Tag Archives: Oral history

Duran Duran’s Oral History on Rio!

Finally, I get my chance to dive into the celebration surrounding Duran Duran’s second and most successful album, Rio.  May 10th marked the 35th anniversary of the album’s release.  Since then, many articles have been written, many videos have been viewed and many personal celebrations have been shared.   It is like a Duran holiday!  Woohoo!  On the anniversary, I couldn’t do much to mark the special occasion as it was a work day for me.  I did what I could, though.  Before and after each class period, I showed a video of a song from Rio.  Many of my students didn’t know anything about the band but some did come in with knowledge about the band and this album.  Still, I felt good about sharing my favorite band with my high school students.  They need a good music education, right?

Since that date, I did have a chance to listen to the oral history posted on the band’s official fan community’s website.  They called this longer version a “night version” just like the night versions of the band’s singles in their earlier days.  Overall, I found the oral history fascinating!  Not shockingly, I ended up taking copious notes as I didn’t want to miss anything.  In thinking about blogging about this, I decided to treat like just like a regular Katy Kafe, which means that I’ll give some highlights.  I recommend, though, that you listen to it yourself and as there is much that I didn’t get to in this blog!

The oral history began with each member sharing about the album as a whole before diving into each track individually.  I liked being able to hear all of their voices about each track.  While I appreciated this easy-to-follow format, I’m going to describe the highlights in a slightly different way based on themes or highly fascinating statements.

Album Feel:

In the beginning of the oral history, each member discusses the feel of the album as a whole, including the title.  Much of what they mentioned, I knew.  For example, I knew that the trip to America for that first tour impacted the band and that the song “Rio” is a reference to America.  I found it interesting that Simon said it symbolized the love they have for America.  Of course, there is more to it as Rio, Carnival and South America also were ingredients on the album and title.

Influences:

For many of the tracks, the band described specific influences.  For example, Roger mentioned Quiet Life by Japan for Rio and Michael Jackson for My Own Way.  Both John and Roger stated that the fretless bass on Lonely in Your Nightmare was similar to Japan’s.  Simon talked about Gordon Lightfoot’s If You Could Read my Mind in connection to Hungry Like the Wolf.  Early hip hop was brought up with New Religion.  I appreciated hearing all of those examples and am thinking about checking out those songs next to the Duran ones to see if I can hear those influences.

Behind the Scenes:

As much as I loved to hear about the influences, I loved the behind the scenes scoop even more.  I loved hearing about how My Own Way is a “problem child” according to Roger because the single version was too fast.  Another behind the scenes story that really caught my attention was the discussion around Hold Back the Rain.  As many know, this song’s lyrics were written by Simon about John partying too much.  Both John and Simon openly talk about this in the oral history.  I appreciated their openness and being willing to share with all of us.  It made my heart feel full when I heard John describe the song as “bittersweet” which is a “punch in the face” with a hint of sadness.  Indeed.  I might not be able to listen to that song in the same way again.

A Narrative?:

There were many times when a band member would say something profound, meaningful or even jarring that I had to pause and write it down.  Sometimes, those quotes were about the album as a whole or about a specific song.  One example of this is when John talked about how the album was a kind of narrative about these suburban kids who had left their comfort zone and were now experiencing fame.  I have never thought of Rio in that way, but I have often thought fame was a big theme in both Seven and the Ragged Tiger and Notorious.  It makes me want to look at all three in order to see if there is a running undercurrent of a storyline.

Got Me Thinking:

One thing about Duran that I have always loved is that as much as they entertain me and provide me with an escape from real life, they also make me think.  They don’t beat me over the head with intellectualism but it’s there and I love it.  Funny enough, Simon even got me thinking about Hungry Like the Wolf in a different way.  He talked about why it is “THE” wolf as opposed to “A” wolf.  He wanted to get people thinking, “Which wolf?”  He likes getting people to ask questions as that means that they are engaged.  I couldn’t agree with him more.

Speaking of agreement, I also found myself nodding along when John talked about how Simon is underestimated as a lyricist and that New Religion was a “lyrical tour de force”.  Interestingly enough, John shared that Simon used to describe that song as a dialogue between ego and alter ego.  Hmm…

The Chauffeur:

By the time, the band got to discussing this track, I had taken two and a half page of notes.  I started to put away them, figuring that I had heard all the stories about this song before.  I knew about Simon’s time in Israel, that it was the last track recorded, and that Roger and John come in late on the track.  There was no surprise when John described as dark and “underground” Duran.  What did catch my attention is how he stated that it is the song for intellectuals.  In fact, he said that a friend of his  says that there must be at least one track on every album to appeal to intellectuals.  For Rio, it is the Chauffeur.  That really got me thinking.  Do not be surprised if there is an additional blog about that coming up soon!

Let Roger decide the setlist:

Roger stated that the band should dust off New Religion and bring it back into the set.  Ummm…YES, PLEASE!?!  He also said that the Chauffeur should be played more live.  Seriously, can we let Roger decide on the setlist?  Please…

Overall, I found the entire oral history to be well-worth the time to listen (and to take notes!).  I learned a lot by listening and was able to fill in some gaps.  Now, I’m tempted to go pull out my copy of Classic Albums:  Rio DVD and compare what they said there about the various tracks.  One thing is clear.  The album, Rio, was a real game changer.  Not only did it change the band in ways that cannot be measured but it changed the lives for so many fans all around the world.  Truly, May 10, 1982, the ground shifted for those five guys and the fans that would follow.  Every time I listen to it, I recognize it as the masterpiece it is, which leads me to feel nothing but extreme pride to be able to call myself a fan.

-A

It’s a very very MAD WORLD.

As promised, today I’m going to give a brief review (with no spoilers!!) of Lori Majewski and Jonathan Bernstein’s new book, Mad World which is out today!

First of all (and most important), I want to disclose that Lori approached Amanda and I several months back about helping them out with promo for Mad World.  While the typical “Are you sure she meant to contact us? I mean…we’re just a couple of fans!!” were made between Amanda and I, we were (and are) extremely honored. I suppose we could act cool, calm, collected and professional and put off an air of “Well of course they’d want our help”…that’s not exactly our style. Amanda and I are simply fans. Like you. We began this blog from that very simple two word fact, and that’s how we’re going to continue, forevermore.  I should also disclose that I received a copy of the book early for review – and that has never happened before, so for us, this is a first, and we are completely honored by the opportunity.  Maybe that’s overreaching on our part, maybe we’ll be slammed for saying so; but for Amanda and I, the way we see it is that someone out there sees the good we’re doing, and we’re very, very proud of that.

However, that won’t stop me from bringing forth an objective review….just so we’re clear about how much I adore this book.

I don’t want to give a lot away about Mad World because I really want everyone to go get their own copy.  But, if you could see mine – you’d see it completely red-lined and highlighted. Yes, I still read as though I’m reading for a college course.  If you take away just one thing from my review – I want our readers to know that reading this book makes the songs sound new again.  Let me try to explain.  Let’s face it: these songs are around thirty years old now.  At one point or another, the songs started fading into the background. I might still listen to the music. I might (I do) still have nearly all of them included on my trusty mp3 player, but I don’t really hear them the way I once did.  I don’t pay attention to every last drum beat, or every single crescendo or synth loop.  I still love the music, but I don’t feel the music as much. It doesn’t completely consume me.  Or at least it didn’t before Mad World.  

Once I started reading though, that all changed. The book is basically divided into chapters that correspond with songs.  So for example there is a chapter called Girls on Film. I’m pretty sure you can guess what and who that’s all about.  Jonathan and Lori give their initial thoughts on the song (and band in a broad sense), then they include the interviews done with the band about that particular song – since this is an oral history. What I really like is the song is discussed in the original historical context – “How was it back in the 80s”, and then they have a section called “That was then, this is now”; and in that section the song is talked about from the present point of view.  So, I found myself listening to the song before reading the chapter, then reading the chapter, and going back to listen to the song again.  I couldn’t help but hear the song differently. It was as though my ears were reinvigorated!

This is not a book that I would critique based on writing style, or how much “dirt” was drummed up about the subject…although I feel that the bands involved seemed to be incredibly forthcoming and honest about their work, which is refreshing.   Of course the writing is good. and I love that Lori and Jonathan are true to themselves. When they are fans, they say so and own it rather than try to play the “We are completely professional and above it all” card.  Their commentaries are rooted in reality, and it is obvious that they enjoyed the work that went into the writing.  However, the real star(s) of the book are the interviews. I learned so much in reading, and it wasn’t the big picture stuff that resonated – it was the little things.  I could really get a sense of the emotionality that some of the artists interviewed continue to carry with them about songs that were written so long ago. I felt some of the heartbreak that others had when they looked back.  I could even hear the anger, despair, distain and even apathy of others for their fellow band members.  Those points in the book make the songs whole.  It’s as though now I’ve got the full story – the 360 degree view.

This isn’t a book that could have been written as successfully even ten years ago.  So many of these people needed to get past their own egos, whether they were overly trumped up, or completely deflated in the years gone by.  It has taken this long for many of them to simply come to terms with what took place, which is why I really believe the interviews worked so well.  In all honesty, I think that I needed to become an adult in order to fully treasure their stories.

Lori and Jonathan say that they wanted Mad World to be a fan friendly book. They have taken the route of going directly TO the fans to answer our questions, and get us involved. I have to give them kudos for doing so, because I believe the evidence is clear: it worked.

I am an 80s kid. I was born in November of 1970 and so when the year 1980 rolled around, I was 9 years old. My formative years were spent in the 80s, and when I think about the music I love, New Wave from 80s is the first to come to mind. It is a vital portion of my personal soundtrack, my playlist.  Mad World fills in the gaps, the things I pondered while laying on my not-quite-orange but also not-quite-brown shag bedroom carpet listening to my stereo and staring at my green walls peppered with pinups of Duran Duran when I was a kid.  Definitely worth the read.

Amanda and I plan to do more with Mad World in the coming weeks – so watch this space!

-R

To order your copy: Mad World 

Today in Duran History – Glasgow and a bit of Mad World

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

On today’s date in 2004, Duran Duran played the SECC in Glasgow.

Do you want to know what I remember about Glasgow, and the SECC in particular?  It was bloody FREEZING in there.  I remember sitting and waiting for a show in December of 2011, complete with my down ski parka on…continuing to shiver.  I don’t think I completely thawed out again until I touched down back in California, a day and a half later.  Naturally, that was in the month of December…and this show took place in April.  So there’s that, right?  Who was there in 2004??

Also, today is officially MAD WORLD day!  That’s right, the release of Mad World – the book that all New Wave 80s music lovers should have, hold and caress fondly (but never nostalgically….no. We can’t have that…because we, my friends…are not old. We’re not nostalgic. We just know good music.), has been released today!!  If you haven’t already pre-ordered your copy and you’re not waiting by your front door to tackle the mailman or UPS guy, I urge you to rectify the situation immediately and order it from Amazon!!  Why, you ask?  I’m reviewing it.  Later today.

In the meantime, check out the Reddit AMA with Lori & Jonathan: Mad World Reddit

Need a link to grab the book?  Fear not, my friends.  I’ve got you covered: Mad World.

-R