all for them, and for me. I love the rawness, the lack of expectation, and the realness of the music. There is no ego here, no trying to outdo what has already been done. It is simply music from  a band ready to take it’s place in the world.  This is an album from Duran Duran before they were DURAN DURAN, and it is the most real we’ve ever gotten from them. that is why it remains number one for me.

My choices weren’t all that surprising, but the exercise was fun. I don’t anticipate others to agree with me – in fact, you shouldn’t. We all have had our own journey, and that is what makes it all fun.  I’m no music expert, and I only have my own taste to rely on, so by all means make your own list and have fun with it.

-R