Tag Archives: Notorious

Here’s one you don’t compromise

Every once in a while I run across something – an interview or video clip – that I’ve never seen before.  This happened today as I stumbled across a complete, uncut version of an interview I vaguely remember…maybe…from a long time ago, but I had not seen the full-length interview before.

I could commentate on many, many things here – it’s nearly 38 minutes in length and I had plenty of time to notice everything from John’s chiseled chin and cheekbones to Nick’s lip liner and Simon’s hair – but one thing that overshadowed everything else for me was the amount of anger Simon, Nick & John had towards Andy at the time. There were comments made about his personality, about his inflexibility (with regard to the writing of Wild Boys, which comes near the end of the interview) to the court case that Simon, Nick & John were hoping to win in 1987 against Andy.  There was no love lost between any of them at this point, and during the interview they even made strides to make sure it was understood that Roger and Andy left the band under very different circumstances. I have to admit that it all had me wondering, more than once, how a band this far apart could have ever even considered getting back together.

Of course now we know that the “back together” part of the story wasn’t meant to last. None of us, well…probably very few of us…really know what happened. We can make assumptions, surmise…even make an educated guess, but we weren’t there. It was a great time while it lasted, but it certainly wasn’t meant to last.

In amongst the discussion and perfectly placed stabs in Andy’s direction, John makes mention of Warren and how he was on the album (Notorious) and would be touring with the band, but that he was not a “member”. John’s comments were that the three of them (Simon, Nick and himself) were just too close to allow someone in. They were a solid unit, and Warren would only be a part of the touring band. And the writing band… But not the official band.  Sound at all familiar?

The reality of course is that Warren *did* become a part of the band, for better or worse, and of course opinions to that placement are as varied as the personalities of Duranies across the world. What’s more, this is a subject that, to this very day, is STILL debated with relish within the community. As it turns out, we Duranies take our guitar players seriously. Perhaps even more seriously than does the band (so it seems)…although I suspect if asked, any one member of Duran Duran might have a little something to say about that.

The other day…I believe it might have been Monday, actually, I noticed that DDHQ picked Dom’s FB page as the “Page of the Week”.  They called him the “guitar extraordinaire”, which I thought was nice…as well as completely accurate. (My bias is already showing, and I’m not apologizing.) I was thrilled to see that several had commented that he should be made an official member, and I agreed with those people.  Even if I don’t necessarily think it WILL happen…I can certainly agree that I wish it would, and I do.  For me, it’s every bit as easy as saying that I love the rest of the band. But, on the other side, there are still many that believe the only person who should be on guitar is Andy Taylor. Still others feel the spot belongs to Warren…and to some degree, each one of us is right.

While I suppose I could comment on our tenacity to continue debating about people who haven’t played with the band in a very long time, and I could continue to argue here on the blog….what good would it really do?  No, in this case what I find most incredible is the function of the community as a whole.

Amanda and I have spent the better part of five years studying and writing about fan communities.  We learned what makes a community. One of the things we discuss in our manuscript is that communities – groups of people – create their own culture. They make up their own dialogue, their own way of speaking, communicating…even their own look.  We talk about how this continued dialogue between community members brings about general consensus.  For example, we might say that a general consensus about Duran Duran is that the band looks good in eyeliner…or that this is a band who likes the finer things in life. (these are JUST HYPOTHETICAL EXAMPLES) The point being, we’ve all talked about these subjects or thought about them in our heads for long enough that it’s just accepted thought by the majority of fans. What is especially interesting to me about the Andy, Warren, Dom debate is that the general consensus here is that there will never really BE a consensus. It isn’t always the case that a community agrees, and this is certainly one topic where there may never be an answer. This, along with a myriad of other topics I am sure…will always be a source of debate amongst fans, regardless of the stance one takes.

With that in mind, watch the video – it’s really fascinating to sit back and watch it in hindsight.

-R

 

Guest Blog: The Notorious Mr. Nile Rodgers

By PamG

As most of us in Duranland know, the band has recently worked with the legendary Nile Rodgers for the new album. This news really made me happy. I mean, really, really happy. Not only does it signal forward progress on the new album, but I’m also hoping it means he’s bringing back some funk on the long-awaited album. And since reading his memoir Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco, and Destiny, I am even more interested in what happens next.

As a child of the ‘80s, I had mostly known Nile as that guy who did the awesome remix for The Reflex and performed with Madonna during Live Aid. Oh, and he had something to do with David Bowie’s Let’s Dance album too, since his name kept coming up during whenever Bowie was nominated for Grammy or VMA awards for it. Over the years, I came to realize that he played a very large role in the music that shaped my adolescence.

When I learned that he had penned his memoir, I knew I had to read it. I didn’t know much about the man, but I assumed he’d have a lot of tales of the 1980s music scene, and of course I was hoping for some new salacious tales about Duran. So if nothing else it might be a good source of gossip and backroom Studio 54 stories.

Little did I know how moved I would be by his life story. For this white girl who grew up in the suburbs, his background was nearly 180 degrees away from my middle-class experience. That wasn’t too surprising. And frankly those are the kinds of memoirs I enjoy reading. Sure, I expected there to be tales of drug use and abuse; that was a pretty safe bet with anyone who was in that music scene. And there was a rags-to-riches story too. But what hit me was how much Nile had survived before the tender age of ten: he was born to a teenage mother, witnessed rampant drug use in and around his home which was constantly on the move, and was sent to live in a convalescent home for his severe asthma. And this was only Chapter 2. This man was a survivor.

Don’t get me wrong: his brutally honest narrative is not a drab, sad tale. Even as he tells the tales of the ups and downs of his life so far, he does it with some humor too. And from the many interviews I’ve watched in recent years, it just seems that it’s part of his survival tactic. Mr. Rodgers’ memoir was published in 2011, not long after he was diagnosed with cancer. He addresses the diagnosis in his epilogue, but continues to publicly share his story on his blog “Walking on Planet C” (http://www.nilerodgers.com/blogs) and his Twitter account (https://twitter.com/nilerodgers). He recently shared that he is now cancer-free, and I wish him good health for many years to come.

Photo: Nile Rodgers Facebook page August 23, 2014
Photo: Nile Rodgers Facebook page August 23, 2014

Are there spicy tales about Duran in Le Freak? Yup. He speaks to some of his collaborations with them, both in and out of the studio. As expected, Nile also shares stories of other collaborations from the 1970s and 1980s, including Madonna, David Bowie, Donna Summer, Mick Jagger, and Michael Jackson, just to name a few. For a kid like me who grew up on MTV, this book is rich with tabloid-like tales that are like bedtime stories to me.

But in addition to the behind-the-scenes tales, I found myself drawn into the story of his musical collaboration and inspiring friendship with Bernard Edwards. When describing the first time they played together, Nile describes a musical telepathic connection. They follow their musical passions and form the band Chic. It didn’t take long for the disco world to become their oyster. But it’s Nile’s tale of their friendship—including when they drifted apart—that impacted me most. Reading the passage about their last moments together was both chilling and tear-jerking.

What will come of his collaboration with Duran on this next album? Time will only tell. But no matter what, I will be forever grateful for his remix of The Reflex. That record changed my life. Not only is it one of my favorite Duran songs, it was the first 12” record that I ever bought, and it opened my musical ears to the world of remixes. In the latter half of the 1980s I spent countless hours in record stores (remember those?). I still have vivid memories of heading straight to the “E” section of the store, backing up one row to the end of the “Ds”, and then filing through the Duran section for any 12” records that I hadn’t found before. Of all the vinyl I used to own, the Duran 12” singles are among the very small collection I have retained. It is rumored that The Reflex wasn’t even considered as a single off of Seven and The Ragged Tiger until Nile’s remix happened. On behalf of many Duranies, thank you Mr. Rodgers!

Photo: Duran Duran Facebook Page August 21, 2014
Photo: Duran Duran Facebook Page August 21, 2014

I recommend Nile Rodgers’ memoir for anyone who is interested in a story of how music can change the trajectory of a person’s life. Or if you want to read one man’s story of survival. Or even if you just want the behind-the-scenes stories of some of your favorite ‘80s darlings. And of course, it’s also for anyone (like me) who is still hungry for more Duran while we wait for #DD14.

 

PamGPamG has been a Duranie since the early days of MTV. In addition to all-things Duran, she also enjoys music documentaries, pop culture trivia, and live concerts of any kind. Her Duran dream would be to journey across the pond and see the band play throughout Europe. After waiting over 25 years to see Duran Duran live, she saw her first show in 2011 and it changed her life.

If Notorious and Big Thing Could Talk…

by C.K. Shortell

Sometimes, I think Duran Duran albums talk to each other. Specifically, they talk to their predecessor. I remember the first time I listened to The Wedding Album and hearing the line “You rescued me from liberty” in Love Voodoo, and wondering if I was reading too much into the lyric to wonder if Simon wasn’t taking a shot at the last album.  Or the beginning of “Hold Me,” when he starts with “This time…” — somehow I got into my head that “Hold Me” was one of the first songs written for Notorious and that line/ad lib was basically Simon’s way of expressing the uncharted territory the band was in, now down to a trio.  Additionally… all the lyrics to “Still Breathing,” which I took as a declaration against the previous lineup of the band. I can’t prove any of this, it’s just in my head when I listen to these songs and albums.

This topic circles in my head for a few reasons. First, we are between albums. Speculation abounds about the sound of DD14. We know the band never does the same thing twice. We also know that, on AYNIN, they finally felt comfortable “reclaiming” some of that old ground/sound. So what will happen on the next album? In what way will it be a reaction to what they did on AYNIN?

Additionally, Notorious, the album, has been in heavy circulation on my iPod for the last few months. I think there are a lot of parallels between Notorious and All You Need Is Now. Both feature very strong title tracks that will likely be a staple of the band’s live set as long as they continue to tour (I don’t think it’s going out on a limb to say that the song AYNIN will continue to be featured, but you never know).   Both were heavily anticipated after a pause in the band’s career in which it was uncertain what direction they would take. Both were heavily influenced/co-written by the album’s producer, and both featured a mix of guest musicians on other tracks (and in the case of Notorious, it remains the only Duran album that features the work of both Andy and Warren).

Why do I bring up these parallels? I am trying to draw conclusions about DD14, and I think we might gain insight by understanding the relationship between Notorious and its follow-up, Big Thing.

I’ve always viewed Notorious as being a very solid, “orderly” album, with perfect alignment between the A and B sides, the Hitchcock theme, and the neatly packaged video that tied back to the album artwork. Big Thing is the exact opposite. It’s noisy, disorganized, loud (at least the first half), moody (the second half) and unconventional. Notorious features a virtual all-star cast of guest musicians, including Nile Rodgers, Andy, Warren, and Steve Ferrone, not to mention the album cover featuring super model Christy Turlington. Big Thing boasts no such lineup—it is the truly the first (and ultimately only, as it would turn out) Taylor-Rhodes-LeBon collaboration, with Warren sprinkled in, albeit in a non-writing role.  On Notorious, the songs tend to follow the standard verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus/outro format, which the exception of Winter Marches On. On Big Thing, it’s the exception when a song follows that format. Notorious is defined by its title track; the song Big Thing mocks itself and the music industry in general, and is probably one of the more forgettable songs on the record.

When John, Nick, and Simon hosted an hour-long countdown of their favorite Duran videos on MTV in 1988, they commented that on Notorious, they were very polite to each other and trying to figure out how to function as a band. Not so during the Big Thing sessions, where “we were all screaming at each other.” This is not surprising. The trio had weathered the uncertainty of the Notorious era; they had put out an album and toured and had success despite the loss of Andy and Roger (of course, they were no longer the biggest band in the world, but at least they knew there was still an audience for their music, albeit a smaller one than before).

So, with that out of the way, they pushed themselves creatively on Big Thing. What resulted was an album of disparate sides: the first consisting mostly of noisy, dance “house” music, and the second slower, moody ballads. Side one featured the hit single “I Don’t Want Your Love,” that is possibly the band’s most underrated and forgotten hit (and one of my personal favorites), and the follow-up single “All She Wants Is” which didn’t chart as well, but did see a lot of club play. The B-side is built around the lush anthem “Land,” one of the longer Duran songs in the catalogue that clocks in at just over six minutes. Preceding it are the haunting “Do You Believe in Shame?” and airy “Palomino.” I remember first listening to Big Thing and strongly disliking the second side, and then about a week later I had a strange tune stuck in my head…and it turned out to be “Palomino.”

Conversely, I did love “Edge of America” the minute I heard it, and still do to this day. And I always have considered “Edge of America” and “Lake Shore Driving” to be one song, even if they have different titles and are on separate tracks. It’s an unconventional way to end Big Thing but it works, as the Nick’s synths and Warren’s guitar bring the proceedings full circle to how the album started.

There are many other details about Big Thing that we could cover (the two different producers, the controversy over the mixes of “Drug” that highly annoyed John, etc.) but those can be left to another blog. The question is, how can Big Thing’s differences from Notorious inform us as to DD14’s differences from AYNIN?

For starters, I suspect that there will be more of a balance between ballads and dance songs on DD14. AYNIN was heavily skewed toward upbeat music (much like Notorious) with several well-placed slower songs to even out the album’s pacing. I think it’s natural for the band to be inclined to write some more moody material after an album as upbeat as AYNIN.

And speaking of the band…by all accounts, it’s just them, just like it was on Big Thing. Or at least it’s more of “just them” than the AYNIN sessions, which included Mark Ronson, Ana Matronic, Kelis, Owen Pallett, and Nick Hodgson, as well as newscaster Nina Hossain. There was a report that Ronson worked with them initially but every quote I’ve read since indicates that it’s just the five (Rhonda says four…because we certainly don’t hear much of Dom being there lately. Just saying..) of them in the studio.

Is this a good thing or not? I think time will tell. Duran has made some tremendous music when they close ranks and keep it “in house”—see Big Thing and The Wedding Album and Astronaut, at least as originally conceived. But therein lies my concern: Duran Duran also seems to make ill advised decisions when there is no outside producer to referee things. (I’m convinced that Ronson or even Timbaland—yes, Timbaland—or any of us, for that matter—would have told them to keep “Beautiful Colours” and “Salt in the Rainbow” on the Astronaut album.  As it was, they went through three producers on that one.)

Do you think I’m reading too much into the relationship between Notorious and Big Thing to infer anything from AYNIN and DD14? And are you worried about the apparent lack of an outside producer tied to this project?

438d2-ckshortellC.K. Shortell is a lifelong Duran Duran fan who lives in the northeast with his wife and two sons, one of whom loves watching concert footage of the band.  When he’s not struggling to explain to a two year old why the guitarist always looks different or just what exactly Nick is doing, C.K. is constantly reminding co-workers and friends that the band never broke up.