Tag Archives: Palomino

Brothers and Sisters Let Me Hear It: Big Thing at 29

I was busy waxing nostalgic over past fan conventions yesterday, so I didn’t get to write about Big Thing. The album was released 29 years ago yesterday, which is impossible.

I’m pretty sure Big Thing was the first Duran Duran album I bought on cassette. I slightly cringe as I remember buying and storing it in the creaky, fabric-covered, plastic case I kept on the floor of the front seat in my Suzuki Samurai. I can still remember the sandy feeling the fabric of the suitcase had because I would drive with the top to the Samurai removed for most of the year. The nearly threadbare carpet on the floor of the car caught sand and whatever other grit was blowing through the air as I’d speed along the freeways of southern California. The case and tape, which I still have somewhere in this house, is pretty scratched up. I haven’t tried to play the tape in years, probably not since I traded in the Samurai.  For quite a while, I didn’t have Big Thing on any other playable media in the house, and it wasn’t until I bought the MP3 that I had the chance to listen to the album in its entirety. Not that long ago, I added the vinyl of the album to my collection, along with the remastered CD, so I can fully appreciate its place in history.

When I first listened to Big Thing back in 1988, the album sounded like it had multiple personality disorder. I loved the song “Big Thing” even though I wasn’t sure I wanted to know what it was about. I liked the difference of the heavy beat to begin the album, but also appreciated the stacked harmonies that made it sound like a Duran Duran song.  “I Don’t Want Your Love” was the song I would sing at the top of my lungs while driving back and forth from Cal State Fullerton during my freshman year. Let’s just say it healed many a wound during that time. It was a tumultuous time for me as I adjusted to college and dorm living.  I wanted and needed recognizable Duran Duran – something that I never felt like I got from Notorious – and at least the first two songs off of Big Thing felt like they were in the right direction.  But from there, the album changed direction, with the club-beat heavy “All She Wants Is”. At the time, the song felt out-of-place, even though it was (and remains) a hit in the ears of many Duranies. But then again, the album completely changes pace completely, with beautifully simple ballads like “Too Late Marlene”, “Do You Believe in Shame”, “Land” and “Palomino”. These are what a friend once characterized as Duran’s watershed moments. Never to be dull, a song like “Drug” was thrown in the mix to throw listeners completely off-kilter, the sudden change always unnerved me. Ending with “Edge of America”, flowing into “Lakeshore Driving”, Duran’s answer to jam-session recording carries out the uncomfortable pacing of the album as the tape abruptly ran out as I would begin to settle into a daydream.

I never could find fault with any one song on the album, although I certainly have my preferences, but as a whole, I never cared for the constant change in direction or personality. Did the band want to go for a club sound? Why was the back half mainly ballad? I can remember not loving the ballads back in the late 80s, as I was more of a guitar-driven hard-rock kind of gal, but they’ve grown on me in years since, as has the entire album.

Big Thing is one of those Duran albums that, for the longest time, I didn’t really count among my favorites. It has grown to be one that I consistently play. I know why Duran Duran looks to “Ordinary World” as the ballad to play live, but I believe that gems like “Palomino” and “Land” have been completely overlooked in the process. There is really no other song I would rather crank up to “10” in my car than “Edge of America”, and I can zone out to “Lakeshore Driving” pretty much anywhere. “Big Thing” is a great song to wake me up, and when I’m feeling melancholy, I tune in to “Do You Believe in Shame”.  What once felt like a personality disorder now feels a lot more like the emotional roller coaster of any week in my life.

Big Thing has not only aged well, the rough transitions have mellowed out, and it plays fantastic at the ripe age of 29. Once again, Duran Duran proves they write to withstand the course of time.  Happy Birthday, Big Thing!

-R

Palomino – The Daily Duranie Review

Palomino is on the “B” side to Big Thing. It is one of their dreamier ballads and may not have gained much notice from casual listeners, as it was not released as a single.  The song was derived from another called “Welcome to the Edge,” during recording sessions, and has an entirely different set of lyrics.

Rhonda

Musicality/Instrumentation:

Aside from some background synthesizers, the song opens only with Simon’s voice, and it makes you feel as though you’re in the beginning of a dream. I really like the background sounds of what sounds like drumsticks being hit on the floor or on metal just for timing. The guitar doesn’t really come in until the second stanza of verse, and even then it is used very sparingly, only to add a bit of texture…and then during the chorus you hear bass and drums to round out the rhythm.  During the break, the synthesizers come in with some random (and echoed) partial note successions – not quite a real solo, but not really melody either, just very unique, and it works. This is a case where not one instrument aside from Simon’s vocals are the highlight – everything else is perfectly balanced, and yet there is an incredible amount of tracks and layering. I think the song is a perfect example of how Duran Duran felt comfortable with musical “quiet”. The spaces were as important as the notes, and the result is a beautiful number.

Vocals:

All I can think of to say right now is how much I wish they’d play this song live. Simon’s voice is incredible, and as I listen with my earbuds I would swear I could feel him whispering words in my ear.  There is no straining, and the dynamics he uses – going from singing loudly to dramatically whispering – really add to the song. There are really no critiques I could make here, except to say that this is Simon at his finest.

Lyrics:

According to an old Ask Katy found on Duran Duran wikia – the chorus lyric comes from a quote from Picasso.  Apparently when Picasso was asked during the height of his blue period what he does when he runs out of blue, he replied, “Why, I use red instead.”  I love this anecdote…and it is a great example of where Simon seems to get his inspiration. (From everywhere!!) As for the rest of the lyrics, I am not sure what they mean. I know what I draw from them – and the line “If there’s secrets she has to be party to,” kind of makes me think of hiding something.  How this person puts on an act, maybe pretending to be happy and content when in fact she’s not – and during the moments when she’s able, she runs free. I especially like the line Simon uses from the Picasso story “When I run out of blue, give me red instead, now let me run.”  That line speaks to me and reminds me of when I escape reality once in a while.  I love the lyrics because I don’t necessarily understand what Simon was really trying to drive home – but I’ve found my own meaning for the song.  (Yes Simon, your lyrics are for thinking people, which I love most about this band!)

Overall:

Here’s the strange thing about Big Thing and this song in particular…I don’t think I really appreciated the B sides until I was in my thirties. I’m not sure if it’s life experience or my tastes have generally changed, but when I listen to this song, I just wonder what critics are missing. (Brain cells, most likely.) Everything we want from Duran Duran is evident right here.  There is so much here to like, and really nothing I can find fault with – typically I might complain about the lack of guitar, bass and drums, but in this song it feels natural and perfect as is.

Cocktail Rating:

5 Cocktails!5 cocktails

Amanda:

Musicality/Instrumentation:

The music is very subtle and is very much in the background in the beginning of the song.  The music reminds me almost of wind chimes until some more instrumentation comes in around the minute mark.  Even with the addition of guitar, bass and percussion, the music remains subtle and calm until the chorus kicks in.  Then, there is more of the full instrumentation that we are all used to.  The song has a definite balance with keyboards getting a little more of the spotlight in creating some of those extra sounds that are heard, especially in the bridge.  The music, no matter if it is quiet and subtle in the beginning or more full-blown instrumentation, is very beautiful.  I like how the music changes from quiet to louder as it works to keep one’s attention in a slower number.

Vocals:

I really love the vocals on this one from the humming to the beginning to deep, breathy verses.  I’ve always been a fan of Simon at his lower range and a lot of this song seems to hang out there, at least in the verses.  The chorus also has a nice touch with the backing vocals.  It adds a layer that deepens the song.  The only part of the vocals that I have never been sure of is the “talking”, “chanting” said in a rather abrupt manner in comparison to the rest.  I just think those parts work to break the mood a bit too much.  Other than that, the vocals are fabulous.

Lyrics:

This is one of those songs that could be about a woman.  It could be about a horse.  It could be a metaphor for something completely different.  It is a beautiful lyric that really matches the mood of the song.  Of course, the focus on colors makes sense after knowing that it comes from a quote from Pablo Picasso.  The quote came after he was asked about what he would do when he runs out of blue and Picasso said that he would use red instead.  Beyond the focus on color, it does definitely bring up a sense of culture outside of the Western world with the mention of “Arabia” and the sense of a desert.  I almost get the sense that the song could be about mother nature hearing all of humanity’s secrets and needing humans to speak for her and for her needs.  I adore lyrics like this one.  Not only are they beautiful by just reading them in a straight forward way, but they also make me think.  They make me wonder what is it all about.

Overall:

Palomino is one of those songs that could be easily missed on an album.  It could be one that floats into the background, easily ignored.  Yet, that would be a mistake.  It features really subtle but beautiful instrumentation that coincides with the poetry of Simon’s lyrics and his deep vocals.  There isn’t much that I would change about this song other than maybe the way the word “talking” and “chatting” is said in the song.  I like that the lyrics make me wonder while it creates a mood of calmness.

Cocktail Rating:

 4.5 cocktails!
4.5 Cocktails