Tag Archives: Duran Duran

Post-imperial funk: Notorious

In 2010, Pitchfork contributor Tom Ewing helped define the concept of imperial phases as it applies to popular music. Coined by Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant, also a music critic, it’s the sort of term that obsessive music fans and writers grasp immediately. Ewing laid out certain parameters for what constitutes a band’s imperial phase while also noting that empires eventually crumble: “it holds a mix of world-conquering swagger and inevitable obsolescence.” On October 20, 1986, Duran Duran released the single “Notorious” and rose up from the rubble of an empire in tatters. 

Without discrediting their success in the UK, the entire concept of an imperial phase implies an empire that stretches beyond borders. For Duran Duran, that meant conquering the United States and the world. I would make the case that the band’s imperial phase began in March 1983 when “Hungry Like the Wolf” peaked at #3 in the U.S. and came to a close with “A View To A Kill” becoming the band’s second #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 in July of 1985.

For those twenty-eight months, Duran Duran possessed the three traits required of a band’s imperial phase as laid out by Ewing. The band’s sense of command was impeccable. The original idea of a band that blended Chic and Sex Pistols had become a reality. The New Romantic scene was left behind and the band was creating a singular style all their own where over-driven guitars and textured synths could dance in harmony. Secondly, they had permission – the world was listening and the hysteria was deafening. Finally, the band’s imperial phase set the tone for the rest of their career. Within the sounds of Rio and Seven & the Ragged Tiger are the seeds of everything that would come after. 

It was the unpolished performance at Live Aid in July of 1985 that put all the internal issues of the band in front of the world and they were overshadowed by everyone from Howard Jones to U2 that magical day. The fragmentation into two camps: rock (The Powerstation) and art-pop (Arcadia) were both successful but the band’s imperial phase was grinding to a halt. The loss of Roger and Andy should have been death blows to the Duran Duran empire. Can you imagine The Beatles moving on if Ringo and George Harrison had left? It was time to burn out or fade away. Thanks to a little help from a friend in Nile Rodgers, Duran Duran emphatically chose to do neither.

The release of “Notorious” thirty-three years ago this month ushered in the band’s post-imperial phase. As Tennant once said, “what’s interesting is what you do after” and Duran Duran lived up to that immediately with a funky single that introduced us to a leaner, more mature band. While the single performed admirably, the album stalled outside the Top 10 in both the UK and America even though it remains one of the deepest albums they have ever released. From start to finish, there isn’t a song on there that makes you wonder if maybe they could have found something better for the album. 

The follow-up singles to “Notorious” are two of my favorite Duran Duran singles, especially “Skin Trade”. The fact that it barely nibbled the Top 40 remains one of the biggest mysteries in their career. The video, the bass line, the vocal, everything came together on “Skin Trade” but most people had already made the decision to either move on to new bands and styles as the decade wound down. It’s a shame. Things were starting to get really interesting….

You Can Put Me Straight

It’s a Tuesday sort of catch-up on the blog today. There have been a few newsy items that have gotten my attention lately, so I decided to gather them together and bring them to you in one blog. Let’s hope I don’t leave anything out!

Found at the intersection of Incubus and JT

So, I don’t know about anyone else, but any time a band happens to mention their love for a member of Duran Duran (or the entire band for that matter), it catches my eye!

Incubus released “Into the Summer” last week, a tune that they’ve apparently bounced around for four or five years now, but finally gelled. Most notably for Duran Duran fans, their bassist Ben Kenney calls the song his “ode to John Taylor”. He describes “Into the Summer” as being very 80s retro and fun. That was enough for me to decide to give the single a fair listen.

One doesn’t have to wait long to hear the similarities – the bass line is definitely John Taylor circa Rio, and refreshingly, the whole song has that sort of joy and fun vibe I connect with Sunrise, Rio and many others. There’s a sort of 80’s power vibe feel that intersects with Rio, and somewhat surprisingly to me, it works. And yeah, I’d almost think John was playing. Even more surprising, I like the tune enough to buy it. Who knew I’d ever own an Incubus song??

You can find “Into the Summer” on Spotify, Apple iTunes, or even a snippet can be heard here at Billboard.com.

Simon sails away

Most any Duranie knows of Simon’s fondness for sailing, but did you know that he recently took to the seas along with a group of inner-city teenagers as part of his ambassadorship with Tall Ships Youth Trust? The youth onboard were responsible for all duties onboard, from cleaning to steering and everything in between. The journey was the final leg of a Round UK Challenge, funded through crowdsourcing by the Tall Ships Youth Trust.

The opportunity empowers the youth, giving them the chance to see that they too have control over their lives. The Tall Ships Youth Trust is a wonderful charity, and it is especially fantastic that Simon is able and willing to give his time.

Andy’s solo show SOLD OUT!

Andy Taylor’s first solo headlining gig in 30 years on November 27 at the London 100 Club has sold out! The capacity of the club is incredibly small at 350, which mean any of you holding tickets to the gig is incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to be there! I know many people, including myself, who are envious of your good fortune. Can’t wait to hear all about it!

As an aside, I can’t help but notice the poster design for the show. It appears to be….a wolf??? Check it out below:

If it’s really a wolf, then of course it is. I mean, why not? (Actually, I can think of ten thousand reasons why, but that’s just me) If it isn’t a wolf, then forgive me, my eyesight is obviously failing.

Moving on…

DB3 gig

What’s DB3, you say? It’s Dom’s band featuring Phil Spalding on bass and Ian Thomas on drums. They were starting to play shows a year or so ago, and then canceled a couple of dates, but it seems they’re ready to get back out and start playing live again. They will be appearing at The Rec Room in Horsham (West Sussex) on November 30th. (To be honest, it may as well be happening on the moon for all I know about the UK…but I’m just here to relay the news!) Tix are available on the website for the The Rec Room for £8.33. If you happen to find yourself with a ticket, please consider writing up a little something to share with your friends at The Daily Duranie – we’d love to host your review!

That’s all for now! Jason will be back tomorrow with another fantastic post – enjoy and I’ll catch you Thursday!

-R

Why Don’t They Drop the Bomb

The annual list of nominees for the rock-n-roll hall of fame came out yesterday and I spent the better part of my day haunted by the idea of the Dave Matthews Band being inducted. Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely owned their first two (three if we count Remember Two Things) CDs in college. One of my favorite concert moments ever was seeing Dave, Tim Reynolds, and Jack Johnson singing Jimmy Buffett’s “A Pirate Looks At Forty” as a light rain fell on the lawn at Waikiki Shell in Honolulu, HI. It was magical. Remembering that moment tonight reminded me to stop worrying and love the bomb.

The bomb? Are you high? 

(writer winks at cat)

Simon LeBon famously declared that Duran Duran would be the band to dance to when the bomb drops. And you know what, we will be dancing to “Planet Earth” if that ever happens regardless of whether they are recognized with a picture in a museum in Cleveland, OH. I’ve been to Cleveland. I’m not sure an offer to have coffee with John and hit an art gallery with Nick would lure me back (note: I’m lying, I’d walk there for that). Duran Duran does not need this validation and, in some ways, I hope they never get in. The Hall of Fame is a broken concept because a lot of people have forgotten what rock-n-roll is. 

Iron Maiden. Judas Priest. Motörhead. T. Rex. Kraftwerk. Five of the most influential rock bands of all-time are still awaiting the call. The first induction took place in 1986. In 1986, these bands were either still making important records or influencing everything we heard at the time. The theoretical branches of rock-n-roll stretch in many directions but these five artists are huge parts of the damn tree. 

The Hall of Fame lost the plot years ago and realized their only chance at staying relevant was to deny entry to important bands to sustain interest. Knowing the loyal followings of KISS and Rush, the Hall kept them at bay for years to build hysteria. Are they doing the same with Duran Duran? I doubt it. The institution laughably nominated the Dave Matthews Band in their first year of eligibility. They really are that out of touch with the spirit of rock-n-roll.

Rock-n-roll is a spirit that cannot be seen. It is an attitude, not a guitar. It is the voice of youth, of rebellion, of change. It is not a lifestyle that you can package and hang on a wall no matter how hard Hot Topic tries. The two most disappointing parts of this annual debate are how few women are being recognized by the Hall and how much resistance there is to black music, especially hip hop, by the audience. 

The roots of rock-n-roll are in the Mississippi delta. From the crossroads where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil to the Riverside Hotel where Ike Turner and his band worked up the first rock-n-roll song (“Rocket 88”), the town of Clarksdale remains ground zero. Listen to the lyrics of Son House and Muddy Waters. They embody the spirit of rock-n-roll with songs about overcoming the institutions that hold you back from your dreams. You can hear the same spirit in the best hip hop artists who used the instruments they had available to them: two turntables and a microphone. 

As for the lack of female artists being recognized, the Hall continues to prove that the patriarchy will never concede their power. If the Dave Matthews Band is eligible, that means that Ani DiFranco, Cyndi Lauper, Liz Phair, Alanis Morrissette, Tori Amos, Tina Turner, Sheryl Crow, Bjork, Mary J. Blige, and Annie Lennox are also eligible. These voices are more important to rock-n-roll than a band that sang “Hike up your skirt a little more and show the world to me.”

Why aren’t I talking about Duran Duran more? That’s my point. I’m more disappointed by artists such as LL Cool J and Alanis Morrissette not being recognized. I could write 5,000 words on how Duran Duran was a subversive reaction to England under Thatcher and was more politically successful than the Sex Pistols (actually, I want to do that, soon). Or, how John Taylor’s bass lines are revered by other musicians and Nick Rhodes is a mainstream Brian Eno. But, it wouldn’t change the minds of those currently running the overpriced museum in Cleveland.  

Instead of knocking on the door of an institution that lost sight of why rock-n-roll is important to each new generation, we should be celebrating Duran Duran’s annual snub as a call-to-arms. With each new album and sold-out tour, Duran Duran are laughing at the Hall of Fame. It has reached a point that the Hall cannot admit they were wrong. Had the band stopped after The Wedding Album, the Hall would probably have inducted them when the band was hanging with Justin Timberlake; if only to seem relevant to the Timberlake demographic. But they didn’t and we should not think about being nominated ever again. Someday, the bomb really will drop and we still have Duran Duran booked as the house band. I’ll take that over a statue in Cleveland.

2020 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Nominees

Alright. It is Tuesday, and I am fired up today, my friends. I have had two travel-mug sized cups of coffee, I’ve listened to the list of nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and I am ready to comment. Get yourself a beverage and strap yourselves in, because it’s about to get rocky.

First of all, allow me to rip off the bandaid now. No, Duran Duran wasn’t nominated this year. Let’s all just take a collective, cleansing, breath. I need one, don’t you? While you’re deep breathing, here’s the list:

Pat Benatar

The Doobie Brothers

Motörhead

The Notorious B.I.G.

Soundgarden

T. Rex

Thin Lizzy

Whitney Houston

Depeche Mode

Judas Priest

Kraftwerk

MC5

Nine Inch Nails

Rufus feat. Chaka Khan

Todd Rundgren

Ready?

The fact is, not everyone can get nominated, and not everybody can get in. There are many noteworthy acts on this list, and about half are first time nominees. One of them – the Dave Matthews Band – is not only a first time nominee, but also a first time eligible.

On a purely personal note, I am thrilled that Depeche Mode was nominated, love seeing Kraftwerk on the ballot again, and I’m hoping that Pat Benatar gets in. I’ve already voted, and if you haven’t, DO IT. Just go to Google and type in Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

It is very hard to look at this list and not notice the glaring omission. Yes, we ARE that biased. Of course we are. We all know Duran Duran should be on that list. I listened to Feedback this morning in hopes of getting a better understanding of why they’re not. It comes down to two glaring problems in neon lights for Duran Duran.

First of all, there is a nominating committee that gets together on a single day (in person, no call-ins!). This committee is made up of critics and musicians, and they each bring the name of a possible nominee that they feel is worth making the case to include on the ballot. This is also where it gets political. People posture for their chosen favorite, they consider genres, whether the bands/people they choose are enough to get fans interested, and that sort of thing. I’m not going to mince words here though – as long as there are critics deciding who is going to be included on the ballot, the bands who are truly the most “worthy” by the people who listen to them will never really be considered.

I think even our band knows this. Likely, this doesn’t make them nearly as angry and fired up as I am today. They’ve had 40 years to practice tempering themselves. I’ve had…well, nine. (I am a slow learner) While my UK friends will patiently remind me that this is only an “American” thing and that it probably doesn’t matter to Duran Duran – the fact is, the American music scene is the biggest in the world. This is the country that, historically speaking, bands have worked incredibly hard to break. Even The Cure says they’re excited to vote this year, according to Lori. However, none of that matters to me as much as what I’m about to say.

I am sick to death of the inherent sexist BS that pervades music, whether you’re an artist, or you’re a fan like me. Even as the nominees were discussed on Feedback today with Joel Peresman (CEO and president of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation), and Alan Light (rock journalist, critic and host of Debatable on SiriusXM radio), the subject of Duran Duran came up. While they refused to comment one way or another if the band had even been mentioned during the behind-closed-door discussion of nominees, Alan Light commented that the band “really isn’t thought of” in the same way as the other bands on the lists. He inferred that the audience was somehow different, and they weren’t really seen as “rock”. Quite frankly – the overall discussion felt very dismissive at times, despite Lori Majewski’s valiant efforts to be heard.

I could…and did…write a lengthy essay on the obvious sexism, before I deleted it all and started over here. FM radio, pop from the 1960’s forward, even the Sgt. Pepper’s album by The Beatles….it all takes part. Suffice to say, we have work to do. Even Duran Duran sees it, that’s why they are so eager to share that they appeal to guys now, as if they never did before! I am one of those little girls who fell in love with Duran Duran. Chances are, if you’re female and reading – you are too. Collectively, we little girls are the band’s biggest supporters, and comprise the sharpest double-edged sword possible.

So that’s where we are, folks. Sure, the Rock Hall had some turn over this year. I won’t say I’m sorry that Jann Wenner has left his post, although he’s still on the Board, I believe. It just isn’t enough. I heard Lori continuing to ask if anything had changed on the Board this year or if the nominating group had changed – unfortunately the answer was no, not much. (one female added. Really? One??)

We have a long way to go before the discussion of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is about the music. Somebody should write a book.

-R

Happy 22, Medazzaland!

Medazzaland is 22, today. For some reason, that number doesn’t bother me nearly as much as hearing, for instance, that Astronaut is 15…or that I’m about to turn 49 in a few weeks. Let’s just not talk about any of that, though.

They’ll say we’ll get over it

As I waxed nostalgic earlier to a friend, I can remember when Duran Duran appeared on the Rosie O’Donnell show in 1997. They were promoting Medazzaland, and I was folding laundry while my oldest was bouncing away in her little chair. I can remember hoping she’d stay quiet long enough for me to listen to the interview and see them perform!

I hadn’t bought Medazzaland yet. In fact, I don’t think I even knew they had an album coming out until I watched the show that day, which, when I think back on it – is pretty alarming. It also explains my headspace at the time. I was definitely in the full throes of postpartum depression. Motherhood was proving to be a far bigger challenge than just diapers, laundry and bottles.

Why do we still face the music?

Seeing Simon, Nick and Warren that day made me smile for what might have been the first time in months, but I also felt pretty wistful. Admittedly, they didn’t feel like the Duran Duran I’d known. It was kind of like running into people at your high school reunion. Everyone wears these name tags with their maiden names on them, along with senior pictures to remind everyone of what they once looked like – but you don’t really recognize them. You don’t KNOW them anymore. That’s kind of how I felt with Duran Duran back then. I mean, by the time Medazzaland was released in 1997, Rio had already been out for fifteen years. So yes, I guess I did struggle with that a little bit.

I’d never heard “Electric Barbarella” until that day on the show, and I can remember thinking that the tune was catchy, so I decided that I’d go get the CD when I had a chance. As different as they were, there were still hints of sounds I recognized. (No, it wasn’t all about Simon)

Not long after the Rosie appearance, I bought the CD. I can remember running into the music store and buying it while my husband and Heather happily waited in the car. It was a shock to hear Medazzaland for the first time, as my husband scanned through the songs – only hearing the first 30 seconds or so of each before moving on. I just didn’t know this band anymore, and I think that was a real shock to my system. I’m not writing this as a topic of argument, I’m just explaining how it felt to me at the time, in 1997. Things change.

Now and then you’ll get the strangest notion

There are a good many people out there who claim to love Medazzaland now, 22 years after it’s initial release, but I can remember talking to many of those same people online in the year 2002-2003 or so. There were not nearly as many well-wishers then. Music has a tendency to grow on your ears and your heart, I suppose. I’m still not sure that I love the album as much as I love others, but I recognize its importance in the overall catalog.

Medazzaland kind of allowed Nick, Simon and even Warren to spread their wings and experiment with their sound as a trio for the first time. John was gone. Andy and Roger had been gone for quite a while by then. This trio was the new Duran Duran (or Duranduran if you prefer), and they were making a-go of it. In a lot of ways, this was a brand-new band. I would imagine that it was on this album that Warren really grew more comfortable because he’d already had the success of Ordinary World and Come Undone, and John wasn’t around to side with Simon. So he and Nick grew closer, worked together far more extensively, and the music evolved as result.

Wild ambition can you really blame us

This is why they took the cover of Rio and “redesigned” it. It wasn’t just happenstance they chose that image to graffiti for the cover. They were making a statement that this was a new era. This was not the band who created Rio, this was new. They wanted to be known for who they were at that moment, not for the Fab Five, Rio, or Sing Blue Silver. There is no clearer proof than on the album closer, “Undergoing Treatment”. Read the lyrics. In fact, read them all. The story is right there, laid out in the words, and playing in the music. The problem, of course, is that you can try to outrun it….but you can’t hide from your past. It tends to follow.

Like it, love it, or something else entirely, Medazzaland was a tidal change for Duran Duran. Creatively, they pushed the envelope and broke out of boxes that critics and, yes, even fans, had insisted they stay in. Funny thing about time, too. It softens the hard edges, makes the black and white seem a bit less so. I listen to the album today, and much of it feels and sounds very much like the band I know. Call it wisdom, call it old age, even. Pop Trash, Astronaut, Red Carpet Massacre, All You Need is Now and Paper Gods all came later, and on each album there are the remnants and evolutions of sounds from Medazzaland. That’s success in my book.

Can you give a little more?

The defiance the band found in Medazzaland is still present in their music today. It gives their sound this fiery edge that I’ll hear every once in a while, which I appreciate. The difference, at least one that I hear, is along with that defiance, there is also pride. Shouldn’t they be, though? After all, they’ve been in this business for forty years. They’ve undergone enough personnel changes to have created four or even five different bands. They’ve come full circle, and then some.

Happy anniversary, Medazzaland!

-R

Is That Good Enough For You?

Turns on the animal

Sometimes I wake up, go through my morning and cannot figure out what to write about for this blog. I’ve written about this very thing before, but the ending is different this time so stick with me!

So today, like pretty much every day, I went through the motions of taking a shower, getting ready, then coming out and feeding the pets. First the cats, then I walk outside (it was 39 degrees F this morning, which was wonderfully brisk!) and take care of the chickens. Then I come back in, get coffee going, make sure the youngest is up, downstairs and eating breakfast. We leave the house at 7:40 and that’s when I turn on Feedback.

Sees the possibility

I know I’ve talked a lot about Feedback lately. Truthfully it’s because I finally have a vehicle that has satellite radio. I’ve listened on and off to Lori’s show(s) since she first announced being on Feedback, but nowadays – I can listen regularly. So, I try to listen every day. I might not get an entire show in, but I hear at least half. Sometimes I laugh, other times I’m yelling at Nik (oh yes), and still other times, I’m inspired. Today was that day.

This morning, they had Sarfraz Manzoor on, who is the author of Greetings from ‘Bury Park. His story was the inspiration for the recent movie Blinded by the Light. Ultimately, the movie is about being a fan of Bruce Springsteen.

He’s got the answer

One of the topics they discussed was how it felt to have Springsteen give backing to the movie. They talked about how Bruce showed up to the premier and then the afterparty…and Sarfraz said something so poignant, I’ll never forget it.

“Imagine you create something that’s really personal to you, and then he… the person it is partly about, graces your premiere and says ‘I give my approval to it.’ You know what I mean? It’s not the same as me going to a concert or seeing him on Broadway. It’s him coming to our party. And then he played!”

He goes on to explain that even crazier, after the “whole photography thing”, Sarfraz expected Bruce would go home. So he asks him, and Bruce answers, “I’m going to watch the movie with you.” And so Springsteen sat two rows in front of Manzoor and throughout the movie there is a silhouette of him, meanwhile the movie is going on and it’s about his (Manzoor’s) dad and all of these things…and he can see Bruce watching the film.

Stuff directly out of my wildest, craziest dreams…right there.

Doesn’t go away

Now, Lori and Manzoor (Nik too, although he was quiet and Lori took the lead here) go on to talk about the discomfort with how some characters in the movie love the Pet Shop Boys and think Bruce is over, and yet Springsteen was having to sit there and watch that in the film….but to me, that’s not really that important. (sorry Bruce, no offense)

No, I’m stuck back thinking about how it might have really felt to have that approval.

Here’s the thing – I’ve already admitted here that I seek approval, so this is totally in my wheelhouse, but can you imagine?

Several years ago now, I can remember chatting with someone online. At the time, Amanda and I were really hoping to have some sort of tangible acknowledgement from the band. Something beyond a follow on Twitter or a link on their site. Bear with me here, because this is tough to admit and write, but it’s true. At the time, I desperately wanted that approval. I wanted that validation, or so I thought. No matter what I said, how I responded, I don’t think I made my point clearly. This person’s response, and rightfully so, was that I needed to be OK with what I was writing completely on my own. I didn’t need the band to approve it. In hindsight, that person was right.

Don’t want illusion

It has taken me a long, long, time to come to terms with that. Did I think it would change my life or be an experience so profound that it might spark something in me? I don’t know for sure. I think it was definitely about validation though, at least for me. Approval and validation weren’t coming from any other places at the time for me, least of all from myself. So, I’d hoped to find that here. Perhaps that is saying far too much about myself, but I know that I’m a work in progress. If sharing some of my biggest flaws help someone else – so be it.

Since I’m in that introspective space, I’ll go one farther and say that part of my initial motivation for trying to write a manuscript and get a book deal was the band. It was as though I needed to get through all of that surface crap to really dive deep and find my own motivation. In a lot of ways, I wonder if that very thing isn’t part of what kept us from getting our projects published. I don’t suppose I’ll ever be sure, but I do know that I’ve changed along the way. The project Amanda and I are working on now is very different. Still about fandom, still about music, but Duran Duran isn’t my motivation. They, or at least the experience I’ve had as a fan over the years, is my inspiration, but it isn’t what is motivating me to write. No, that’s coming 100% from me.

Power glory ride

So when I say that I can’t really imagine what it must have been like for Sarfraz to have his hero show up and support his work, I mean it. I can’t. The emotion in his voice as he told the story was palatable. I mean, what fan wouldn’t want an ending like that? Is that enough to drive me, though? I don’t think it was enough for Sarfraz Manzoor, either. The approval from Bruce was just an amazing side benefit that was so big, he likely could not have dreamt it.

No, it’s not. While having the band’s approval and support would be otherworldly and of course, very welcome – that’s not why I keep writing. For me, this is personal.

Recently, I explained it to my husband. Some people do decathlons. It is a goal, and they train every single day to get there. Some people never even cross the finish line, but they are determined to keep trying and don’t give up. Other people start bands, or write screenplays. What about athletes who train for the Olympics? Many people never even get there, but they keep trying for as long as they can. For me, writing a non-fiction book that gets a publishing deal is my thing. That is my dream and I don’t want to give up. Writing this blog every day is part of that dream, too. It is almost like my brainstorm board, or my chalkboard. It keeps me thinking, dreaming, and working.

Now, I’ll share with you that no, my husband still doesn’t get it. He won’t ever get it because he is pragmatic, and doesn’t operate based on emotion. He’s very black and white. Writing makes zero dollars unless you are published and the book does well. Not just one tough thing, but two impossibly high hurdles in my way, I guess. As he pointed out to me, writing is actually costing money right now since we pay for hosting, research materials (research books are not cheap!), and all that good stuff. It’s menial, but it adds up. You can’t be a writer as a career if you never get anything published, or so he says. I could have continued arguing with him about that, but I decided to just let it go.

Won’t give up

This was my own light bulb moment, mainly because I answered my own “Why do you keep writing?” question. It’s not about the money (ha ha ha), or the fame (still laughing). It’s about reaching the finish line and doing it on my own steam. I just want to see it happen. For myself.

In a lot of ways, to circle this back towards Duran Duran, if I may – I think this is why Amanda and I have never tried all that hard to meet the band. I mean, yeah – both of us have gone to album signings and that was lovely and all – but I mean really meet them. Let’s face it, we’ve been doing this – the blog – for long enough now that if we really wanted to shove the issue, we could find a way. Many others of you have, and it is because it was worth it to you to do so. I get it.

I think about how even at the last show at Agua Caliente, I ran into people who went outside to see them pack up and leave. Where was I at the time? Oh, I was at the bar. Dancing to Duran Duran. What’s worse, I didn’t even feel a twinge of anything about not being there. I was doing what I wanted.

For me, the reasons for operating the website, posting the blogs and writing about fandom have far more to do with my innermost thoughts than they do about seeking approval from Duran Duran. That’s “the place” in my heart that motivates me and keeps me going day to day. The band, and this fandom, serves as my inspiration.

-R

Paper Gods 2.0

As the curtain (finally) comes down on the Paper Gods era, we turn our attention to what lies ahead. While I saw more Duran Duran shows then ever before during the Paper Gods tour, it was more a matter of geography than passion for the new material. Their booking agent seems to have a thing for Las Vegas! While I’m not terribly sad about Paper Gods being shelved for a bit on the set lists, I did eventually realize that the album is stronger than I give it credit for.  

Duran Duran, while incredibly successful in terms of hit singles, are an album band by nature. The balance of pop and art that infuses their best albums creates a journey for the listener that demands proper sequencing. The first three albums were masterclasses in how to sequence an album with a lot of hooks early and then slowly working in the moody, darker aspects of the band’s character. By the time you reached “The Chauffeur” or “The Seventh Stranger”, you had been changed by the songs that brought you there. Paper Gods never found that flow.

Maybe it is the changing ways in which people consume music. Listening to an album might be a lost art as far as a major label is concerned. Warner Brothers might have had Spotify and i-Tunes in mind when assembling Paper Gods. Or maybe it was the band? Regardless, the way Paper Gods unfolds when heard as an album has never felt right to me. Through the magic of computers, I have tried to remedy that, at least digitally. Not much can be done with the slab of wax on my turntable.

Here is one fan’s re-imagining of the album. Let’s call it Paper Gods 2.0.

1. Planet Roaring

2. Change the Skyline

3. Pressure Off

4. Valentine Stones

5. Sunset Garage

6. What Are the Chances?

7. Northern Lights

8. Danceophobia

9. Cinderella RIde

10. You Kill Me With Silence

11. On Evil Beach

12. Paper Gods

I originally loved “Paper Gods” as an opener, and enjoyed it live, but the album never builds upon the themes put forth by it. As a statement of purpose, I’m all onboard especially if it’s a commentary on today’s vapid pop music. But then the album veered into that world with the screeching “Last Night In the City” which I’ve omitted from my 2.0 version. There are some brilliant remixes of it but the album version haunts me. 

So, let’s open Paper Gods with “Planet Roaring”, one of the better Duran Duran anthems of the century. Seriously, how did this get relegated to a bonus track? Lyrically, it works as a welcome to the fans who have been with them since “Planet Earth”. The first five songs demand we move our feet especially the Motown-meets-Spice Girls sweetness of “Sunset Garage”. As a vinyl listener, I imagine “What Are The Chances?” ending side one, much like “My Antartica” does on Liberty

I sense that “Danceophobia” has a lot of detractors but it is senseless fun. “Face For Today” could slide in the spot and the momentum would not be lost. After “Cinderella Ride”, the album gets a little more artsy but the more dedicated fans live for these tracks. As a closer, “Paper Gods” can be seen as a sly commentary on the mainstream critics who love to label the band as “paper thin” and all about the “head shots”. Four decades into their career, the band have proven to be more than just paper gods and, with a little tinkering around on the sequencing, Paper Gods ultimately proves another successful chapter in their evolution. 

The Sun Always Shines On TV

Living a boy’s adventure tale

Any Mark Ronson fans out there? Well, YouTube hears your pleas, and they have answered with news of a Mark Ronson documentary, to be aired (for free!) on YouTube on October 12. Mark (ha!) your calendars and set aside a couple of hours for viewing! Extra special for DD fans, Simon Le Bon was interviewed for the documentary along with a plethora of other celebrities and music artists, such as Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, and Miley Cyrus. Other friends and family are also featured including Boy George, Charlotte Ronson, Josh Home, Lykke Li, and even Sean Lennon, among many others.

Perhaps worthy of note to some, I see that this film was made as a Livewire/Eagle Rock Films production, which is the same production company that did A Diamond in the Mind. Here’s the trailer below!

Now, I wouldn’t be me…or Daily Duranie for that matter…if I didn’t note that despite my watching the trailer twice, I didn’t see or hear Simon. (forgive me if I’m wrong!) He might have been in there and I missed it, but I don’t think so. There were a lot of different voices in the audio overlay, but you’d think I’d be able to pick Simon out, right?? I also didn’t see footage of Mark with the band, which on one hand didn’t surprise me, but on the other – I couldn’t help but be the tiniest bit sad. Yeah, I’m picky and want it all. Am I not a Duran Duran fan?? <insert wink here!>

There was, however, one quick flash of Mark with the platinum blonde hair he sported during the production of All You Need is Now, so I’m obviously hoping for a bit more during the film. I guess we’ll see, because I’ve got it on my calendar for viewing this weekend! Regardless, I think it will be very insightful, inspiring, and worthy of a watch or two!

I Dream Myself Alive

I have one piece of non-Duran news to share. A-ha is coming to the US for just two shows in 2020, on September 25 and 26! Both shows happen to be at the Wiltern theatre in Los Angeles, and they will be playing their album, Hunting High And Low in its entirety. The shows go on sale Friday at 10am.

This is worthy news because I know that there must be many DD fans who, like me, fell in love with A-ha at the very first moment they heard “Take on Me”, or saw the iconic video (which remains one of my most favorite). As I understand it, next year will be their 40th anniversary as well, and they’re celebrating by playing their breakthrough album live and even coming to the states to do it! It is one of my very favorite albums of the 80s, and I’ve never seen A-ha live.

It’s funny because today on Feedback, the music talk show that fellow Duran Duran fan Lori Majewski co-hosts alongside Nik Carter on SiriusXM channel 106, the subject of albums you’d most want to hear played live came up. Hunting High and Low is on that list for me, along with several others, of course!

Train of Thought

As a quick aside – Feedback is a great show. If you haven’t heard it, I strongly recommend it! I can appreciate the different points of view, and Lori does a great job of keeping Nik’s ego in check (as she well should!). It is tough being a female in that world, which is a subject that is near and dear to what Amanda and I have been researching and working on for the past few months. It is alarming to hear that even in 2019, women seem to be far and few in between when it comes to discussions on music. I would swear that the only people that listen or call in seem to be male. Yes, I actually do think that’s a bad thing, for a multitude of reasons (another blog, another day). I listen every day, but I’m on the west coast. Calling in doesn’t work for me, as I hear the show about three hours after the fact. That said, I’m an avid tweeter, even though I’m tweeting after they’ve already gone off the air and I’m listening to a replay! Hoping some of my Duranie friends remember to let them know they’re listening.

Back to A-ha…

Love is Reason

The news of their 2020 tour is also worthy of mention because of the timing. What I mean is that these shows go on sale this Friday – October 11th. They’ll likely sell out completely given that they’re the only US dates and the Wiltern isn’t a huge venue. Yet, the shows are nearly an entire year away. I can remember when we used to buy shows that were just weeks away, and then it grew to be where we’d have to pony up for tickets three months out. Even then, I never minded. Lately, I’ve seen pre-sales announced closer to six months out from show dates, and now? This is nearly 12 months away. An entire year.

Maybe I’m alone in this, but I think it is bonkers to plan that far in advance. Essentially we’re giving our money to someone else who can essentially earn interest for nearly twelve months before we even see the concert. While there may not be much I can do to stop this ball from continuing to roll downhill, I can say that it makes me think twice before buying tickets. In the case of my very frugal and pragmatic husband, it stops him dead in his tracks, including this time. There’s no good sense of giving someone your money to sit on for that length of time, and in his head – if that’s what it takes to go to shows, then he guesses it’s time to stop giving money to big acts like this and just go to see local bands who haven’t quite made it yet.

Here I stand

Will I die if I don’t see A-ha before they end their career (could have sworn they announced their retirement once….)? No, probably not. I’d love to see them, but I’ve made peace with knowing that much of what I want isn’t what I necessarily need. A-ha is in the “wish” column, rather than the “must” column, right next to Duran Duran. All of that said, these bands, promoters and/or venues could make it a little easier if they didn’t demand our money so far out in advance. Twelve months seems ridiculous, don’t you think? Maybe I’m just old.

Hey, you kids, get off my lawn!

-R

Let it Shine

It’s all up to you

A friend of mine (heh heh) sent me a text last night saying that he was finally seeing A Diamond in the Mind for the first time last night.

After picking myself up off the floor from shock (His first time?!? What??), I sat and thought about that. I own that DVD, and I’ve seen it quite a few times – including once at a movie theater with a bunch of Duranies! (which was truly some of the most fun I’ve had outside of going to a live gig!)

The All You Need is Now tour is special for me. Although I traveled to see the band when they played the last few shows on the Red Carpet Massacre tour, I don’t think I quite “bonded” with the band over that album. To be fair, that whole time seems very vague and blurry in memory. I’d had a baby in 2008, and it was December when I flew into Philadelphia with Amanda to go and see the band at Foxwoods, Atlantic City and finally Montclair, New Jersey. I can remember bits and pieces from the shows, but not much else other than Amanda and I trying to outline what the heck we wanted to write about. We hadn’t even started this blog yet!

Find yourself

By the time the All You Need is Now tour started, Daily Duranie was in full swing, which for me – likely has a lot to do with how I feel about that tour. Not only did I live through the experiences, but then reflecting on them, and writing about it all has somehow cemented the memories into my brain. Amanda and I went to the UK for four shows in November/December of 2011, and then we also flew to see the band in Biloxi, Atlanta, Durham, and Portsmouth during the following summer. The driving was rough, but I don’t regret a single moment. My memories of seeing the band, touring the UK, then going to the Southeastern part of the US for my first time, are vivid.

I love Diamond in the Mind for a lot of reasons. The first is that the guitar player that *I* recognize and know best is prominent. Yes, I unapologetically adore Dom. Tell me all about Warren’s brilliance or Andy’s hard edge – I have seen Dom perform with Duran Duran at least 40 times now. I saw Andy four times, and Warren just three. To me, Dom *is* their guitar player, all semantics aside. He belongs on their stage, and in their videos, films, etc.

Lose control

While I will never say that Paper Gods wasn’t a great tour – it was polished, precise, and lived up to the same standard every single night – I will still argue that there is something special about All You Need is Now (Diamond in the Mind was filmed at the Manchester gig on this tour). As I said to my friend last night, I guess I must prefer the seemingly lack of choreography and polish. Paper Gods was a production, which was great. It had all the dancing, singing, theatrics and great performances you might expect. Aside from a few very minor differences that occurred over the course of the entire tour – nothing really changed from night to night. I knew right where John would walk, or when Erin would come downstage to dance. It was indeed a true production, very similar to what you’d see if you saw Chic (which, by no accident – was the band that co-headlined with Dura Duran for much of that time).

All You Need is Now, on the other hand was a live gig. Little things changed, the set list would get refreshed, and it just felt less rehearsed, more like a true live gig. Some people don’t like that. I just did. When things would happen that were new – I’d silently thank my lucky stars for being there that night to see it because it may not ever happen again. I felt like some of that was caught on video for Diamond in the Mind.

Then again, maybe it really is just me. I was in a good place for the All You Need is Now tour. I loved Duran Duran so much – the blog was new, the experiences were all new for me – I appreciated every second so much. Paper Gods was like that too, but differently. I worried more about stupid things. I think that for part of the tour, I didn’t appreciate the things I should have at the time. All of those things may have fogged my vision and memory a bit. I’m not sure.

Stay with the music

What I do know is that we’re a matter of months from the next album (after a very long winter, of course), and as always – we never know how it’s going to go. I find that during this particular part of my life – things sure change a lot from day to day. As I’ve been able to see the band more recently, I’ve made a promise to myself to enjoy my time, both in seeing the band, and with my friends. I take the time to put myself out there, to be genuine with people – and to say how I feel about them. It is sometimes difficult not to get caught up in the drama of the moment, but I think I’m starting to realize that our time is short. The little things really are very little, in retrospect.

I’m thankful to have DVD’s like Diamond in the Mind to watch every now and then. The memories are good, particularly during times when life is a little rougher than normal. While I wasn’t in the audience for the show that was filmed, I remember exactly how I felt the night I saw them in Brighton, surviving on pure adrenaline after spending the entire day/night prior on a planes from Los Angeles and then Chicago. I kept pinching myself throughout the show, not quite believing I was really there in the audience seeing Duran Duran in the UK. I still haven’t forgotten they played “Secret Oktober” that night, and how Amanda and I were nearly blown off the sidewalk by the crazy gale winds as we attempted to walk back to our hotel from the venue. I can remember laughing so hard we could barely flag down a cab – the poor guy probably thought we’d had a few too many, when in fact we were just overly exhausted. And lost.

Good times.

-R

Your mission: Find Duran Duran

More puzzling than why Jane Fonda installed floor-to-ceiling shag carpet in her spacecraft, is why it has taken me all these years to watch Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy (1968). As the second-highest-grossing film in the UK that year, it isn’t surprising that a few young men from Birmingham would come across it and choose to name their band after a character. From the science fiction storyline to, well, Jane Fonda, it is the sort of film that captures the imagination of young men. Much like Duran Duran’s own videos, the film is a product of its time but remains a, sometimes, revolutionary text. 

Equal parts Flash Gordon and Austin Powers, Barbarella finds herself trying to save the universe from the evil Durand Durand. There is a blind angel, the blonde adonis John Phillip Law, some evil dolls that try to eat Barbarella, an attack of parakeets, a bi-sexual princess and a lot of other ridiculousness along the way. As far as storylines go, it unfolds like the comic strip it originated from. The scenes look individually brilliant with a retro-futurist style the screams 1968 but it is far from gripping as a story.

While most will want to dismiss the film as soft-core sexist fluff, Barbarella has proven to be an iconic and influential character, most recently being reprised by Ariana Grande in her “Break Free” video and celebrated by Clutch with “In Walks Barbarella” . The kitsch and camp of the film overshadow how in-control of her sexuality Barbarella is throughout the film; ultimately undermining patriarchal attitudes and reflecting the sexual revolution of the late 1960s. Nobody exerts any power over Barbarella’s choices and she possesses the same sexual freedom of James Bond, moving from bed to bed without a second-thought. 

Nobody, not even Durand Durand with his excessive-pleasure machine, can tame Barbarella and her innocence ultimately is what saves her from the Matmos, some sort of evil energy substance. That innocence is not tied to chasteness, but to peace and love and the search for a utopia that we know we will never find. Barbarella’s charm lies in how it celebrates and ridicules such thinking simultaneously. It’s all a bit daft and the film embraces that fully. Fonda may have been cast by her husband for other reasons but she magnificently threads the needle as an actor throughout.

Which brings us to Duran Duran. From “Girls On Film” to “Electric Barbarella”, many of the same criticisms of Barbarella apply to their work but they can be dismissed for the same reasons. If patriarchy is rooted in power, it is hard to see how the band has exerted that power over women in their music and short-films. In the subversive “Girls On Film”, the video unfolds with vignettes that establish power ultimately resides with the women and the band are kept at a distance, unable to participate. When they are allowed into the fray with “Rio”, they all make fools of themselves chasing their idea of female beauty. 

The most troubling video is likely “Electric Barbarella” with the boys purchasing a sexbot for their flat. Why Nick, Simon, and Warren are sharing a flat is never addressed but I know record sales were declining at the time. Director Ellen von Unwerth brings her iconic photography to life in the video and, admittedly, her visuals threaten to overshadow the underlying message of the song. As much as the men wish to control their electric Barbarella, they are destined to fail in every regard. Myka Dunkel shrewdly exaggerates the ridiculousness of it all with her acting; something I missed the first few times I saw it upon release. Much like Barbarella, the video is a parody that mocks social conventions of the time without becoming too cynical. And it looks amazing doing so. 

Did Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy give Duran Duran more than a cool name for their band? Definitely. When you watch the film, notice how many times Fonda says “planet earth” for example and how many Duran Duran songs can fit into a science-fiction context. With the band’s recent NASA show, this is the perfect time to watch Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy and ponder the ultimate question: is there anybody out there?