Tag Archives: Duran Duran critics

The Music is Louder than All of their Roar

August is a tough month for blogging. You’d think by now, Amanda and I would have figured this out and agreed to take the month off from blogging each year. For most of the world – August is a vacation month. For us, August is a rush to get back to school, all the while thinking about all of the things we didn’t finish this summer.

One of those things we didn’t finish is a project that we’re going to keep working at. Part of me wants to hurry up and write because I don’t want to miss a window of opportunity. The other part knows that this is going to take a while, and I shouldn’t beat myself up because I wasn’t able to get anything done this week.

I’ve promised myself that I wouldn’t talk about our project online. Some of that is because I don’t know where it will go – if anywhere. I also don’t want to put pressure on myself to get something done. That said, I like throwing ideas out there via blogging, because sometimes it sorts through what I’m thinking.

Shackled and raised for a shining crowd

Lately, I’ve been reading about pop music. Not really a stretch, I know. However, the research I’ve been working on has to do with WHY people like pop music.

Did you know that pop was originally created for women? It’s true. Even back in the days of Frank Sinatra – one of the original poster boys – the point was to attract women. It was created so that women could listen to it at home while cleaning house, or later on -piped into businesses because it kept women calm, and productive. There was even a thought that if women listened to music at work, they’d be less apt to gossip, or form groups (unions) to protest work issues.

Pop music wasn’t meant for listening, oddly enough. It was originally created as music to be played on cheap speakers, so it didn’t need to have the depth or the musical texture that rock music – music made specifically for men to listen to on expensive sound systems – required. Pop stars weren’t picked because of their talents or musical abilities. They could be taught how to sing. They were marketed based on their looks, as a package deal. If you don’t quite buy into what I’m attempting to sell you, just ask yourself one simple question:

Having the time of your life

How many times did you read Tiger Beat, Seventeen, Smash Hits, Bop! Magazine, or Jackie (among a myriad of others) and actually read about the music? How many times did you read music reviews in those magazines? Concert reviews?

When I first stumbled across this notion, I immediately started going back through old teen magazines. Was it really true? They never talked about music? Really? NEVER? I couldn’t believe it. What’s more – I was appalled at myself for never noticing, but it was true. The true “teen” magazines didn’t cover music. Ever. They might suggest in an interview that a new album is coming out, or a tour might be taking place – but there were never in-depth looks beyond that. They’d be more apt to discuss Nick’s fashion sense than what keyboards he used. Why is that? Just think about it.

What’s more, I never noticed.

Scandal in white on a tangled vine

I would gleefully tear through those magazines each month, scouring each issue for all the articles on Duran Duran. I’d dissect the magazine, making sure to carefully remove pinups or photos I wanted to keep. Never once did I ever consider WHAT I was reading. I just knew that Nick loved champagne and strawberries, Roger was incredibly shy like me, and John’s nickname was Tigger. What more did I need to know?

It kills me that I never wondered why the music wasn’t discussed…and it wasn’t! Not only did they sidestep the issue, they completely and totally ignored that “small” facet of the career of any pop star. It came down to top ten lists of things they liked, and why they would “break your heart”.

Gross. And I fell for every word. Hook. Line. Sinker.

It can only bend to a tune of its own

This isn’t to mean I never cared about the band’s sound. I very much did. I would study each new album as though it were a textbook. In fact, if I had spent half as much time studying for school as I did Duran Duran, I would have easily been my class valedictorian.

I just don’t remember reading that much about their music in magazines. The pop magazines didn’t cover them, and critics mostly ignored Duran Duran. I’d grab whatever books I could find (Book of Words, anyone?), and much of what I learned came far later.

Spinning a compass to choose your way

I also talked with friends about music. The funny thing is, when I think back on it – there were friends I could discuss music with, and friends I could not. The first group were the people who listened to a broad variety of bands. These were people who subscribed to Billboard, or collected albums. They would sit on the concrete sidewalks, leaning their backs up against the school building and talk about the latest music.

Then there were the small circles who spent far more time trading pinup images in the quad area at lunch. They’d spread out their jackets for sitting, flatten their brown lunch bags on the grass, and set their sandwich, baggie of potato chips, and Hostess Twinkie on top, along with a napkin. They’d quickly munch on the sandwich, and then unzip their backpack and pull out the latest issue of Tiger Beat for group perusal.

I always felt too intimidated to share much in the first group, and would quickly bore of the second. I wasn’t a moody artsy type, but I also wasn’t quite the clothes, hair and shoes, type of girl, either. I would flit back and forth, trying to soak up as much as I could.

Which ever way you can be sure

I still feel the flush of heat in my cheeks when I think about the magazines I loved as a kid never covering the music. I’m embarrassed to admit that I was swept into the “romance” of it all, without even thinking twice. I’d venture to guess I wasn’t alone.

-R

Been Under Quiet Attack

Sometimes, fandom feels like an endurance test. It like the world and everything and everyone in it is just to push you away from fandom. For some people, they might opt to leave, to avoid, to hide. I, on the other hand, am feeling feisty, determined. I’m digging in my heels.

It has never been easy to be a Duran Duran fan. I am sure that a lot of people would think I’m insane for saying that. After all, at one point, they were the most popular band in the world. They were everywhere and you could buy merchandise upon merchandise in the mid-1980s U.S. Yet, for me, it didn’t always feel awesome. Sure, it was great fun with my friend as we watched Sing Blue Silver for the millionth time in her TV room but sucked that other kids at school talked smack about them along with countless DJs, music critics, and random strangers. “Aww…that band sucks. Can they even play their own instruments? Must be rough to be put together by a management company. What’s with the eyeliner? What are they gay?” were just some of the rude and untruth comments I was exposed to both then and now. It didn’t make me turn away from Duran but made me more determined to love them.

Then, of course, the mid to late 1980s was not always kind to the band and their fans. I saw my best friend walk away from the fandom. All the fans had to watch Duran regroup after side projects but also with the departure of Roger and Andy. On top of that, life often got in the way to the point where I found myself moving on while holding on to the that sliver of being a fan. Could I? Would I return to the really join the fan community? I wasn’t certain especially as the 1990s grew older but I know that when I took the time to watch and listen to Duran my love endured even if I remained pretty isolated as a fan.

Of course, I jumped back in with two feet along with countless others as the band reunited. I believed that this would be the best ever. Not only was I thrilled that the beloved Fab Five was back, I looked forward to getting to know more and more fans to share my love with others. Sadly, I also assumed that Duran’s longevity would result in nothing but acceptance and kudos from the music critics and the public as a whole. As we know, that didn’t always happen. Yes, they received more public acclaim than they had previously but they are never quite totally respected. On top of that, I found myself battling on a new front. Now, it seemed that others criticized my fandom because I’m “too old”. I should have let that go as a kid, people would imply. It certainly should not interfere with real life or all those responsibilities.

Still, I figured that I could blow off all those music critics, journalists, and nosey people in my own life as long as the fan community provided nothing but acceptable and joy. Sometimes, it has. I have had tremendous moments in which everything just feels right. I remember looking around, for example, at various points of Durandemonium, the convention that Rhonda and I organized, and thought how amazing it all was. Another example is when it seemed like the entire venue was clapping along to the Man Who Stole a Leopard in Glasgow in December of 2011. Sometimes, I have had it when we have held our online parties. It can be the best time ever.

Yet, there have been other times that it feels like I have battle both the outside world and the inside one. Yes, Rhonda and I chose to express our fandom by writing this blog, by organizing fan events, etc. It’s cool that it is not everyone’s cup of tea. Maybe some people don’t want us to do this or that. Others might not always like who we are or what we have to say. That’s okay, too. That said, I’m not going to stop loving Duran, who I am or how I express my fandom. I’m more determined than ever to stick around, do what I do and love the band with all of my being. I’m looking forward to partying hard in a couple of months at some great shows with my friends. Then, all of the obstacles put in my way will get pushed to the side and all that will remain is what started all of this to begin with.

-A

Happy 24th Anniversary Thank You!

Happy Thursday, everyone! Today is a special day as Thank You celebrates its 24th birthday!

In honor of this occasion, I decided to do something I haven’t done in a long time – I played the entire Thank You album. I know, I know – what a shock, right? The things I do for this blog. It’s rough.

Thank You is still playing in the background as I write. I’m on “Thank You” right now, and I have to say, I don’t really understand the fuss. No, the songs aren’t original (although “Drive By” counts as original in my book), and maybe they’re not songs you and I would immediately have suggested they cover, but overall? The album isn’t bad. Musically, I think it’s actually very well done.

Track by Track

White Lines

A live crowd favorite, the album version is slightly less packed with energy, but still has plenty of punch. I still believe they do it best in front of a live audience, and I can appreciate that even Duran Duran can put a cover in their set list and have fans believe it is their own.

I Wanna Take You Higher

I love the drums on this one. I like that the band took liberties and pushed the tempo, amplifying the song up to a bit more of a rock sound. Say what you will, they made the song work for them – which is exactly what a cover should do. Take the song, spin it on it’s head and see how it shakes out. That’s what Duran Duran did here and it worked. I’d be amiss if I didn’t give a shout to Warren’s guitar solo. It is indeed excellent.

Perfect Day

I really don’t know what I can say about this particular song that hasn’t already been said. Like the title – I think it’s just about perfect. Lou Reed had a brilliant song here, and Duran Duran took it up a notch. Oh, and Roger came back to play drums on it. Can’t really complain about that!

Watching the Detectives

What I love most about this song is not the melody, the drums, or even the vocals… I love the tiny little things found underneath. Those little synthesizer chords, the seemingly infinitesimal arpeggio notes, the harmonica, and the small effects here and there are what make this song interesting for me. Oh, and another Roger Taylor appearance. I like it better than the Elvis Costello original.

Lay Lady Lay

I haven’t ever heard anyone comment about the guitar on this – but hello Come Undone part 2. I love the intro with Warren’s guitar, and you can quote me on that. The song is romantic, sultry, and everything I could have wanted. I appreciate the song choice because one might not have ever guessed that Duran Duran could pull off Bob Dylan, and they do it here beautifully.

911 Is a Joke

I know how the community feels about “911 Is a Joke”. Simon is not quite the rapper type, in my opinion. I mean, it was a valiant effort I am sure…but…it does miss the mark. Overall, by principle alone, I don’t love the song. To be fair, I didn’t love the original either. However, and this is a big however, what about the irony??

Seriously people, how ironic is it that Duran Duran, a group of reasonably wealthy (if not filthy rich) WHITE guys decided to cover a song like “911 Is a Joke”?? The band doesn’t take themselves nearly as seriously as we fans take them, that’s all I’m saying. In fact, when the band made their choices of which songs to cover, it was none other than John Taylor who chose this one. “in addition to being a great song, it made him laugh to think of how many people it would piss-off.” (quote from an official “Thank You” press release) If you can’t see the humor and irony – well, are you sure you’ve been following the same band I am?

I think we can sometimes get up in our own heads to the point where we take the band far more seriously than they intend. It is worth taking the time to get past the surface – don’t always assume everything should be taken at face value. This is a band that treasures the ironic. They love the dry humor. As do I.

Bottom line: 911 isn’t likely to make anybody into a Duran Duran fan, but I really don’t think it was ever meant to be taken so darn seriously, anyway. I know so many people who got so stuck on that one song that they gave up on the rest of the album, and news flash – “911 is a Joke” is only ONE song. There’s eleven other songs!

Success

I think that in order to fully appreciate “Success”, one has to know and understand Gary Glitter, and not necessarily the original version by Iggy Pop. A brash, flamboyant UK performer, Gary Glitter had a stunning career. 20 million records sold, 168 weeks spent on the UK music charts, 21 hit singles…. and Duran Duran chose to cover a song that he in turn covered. There’s irony there if you look deep enough., although I’m not sure it was intended. The song is as brash as Gary Glitter’s career…never mind his eventual and spectacular fall from grace and into a prison cell (well AFTER the release of Thank You).

Crystal Ship

If they really needed to cover The Doors, I’m glad they chose this one. While I’m no big fan of either The Doors or this song, I think that Simon did slip rather well into the existential role of Jim Morrison here. Again, the best parts of this song aren’t the vocals or the melody – they’re the tiny little effects underneath that we rarely take full notice. Nick and Warren did incredibly well adding those nuances.

Ball of Confusion

My, my…how far we’ve come from the days of The Temptations. Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong are the original composers of the song, and judging from the lyrics along with the video I found of it on YouTube…it has evolved substantially over the years and has been covered by a brilliant number of artists along the way. I myself am a Love and Rockets fan, and this song is one of my favorites by that group. I have to admit that despite my bias, I really like this version. It has all the rock edge when needed, but I can also hear the appropriate throwback to the roots of The Temptations with the background vocals.

Thank You

Must admit, I don’t think I ever saw Duran Duran covering Led Zeppelin coming, which perhaps is the most jarring thing about this album – the song choices themselves. This cover is beautiful in it’s own right, and while it might not be my favorite, I give silent thanks that it isn’t “Stairway to Heaven”.

Drive By

I really don’t understand the outrage over this one. How dare they rethink one of their own songs? Are you kidding? I applaud it. In my head, it was a genius and ballsy move to take one of their best loved but not necessarily most well-known songs from an era that had long since past and evolve it. Maybe that’s the real problem here though. They sacrificed the sacred cow. The fab five. You tell me.

My inspiration

After listening a few times, I have to think that song choice had everything to do with the lack of love for this album. Fans didn’t know the music well enough, and critics knew it all too well.

Duran Duran didn’t choose to cover Roxy Music, or even Chic. They went with far less obvious influences. In some ways, I think that may have helped them far more than hurting them. Fans didn’t have quite the same sort of affinity for Elvis Costello, for example, than they might have for Nile Rodgers. But, by the same token – they didn’t have a connection with the music either. I struggle with that because you would think that a fan, like myself for instance, would have taken time to listen and bond, just as I might have done with any of their original music. However, I didn’t.

It will be done

Then there are the critics. Self-professed “experts”, they know and often tout their own musical intelligence. I kind of feel as though many of them are too far up their own noses to have been willing to give the album a fair shot. This was Duran Duran, the band causing much ire in the 80s, daring to cover not only The Doors and Led Zeppelin but even Public Enemy? Oh hell no. I’m not saying that some of the reviews and comments weren’t valid, only that it wouldn’t have mattered what they heard – all they needed to know was that it was Duran Duran.

So I ask you fans – give the album a good listen in 2019. It might surprise you, at least a little. It did me.

-R