We have some good news and some not so good news. First, we are back with another review! Unlike last time, there were not years in between. This is the good news. The not-so-good news is that we’re super late in getting it posted. This was to be Friday’s post, but due to a series of mishaps and illness, you’re seeing it today. Cheers!
The previous review focused on Lake Shore Driving, so you would think that we would move on to the Liberty album. However, we cannot forget about the b-sides of the Big Thing album. Interestingly enough, many of the extra songs during that era were what we might call remixes of sorts, such as Burning the Ground. You know, tracks that used previous Duran songs, mixed and mashed together in some new way. While we will tackle those in our own way eventually, we will be skipping them for now. For today, we’ll focus on “I Believe/All I Need to Know”.
Before we dive into what we think about the song, let’s give a little background to it. It was the b-side to All She Wants Is. According to Duran’s Wiki page, “On the aforementioned single, the song is listed as a medley, presumably referring to the two halves of the title, “I Believe” and “All I Need to Know”. “I Believe” comprises the main instrumental part of the song and can be heard on its own in bootlegged form on The Medicine. “All I Need to Know” however is so far not known to exist in any form.”
I love a balanced song. There is deep appreciation from me for a well-written piece of music. Not one instrument speaks louder than the rest, and the sum of all parts creates a gorgeous, delicate sound. The chords are what keep the song sounding full and lush, but they allow Simon’s vocals to take center stage. That’s how I would describe I Believe/All I Need to Know. The song is packed with instrumentation – everything from bass and drums (and a beautifully recorded hi-hat cymbal) to harmonica and a sampled piano on the keyboards. The guitar is there, but isn’t recorded as a lead guitar, it’s more rhythmic, which suits the song. I love that it’s not really one instrument (aside from vocals) that creates the full melody, which is unusual – even for Duran Duran.
Simon’s vocals for this song really accentuate his range during this period. He goes from the lower, deeper notes up to soaring heights in the chorus. There’s no sense of strain, no falsetto, and he sounds incredibly relaxed. Say what you will about Big Thing, but this song fits incredibly well with others from that album, such as Land, Palomino and even Edge of America. He has a sort of melancholy to his voice here, and while it does sound easy and relaxed, there’s also a little bit of wistfulness which really lends itself well to the song. His vocal quality is at it’s best, and I find myself wishing that they would record more songs in this range. Simon sounds brilliant.
One thing I want to comment on before looking at the lyrics is that Amanda each read the lyrics and attempt to make sense out of them in our own way. That means that we don’t always (or often) come to the same conclusion of what they mean. That’s really the way lyrics are supposed to work, too. You (the listener) are supposed to find your own meaning to the words. This is is also why Simon chooses not to explain his lyrics, because he doesn’t want to influence whatever sense the listener gets out of them. In our case, we have certainly tried to explain lyrics, and we include our thoughts on the them in our reviews. For the most part, this is because we enjoy looking at the words ourselves, and we hope that we are not ruining the lyrics for anyone else in the process.
Funny thing about Duran’s lyrics. I don’t know that I ever really paid that much attention to them when I was younger. Maybe I did, and I just didn’t understand them. Or, more likely – I was too busy daydreaming to notice. Regardless, I sit here and read through the lyrics, realizing that a lot of their songs, at least in my ears after the first album, seem to have everything to do with their experience of fame.
The taxman’s in the pocketbook
The pressmen are at the bar
And all the world is at your door.
Just those three lines remind me of what it must be like for them. Unlike most of us who come home from a day’s work, they can’t get away quite as easily. Even in 1988, Duran Duran was an all-encompassing gig. By then, they’d already seen the world, toured it extensively, said goodbye to a couple of original members, and had reached the summit of fame. I think there’s a sense of the frustration Simon must feel in the lines:
I’m just the ordinary guy you used to know,
I’m not after your money,
or even your advice
I believe you’ll follow me,
it’s all I need to know
I read this as though he can’t really get away (although he sings of walking away…or maybe he’s telling other people to walk away!). There’s also a line about turning your head away now and don’t think twice, and I go back and forth about whether that’s a reminder to himself (which I could certainly see), or if it’s an admonition to the listener. Either way, I read the song similarly as I do others of this period – the struggle with fame. As I read them, it seems to be an ongoing theme in their lyrics, even during Big Thing, which takes place well after the insanity of the early to mid 80’s. While no, I wouldn’t say the lyrics are necessary of the same vague, poetic, obscure nature as say, The Reflex, I feel like I am able to have more of a connection to them. Perhaps because I’m better able to draw something out of them? I don’t know for sure.
I like the way the song conveys a certain feeling. for me, I get a sort of wistfulness, or even melancholy from it. The song feels easy, not at all angry or brooding – but maybe just a tinge sad. I don’t know that I’m surprised by that, given the time period of it’s writing. (although at the time, I am certain I would not have picked up on it!) Regardless, I appreciate the way this band has always been able to convey it’s feelings through music. I also like the simpleness of the sound. It’s a good, solid B-side for the album, although I personally think it could have been put on Big Thing and done very well. I saw somewhere that the band says that some of these extra songs that somehow escaped the album were made all the more special as a result – and I would offer this one in particular as a prime example.
I don’t listen to this song often enough. It is one of those songs I fail to think about or give enough appreciation to in their catalog. I don’t know why that is – but I’m going to fix that and add it to a playlist.
Listening to this song, more intensely than I normally do, I realize that there really is no lead in. The next thought that follow quickly after is how this really is a classic Duran Duran song. I love that all instruments are present with some taking on more noticeable moments like the keyboards after the chorus. I also really enjoy the fact that the bass creates a strong steady undercurrent throughout the whole song. It makes a strong foundation, allowing the other instruments to come and go as they need. In many ways, it has the feel of more old school Duran songs as opposed to the more dance-orientated songs on Big Thing. It doesn’t feel like the ballad tracks from that album either. It is a good go between in terms of tempo and overall musical vibe.
Whenever I think about this song, the vocals are the very first thing that comes to mind, especially the chorus. While I love the deep vocals of the verses, there is something so smooth about the chorus that really catches my attention. Perhaps, I like the contrast between the slower, deeper vocals of the verses as opposed to the lighter, more melodic aspects of the chorus. Of course, the backing vocals here help to add to the lush feel of the chorus in the second half of the song. It is like the emotions and the voices build up until so much just bursts through.
You know what is funny? I have listened to this song countless times and even sang along with it a lot and never really looked at the lyrics. The line that always grabbed my attention is, “I’m just the ordinary guy you used to know.” Now that I have really examined the lyrics, I cannot help but to wonder if this wasn’t the lyrics of a very specific story. It sounds like someone who used to be trusted and connected with someone who broke that trust, but is now pleading their case and hoping for some understanding. Could this be an experience that Simon had? Someone else in the band? Maybe the band member wasn’t the one asking for understanding but the one who determines if there would be a new understanding. The line about not being after one’s money could definitely be a person trying to reassure a band member. So, what do I think of these lyrics? I don’t know that they excite me like many Duran lyrics that lend themselves to interesting interpretation or act as poetry. Yet, they don’t turn me off either.
Overall, I really like this song. Musically, it fits well within the standard Duran catalog with the balance of instrumentation. I believe the music is enhanced with the quality of Simon’s vocals. The only area that I question is the lyrics. While they are not bad, they are almost too specific for my liking, but do fit in well for a b-side.