Tag Archives: Paper Gods

Trampled but Still Breathing and Reaching for the Sunrise!

Good morning, everyone! (It’s still morning in California!)

This is going to be a crazy week, and I feel compelled to share. I don’t know what anyone else did over the weekend,  but I rebuilt part of our back patio cover, alongside my husband and son. This morning, every part of my body is loudly reminding me that I am no longer a teenager.  I’m very thankful that at the last-minute, my husband decided to hire a painting company instead of going with the original plan to do it all ourselves (a task beginning this morning, as I type).  Today it’s only the outside being washed and painted, but tomorrow they’ll be prepping inside for similar treatment. Not a single wall is to be spared, and we’re going with the popular millennial color choice of “minimalist grey” to clean and update the inside of the house. We’ve hired a realtor, and within the next couple of weeks the house will be on the market. Writing the blog continues to be my source of refuge, particularly during the insanity of this moving process!

I love some of the questions that DDHQ has posed to the community over social media lately. While some of them allow me to answer within a second or two, others challenge me to really think. Today’s question nearly has me stumped.

“Of all the FIRST and LAST songs on Duran Duran albums, which opener and closer do you think make for the most powerful combined listening experience?”

Initially, all I could think about was that I hadn’t yet had my standard cup of coffee and that this question was far too deep for a Monday morning. Or at least my Monday morning.  I also was envious, because it is a great question, and I wish I’d thought of it myself so that we could have used it for Daily Duranie!

It is generally easier for me to consider the most recent album – in this case Paper Gods – because I’ve been listening to it for the past few years. So my knee jerk reaction was to say “Paper Gods” and “Universe Alone. The thing is, if I were in charge, I’d put “Before The Rain” as the opener and “Universe Alone” as the closer.  Not that I don’t like “Paper Gods”, but I personally feel that “Before The Rain” is a stronger song (For me.  Perhaps not so for you, but for me.), and  would have been an outstanding opener for any album. Granted,  “Before the Rain” and “Universe Alone” are on two completely different albums, and “Before the Rain” wasn’t even an opener!

The best news in this case, is of course, that I’m not in charge.

So I’m back at square one. I have to go back and actually look at all of the albums now, which is both pathetic (shouldn’t I know this offhand by now?) and also diligent. (if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it right!)

Right off the bat, there are album openers/closers that I discarded. I’m not going to say which ones, but for me, there are albums that just don’t seem to have strong openers or strong closers…or maybe an album has a strong opener but not a strong closer, or vice versa. I’ll be honest, I found this to be the case more often than not at the beginning of their career as opposed to more recently. Whether this is because I have a serious lack in good judgment (!!!) or because the band has gotten better about the song order of their albums is hard to say. (both??)

For me, the answer to this question does not have a lot to do with whether or not I “like” an album. After all, I love the albums of the 1980s, but song order never entered into that. (For me) One of my strongest contenders would be the opener “The Valley” and the closer “Last Man Standing” because I always felt that both of those songs were strong, and even conveyed where the band stood in that moment, and yet Red Carpet Massacre is not one of my more beloved Duran Duran albums.

For me, it comes down to three:

“[Reach Up for the] Sunrise” and “Still Breathing”

“Big Thing” and “Lakeshore Driving”

“The Valley” and “Last Man Standing”

Of these three, I struggle at first, thinking I must pick a favorite. In the midst of my short reverie, I realize that the question isn’t about my favorite, but what is the strongest opener and closer for an album. When I think about that, I think the choice is clear – “Sunrise” and “Still Breathing”.  Aside from maybe “Rio”, I really can’t think of a Duran Duran song written that conveys more joy.  It is a very strong opener, and in my mind, “Still Breathing” is a strong, introspective way to close an album. The song isn’t incredibly loud, but it is powerful in meaning, and even musically – I think the word I’m looking for is “stoic”.  No, it’s not world-ending in the same way that “The Universe Alone” might be, but I have to love that the band chose to end an album meant to signify the reunification of the fab five with a song titled “Still Breathing”. As they were then, as they are now. And so are we.

-R

Bell Centre, Montreal 2016

On this date in Duran history, the band played at the Bell Centre in Montreal in 2016. This was one date included along the way for their Paper Gods tour.  I know of at least one person who was there that night, too!  (A big hug and shout out to Heather!)

I don’t know about you, but right now, that date in 2016 feels like a decade ago.  Amanda and I were in the depths of writing. I can remember that we’d constantly tell one another that the road trip we would take later that summer would be the payoff for all of the hard work we were doing at the time.

I also remember getting messages from our friend Heather that night while she was in Montreal. I think it is fair to say she had a great time at the show, not that she would have ever expected otherwise. Amanda and I haven’t gotten too many opportunities to hang out with Heather in person over the years, although we’ve squeezed in a road trip and a visit since we first met her in person at our Durandemonium convention in 2013. She lives in Canada and pretty far from Montreal, as I recall. Even so, having the band perform there was like leading a bee to honey!  She drove the many miles between her house and Montreal, and I dare say she’d probably do it again if given the chance!

Whenever I think back on the Paper Gods tour, I get this wistful, far off feeling wash over me. It is the one tour that I look back on and feel like I did everything I wanted to do.  Oh, except Hawaii. Yeah, I couldn’t manage that one….dammit there’s always something! That wistful feeling, though  – the past six months have felt incredibly long. I know I just saw Duran Duran in December, but the real tour feels so long ago. So much has happened in such a short duration, and I know more is coming down the pipe in the few months ahead. The Paper Gods tour was something special. It was a time in my life I will continue to look back on with fondness, so I don’t mind these memories popping up from time to time. They remind me that life rarely stays the same for long.

-R

James Cole Winery Listening Party, 2015

Do you remember March 28, 2015?  I do. It was a day of envy, pride, joy, and jealousy.

On that date, Duran Duran appeared at a label (Warner Bros) event at James Cole Winery. It was a party designed to schmooze radio personnel and DJs by giving them a taste of Duran Duran circa 2015.  “Pressure Off” was played, and the band spent time working the room alongside label execs.

We fans were treated to a bit of hastily recorded video recorded by cell phone that was widely broadcast by any fan who got hold of the link. We marveled at the song, and wondered what the rest of it might sound like. Most of us would have given our eye teeth and then some to have been in that room.

Honestly, I just wanted to taste the wine.

Ok, not really. I mean, I like Duran Duran alongside a good Cabernet.

I mean listening to Duran Duran while sipping a good cab.

I’d best quit while I’m ahead.

Funny enough, Amanda and I had an idea for a listening party once. We actually had the audacity to think that with social media these days, what the band really needed were the fans. A good way to utilize their ever-loyal fan base these days would be to hold an intimate listening party that was truly an experience for a relatively small fans in a controlled, but very exclusive yet relaxed environment. No one listens to radio these days, and radio doesn’t play new Duran Duran anyway, we thought. They needed a different, and quite frankly better way of reaching their fans on a personal level. Why wouldn’t such an idea work? It would be fairly cheap, but mean the world to the fans, who would then be ready to shout from the rooftops about how great this album was going to be, and do whatever needed done…because that’s how an army of fans work. Look at any artist today, from Taylor Swift down to even Panic at the Disco! – they all USE their fans, and they do it by having events just like what we were thinking of. Wouldn’t it be worth a try?

So we sent off a proposal to the powers that be. It was the first proposal we’d ever written for something like this, and I’m sure we left things out – like how it would profit the label. We were extremely foolish and naive when I think back on it. (In all honesty – nobody at a label cares about fans.  Our feelings about a band or a record do not equate dollar sign…except they really do…but what do I know? I can say this for sure: labels care about money. That’s it. You and I and anyone else who buys a record is purely a dollar sign. They don’t even care about your legs being attached to you unless you use them to buy another song or album!) We should have run a study to show how each person that went to an event like that translates into a certain number of dollars earned for the label. Dollars matter. Fans and loyalty? Who cares!

In my head, that’s the part that everyone in the entire industry is missing…but I digress. The past is the past, and I still have a story to tell.

You can imagine what happened next, but I’ll share it anyway. Our answer to our proposal? Dead silence, from label to management…not even a note of “Gee thanks, but go back to your silly little blog and leave the tough stuff to us.”  Months went by, and then….an announcement of a listening party for radio DJs and music industry people. It sounded far too familiar, even if it wasn’t. Yes, it stung, even if it was purely coincidental.

I’m not accusing anyone of anything here – because it isn’t as though Amanda and I cornered the market on good ideas, or even so-so ideas.  However, I am saying whatever party they had sure didn’t seem to work well.

Out of curiosity, how many times did you hear radio play “Pressure Off” where you live?

My own answer? None. Not even one time, even on radio stations where the band had been interviewed. Invariably they’d have the interview and play an older DD song instead. It was less-than-helpful, or so it seemed. Even the NFL played “Pressure Off” in what I hope was a hefty licensing deal for the band, but not a single radio station in my area ever played it. But does anyone really even listen to radio anymore anyway? My kids tell me no, that they listen to Spotify. (This explains more than I care to know, or explain to my husband about our data usage…)

Granted, maybe having those folks actually play “Pressure Off” on their stations wasn’t the goal. I really don’t know. It would just seem to me that the whole reason for having such an event would be so that they’d be more enticed to play the song, even if the party was more about relationship building than selling an upcoming album. I could be wrong. Admittedly, I’m a layperson. What do I know anyway?

So yes, I remember this date. I remember hearing “Pressure Off” for the first time. I also remember how much pride and joy my heart felt that day, and those feelings mean a lot more than an unanswered idea for a listening party. Live and learn.

-R

 

Label comings and goings

I don’t know what it is about March 27th, but Duran Duran has announced a record deal ending, as well as one starting on this date in the past.

In 2009, Simon Le Bon wrote about their deal ending with Sony on duranduran.com.  It was also on this date in 2015 that Warner Bros. announced their deal with Duran Duran.  Two sides of the same coin, perhaps?

I can remember thinking that it was wonderful that Duran Duran was getting out from under Sony Records, particularly after Red Carpet Massacre. I don’t know what Sony had expected for the album, but I know that at the time, the album seemed to be underperforming. That isn’t a critique of the band, it is a critique of Sony, in my opinion. I felt that the label allowed the album to fall flat after its release. (Yes, I expected the label to move mountains rather than expect it to move under its own steam, I suppose.) Context is everything though, and during this time period, labels all over the country were redefining and consolidating themselves. It was, and still is, a very difficult time to be a musician.

On the same token, or the other side of the coin, there is Warner Bros.  Duran Duran released Paper Gods with Warner, and while yes, the album spent a small period of time in the top ten – did it really do well? I am really not sure. I don’t mean that I’m skeptical of its success…I mean I’m really not sure what DEFINES success these days. Is it sales? Is it tickets to live shows? What ever happened to videos? Do they matters? What about streaming – where does that fit into the equation? Does ANYONE, aside from the execs along with the Adeles, Justin Timberlakes, Taylor Swifts and Beyonces in this world, anyway, make money at this business in 2018?

I guess that really is the question, isn’t it?

-R

Losing Control: Where is it leading to?

If it hadn’t been for Amanda, I don’t think I would have remembered that Duran Duran,along with a fair amount of fans I recognize, are in Dubai this week.

Life has been a bit up in the air here lately. My husband has been interviewing by phone for a lot of companies all over the country, and for a while, every single day I’d get a text or two when I was at work suggesting the possibility of a new city to think about. “How do you feel about Philadelphia?”  Or “What about Chicago? Would you move back?” Today he has two more phone interviews. I have no idea how to plan, or what to plan for.  None of this is within my control right now. Should I start fixing up the house and thinking about packing away things I don’t need, or just start selling off personal items in order to keep paying bills. He’s been out of work since November, which in one sense has been a long time, but when you’re job hunting in his particular field with his particular job title, that’s not really so bad. My attention has been elsewhere, to say the least. Selfishly, I’m almost thankful we’re not talking tours right now.

Even with all that going on, and yes, it’s very stressful, I can’t help but notice a few photos from people I recognize and band members who don’t mind sharing their travels with us. Other than that, it’s hard to believe there’s #Duranlive happening anywhere right now. Dubai feels about as far away from California as the moon. (which I am well aware it is not!)

My own selfish needs aside, it is difficult to imagine that this may well be the only date for a live show this year. At one point, I was being told rumors of dates happening in spring. Obviously, that information was either wrong, or has been changed over the past several months. Either way, on one hand I’m relieved because I hate missing out (and I absolutely would have), and on the other – of course I always hope for something to happen. In some strange way, it helps to take my mind off of waiting for whatever is going to happen here at home. Those of you who have been in my situation know how difficult it is.

The one thing I’ve come to accept since November is that in this case, I have very little control over what might happen. I’ve told my husband over and over that I’ll move where ever we need to move. I’ve been very open and willing to consider every single place he’s suggested, and now we’re at a point where interviews are happening, although they’re just phone interviews right now – and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I’m anxious. This isn’t the first time he’s had to look for work, and he’s at a point now where it’s not just menial “worker bee” type of positions – the interview process is LONG. Our bills, however, keep rolling in. It isn’t fun. It isn’t as though because Walt has had time off we’ve traveled or gone on vacation. I’d say it’s the opposite.

As I am sitting here writing, Walt comes downstairs to tell me that one of the interviews he had set for this morning ends up needing to be rescheduled. I just take a deep breath and try not to show my disappointment. This has happened more times than I can count this time around, and it doesn’t help. It will easily be another week before that company sets something up (because it always is), and I keep reminding myself that there’s nothing that can be done. I’m merely the sounding block, I have no control. I have to just sit back, try to remain calm and positive, and let it take its course. Chances are, it all happened for a reason.

I suppose in some weird way, I’ve learned that this is the way it is for the band, too. I don’t have any idea if they’ve even started with studio time, or if they’ve even got any plans for anything in the future. Right now, aside from this Dubai show, I don’t know their plans. What I do know, and 100% accept, is that they’re going to do whatever it is that they’re going to do. Or not do. And that’s fine. It is totally out of my control. I have zero expectations this time around, and I don’t even have time or energy to think about it past blogging each day. Every so often I’ll see a comment from a fellow fan about whether or not they’re working on plans for #DD40. Most fans who comment about it seem to post like it’s an absolute “MUST” for the band to acknowledge and celebrate the milestone.

Is it really?

I mean, what if they didn’t? Would the world end? Would their career go up in smoke? What if they waited until year 45 to even tour again? What if they didn’t do a single thing other than put out a Facebook post? You know what would happen then?

Nothing. There would still be a sunrise. And a sunset. “Rio” would still get radio play, as would “Hungry Like the Wolf”.  The world would still know Duran Duran as that “MTV” band. We’d all still be fans. Or not. None of us have any control over what the band does. We don’t OWN them. They make the music. We buy it. For 99.9% of us, that’s as far as the relationship goes, whether we’ve been fans for 40 years or became a fan yesterday. Yes, it is hard to admit we’ve got no bearing, no skin in the game other than our loyalty – but that’s really all it is. We are not in control.

(You know who IS in control right now…along with the rest of his buddies? That’s right. You know the answer. Say it! The Controller. Aptly named, right??? And people wonder why we started calling him that. Gee I don’t know…)

So, I’m going to just sit back, wait, and be positive, because I really can’t do much else.

-R

Valentine Stones while we dance on the Valentine

If I thought yesterday was bad, today is even worse. There are not many notable Duran Duran “events” on my calendar for today, although the band has played a few shows on this date over the years, notably in 1984, 1993, and 2005.

So, I decided to do something different and talk about a song off of Paper Gods, aptly titled “Valentine Stones”.  The song is one of the bonus tracks off of the album, which I can now say are among some of my most favorite in the band’s overall catalog. This one is from the deluxe album (and I openly say I still dislike having to buy so many versions of the album to get all of the bonus tracks, even though I understand why, from a business standpoint, they do it. It is still annoying.) Yes, I’ll move off of my soapbox now.

First, let’s look at those lyrics. When I hear a song for the first time, I’m paying more attention to the music, but since this is by no means a new song, let’s just jump in with both feet.

Down here with the strays and the damaged
All stood in a line
This recovery so they tell me is one day at a time
And you think you can help me maybe
You can turn on your heels and save me
But I don’t want to be like the boys that you keep in tow
Like your valentine stones, stones, stones
Your valentine stones

All roads lead from my resurrection to your sympathy
An empty spaces which spoils your collection
That was meant for me
And you say you can help me maybe
You can turn on your charms to save me
But I don’t want to be just a toy that you keep at home
Like your valentine stones, stones, stones
Your valentine stones

Lost souls diamonds and gold
Gone cold valentine stones
Lost souls diamonds and gold
Grown cold valentine stones

First of all, I’d love to know which band member wrote this. Context is everything, although I know we’re supposed to be concerned with what the lyrics mean to ourselves. Even so, I wonder.

When I first heard this song, I thought about the title. “Valentine Stones” – for me, I went for the obvious (why think so hard all the time??). I went to school for gemology – so I immediately thought of those lovely little baubles that some generous significant (or insignificant!) others give for Valentines Day. Jewelry!  Diamonds, emeralds, rubies!!  You get the idea. I think about how they’re really just pretty sparkly things. Toys, really…which is even included in a line from the song. That’s sort of how I feel the person in the song feels. He/she is just a toy for this other person. I think that’s a fairly easy sentiment to identify with, and probably all of us have been there. Like anything, there are many different interpretations – there’s no “right” or “wrong”. What does the song mean to you?

The fun part, for me anyway, is the music. I like the heavy synth that begins the song, and I really love Simon’s vocals. They’re strong and clear, and then there’s that slightly funky rhythmic guitar. How can I not love that?!? There’s something to be said for a short, sweet and simple song like this one. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of the way the band wrote on their very first album. Valentine Stones doesn’t sound dated, don’t get me wrong, but it’s simple…and maybe that’s not the correct word to describe it. There’s not a lot of extra background fancy stuff going on, at least not to my ears. There is space between the notes, even with the short little break with Nick’s crunchy sounding synthesizer, it’s still neatly added. Not messy or overdone.

I’ve sat and wondered why some of these bonus tracks weren’t put on the album, and I’ve come to the conclusion that while each bonus track stands very strong on its own, when you think about Paper Gods as a whole, they don’t seem to fit. Amanda and I came to the conclusion that Paper Gods almost gives a sort of prospective about the band’s career. From “Paper Gods”, which in many ways is the perfect description of how the band is portrayed in the eyes of critics and even the public, to “Face for Today”, which seems to be give advice to a younger generation of Paper Gods, all the way though to “Universe Alone”, which many seem to think is how the band sees the end of their career. (But they’re not done just yet!) When you consider that sort of theme, it’s not a surprise that these songs didn’t fit so neatly into the story, and are therefore bonuses.

Even with all that in mind, like many of you – the bonus tracks are among my favorite. And let’s face it, Valentine’s Day is tomorrow…so while you’re dancing on the Valentine, you may as well listen to Valentine Stones, too!

-R

 

What is the function of a single in 2018?

My “Day in Duran History” desk calendar reminds me that on this day in 2011, BB2 announced that “Girl Panic” was the next single off of All You Need is Now.

Although I am the first to admit my memory isn’t what it used to be, I do remember hearing that “Girl Panic” would be the next single. I found that fascinating because up until that point, I hadn’t heard “All You Need is Now” more than a couple of times on the radio, if at all. I didn’t really understand the point of naming a single, unless of course we were talking about the physical release of a single – like on a 45. Sure, I’m dating myself here, but I really didn’t see the point, particularly if land-based radio wasn’t going to play anything the band released anyway.  I did buy the vinyl single, and like everyone else I waited on pins and needles for the video. But beyond that, I never quite got the necessity of the single.

My questions about singles lingered on through the release of Paper Gods, although on second thought I wonder if it’s simply that I have the wrong expectations in my head for what a “single” really means. Take “Pressure Off” for example. I never once heard the song played on any of the radio stations in Southern California. Not once. I didn’t hear about it being played anywhere, either. I don’t remember any kind of physical release, CD, vinyl, or otherwise for it…so what’s the point?

On the other hand, I know LA radio pretty well. In this market, there really isn’t a station that plays a genre that lends itself to recent Duran Duran. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard “Rio”, “Girls on Film”, “Ordinary World”, “Come Undone” and “Hungry Like the Wolf” on at least three, if not four stations in my area. It is rare that I can get into my car and drive the whole way home from work (45 minutes on a bad day) without hearing one of the above songs played. That said, as far as LA radio is concerned, Duran Duran hasn’t released even one song since 1993.  I’m pretty sure I don’t need to go into a full diatribe on that kind of stupidity, so I won’t.

I do have to ask though – what is the point behind putting out a single these days? Is it beneficial for Spotify? For subscription services like Sirius XM? What about internet radio? Does a band really need to release singles? I suppose that leads me to the question of an album, too. Are albums still necessary?

I know that recently Nick suggested that perhaps the studio time the band has casually thrown around in mention during their Katy Kafe wouldn’t necessarily lead to a full album. He’s said similar things in the past. I can’t say I’ve liked the idea enough to shout from the rooftops about it. I’m a big fan of full albums, myself. I like the idea of a complete story being told through music. I hate the idea of losing that format.

Are albums really any more necessary today than singles? I’m not sure.  Let’s not confuse this with whether we want more albums and singles. Rather, let’s consider their necessity and usefulness in this current business model and market.

-R