Tag Archives: Duran Duran

Change My Mind: Electric Barbarella

A couple of times a month, Daily Duranie will toss out a “Change My Mind” topic to a handful of guest writers. In this first episode, Daily Duranie declares “Electric Barbarella” is Duran Duran’s most sexist song – change our mind.

All She Wants – Is To Change Your Mind

I’m not going to claim that there aren’t sexist elements to ‘Electric Barbarella’.  It’s about using a sex doll, so… yeah.  It’s also a slight guilty pleasure (the guilt coming from the need to ignore that grim video, which is not at all fun or pleasurable to watch).

But – I would argue that ‘All She Wants Is’ is at least equally so, if not more.

First of all, I find it kind of judgmental in a way that ‘Electric Barbarella’ isn’t – Barbarella is purely a sex object (not a good thing, but it can be argued that a doll cannot really be harmed by such treatment).  The opening lines about saving money for the shoeshine boys don’t come across as a celebration of the protagonist’s promiscuity, but instead as condescending, even while the narrator appears keen to become involved with the protagonist himself.

‘Electric Barbarella’, meanwhile, is at least reverent of its subject – Barbarella is described as ‘perfect’, ‘so good’, ‘princess of my dreams’ – and if it, like much of Duran’s oeuvre, were about a real woman (and obviously thus not featuring lyrics like ‘I plug you in’), then it could be argued that it wouldn’t be sexist at all, merely a paean to a much-adored lover.  The sexism comes more from the out-of-song context of the use of sex dolls (and the misogyny inherent in that industry) than from the lyrical content itself.

All in all, between the two songs, ‘All She Wants Is’ most definitely creeps me out more! – Dee Cooke

Hungry Like A Wolf To Change Your Mind

Trust me, I’d be fine with laying the blame for the most sexist song our guys have ever done on the era of WC. Electric Barbarella is made especially cringe-worthy by its video, that’s certain. But if we’re to blame the videos, I have to look past Barbarella to Girls on Film, a song about the exploitation of women, with a video that well, exploited women, for the sake of giving something edgy to the video nightclub market. Or Falling Down, because nothing portrays mental collapse better than a Bedlam-esque scene of scantily clad models tended to by a patriarchal band in white coats, right? 

Lyrically though, I find Electric Barbarella more in line with Bedroom Toys. It could be about a guy treating a girl like a doll, yes. It could also be a funny song about a guy and his sex robot. It’s not great, but most sexist? I say it with love, but I have two that outstrip it, though their videos are far superior.  

First up, All She Wants Is, built around the well-known vocal stylings of an underage porn star. It’s got a great beat and you can dance to it, but all it has to say is “she wants that d***”, and it’s not precisely flattering about it.

Second, & “winner” – Hungry Like the Wolf, which is literally about stalking a woman for sex. Simon himself has said “You couldn’t get away with writing a song like that now”. And I guess he would know. – Laura Skarka 

Read My Lips – Electric Barbarella Is Not The Most Sexist

The sexism of Duran Duran’s videos are worthy of discussion even if the band’s sense of play often diminishes the general negativity of the imagery. Detaching the songs from the videos, there are still examples of sexism woven into the lyrics as is the case for most bands who came of age at that time. The music industry, as a whole, sadly remains a sexist playground for men in almost every regard. However, “Electric Barbarella” sidesteps this while “Read My Lips” reeks of stale cologne and the male predator.

The opening lines of “Read My Lips” are nothing more than a creepy come-on by a lecherous male. I don’t know why, and I have no factual basis for assuming this, but I’ve always associated this song with Warren Cuccurullo. The guitar heavy song has his fingerprints all over it and it’s an uncomfortable listening experience. I’d rather not “get a grip” on anything within ten feet of this lazy song.

The Barabrella reference of the song in question hints at a playfulness celebrating the retro-kitsch style of the film that inspired Duran Duran’s name. The song itself serves as a commentary on the inability of humans to connect on a flesh and blood level in modern society. The idea of an electric Barbarella is nothing more than a fantasy that can never be realized despite the promises of the patriarchy. The song shines a neon-flavored light on that with a knowing wink. Maybe marriage has made them wise. – Jason Lent

Driving Towards A Change of Mind

The Chauffeur is easily a more sexist song than “Electric Barbarella.”  Its dreary, coma-inducing synth line pounds the listener into submission, much like thousands of years of patriarchal civilization have to women.  The song never explicitly states if “my envied lady” and her “shadowy lined dress” is the driver or passenger, passing up a prime opportunity.  Think about the power of the last track on one of the most iconic 80’s albums definitively putting the woman in control.  But no—instead, we’re left with the “poetry” of LeBon’s lyric.  Indeed, all we do learn is that this lady “smiles” when lovers part, like some latter day Miss Havisham from Dickens’ Great Expectations.  Our singer also wonders “what glass splinters lie so deep in your mind,” which also conjures the 19th century and the misogynistic “mad woman in the attic” trope (see Jane Eyre).  

The video only makes matters worse:  a voyeuristic, male-driven lesbian fantasy involving two women touching, a third dancing off to the side, and all witnessed by a “Chauffeur” who looks alarmingly like 2019 Roger.  Some will argue that the video is someone else’s vision for the song.  Yes, it is—but endorsed and paid for by the band.  Others will claim it’s an artsy homage to the movie “The Night Porter,” about star-crossed Nazi lovers.  Right—and I guess if it was set in the Tunisian desert instead of a parking garage, that would make it a homage to Star Wars.  Please.  

Like the aphids, The Chauffeur is a blood-sucker, setting back feminism, and by extension civilization.  Skip it.  – CK Shortell

Duranies, is this the band’s most sexist song?

Repost – Step Into My Flame: Reflecting on Arcadia

This post is an oldie, but a goodie from way back in January of 2013. It was the first of many posts that C.K. has contributed to Daily Duranie. Since this week marks another anniversary for Arcadia and So Red the Rose, it seemed like the right time to crack open the archive and find it! Enjoy! – R

I could walk into a room full of Duran fans and incite a riot with any number of comments. I could pick on Andy or Warren, as each has a dedicated following; I could shout out that Red Carpet Massacre is actually one of their best albums (don’t worry—I don’t think that—but confess to loving half of it); I could say they were better off with Sterling Campbell than Roger…(well maybe that’s just bordering on the absurd…)….I could say that if Dom were the guitarist from the get-go, Duran would have more hits and more stability and would be rightfully enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and routinely performing the halftime show at the Super Bowl (okay, now I’m just blatantly kissing up to the management of this blog)…anyway, I think we DD fans are an easy group to get riled up, on any number of topics.   

However, I’m not here to do that today. I don’t think I will, anyway—we shall see. Rather, I’m curious about what the readers of Daily Duranie feel about one of the band’s most famous and successful side projects: Arcadia. My general sense of the fan community’s attitude to the album is that, in context, it was a relief to know that Simon/Nick and (sort of) Roger were “doing something” while Andy and John were off with Robert Palmer and The Power Station.  Thus it was nice, in 1985, to hear Simon’s voice on a song on the radio while “Some Like It Hot” and “Bang a Gong” were being played nonstop, and John and Andy were jamming out in front of toilets and scantily clad women on MTV.     

I also think there is a segment of the fan base that treated So Red the Rose as Duran’s fourth studio album—listened to it over and over again, poured over the artwork and lyrics that accompanied the vinyl and/or cassette release, watched for the videos on MTV like a hawk.  I count myself among this group—I absolutely love the album.  But is loving Arcadia akin to, say, also loving Medazzaland or Pop Trash (count me guilty there too)? For the most part, I think the current Duran fan base dismisses those albums, which his fine—to each his or her own. Or is my affection (obsession?) with So Red the Rose more widespread and shared among the fans?  

I am not a musician so, at least consciously, I can’t claim to know or be attached to Andy’s guitar style or John’s style as a bass player, etc. For me, Duran Duran begins and ends with two elements: Simon’s voice and Nick’s synths. So I guess it’s logical, given that perspective, that I gravitated toward Arcadia.  

I scanned the past blogs and comments on Daily Duranie to see what people said about the project. Amanda’s blog on October 12 of last year addressed the question of why some of the later side projects were not as popular among the fans as Arcadia and Power Station.  Two replies to that blog cited the fact that other projects like The Devils and JT’s solo albums weren’t their style of music, while Arcadia was “amazing” (wrote Joel) and “a great vehicle” (Jetrell69) for Nick/Simon and “Roger’s drum machine.” (LOL-and I don’t use that term loosely!) 

But not everyone loved So Red the Rose. In response to another blog that month (on October 23, the anniversary of the release of Notorious), Heather Todd wrote that, “Arcadia went down a road I wasn’t interested in taking. I wanted more Wild Boys!” I can relate to that point of view. Let’s face it—Arcadia was weird. Even I, as a devotee of the album, can say that.  It had odd artwork, all those numbers, the guys with their black hair, the Grace Jones spoken word portion that is the only thing I don’t like about “Election Day,” and all those six and seven minute songs on the second side…it certainly was a far cry from tight, pop-oriented “Seven and the Ragged Tiger.” It was Nick unleashed, unbridled.   

At the time, and for many years later, I viewed Arcadia as Duran’s second best album.  I know that statement is fraught with controversy on multiple levels…but it simply reflected how I felt. I even grouped the Arcadia cassette with the Duran Duran ones, always slipping it in between Arena and Notorious, in its proper chronological place. Why did I like it so much?  I thought it was extremely catchy. I loved the diversity—if you wanted guitar, you listened to The Flame; if you wanted a pop song, you listened to Election Day; if you wanted to be absolutely depressed and sad, you listened to Missing; if you wanted powerful songs with a message, you listened to Goodbye is Forever and The Promise.  

So Red the Rose had the “meat” and depth to it that Seven and the Ragged Tiger (SATRT) lacked. It was like a bizarro, alternate universe counterpart to Rio—darkly mirroring it in everything from the artwork to the running order. (Yes, Lady Ice is Simon’s first of many pseudo-Chauffeur songs and probably my favorite.) And it did represent a return to that “darkness” that harkened back to the first album. I remember listening to the second side of Duran Duran and creating all of these dark videos in my head, and the second side of So Red the Rose evoked a similar response. (Rio does that too, although I think that’s as much about the videos as it is the songs themselves, e.g. I’m not sure I would associate Save a Prayer with running on the beach if I had never seen the video)  

It was weird, dark, moody and gray…but it was also cool. How great was it to hear Sting and Simon sing on a song that wasn’t “Do they know it’s Christmas?”?  Or David Gilmour’s killer guitar on The Flame?  (ed note: David appeared on “The Promise”. Our apologies for not getting this correct the first time.)   

I listened to So Red the Rose over and over again in 1985 and 1986. The only thing that tore me away was getting Notorious for Christmas in 1986 (I was 14—too young to drive and get it on release day!). But in 1987, I purchased the Playing for Keeps soundtrack because it included “Say the Word,” the lone b-side from Arcadia (remixes notwithstanding). I loved “Say the Word” but was glad it wasn’t on So Red the Rose—in much the same way that I love Secret Oktober but was glad it wasn’t on SATRT—it just functioned better outside the album.   

So, over a quarter century after its release, where do I rank So Red the Rose? I would say it’s in the upper tier of Duran albums. Off the top of my head, I probably like it better than anything after 1990 with the exception of Medazzaland and AYNIN; I’d say it’s on my Mt. Rushmore of Duran albums: Rio, the first album, AYNIN, Notorious, and Medazzaland.  (My Mt. Rushmore has six faces!).  

Jetrell69 had also commented that, “I had hoped we’d see another Arcadia release.” I recall The Devils album being billed as such in 2002, which of course led me to be very disappointed in it. The closest we’ve come to an Arcadia follow-up is likely Medazzaland.  Musically, maybe I’m way off with that comparison, but it seems to be the most similar in style and tone to So Red the Rose.   

You’ll notice that I did not get into an Arcadia vs. Power Station analysis. I avoided this for several reasons. For starters, I never even bought The Power Station album until 1990. I simply had no interest in it before then. Admittedly, I loved it, and that I think the ’96 follow-up, Living in Fear, is excellent and I still listen to that on occasion.   

However, to me, Arcadia is unique among all Duran side projects because of Simon’s voice.  I would no more compare Arcadia to The Power Station then I would Arcadia to any other band—it’s apples and oranges. Maybe that’s a topic for another blog or poll question…but not today.   I’m curious what you think. Am I overrating Arcadia? Is it truly “the most pretentious album of the decade” as Simon called it? Or do you view it as I do, as the dark companion to those early, classic Duran albums, and the bridge from the “original lineup era” to what followed?  Don’t keep us in the dark…comment below!!!    

May The Force Be with…Duran Duran?

Several years back, I found an article online that compared the first three Duran Duran albums to the original Star Wars trilogy. It was a brilliant comparison; unfortunately, I never bookmarked the article and have since been unable to track it down. (Note to readers: ping
me on Twitter (@ckshortell) if you happen to find it.)

I think a similar comparison could be made with some of Duran’s post-reunion albums and the newest Star Wars trilogy. Actually, there’s probably a longer comparison that could compare the entire Star Wars canon with all 14 Duran albums and side projects. But for now, let’s stick to a simple, but apt, comparison.


The Force Awakens/All You Need is Now

The latest Star Wars trilogy launched with 2015’s The Force Awakens. Ten years after the end of the financially successful but critically panned prequel trilogy, The Force Awakens, directed
by J.J. Abrams, was actually as much a “soft reboot” of the Star Wars franchise as it was a sequel trilogy. Hugely successful, the movie introduced new characters into the mythology while employing some heavy nostalgia. A bunch of plucky rebels must destroy a big bad planet killing machine! Or, in this instance, a star system killing machine! There were some changes, however. The hero was now a woman, played by the very charismatic Daisy Ridley; the bad guy, Kylo Ren, was still “in training” and not all powerful; and overall, the cast was much more diverse than the original.


Sound familiar?

Think back to nine years ago and All You Need is Now. That album came on the heels of 2007’s Red Carpet Massacre, itself a massacre of circumstance (after Andy’s departure and the shelving of Reportage) and collaboration (with very un-Duranie collaborators like Timbaland joining the team.) (For the record: I mostly like RCM. But for the purposes of this comparison, I’m going with how most of the fanbase reacted to it. Which was badly. Very badly.)

Where did Duran go? To Mark Ronson, as much the “hot” producer as J.J. Abrams was the “hot” director for the Star Wars franchise. And what did Ronson do? Basically “reboot” Duran by helping them craft an album closer to their original, early 80’s sound than anything they had done since. The video about the creation of “Girl Panic” is a microcosm of this approach. “Play the drums like ‘Girls on Film’, Ronson told Roger. And the guitar, asked Dom? “Like Andy played it…on Girls on Film.” And on and on.

But All You Need is Now was more than just a retread of the early material—it genuinely worked, with catchy hooks and classic Duran choruses that had been lacking from many of the previous albums. One review asked, “Where have all these songs been hiding all these years?” Yes, there were clear nods to Rio. But the album also paid homage to other Duran eras. “Safe” channeled the funk from Notorious. The industrial sounding keyboard synth on the title track,
coupled with Dom’s guitars, brought to mind the more rock-oriented 90’s Duran sound, while the chorus was vintage Duran.

Like The Force Awakens, All You Need is Now did add some diversity to the mix. Simon shared the vocals more on AYNIN than on any previous album, with guest appearances by Kelis and Ana Matronic, as well as broadcaster Nina Hossain providing spoken word codas to two songs.

Overall, All You Need is Now succeeded for the same reasons that The Force Awakens did: it created something new, yet familiar, with a broad appeal to both core and new fans alike.

Paper Gods/The Last Jedi

There was a great deal of anticipation following the huge success of The Force Awakens. Specifically, the next movie was set to feature the return of Luke Skywalker, the hero of the original Star Wars trilogy. Mark Hamill reprised the role and was in the closing seconds of The Force Awakens, teasing fans and making the two-year gap between movies seem interminable. The Last Jedi also featured a different director—Rian Johnson—who took over the reins from
J.J. Abrams.

Unlike The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi proved to be a very divisive movie within the Star Wars fanbase. Luke Skywalker’s portrayal as a bitter, older Jedi who intentionally cut himself off from the Force came as a shock to fans, who wanted to see their childhood hero wield his lightsaber and confidently bring the First Order (the bad guys in the movie) to their knees. It didn’t help matters that Mark Hamill was quoted as questioning the script.

The b-plot of the movie—the flight of the Resistance from the First Order—also ends in disaster for our heroes, which didn’t sit well with fans, who thought that much of that plotline was pointless. And, spoiler alert: most of the Resistance dies. In fact, there are so few remaining rebels that they are all able to fit on the Millennium Falcon at the film’s conclusion.

The movie also seemed to gut the new trilogy of any sense of mystery by resolving (or simply negating) far too many plot points than a middle act typically would. Who, exactly, was Supreme Leader Snoke? Apparently, it didn’t matter as he was cut in two by Kylo Ren. Who were Rey’s parents? They were “nobodies” – a major subversion of the “Luke, I am your father” revelation from The Empire Strikes Back.

Meanwhile, on planet earth, Duran Duran followed up the fan friendly All You Need is Now with Paper Gods, an album seemingly as divisive among the fan base as the loathed Red Carpet Massacre. Again, I will freely acknowledge my bias: While I don’t love every single track on Paper Gods, on balance, I think it’s an amazing album, possibly their best since The Wedding Album. As usual, my opinion is likely in the minority among the Duran fan base.

Like The Last Jedi, Paper Gods subverts expectations. The title track is like nothing we’ve really heard from Duran before—it’s an epic opener, a cross between “New Religion” and “The Valley” in sheer scope. And therein lies the problem for some—why would you ever want to channel “The Valley” in any way, shape, or form? (For the record: I love “The Valley”. So I’m fine with it.)

“Last Night in the City” follows, and once again, we’ve shed the 80’s formula from AYNIN. Synths dominate; guitar is largely absent. The band seemed more concerned with a sound that would find chart success in 2015 vs. 1983.

Paper Gods, ultimately, feels like a bunch of different albums lumped onto one playlist. There’s the modern, dance oriented, sequel to Red Carpet Massacre that can be heard on tracks like, “Last Night In the City,” “Danceophobia,” “Face for Today,” and “Change the Skyline.” Then there are darker, more experimental cuts like the title track and “You Kill Me With Silence.” There’s more funk on this album than anything since Notorious, as found on “Butterfly Girl”, “Pressure Off,” “Only in Dreams,” and even “The Universe Alone.” And then there are songs that refuse to fit in any box: the dreamy “What Are the Chances,” in the classic tradition of Duran ballads; the 70’s sounding “Sunset Garage,” which sounds like nothing heard before on any previous Duran album. Even “Face for Today”—which I lumped in with the “modern dance” set of tracks—features as classic a Duran chorus as you will ever hear, that could hav been ripped from 1983’s Seven and the Ragged Tiger sessions.

Paper Gods, like The Last Jedi, dared to be different; it dared to cover new (and old) ground. And both caused their respective fan bases some consternation, as they seemingly failed to live up to the expectations set by the preceding work.

DD15 / Rise of Skywalker

Which brings us to the present. Expectations are high across both the Duran and Star Wars fandoms. In a little over a month, the new Star Wars trilogy concludes with the highly anticipated Rise of Skywalker. The trailer has offered some tantalizing clues, but overall, the plot continues to be shrouded in mystery.

Likewise, the next Duran Duran album is slated for release…possibly in the spring of next year? We all know not to give too much credence to when the band claims its new album will be out. But everything seems lined up for a new album and tour to (finally!) commemorate the 40th anniversary of the band. We’ve gotten a few details on it—Simon claimed recently that it’s an album that will “make you dance” like “Rio”—but we’ve heard similar claims about previous albums that didn’t necessarily turn out true.

What is true is that both the next Star Wars movie and Duran Duran album are highly anticipated by their fans, and many are hoping for change of direction. Will fans be happy with the finished product? Or after so many hears, is it an impossible task that we’ve set up these artists to accomplish?

Stay tuned…and May the (Duran) Force Be With You

Boy Panic!

Before visiting England last week, I made several mental notes of Duran Duran historical sites to visit (ok, I made an entire Google map of places). I assumed Nick, and perhaps Simon, would be in town and I fancied I’d bump into them if I walked around enough. Turns out, London is a large city and I was limited on time. I only made one significant Duranie stop on my travels and it left me in a bit of a boy panic!

Arriving in London by train, our first stop of the day was Oxford Street where my wife made for the shops and I ducked into the new Hard Rock Hotel. After admiring one of Bowie’s t-shirts and snapping a picture of an incredibly bland Phil Collins suit, I found the crown jewel of the property: John Taylor’s bass guitar as seen in the “(Reach Up for The) Sunrise” video. I took a nearby seat and enjoyed a cocktail before heading to the day’s main destination.

John Taylor’s bass guitar at the Hard Rock Hotel, London

The Savoy Hotel carries itself with the regal splendor of a property that knows how perfect it is from the architecture to the quality of staff. It is truly like walking into a different world as the noise and congestion of London fades behind you. With a few screenshots from the “Girl Panic!” video on my phone, my wife politely indulged my fandom and we explored the hotel in search of the famous colored lifts.

The lobby lifts were ornate, but green, so we headed down a corridor. Splitting up, I took a turn to a golden door for a lone lift. When it opened, the mystery of the red lift was solved. After a few pictures as bewildered staff walked by, we continued our exploration.

Roger gets (in) a lift

There were functions room everywhere so finding the right one seemed a bit hopeless. Summoning up my courage to not sound like an awestruck American, I asked one of the hotel staff about the band’s video. While not familiar with, certainly, the biggest day in the history of The Savoy, she kindly obliged my interest and I showed her a picture from the video. She immediately recognized the room and she whisked us through the correct doors. The room looked much like it did when Duran Duran filmed here. With a hotel this beautiful, you really don’t need to change much.

As we returned to the lobby, I was still curious where the blue lift might reside. Feeling a bit cheeky after my earlier success, I approach a member of the hotel staff in a small office area. She was also unaware of the Duran Duran video but was excited that I asked about the blue lift. We headed off towards a staff area and she let us see where Roger once took the best elevator ride ever! No luck on seeing the suite but maybe next time I’ll book it. Umm, about that, I’m going to need a raise. Amanda? Rhonda?

One Last Post Before I Go

It’s Monday, the first day of our self-imposed sabbatical, and I’m already breaking it. *takes bow*

I just missed you all so much….

Ok, so I missed out blogging on Thursday. I have a few things left to share before I go.

Thank you!

First of all, thank you – all of you – for the kind notes, pictures, thoughts, and good wishes for my birthday. I had a terrific day, which is half of the reason I didn’t post a blog. (Our internet was also down for a good portion of the day, so there’s also that.) It was a very special day, and I can’t thank you enough.

What if your favorite band didn’t exist?

Second, I saw a movie over the weekend that I’d been curious about for a while, Yesterday. Simply put, what would happen in a world where no one remembered The Beatles?

The movie was cute, I suppose. There were also a zillion plot holes that really bothered me on most every level. The screenwriters seemed to take an insightful topic, and watered it down to be just another rom-com. The love story didn’t matter to me. I wanted to know more about the world without some key pieces of pop culture missing from the meta.

I thought a lot about what it means to love music so much that you want it to keep living. I’m 49 now, and many of the heroes I hold dear have left this earth. George Michael, Tom Petty, Ric Ocasek, Prince….I can go on and on, but you get the point. The music, at least for me, isn’t JUST about the people who wrote and performed it, although certainly that is huge. The music itself is what lives on. It is the gift left behind. The one thing we are able to hold on to once our heroes have passed. It’s food for thought, I suppose.

Change my mind!

Lastly, I am reaching out to any and all interested writers! As you know, Amanda and I are taking a break from now through the end of the year. However, we are also going to try a different style of post during our absence. We need YOUR help to make it successful.

This post is going to be called “Change My Mind”. Essentially, Amanda and/or I will come up with a topic, and it will be up to you – should you choose to accept the challenge – to change our mind in 100 words or less! So, for example, maybe the topic is “Hungry Like the Wolf” is an overrated song. Your job would be to make a compelling (and incredibly short) argument! We already have two brilliant writers ready to get their fingers flying, but it would be great to have a few more. If you’re at all interested, email us at dailyduranie@gmail.com. We’ll put you in touch with Jason, who will be the contact for this little game of ingenuity!

That’s more than enough from me for a while. I’m off to tackle real life for a while!

-R

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.)

I Know You’re Up To Something

Hello friends! How is Tuesday going for everyone?

Lately, I’ve been having more and more difficulty with blog topics. The mind is blank, and while at one point I could spin a little creativity in a matter of moments, now it takes hours. Far too long, actually.

Somethings got to happen

When this happens, I realize it’s for a reason. I need a break. I took one last year when my family moved, but it wasn’t a REAL break, obviously. I noticed that Amanda was experiencing some stress too, and mentioned to her that I think it’s time. As we know, the band is fairly quiet, and with the holidays coming – I can’t imagine that will change.

So, we’re taking that break. Beginning next week and going through until the first of the year, our schedule here on the site will be changing. There will still be posts, both from Jason on Wednesdays and occasionally from Amanda and I on Fridays as we continue to do reviews (our next one is Violence of Summer next Friday!). Additionally, the Question of the Day will continue, but be scaled back to Tuesdays and Thursdays. Should anything “big” come up, rest assured we’ll be writing about it, whether it is Amanda, Jason, or myself. I am sure that by January, we’ll be chomping at the bit to return to our normal writing schedule.

Somethings got to get me up

I’m looking forward to having a little more time to work on some other projects I have waiting for me, and it seems like this might just be the calm before the storm of 2020. Who knows?

We’re not going away, though! Unlike other websites and blogs, we don’t write once a month, or even quarterly. For Daily Duranie, it is DAILY content. We’re tired! Everyone needs a breather once in a while. That’s all it is, and since the holidays are creeping up, it feels like the right time. We’ll be back during the first week in January, rejuvenated, recharged, and ready…almost (but not quite) like Electric Barbarella.

See what I mean? It is obviously time for a vacation when I write cringy things like that…. wow.

-R

Love or Liberation

I am a music fan. Despite my love and adoration for Duran Duran and other new wave artists of the 1980’s, I still love me some down and dirty guitar. I loudly proclaimed myself as a Duranie during my middle school years, but by college—which for me started in Fall of 1988 and continued until May of 1993—I was listening to anything from AC/DC to Def Leppard, Van Halen to yes, even Poison. The hair bands, the metal, and even classic rock would be on my stereo one minute, and in the next, my devotion for Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Tears for Fears would show as “Gold” or “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” or even “Rio” would begin. I didn’t see why I couldn’t like it all, and I did. The music coming out of my car stereo (I spent a lot of hours commuting to school and work during college) was eclectic, if nothing else.

Life goes on

It is easy to jump in with both feet when Andy Taylor announces a new album. I don’t feel as though I’m disavowing Duran Duran by supporting Andy, by the way. This is an opportunity to be excited by something new! I’m not worried that his music won’t sound like Duran Duran’s. In fact, I sure as hell hope it doesn’t. We’ve waited a long time for Andy to release new music. Surely he won’t create a carbon copy of a band and life he’s already left behind twice.

I know that for some people, Duran Duran is the end-all. It is the one band they follow, it is the one group they care about. It doesn’t matter what a band member does once they leave the group. Many still cannot make peace with why Andy left. Others couldn’t wait for him to get out the door fast enough, and that Dom more than fills his shoes. Then there’sTeam Warren. They insist the band’s best days are behind them, and no one else will measure up. The guitarist debate is one that will never end. Regardless, they are all moving forward on their own. Andy is doing his own thing, as is Warren and even Dom. New music is always a good thing.

On Planet Rock Radio

Andy’s newest tune from his new album debuts today on Planet Rock Radio. Titled, “Love or Liberation”, Gary Stringer is on vocals with Andy (assumably!) on guitar. Those hoping for Andy’s vocals on the album will not be disappointed. According to his pal and collaborator Gary Stringer, “he sings some on his own and we sing some together”. He also says that the album is “ace”!

I haven’t heard the new sing or album yet. The track title “Love or Liberation” is intriguing, and lends itself to all sorts of reflection. I have no idea what Andy may mean by the title. Thoughts of loving something too much so that you’re tightly bound, come to mind.

Later this month, Andy will perform in front of a sold-out crowd at London’s 100 Club. I wish I were going to be there. Since teleporting hasn’t worked out, we have a couple of brave souls willing to write and report for Daily Duranie. Cannot wait to hear the good news from them. In the meantime, I’ll keep on the lookout for Andy’s latest!

-R

Happy Halloween 2019!

I don’t know if there will be many treats for me this Halloween! So far, it’s been all tricks here at my house today! I’ve been working non-stop on doing some website housekeeping today, unfortunately to no avail. I’m going to be continuing to work on that this afternoon until my little pumpkin gets out of school a bit later. ( I suppose she is neither little, nor would she be amused by that term of endearment at this stage!)

Halloween has never been one of my favorite holidays , but I didn’t mind the trick or treat portion of the day! (I can hear Nick’s shocked gasp right about now…) Not a big fan of scary movies or any of that, and since I’m now a parent, I struggle just to find time to get it all done. It’s the kids holiday, not really mine, I guess. Case in point, I was sewing a costume for the aforementioned “pumpkin” just last night. She decided to go as a character from one of her favorite anime once she discovered that her school allows them to come in costume, which meant I had less than a week to pull something together.

Did I mention that sewing isn’t one of my better talents?

As a quick aside, I saw a T-Rex, Mario, Santa, and some Elves…and Deku (that’d be MY kid) this morning at the school drop-off. The kids refuse to wear their orange and blue school colors for spirit day, but they’ll sure as heck come in costume on Halloween. Sure, ok…I get it.

I think I’m struggling to get into the spirit of it all this year, which now that it is actually *the* day, I suppose it’s a bit late…but I’m going to try by referring to the Master himself, Mr. Nick Rhodes.

I ask you, has there really ever been a more dignified vampire?

Probably not.

Duranduran.com describes Nick’s playlist this year as “esoteric”…which makes me laugh. I’m just going to copy them here for all to enjoy! The best part of this list is that there are videos to match!

Midnight Star – Freak-A-Zoid

CJ & Co – The Devil’s Gun

Cameo – Rigor Mortis

Hot Blood – Soul Dracula

Souls Unlimited – The Raving Vampire 

James Brown – Hell

Billy Preston – Creature Feature

Lee Perry & the Full Experience – Disco Devil 

The Pop Group – She is Beyond Good and Evil

Brian Auger and The Trinity – Black Cat

The Temptations – Witchcraft (For Your Love) 

Dusty Springfield – Spooky

R Dean Taylor – There’s a Ghost in my House

If that’s not enough for you, and you’re looking for a little more Duran this evening…I give you Roger’s playlist, the full list available on Spotify, or you could certainly recreate it elsewhere!

That’s it for me today. I’m back to website maintenance! We’ll chat again next Monday!

-R

Big Trashy Thing

No one cares, but this is their best by miles. – Robert Christgau

As much as I love and appreciate every word Robert Christgau has ever written on music, he has never been a fan of my favorite bands. The Big Three for me as I turned 13 were Duran Duran, Howard Jones, and Thompson Twins. It wasn’t until 1989, well after their commercial peaks, when he gave one of them a B+ using his school-grade methodology. For those wondering, a B+ from Christgau equals “a good record, at least one of whose sides can be played with lasting interest and the other of which includes at least one enjoyable cut.” You’re telling me Rio isn’t at least a B+? Dude. 

Moving on. According to Christgau, the first “good” album from my Big Three artists was Big Trash by Thompson Twins. And it is, at least, a “good” album. In fact, it is arguably their best album but anyone claiming to love it more than Into The Gap has put too many shots of hipster in their chai latte. Then it occurred to me that another one of my favorite bands had released a “Big” album six months earlier. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that Big Trash and Big Thing have a lot on common.

I recognize that I am assuming a certain level of awareness of Thompson Twins beyond the basic MTV stuff but the Daily Duranie audience knows music. However, I don’t blame you if you lost sight of Thompson Twins after Live Aid; most folks did. In a lot of ways, the Twins were on a similar trajectory to Duran Duran after Live Aid. Both lost band members before working on their next album and the resulting albums were more subdued, less colorful affairs. 

Earlier I mentioned the six-month gap between Big Thing (October ’88) and Big Trash (March ’89). Oddly enough, each band’s preceding album had a similar gap with Notorious (November ’86) arriving seven months before Close To the Bone (March ’87) As the decade traded “greed is good” for “feed the world”, both bands had to adapt their image and the albums reflected a more informed, mature take on the styles that made them successful. From Duran’s undeniably sexy funk of “Skin Trade” to the buoyant acoustic guitar of the Twin’s “Get That Love”, both albums showed musical growth and were able to slow the erosion of casual fans suddenly enamored with Jon Bon Jovi’s abs.

Two years later, the band’s went even further with their most experimental albums of the decade. Thompson Twins’ Big Trash turned up the guitars and the rhythm. “Bombers In the Sky” rocks harder than anything they ever did and “Sugar Daddy” showed they still had plenty of sweet hooks left in their Halloween bag. Sound familiar? Big Thing also finds a way to rock without taking you off the dance floor. 

Why weren’t Trash and Thing bigger? As a fan of both bands, these albums were strong artistic statements – hell, Christgau gave a rare B+ to a, as he loved to call them, anglo-disco group! Of the two, I get the most animated about Big Thing. There should have been four hit singles on that album not counting “Palomino” which belongs in the same special corner where us fans love to keep “The Chauffeur”. The band’s amped-up funk (“I Don’t Want Your Love”), post-punk despair (“Do You Believe In Shame?”), electro-pop (“All She Wants Is”), and command of atmosphere (“Too Late Marlene”) are all memorable examples of Duran Duran’s unique alchemy. Had Christgau given it a listen, I dare say that he might have conceded an A- for the effort. 

After their “Big” albums, both bands went through a bit of an identity crisis while trying to find the right sound for a new decade. Thompson Twins dove into the rave culture with 1991’s Queer while Duran opted to throw a bit of everything against the wall in hopes of something would stick. Hey, that’s their liberty. Evaluating those albums is best left to another day; if only to prove Christgau wrong. Someone does care.