The last winner: Paper Gods
Which song better represents the Paper Gods Tour: Planet Earth or Pressure Off?
The last winner: Paper Gods
Which song better represents the Paper Gods Tour: Planet Earth or Pressure Off?
If you had to categorize Duran Duran in a word, what word would you pick?
Are they pop? Rock? New Wave? Synthpop? Electronic? New Romantic? I think Nick described the band as Modernist once or twice?? What would you say?
Yesterday, there were a few tweets going back and forth between several fans about DD’s music. Classic Pop Magazine has a Synthpop issue out on newsstands now. Although Duran Duran aren’t really mentioned in the magazine much, one of the editors put Ordinary World in their top ten synthpop songs. I find that interesting, because I wouldn’t characterize Ordinary World that way at all.
That got me thinking, of course. If Ordinary World isn’t truly synthpop, then what? I don’t think I ever came up with a reasonable answer for that. I always struggle with calling them a pop band because in my head – they’re not. They’re not music you’d hear on Top 40 radio (although we certainly did once). They might have some pop songs in their catalog, but I really hate the idea of categorizing them just as pop. It seems so pedestrian, boring and kind of cringy. Clearly, they’re not rock either. I mean, yeah, they’ve got guitar, but they don’t rely on it. I’d say similar for Synthpop – in my head, a synthpop group relies on the synthesizer for the melody lines. Is that the case with DD? I’d argue no on that.
Does it help to take one album at a time? I’d say no. For example, I mean, what do you call their debut? New Romantic? The problem with that, of course, is that the moniker isn’t as much about the music as it is about the fashion of the time. The reason we think of Planet Earth as New Romantic (aside from the words being in the lyrics…thank you Duran Duran…) is because of the ruffled shirts, the over the top hair and make up, the pirate look. To use a similar idea to what was discussed yesterday on Twitter, bands who were classified as New Romantic had synthesizers, but not all bands who had synthesizers were New Romantic. (nor were they New Wave – thanks @GuyFansofDuran!)
I think that for me, one of the reasons I’ve always valued Duran Duran so highly is that they didn’t CARE about boxes marked “New Wave” or “New Romantic”, or even “Pop” or “Rock”. The one thing I loved most about the band was also the one thing that challenged me from album to album. I never knew what a finished, new album would sound like, and there was never any way to prepare. As an aside, I’ve learned to never, EVER review one of their songs publicly after only a few listens. I have to sit with the music for a while. Paper Gods took me a good solid two or three weeks before I finally had that light bulb “I GET IT!” moment. I still don’t know what I’d characterize Paper Gods as, musically, though. Does it matter?
For those of us who tend to value a sense of routine and normalcy, Duran Duran has sometimes been the very opposite.
They’ve created music they liked. In their purist, most raw moments as a band in the very beginning, I don’t think they were worried about marketing or labels. Sure, they wanted fame and fortune. They wanted to be the biggest band in the world. But I don’t know that they were overly concerned with the minutia in getting there.
What do I mean by that? Well, what I’m NOT saying is that they were careless for detail. That isn’t it at all. I just don’t think that they consciously sat back and tried to figure out what music might sell best, or get radio time the easiest. There was a certain kind of bliss with industry ignorance in that respect. How self-aware was the band before they really “made it”? I believe it was simple enough for them to get out of their own way back then.
Writing and recording under those conditions had to have been easier in that aspect. I mean, once you know who you are, and what you’ve done in the past, I suspect that has the potential to set the bar incredibly high. When I compare Rio and Seven and the Ragged Tiger, I see the latter as evidence of being far too self-aware, despite my undying love for the work.
I’m not sure how Duran Duran gets past all of the mind games that come along with recording nowadays. The ghosts of albums past, the requirements of record labels to deliver at least one verifiable, marketable, top 40 hit coupled with the notions of playlists, streaming, and the idea of how much differently music is consumed these days than forty years earlier. On top of all that, deciding what kind of music they’re actually going to record, and fighting whatever label people want to put on them now? Pop? Rock? Electronic? EDM? Urban? Contemporary? Oh hell no. How can anybody be creative in that environment?
If I were them, I’d want to throw my phone in the trash compactor, unplug from society, and forget the labels. It seems to me that it might be the only way to record an album with honest, pure, organic intentions.
Of course, if they did that, then they wouldn’t be able to read my incredibly humorous and intelligent fodder.
Throw your electronic devices away, gentlemen… and good luck!
On Saturday night, we took a break from the whirlwind of constant activity so that we could spend time seeing a few tribute bands at the Anaheim House of Blues. My sister-in-law invited my husband and I to go see The Cured with them, and while we had no business taking any time away to do much of anything, we said yes anyway.
Rule #1 – buy the concert tickets. In this case, they were free, so why not, right??
I was thrilled to get away from this house, to be honest. Selling a house is stressful, and we’ve been working on this place for months now. Any deep desire to stay here and not move has long since been squelched. I’m ready to bid farewell to Rancho Santa Margarita and welcome what comes next.
Turns out, not only was The Cured playing, but Planet Earth (which ended up being Arena, because Planet Earth suddenly retired) was also on the bill that night, along with Substance, a New Order tribute. I was in luck!
This show was at the new Anaheim House of Blues. On the inside, the venue is big, clean and beautiful, but I dislike the way you enter. It used to be that if a concert-goer dines at the restaurant, entrance would be granted through the dining hall, and there wouldn’t be a wait at the door. No more. Customers may certainly eat at the HOB, but afterward, you exit the restaurant and still wait in the long line. Not the end of the world, but definitely an inconvenience and a hassle. Fine for tribute band shows, particularly this one since we had free tickets, but for a well-known band? No way. Why would anyone want to eat dinner at the House of Blues, particularly when their once-ample menu has now been paired down to less-than-a single-page of offerings, and then be forced to stand at the end of the very long GA line for a band like Duran Duran, for instance? The wise decision would be to forgo the dinner and just wait in line, or be happy hearing the concert from one of the side bar areas that offer an obstructed view.
The venue itself is big and airy like a warehouse conversion, along with dark and intimate feeling inside the actual concert hall. It is a nice, ample space for GA shows, similar to most other HOB locations I’ve been in. Believe it or not, the space filled very quickly. When the first band took the stage around 8pm, the house was packed.
And what was that first band, you ask? Arena!
I’ve learned a few things about tribute bands over the years. They tend to use the tribute thing as a bit of a gimmick. Some create as real of an experience as you can get without seeing the actual band live. They strive for authenticity, and that means if you’re playing Simon Le Bon, you’d better BE as close to Simon as possible. There’s no taking “artistic license” with his vocals OR with the lyrics. The costuming has to be accurate. “Simon’s” wig cannot look like it once belonged to Donald Trump, for instance. The music has to sound as close to the band as possible without it being karaoke or merely a lip sync performance. Sure, there might be some smoke and some mirrors, after all, even the real bands use backing tracks and a zillion other effects. However, the goal is for it all to feel genuine. Other bands use the tribute as shtick. It’s comedic, and it’s not really meant to be authentic, although it might still get audiences in the door. That said, there’s good comedy, and there’s really bad comedy, right? The same can be said for tribute bands. Some might be hilariously funny, but the musicianship is top-notch. Others might be funny because they’re trying to hide the fact that they can’t really play. Still others are a blend of all of it.
The whole tribute band scene is rather incestuous, so to speak. While you might see a band like Arena, or even The Cured—later on that same night, you might see people from those same bands performing in other tributes. While I can understand the economic issues in doing so, it all feels a little awkward to someone like me who might be paying attention. What band are they actually IN, and why is everyone trading members? Those things bug me. Even so, if the guy (or girl) can play it all, so be it.
Lastly, there’s me, obsessed Duran Duran fan. I am probably not the best audience for any DD tribute band, because A. I’m a huge fan. I know every single Duran Duran song down to the tiniest chord and glottal stop. and B. I own a blog.
The reality is, I’m a great audience member for any other tribute band besides Duran Duran. I don’t know anyone’s music the way I do DD’s, and I’m happy just to hear Blue Monday, Love Will Tear Us Apart or even Love Cats. I know the hits pretty well, but not obsessively so, and it’s all great fun. So, when I tell you that I was not entirely taken by Arena, understand that my standards are unapologetically high. They were good, but not great.
All of that aside, the band was fun. I definitely spent time bobbing my head and instinctively doing all the same things I might do at a Duran show—except for maybe screaming at the guitar player and rolling my eyes when they played HLTW—I’ve got to save something for the real deal, you know. I can’t review Arena the way I initially thought I might, because it would be unfair. I did have fun that night, and maybe that’s the takeaway for me – I can’t and shouldn’t intensively review a DD-tribute band.
I’ve come to the realization that I am the nightmare audience member for a DD tribute band, outside of maybe any actual, real, band member. I’m the person you can and should call in for a quality control assessment, because I’m brutally honest. However, no one needs me in their audience, particularly if I’m writing a review.
On the other hand, I loved Substance – the New Order tribute, because I’m a casual fan of New Order. I have their albums, I know their songs, but I don’t know them in the same way. The vocals weren’t exactly the right tone, but the music was good, and I heard songs I hadn’t heard in years. The same holds true for The Cured. The vocals were fairly close, and musically the band was fabulous. They have a professional quality about them that I very much admire, and I’d go see them again.
The escape, even for just a few hours, was a welcome respite.
Most Duranies seem to recognize a space theme within Duran Duran. Songs like “Planet Earth”, albums like “Astronaut”, and the alien manning synthesizers back on the risers, all support the idea. But did you know that Duran Duran even helped NASA once?
During the summer of 2001, the Space Shuttle Atlantis was due to land at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida after a 12-day mission to the International Space Station. At the time, they were still assembling the space station, and so there were many of these missions taking place. In fact, there were 3 spacewalks on this particular mission.
The shuttle was due back on July 24, but Mission Control was concerned about the landing due to poor weather. Yet, they really needed to get the shuttle back on the ground. So, who and what did they turn to in their time of need??
Duran Duran and “Hold Back the Rain”, of course! They played this song for the shuttle crew, motivating them for a safe landing in bad weather. The shuttle made it back on the ground without a hitch, and this mission became another part of history, so they say.
Unfortunately I can’t seem to find a NASA clip of it being played for the astronauts on YouTube, but I do have the 2017 performance from the Fox Theater in Oakland. I was in the audience that night, and nearly lost my mind. It was a thrill to have it included in their set that night.
The power of Duran Duran. Even NASA gets it!
Lately, I’ve been feeling a little nostalgic. During my spare time, I have been on YouTube, watching snippets of video from DD shows I went to, or videos I haven’t seen in a while, like “Nightboat”, “Careless Memories”, or even “Falling Down”. Nearly every day I check our history spreadsheet to see if anything noteworthy pops up that I should share, but it is rare that I’ll sit down and watch videos, much less go in search of them. I guess for me, they might be a needed source of comfort. Or else, I’m just super bored with packing and cleaning. There might be a bit of that, too!
Today I noticed that on this date in history, back in 2010, Mark Ronson played the Lovebox Festival. I realize that might not be so special, but his guests definitely were! Mark invited Simon and Nick on stage to perform “Record Collection” from Mark’s album with Business Int’l, and then John and Roger crashed the party to play “Planet Earth”.
I am one of those pesky Duran Duran fans that loves Mark Ronson, and I especially adore Record Collection. It is an album that I have to be in the right mood to play, but when I put it on, I’m never disappointed. I was thrilled to see Simon and Nick performing it with him and yeah, it was another one of those times where I kicked myself for not being there in person.
Sorry for the video quality – I didn’t take it! I recognized the video owner’s name, and she is a huge DD fan. I can understand her jubilance! Check out Mark, who can be seen in the back sporting what I believe should be a very recognizable outfit to any Duran Duran fan who has spent any kind of time watching old music videos lately!
The next video, of course, is “Planet Earth”. You may have heard that one before.
Now, this video isn’t necessarily the greatest either, some of it taken from the audience with hands and arms in the way. I love that the camera scans the stage, and if you look closely, you may just see MNDR on stage – she too was involved as part of The Business Int’l for the Record Collection album.
I loved watching these again. It is difficult to believe this happened eight years ago today. I don’t know about anyone else but it only feels like a few years ago at most. Crazy, right?
Is there something special about today’s date? Is there something I should know about February 2nd? (Pun intended.) Groundhog Day? Is that it? Hmm…it must be something Duran related. What could it be? Oh yeah…some song got released on this day. What song?! Hmm…Thinking. Thinking. That’s it! Planet Earth! This song was released on this date in 1981. 37 years ago.
Part of me definitely thinks that this date should be a holiday. No, I’m not talking about Groundhog Day. I don’t even pay attention to that. After all, I live in Wisconsin. It doesn’t matter what the little critter determines. We will have at least six more weeks of winter, no matter what. Anyway, the holiday I’m talking about is celebrating the song, Planet Earth. Now, some might say that I haven’t been very clear about my feelings about this song. I’m kidding. I think everyone knows what I think about this one. It is my very favorite Duran Duran song. I’m not quite sure when it took this prized placement in my heart but now that it has…I don’t think it is going anywhere. As a kid, I probably would have said that the Reflex was my favorite because it made me the Duranie I am today…but I don’t love that song like I once did. If I had to make a guess, it was seeing and hearing Planet Earth live that did it.
Why do I love the song live so much? Simple. It has everything I could ever ask for, including a little John Taylor solo, JoSi moments, audience participation and a means of separating casual fans from diehard ones with “switch it off”. (Fun fact: I once tested Rhonda’s husband about that before the three of us went to a show together. He felt certain that he should be up in the front with us as opposed to his section six spot in the back. I asked him about that and he did not do well clearly indicating his proper seat placement.) Back to Planet Earth, I simply love it. Let’s watch a clip.
The audience participation starts right away with this clip as John and Simon get the crowd clapping. Later, there is more clapping encouragement for John’s solo. (My personal favorite is when John used to push us to action by calling the crowd “motherfuckers.”) Then, of course, there is all the JoSi for the “look now, look all around” and “voices, another sound” parts. Sigh. Heck, in this clip, there is even DoJo about 1 minute into it. Dang. It really does have everything.
While I always love this song live, I remember one performance in particular…Biloxi, Mississippi in August of 2012. (Please note. Planet Earth starts about 6 minutes in.)
Unfortunately, as you know, they have had not this song in the set list much lately at all. Did I just accept this or did I put up with a little fight?
Here’s a picture of a little love note that I might have left on the stage last year…
Oh, heck, if you want to know the story, check out this blog here. Rhonda has no problem sharing my insanity. (Not that I can blame her. I can be pretty ridiculous.)
In all seriousness, beyond the live performances and adorable intro video that I will include at the end of this, this song is so much more. It captures a time when humanity was thinking about our place in the universe and questioning whether or not we are alone, which I love. More than that, it represents the beginning of Duran Duran and their career. Where would Duran be without having this song as their very first single? I cannot begin to know. I’m just grateful that it exists. So, today, I’ll celebrate it and the story of the band that I love that followed.
My “Day in Duran History” calendar tells me that on this date in 1999, Simon videotaped an appearance on a UK show called “Never Mind the Buzzcocks”.
Being American, I’m somewhat at a loss because up until today when I researched the show, I didn’t know what it was. That’s one thing about doing this blog – it has exposed me to a lot of things I’d never heard of prior! It was basically a comedy panel game, based on pop music. I marvel at the idea. (Does anyone else feel like American game shows could learn a little something from our overseas friends??) The show lasted 18 years, and was cancelled back in 2015.
Simon on a game show. Huh. I feel like there must be video of this somewhere. If not, there should be.
You know as well as I do that I went to YouTube in search of such treasures…and I found a little something to share. It’s only a short clip, and I have no way of knowing if there’s more out there…but it’s something!
I will say this: the look of complete and utter disdain in JUST the thumbnail you see below is enough to send me into hysterics. I may have had a bit too much caffeine to begin the day…
Oh yes. This is GOLDEN. It is worthy of a morning break, and it IS funny with genuine laugh out loud moments (and I am somewhat sad to say that I’m not even laughing AT Simon but at the rest of the panel and the host). Check it out if you haven’t seen it or need a chuckle this Thursday morning. I’m sure my UK readers could tell me a thing or two about this show, so forgive me if I’ve completely messed up the description!
Oh, and yes, I wish American TV would get a clue and try a game show like Never Mind the Buzzcocks. Instead, our entertainment industry is in this “Let’s reboot some of the best and worst shows and movies we’ve ever made” phase. It is like they’ve run out of original ideas….
Yesterday’s winner: Faster Than Light
Which song has BETTER LYRICS: Planet Earth or Careless Memories?
Yesterday’s winner: Planet Earth
Which song has BETTER LYRICS: Anyone Out There or Careless Memories?
Yesterday’s winner: 1984 Sing Blue Silver Tour
Which song has BETTER LYRICS: Girls on Film or Planet Earth?