Tag Archives: Big Thing

Duran Duran Albums A-Z

Daily Duranie welcomes new opinions and we wish to give all fans a voice. Today we feature a brand new guest blogger to Daily Duranie.  Enjoy!!

By Jason Lent

Understanding the impact of Duran Duran is near impossible if you did not experience it firsthand. They were pioneers of the New Romantic movement (which pulled its artistic aspirations from the likes of David Bowie and Roxy Music) and almost singlehandedly turned the music video into art. As a young kid discovering music, it was hard not to be lured into a world of exotic locations and mostly naked models set to exciting synth pop music.

Over the last thirty years, I’ve taken my share of jokes for sticking by Duran Duran through their musical highs and lows and I understand that the band will always be divisive amongst serious music fans. However, there is more depth and substance to their career than the majority of what passes for popular music in 2014. With that in mind, I dusted off every studio Duran Duran album they’ve recorded and ranked them from the most essential to the, um, best forgotten. I decided to skip the live album Arena (it’s a pleasant reminder of an epic tour but offers little to listeners) and the covers album Thank You which was disappointing but not quite as bad as most remember.

Rio (1982)

The point at which New Romantic music crossed into the mainstream and simultaneously established the fledgling MTV as a creative outlet that would shape the future of music. The impact of videos such as “Rio” and “Hungry Like The Wolf” are so culturally significant that the music gets slightly overlooked, which is criminal. As a band, Duran Duran hit on all cylinders throughout the record with John Taylor’s exquisite bass lines serving as the glue that holds the synths and electric guitar together to form one of the finest records of the decade. The album artwork also captured the decade perfectly adding to the overall aesthetic of a young band rising to the top of the world to define a generation. Quite simply, there are no weak songs on Rio making it the band’s preeminent album. At the time, “Hold Back the Rain” was just a kick-ass pop-rock tune but it takes on more meaning now knowing it was Simon’s plea to John to get control of his substance abuse, something that wouldn’t happen for another decade. The ballad “Save A Prayer” will always be the band’s most delicate moment while “The Chauffeur” closes the album on an artistic road that kept the band’s pop success balanced with their more artistic interests. This Duran Duran album is essential to any music collection.

Duran Duran (1981)

The perfect example of the New Romantic movement in music, Duran Duran’s debut sounded fresh and exciting even before the artfully conceived videos took the band to larger audiences. While “Planet Earth” and “Girls On Film” remain some of the band’s most notable songs, the album has a whole captures the essence of Duran Duran. The second side of this Duran Duran album edged into darker, moodier territory that revealed a depth to the music that critics have often overlooked. The opening two minutes of “Night Boat” strike a sinister mood while “Friends Of Mine” and “Careless Memories” are spirited punk songs filtered through the New Romantic prism. When released as the second single, “Careless Memories” faired poorly and the accompanying video remains one of the few misfires in the band’s catalogue. Listening now, that song was far from disappointing and, like the rest of the record, has aged quite well. When the album was re-released in 1983, the hit single “Is There Something I Should Know?” replaced “To The Shore” which made sense for the band and record company though it doesn’t fit the flow of the album.

All You Need Is Now (2010)

How do you make a Duran Duran album that almost matches the greatness of the band’s early work? You dust off the old instruments and allow the talented Mark Ronson to guide the recording process. From the title single on, the band recreates the magic of their first three records while updating it for 2010. The hook of “All You Need Is Now” recalls the sway of “New Moon Monday” and there are plenty of other sonic touchstones that harken back to the biggest days of Duran. The opening synth of “The Man Who Stole The Leopard” recall the band’s instrumental track “Tel Aviv” from their debut album while the opening drums of “Girl Panic” are “Girls On Film” redux. Who gives a shit?! It’s shimmering pop-rock beauty that the band once did better than anyone on planet earth.

Notorious (1986)

Three years is a long time in music. For Duran Duran, it meant one live album (Arena), a troubled live performance at Live Aid, and a breakdown in the line-up. “Who gives a damn for a flaky bandit” sang Simon Le Bon in the title track letting the world know how the remaining members viewed departed guitarist Andy Taylor. The album was a departure for the band as the age gap between them and their fans was suddenly felt in the music. For a thirteen year old, Nile Rodgers was just a name the band occasionally dropped as an influence. With little understanding of Chic and the other bands that shaped the band’s style, Notorious felt like a sudden shift away from the new wave glory of MTV that they did better than others. Over time, this Duran Duran album has matured well and reveals a talented group of musicians finding space to write smarter songs. The title track and “Skin Trade” are two of their tightest singles and the feisty “Meet El Presidente” finds a new groove for the Duran sound. The album’s strength lies in the quality of the songs throughout. “Vertigo (Do The Demolition)” and “American Science” are stylish pop tracks that hold their own with the singles. Closer “Proposition” (placed at the opposite end from the title track that takes a dig at him) gives us a final taste of the band with Andy Taylor (at least for a few decades) and it’s clear that the band’s sound needs his razor edge on guitar to compliment the synth explorations of Nick Rhodes. An album that has held up very well in the Duran Duran story.

Big Thing (1988)

To this day, I’m not sure why this Duran Duran album was such a disconnect for audiences. The singles didn’t make a lasting impact on the charts and the tour (at least at the Miami Arena, my first concert, finally!) played to less than full venues. After Notorious, I thought this was a bold step forward as the band pushed the music into new territory. “All She Wants Is” incorporates house music into the Duran sound to create a hypnotic tone and the accompanying video was one of the last great reasons to watch MTV. One of the band’s best ballads to this day, “Do You Believe In Shame?” opens a second half of the album which slides away from the dance floor towards the art house. The razor-sharp guitar the closes out “Lake Shore Driving” is the sort of six string showcase Andy Taylor would have eaten up had he not become a disillusioned guitar hero and left for a disappointing solo career (yes, I own Thunder on vinyl and yes, I’m still disappointed).  Why the b-side “I Believe/All I Need To Know” failed to make Big Thing while the dreadful “Drug (It’s Just A State Of Mind)” secured a spot mystifies me. Swapping those tracks would move this further up my list.

Seven And the Ragged Tiger (1983)

A complicated album from inception to completion, Seven is a difficult album for me to view through a lens not colored by nostalgia. After the monumental Rio, the band could do know wrong in my eyes and this record held my fascination. The lead single “The Reflex” needed a snappy remix to really bring it alive (“Whyyy-y-y-y-y-y-y-y-y- -don’t you use it”) and the live video helped showcase a slightly disappointing hit single. “Union Of the Snake” remains my favorite moment on the album. Andy adds some excellent guitar to the synth melody, the kind of small touch that future records would often be missing. While all quite fine, the non-singles tend to run together in my brain. “I Take The Dice” and “Shadows On Your Side” are interchangeable Duran songs. Heavily produced and sometimes sounding like a challenge to write, the success of this Duran Duran album resided more on the band’s name at that point in music.

Duran Duran – The Wedding Album (1993)

I remember exactly where I was when I first heard “Ordinary World” on the radio. I was returning from my girlfriend’s house and passing over Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach, FL. I pulled over after crossing the railroad tracks knowing Duran Duran was about to return to the charts. The song sat perfectly on the radio and remains a classic pop song. However, it’s not one of the better Duran Duran songs. It could have been recorded by just about any pop rock band at the time and lacked the unique Duran alchemy. “Come Undone” felt more like a classic Duran single and sounds beautiful with a slippery bass line and sexy rhythm. Opener “Too Much Information” still holds up as one of their better rock songs though the line “a cola manufacturer is sponsoring the war” feels a little uncomfortable coming from a band that Coca Cola sponsored in the 1980’s.  The rest of this Duran Duran album falters and suffers from an indistinctive sameness. The disappointing Lou Reed cover (“Femme Fatale”) serves as a harbinger of the Thank You album that would follow. In the end, a stylish Duran Duran album with three excellent singles is hardly a disappointing trip.

Astronaut (2004)

With the dismal performance of Pop Trash and no record label, it was a widely held assumption that Duran Duran were finished. The reunion nobody saw coming became reality (I figured Roger Taylor had retired from music forever and Andy always seemed like a loose cannon who resented his role in the band). To their credit, the band went into the studio instead of just filling arenas with the same reunion tour for a few summers. Opening track “(Reach Up For) The Sunrise” is a powerful reminder that, at its core, the rhythm section of Roger and John Taylor anchors Duran Duran. A driving chorus with Andy’s guitar jostling with Nick’s synths is Duran at their best. On the whole, the album proves a successful reunion of the Fab Five. “Nice” sounds like an updated Duran Duran, which is better than the slightly misguided band of the late 1990’s. This Duran Duran album suffers on the production side with just too much happening at once. It gives the record a cluttered atmosphere that they would sort out on their most recent work. At the time, any Duran Duran album from the original line-up would have been welcome but this album has aged well and remains sneaky good.

Medazzaland (1997)

By 1997, Duran Duran had crumbled as the creative entity that launched so many memorable albums. After the hugely disappointing Thank You record, the band was down to Nick and Simon with guitarist Warren Cucurrullo. Nick and Warren were the creative force giving this and it’s follow-up, Pop Trash, a unique place within the Duran canon. “Out Of Mind” completed Simon’s trilogy for a lost friend (“Ordinary World” and “Do You Believe In Shame” were the others) and sounded like an extension of earlier albums. However, the rest of the music moves into electronic dance sounds that felt alien to where Duran Duran started as a live unit. On a whole, Cucurrullo’s contributions to Duran Duran are difficult to assess. A gifted guitarist, it feels like he pushed the band into creative areas they might have been best to not explore. With the release of him and Nick’s side project TV Mania in 2013, some of this experimentation does make a bit more sense but Medazzaland is lacking in memorable moments.

Pop Trash (2000)

Album opener “Someone Else Not Me” hints at a return to form for Duran Duran but it was the only song written by Simon Le Bon for the album and it shows. With Warren Cuccurullo and Nick Rhodes in creative control of the music, this Duran Duran album feels like more of Medazzaland with a few less highlights. “Last Day On Earth” (written but rejected for a Bond film) gives the album a little more muscle and overall, the album does have a little more guitar pop than the more electronic Medazzaland. The acoustic driven “Starting To Remember” shows promise and is one of the better songs written during this period for the band but ultimately gets lost in a record of uninspired songs. At the end of the road with the record label, this was the first album I didn’t immediately buy from Duran Duran and I assumed (again, like I did after Liberty) that Duran Duran were at their creative end.

Red Carpet Massacre (2007)

The momentum of Astronaut may have corrupted the direction of the band when they returned to the studio. The original five worked on an album titled Reportage, which eventually reached the record label only to be rejected until the band recorded an obvious lead single. In their search for that single, the band began working with Timbaland and Justin Timberlake minus Andy Taylor, who would not return. The result is a trend-chasing Duran Duran album of club music that simply doesn’t work. The drums are heavily processed and the band’s more rocking edges are smoothed over until they are gone. Without hearing Reportage, it’s still safe to say the band would have fared better with their original plans. For a Duran Duran album trying to be dark and sexy, the album sounds embarrassingly bland.

Liberty (1990)

After Big Thing, I had high hopes for the slimmed down version of Duran Duran to remain relevant in popular music. Liberty seriously hampered my belief. For the first time, it sounded like the band was chasing trends and losing touch with who they were. Declining sales and success can do that to a band’s confidence. For the most part, this Duran Duran album attempts to capture the adult pop market in 1990, which was the least interesting direction the band could have pursued. The label eventually cut and run on the album’s poor sales and the album’s best track (“First Impressions”) never reached audiences. Even if it had, there’s not enough of Duran Duran in this album to ignite much interest. John Taylor, to this day under appreciated as a bass player, never found his groove with Sterling Campbell. It’s not a knock on Campbell, rhythm sections either click or they don’t. Without that, the band could not achieve the foundation for greatness that they had on earlier records. At the time, I remember thinking this was the end of the road for Duran Duran.

Jason Lent discovered Duran Duran on MTV 1983 and a lifelong musical love affair was born. In 2010, he left a job in Hawaii to tour with Cowboy Junkies as a music writer and his work has appeared in various online music outlets. He currently resides in Las Vegas managing a music venue while trying to learn John Taylor’s bass line from Rio.

Duran Duran Mix Tape Vol 1 Side B

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

11. One of Those Days

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

12. Midnight Sun

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

13. Land

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

14. Big Bang Generation

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

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

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

16. Falling Down

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

17. The Valley (2009 Songbook Live version)

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

18. Sunrise ( VH1 Live Special)

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

19. Nice (2005 Hammersmith Palais)

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

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

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

20. Leave a Light On (Unstaged)

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

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

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

This Week in Duranland – October 13, 2014 to October 19, 2014

It is Sunday, which means that I’m taking the time to summarize all of the official happenings in Duranland.  As always, if I missed something, comment on this thread to add anything I overlooked!

Unstaged
Duran Duran’s Unstaged is now available for rental and download in the UK via iTunes, according to this press release.

Joe Vizvary from Images in Vogue Interview
DuranDuranMusic has a new exclusive interview up on the site.  This time, it is with Joe Vizvary from Images in Vogue.  For those of you who are wondering who Images in Vogue are, they are a band who, in fact, opened up for Duran Duran in 1984.  The interview includes some background information on the band and the band’s experiences not only as their opening band for 3 shows but also the other connections they had.

Katy Kafe with Simon
Rhonda covered all of the highlights of this month’s Katy Kafe here.  If you missed it, start with blog post then head over to duranduranmusic.com to listen to it!

Guyliner
Fashionista.com published an article with the title, “8 Game-Changing Guyliner Moments in Pop Culture.”  Guess which band might have been featured?  For the record, I, personally, am a big fan of guys in eyeliner.

Anniversaries
A few anniversaries were celebrated this week.  First, Medazzaland turned 17 on the 14th.  Second, Big Thing turned 26 yesterday.  Beyond album anniversaries, we celebrated one year since Durandemonium, the fan convention we organized in 2013 in Chicago.  You can read about it on my day in Duran history post from yesterday.  All of these are making me feel pretty dang old!

Peavey’s Anniversary
Speaking of anniversaries, Peavey, the musical instrument company, is celebrating their 50th.  Apparently, John Taylor is helping them with that.  This picture, posted on Duran’s Facebook, was taken for it.

Peavey's 50th anniversary 10.14

Nile Interview
Nile Rodgers is one busy guy!  This week, he did another interview in which he mentioned his current work with Duran.  Check it out here.

Dell World
Duran Duran and Dell?  What’s the connection?  Rhonda covered it all here.  If you missed that blog post, I’ll let you know that it has everything to do with Austin, Texas, in November.

So, what did I miss?!

-A

Today in Duran History – San Francisco 1988

On this date in 1988, Duran Duran played at the Filmore in San Francisco, California.  This show was one of the ten shows in the Nine City Caravan Club Tour.  This brief tour of the U.S. and Canada happened before the band started on their lengthy Big Thing World Tour.  It was in support of the Big Thing album.

I managed to find the setlist for this show, which was:

God (London)
Big Thing
I Don’t Want Your Love
Hungry Like the Wolf
Do You Believe in Shame?
Skin Trade
All She Wants Is
Planet Earth
Winter Marches On
Palomino
Girls on Film
Notorious
Is There Something I Should Know?
Wild Boys
Drug
Save a Prayer
The Reflex
Rio

Was anyone there?  How was the show?

-A

 

 

How Many Shows of the Nine City Caravan Club Tour (October 19 to November 4, 1988) Did You See?

This week, in the continuing series about Duran tour participation, I am asking about the Nine City Caravan Club Tour, which took place between October 19, 1988  and November 4, 1988.  This tour took place in the US and Canada.  During this tour, they played extremely small clubs.   As always, I refer you to the band’s official website for all the specific dates and locations, which you can see here.

If you missed any of the previous polls about other more recent tours, the links can be found below:

Big Live Tour (November 11, 1988 to March 4, 1989)

Big Electric Theatre Tour (March 10, 1989 to April 26, 1989)

June 30, 1989 to February 21, 1993 dates

The first half of the Dilate Your Mind Tour (March 4, 1993 to May 9, 1993)

No Ordinary Tour (May 13, 1993 to December 10, 1993)

The second half of the Dilate Your Mind Tour (December 1993 to April 1994

The Thank You Tour (February 1995 to May 1995)

The Radio Festival Tour (May 1995 to November 1997)

The Ultra Chrome Latex and Steel Tour (Nov. 1997 to Oct. 1998)

The Latest and Greatest Tour (Dec. 1998)

Let It Flow Tour (Aug. to Oct. 1999)

Overnight Sensation Tour (Dec. 1999 to July 2000)

Pop Trash Tour (July 2000 to Feb. 2001)

The Up Close and Personal Tour (Feb. 2001 to June 2001)

The Reunion Tour (July 2003 to Dec. 2004)

The Astronaut Tour (Jan. 2005 to July 2007)

The Red Carpet Massacre Tour (Oct. 2007 to Oct. 2010)

All You Need Is Now Tour (Feb. 2011 to Aug. 2012)

How Old Were You When You First Saw Duran Live?

Which Tour Did You See Duran Play for the First Time?

[polldaddy poll=8262283]

How Many Shows of the Big Electric Theatre Tour (March 10, 1989 to April 26 1989) Did You See?

This week, in the continuing series about Duran tour participation, I am asking about the Big Electric Theatre Tour, which took place between March 10, 1989 and April 26, 1989.  This tour took place in the US and in the UK.   As always, I refer you to the band’s official website for all the specific dates and locations, which you can see here.

If you missed any of the previous polls about other more recent tours, the links can be found below:

June 30, 1989 to February 21, 1993

The first half of the Dilate Your Mind Tour (March 4, 1993 to May 9, 1993)

No Ordinary Tour (May 13, 1993 to December 10, 1993)

The second half of the Dilate Your Mind Tour (December 1993 to April 1994

The Thank You Tour (February 1995 to May 1995)

The Radio Festival Tour (May 1995 to November 1997)

The Ultra Chrome Latex and Steel Tour (Nov. 1997 to Oct. 1998)

The Latest and Greatest Tour (Dec. 1998)

Let It Flow Tour (Aug. to Oct. 1999)

Overnight Sensation Tour (Dec. 1999 to July 2000)

Pop Trash Tour (July 2000 to Feb. 2001)

The Up Close and Personal Tour (Feb. 2001 to June 2001)

The Reunion Tour (July 2003 to Dec. 2004)

The Astronaut Tour (Jan. 2005 to July 2007)

The Red Carpet Massacre Tour (Oct. 2007 to Oct. 2010)

All You Need Is Now Tour (Feb. 2011 to Aug. 2012)

How Old Were You When You First Saw Duran Live?

Which Tour Did You See Duran Play for the First Time?

[polldaddy poll=8236074]

If Notorious and Big Thing Could Talk…

by C.K. Shortell

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?

438d2-ckshortellC.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.