Tag Archives: Red Carpet Massacre

Happy Birthday John!

Happy Birthday John!!

So, there are some blogs I feel woefully unqualified to write. A birthday blog for this particular person slides in that general direction from time to time.

First of all, Amanda is the “John-girl” around here. Not that I don’t admire John, but it seems unfair that I get to write for Roger, Dom AND John, you know?  The idea of writing a birthday blog for each member seemed great in year one of the blog. Even years two through five were good. I still had things to say and memories to replay.  But now, I think this is what, year six? I’m going to be honest: I don’t think I know John very well.

Yes, there’s his book. Some might say he wrote a lot in there. (I’m actually one of those people) I felt he exposed himself pretty selflessly.  Even so, I’ve had almost no interactions with him over the years, so I can’t write from personal experience.

I mean, unless you count shows.  John amazes me at shows sometimes, because there I am, one little face in a crowd of thousands, and even when I’ve been back a few rows, sometimes he’ll make eye contact. Unlike with other members of the band – when John is looking at you, you know he’s looking at you.  There was this one time Amanda and I were at the House of Blues in Atlantic City (I hope that’s right. I get this stuff screwed up a lot) and it was during the last leg of Red Carpet Massacre shows here in the US. They were just starting the song Red Carpet Massacre, which happens to be my favorite off of that album. John gets the crowd clapping along, and I started to clap and happened to look up. He caught my eye, and slightly shook his head because, wouldn’t you know it – I was clapping wrong. (I know there’s a lesson for fans in here about paying proper attention at shows…) I watched carefully and started clapping appropriately and received a big grin. It was only later that I was mortified that I had to be taught correctly by John….

There’s that other time at the Sears Center when I tested the line of sight from the stage because I wasn’t quite convinced John could really see all the way to the ninth row. Amanda and I were having the time of our lives that night, dancing and singing to every song as though we’d never gone to a Duran Duran concert before. We were having a blast. I think the band began Electric Barbarella, and I pulled a face. In fairness, it isn’t my favorite song and hey, who can really see us in the ninth row anyway??

Well, I look up, and John Taylor is laughing and looking our way. I don’t think much of it because, seriously, there are eight rows of wonderful people in front of me. He wasn’t looking at us. But then he kind of kept looking and seemed to be at least chuckling, so I did what any normal fan would not do, and stuck my tongue out playfully. I figured that no response would tell me that of course he wasn’t looking at us. Well, he returned the favor.  I laughed. Because really, what could I do?? He caught me fair and square!

Oh, and then there’s Valley Center in 2011. This was just as they were getting themselves back into touring mode after having canceled their UK tour that spring. It was the first show I was going to see them at, and I was pretty emotional that night because for a while there, I really had my doubts about whether Simon would ever really be able to sing the same again. I was worried. Nothing more, nothing less. So that night was different because of my emotions, because Amanda wasn’t with me…and because I also had my less-than-emotional husband with me, and we were in the second row.

By that time, I am pretty sure everyone knew I didn’t love Hungry Like the Wolf…but when they started playing it that night, I know I rolled my eyes, and didn’t really dance much. Well, I was right there in row TWO, and who should come bounding over to Dom’s side of the stage but John. AND Dom. AND Simon. Yes, it was choreographed that way at the time, but during the “Do do do” section of the song (you all know what I mean), John looks down at me, grins like a damn Cheshire cat and sings the line right at me, grinning the entire time.

Ok then, John. Even my husband, who typically doesn’t notice much, noticed. And so did Dom, who openly laughed. There was no way I was going to get away without singing. And let’s face it, John didn’t know that I was sick to death of that song at the time. I’m sure he doesn’t read the blog. He just knew that I was at his show and wasn’t singing along…and he was going to fix it. So he did.

I make sure to sing EVERY song (and clap correctly) when I go to shows now. Lesson learned, point taken.

I don’t know. Fans have often said to me that John doesn’t seem to interact much from the stage. Pretty much everyone complains about his absence from social media, although everyone and their brother seems to think they know exactly why he left. Even with his book, and his book tour, the shows and the things he goes out of his way to do for various charities – and the meet and greets he does for those types of organizations, people say he doesn’t interact. I’ve even said I don’t know him.

The thing is, I think with John, we really do kind of know who he wants us to know. Not everyone is comfortable with that “in your face” constantly kind of atmosphere that goes along with celebrity. John reminds me just a little of myself, in that when I go “on tour” with Amanda, by the time we’ve had a meet up or hung out with people all weekend, or even just all night, I’m ready for some downtime. By the end of a weekend with friends, I’m happy to retreat back into obscurity. It is hard to be “ON” all of the time, and I’m no celebrity. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be in the band and never get away from it.

I think that’s why the boundaries are there, and why someone like John has learned to keep them rock solid. Sure, I miss him on social media, so much so that when DDHQ does tweet a picture or a video or something from him, I love it. It’s not the same as when he’d tweet us directly or whatever, but it’s probably healthier for him, and I respect that.

I look forward to seeing him onstage in a few weeks. Hopefully I will have my clapping and singing up to snuff!  Happy birthday John!!

-R

Notorious & Wild Boys by Steve Malins

Do you like to read books about Duran Duran?  It is probably not shocking that I do and always have.  Looking back at my childhood, I remember reading and rereading and rereading paperbacks about Duran, such as Bop Magazine’s 700+ facts.  These days, the books and magazines surrounding the band are a little more sophisticated.  Obviously, fans who like to read have been lucky enough to enjoy both Andy and John’s autobiographies in recent years.  On top of that, in 2005, an unauthorized biography called Notorious by Steve Malins was published.

As I’m sure you are not surprised, I read that book as soon as I purchased it and have even read it more than once since then.  Rhonda and I have had a few conversations about the book.  In general, I think the book is stronger in the beginning, about the band members’ childhoods and the early days of the band.  As the book moved closer to current day, the sources were clearly all secondary sources, meaning that the information came from published articles, etc. as opposed to any real life individual.  This, of course, is common with unauthorized biographies.  The band did not share or get interviewed for the project.  I would say that in many cases the information in the book is common knowledge for many Duranies.

That said, when I saw that there was an updated version out, I had to pick it up.  The updated version, called Wild Boys, contains an additional chapter, surrounding both the Red Carpet Massacre era and the All You Need Is Now cycle.  What did I hope to learn from this additional chapter?  I won’t lie.  I hoped to gain some insight about Andy’s departure as well as behind the scenes for Red Carpet Massacre as I suspect that there is a lot more that went on that fans have been in the dark about.  What did I find out?

Andy’s Departure:

Interestingly enough, the book dedicated about two paragraphs to Andy’s departure.  Literally, it mentioned that the album, Reportage (the one Duran wrote and recorded after Astronaut but shelved), was stalled by “legal issues with Taylor”.  I’m not sure what the source of that was.  The author describes reports about the album that claim that the album was “edgy and contemporary”  (Malins 283).

Then, in the next paragraph, Andy’s departure was summarized by describing the official press release on the band’s website as well as how Andy described it in his book.  According to this book, the band claimed that there was ‘an unworkable gulf’ and Andy suggested that there was tension between him and management.  Clearly, I was hoping for a lot more as I knew both of those statements already.  I read the official announcement when it was posted in 2006 and read Andy’s book as quickly as it came out as well.  Now, I realize that an unauthorized biography will not have as much insight as an authorized one where the author is getting the scoop from the celebrity him/herself.  That said, I am surprised that there was not even any speculation on the author’s part on how this major personnel change would affect the band.  Instead, there was no analysis, just those statements.

Despite the lack of analysis on Andy, the author does mention Dom Brown a number of times.  The first time was right after talking about Andy’s departure.  Here the author says, “Duran Duran soldiered on by installing Dom Brown, who had toured with them before, as their new guitarist.  He has remained with them ever since, playing an increasingly valuable role”  (Malins 283).  Later in the chapter, Dom’s contribution is described during the writing and recording for All You Need Is Now, stating how he co-write most of the songs on that album.  What I found fascinating by this is that if I didn’t know better, I would read this chapter and assume that Dom is a permanent band member.  Yet, that is not the case.  He is in some weird limbo between a touring guitarist and a band member.  Malins does not explain that at all.  Likewise, there is no explanation of when and why Dom toured with the band before RCM.

Red Carpet Massacre:

As for the album created following Andy’s departure, Malins chose to focus on an article/interview from The Quietus that came out, not during the RCM cycle but afterwards during AYNIN.  According to that interview, Nick stated how they knew that RCM would be a risk with the fans.  Simon followed by stating that the fans left “no doubt” about how they felt about the album (Malins 293).  Again, though, outside of the quotes from the band, there is little explanation about why the fans might not like RCM.  On top of that, as someone in the fandom at the time, those brief statements don’t really explain what was really going on with the fans at that time.  It is and was far more complicated than that as many fans actually liked it, creating a wide division within the fan base.

All You Need Is Now:

The focus of the All You Need Is Now discussion surrounded Mark Ronson’s vision for the album and the Girl Panic video.  On one hand, I always appreciate reading and hearing about how Mark is a fan and pushed the band to really try to embrace their true selves and to occupy their rightful place in the music industry.  On the other hand, I am not really sure why there was so much focus on the Girl Panic video.  While I get that they used models who were pretending to be the band, I still found the discussion about it superficial.  Why did they use models?  I don’t know.  Why did they show fame in the way they did with luxury hotel living, fans surrounding them, bottles of champagne, etc?  I don’t know.

This, of course, is the argument I make about the entire project.  I want more of an in-depth, behind the scenes sort of analysis.  Perhaps, my frustration is unfounded.  I already know a lot about the band so I didn’t learn anything.  Others reading this book might learn a lot.  For them, maybe, the book serves the perfect function.  It does give a rough outline about the band’s history from formation through All You Need Is Now.

Has anyone else read this book?  What did you think about it?

-A

Malins, Steve.  Notorious.  London:  Andre Deutsch, 2005.

Malins, Steve.  Wild Boys.  London:  Andre Deutsch, 2013.

My Own Way: Album Ranking

Welcome to Monday. It is my first day back after a nearly a week of festivities, and so I’m going to start slow…by doing my own ranking of albums.

In full disclosure, I read diffuser.fm’s take on Duran’s career, as well as Amanda’s, prior to making my own choices. Both gave me a little more to think about, but neither swayed my decisions. I know we’ve done this before, but as Amanda mentioned, I haven’t even considered it since Paper Gods came out.  Why not revisit?

My own countdown is devised so that I mention the album and the reasons for where it sits. Some albums may have a paragraph, others might have a sentence or two. I left Arena off of my list completely as it only has one studio song on it and if I were to rank live albums I would do them all.

I’ve learned that I cannot hem and haw around while I am ranking things or picking favorites. I feel a little like I’m mowing down the field of Duran Duran albums as I go through the process, quickly deciding what should go where and why – but I go with my first instinct, my gut, and don’t look back. I do fine as I begin, but somewhere around #8 I start worrying, but remind myself to go with  my gut. I look back over the list as I’m finishing and realize that for now – today even – it’s how I feel. Tomorrow?  Who knows.  That’s kind of how it’s always been for me as a fan.

Perhaps it’s really gotten to the point that I identify so closely with their career – each album marking a particular point in my own life – that it’s difficult to be objective anymore. I don’t know, but I tried. I’m sure I’m not the first fan to be stumped by ranking albums or picking favorite songs. In fact, I know I’m not!

Thank You

I just never felt they hit their stride here. While some songs, such as Perfect Day or Lay Lady Lay are so silky smooth you can’t help but enjoy them, others, such as 911 is a Joke, make no sense at all.  Then there’s White Lines, which is great live, but on the album it tends to fall flat. I can’t fault the band too much for trying something few other bands of their calibre have done, but it just does not rank high on my list of favorites.

Red Carpet Massacre

Anyone who knows me probably saw this coming, and I’m sorry for being predictable. I don’t think this album can or should be swept under the proverbial carpet and forgotten – because it is how we got here, to this place we all currently occupy. I can certainly see and hear the parallels between this album and Paper Gods. I’m glad they tried out some of the things they learned from RCM over again to get them right.

Pop Trash

I would characterize Pop Trash as the fast food of Duran Duran’s career.  Perhaps fitting? While the album is nowhere near “bad”, I never felt that there was a lot for me to sink my teeth into and devour.  It lacks the depth of some of their other work, which is why it ended up in this place on my list.

Medazzaland

Ah, Medazzaland.  If there were any album that had changed for me over the years since it’s release – it would be this one.  I just didn’t get it when it first came out. In fact, I listened to the album in full one time before shelving it for many years. Lately though, I’ve listened to it, and I’m finally starting to get it. No, I’m still not a fan of the title track (sorry Nick), or Silva Halo, but I do really like Big Bang Generation, Who Do You Think You Are, and Midnight Sun. There’s a lot hiding amongst the shadows on this album, and I think it’s worth a revisit.

Liberty

How can I rank this above Pop Trash or Medazzaland? 2am drives from Hollywood, that’s how.  Our personal experiences shape our listening choices, and for me – that’s why Liberty works. It kept me awake many times during college and beyond, so I’m going with it.

The Wedding Album

I have to admit that I agree with Amanda – while there are two songs on this album that are iconic for Duran Duran, the album as a whole isn’t nearly as impressive as others (which I recognize is tough to do when you’re Duran Duran and have had so many successes).  So it’s not that I think the album is bad – it’s that the band has too many great ones!

Astronaut

Oh yes I did rank this one about The Wedding Album. Please see the line about personal experiences.  For me, this album is all about the Fab Five. I can’t ignore it, I can’t get past that, and it was a dream come true for me. Yes, it’s pop. Sure, there are songs on it that I didn’t love and I still take it personally that they didn’t include Beautiful Colors, Salt in the Rainbow and Virus on it. Even so, I’ll take it.

Notorious

I am pretty sure that at one point or another, I ranked this lower on my list. Again, I didn’t get it. But just a week ago, I pulled the album out and gave it a good listen. What is most remarkable to me about Notorious, is that it came after Rio and Seven and the Ragged Tiger. Those albums were hugely successful. Then they had two band members leave, and rather than sticking with what they knew, they took the opportunity to blaze new territory. It was like deciding to take a giant left turn out of nowhere. As a child, I had little respect for that sort of thing. In fact, I don’t think I really understood.  Even as an adult I sometimes get caught up in what I think DD should be or should sound like – but I’m working on it.

Big Thing

Another album I didn’t really get until adulthood. The first half is as dance music as I’d expect from DD, and the latter is the culmination of some of their finest songwriting moments. The emotion that comes across threw the B side of this album is astounding, and in my opinion, it is the best DD album that no one has really heard.

Paper Gods

Here’s the thing about Paper Gods for me – I like it. I don’t know that I love it, although I’ve tried. It ticks a lot of the boxes for plenty of people, but it is also an album that I really needed to come to terms with. I didn’t fall in instant love, but I would say I’ve grown to respect each song and the work that went into making the album overall. I can’t fault an album that hit top ten, if only for a brief, shining moment.

Seven and the Ragged Tiger

This goes bad to personal experiences for me. This album is my seventh grade wrapped in vinyl. Awkward, sometimes overdone, but still well-loved. Sure, it might not be their best songwriting, but I love it all the same, and that’s why it is near the top of my list. All I have to do is hear the opening notes to Union of the Snake and I’m back on the lawn with my friends at recess, gawking at the latest edition of Tiger Beat. For me, those memories are priceless, and that is what makes music so powerful.

Rio

I know what you all are thinking.  Yes, I really did put Rio third. The trouble is, it could easily be second. Or first. The final three on my list here are probably interchangeable, if not completely tied. I cannot think about Duran Duran without thinking about Rio. If there were ever a reason why Hungry Like the Wolf is played at every single DD show – it is because of Rio. Try as we might, we simply cannot separate Rio (the album) from the band, in the same way that we cannot separate HLTW from them either. I get it. I may not always like it, but I get it. And I respect it.

All You Need is Now

It pains me that the band left this song, and many songs from this album, off of their set list this past year. For me personally, this album is easily as iconic as Rio. It describes the band, and their relationship with their audience, to a T. To think that Duran Duran wrote this album during their third decade together simply blows me away. It is an album that never got it’s justice, and it is still one of my very favorite.

Self-titled Debut

I really don’t think it is all that surprising that one of my favorite albums is the one that started it all for them, and for me. I love the rawness, the lack of expectation, and the realness of the music. There is no ego here, no trying to outdo what has already been done. It is simply music from  a band ready to take it’s place in the world.  This is an album from Duran Duran before they were DURAN DURAN, and it is the most real we’ve ever gotten from them. that is why it remains number one for me.

My choices weren’t all that surprising, but the exercise was fun. I don’t anticipate others to agree with me – in fact, you shouldn’t. We all have had our own journey, and that is what makes it all fun.  I’m no music expert, and I only have my own taste to rely on, so by all means make your own list and have fun with it.

-R

 

 

Power to Change the Point of View: Album Reviews

Our friend Manuela from Milan is back with a guest blog shortly reviewing the studio albums since Andy left the band for the second time. See how your thoughts match up with hers!  -R 

by Manuela Salvade

On September 26, it will mark ten years without Andy on guitars (or with Dom on guitars, depending on your point of view… Lol!).

(ed. note: Dom had played previously with Duran Duran, but Manuela means as a permanent member of the touring band instead of just as a stand-in for Andy)

While all the hard die fans are celebrating the lasting of this current line-up, I won’t share my feelings about it.  Instead, I’m will review their studio albums released during this period. Overall, I really love the albums, they’re awesome and I don’t find there is the same sort of “re-invention” we had with the Notorious” days.  That said, I love the wisdom they’ve acquired along the way. These three albums are part of a truly awesome legacy.

RED CARPET MASSACRE

At first I just found the music funny, dance-y and groove-y. I rated it as one of the best pop “experiments” done with producers who really don’t share much with their DNA, think of Alex Sadkin, or Ian Little in 1983. Few years since its release, they had a tour—with that memorable electro-set, no less—now my thoughts are that it wasn’t an album to underrate. RCM actually was a seed for the following albums! The real “geniuses” weren’t the Timbaland’s team, but just the 4 guys who today could capitalize the RCM moment. The guitars are awesome and not many noticed, because they were too busy ranting on the Andy/the 4 guys affair.

ALL YOU NEED IS NOW

Another awesome page of DD’s history. It features pop gems. There was chemistry with us fan—who can forget the interactions on the social platforms and during the concerts??—there was chemistry with Dom, whose guitars sounds fab. So, the main factors of “chemistry” and “peace-of-mind” made that period one of their best ones.

PAPER GODS

I love the accuracy in the arrangements, I love the wisdom in the lyrics, and I love the groove. It all brings me back to 1993 as I find in the same accuracy in the arrangements on the second self-titled album. This is the first “fruit” of Red Carpet Massacre. The tracks are strongly dance oriented, similarly to RCM. Under the surface, I did assume the boys wanted to use the Red Carpet Massacre days to fruition, as they didn’t seem to enjoy it much at the time.

These three albums are the real (awesome) legacy to me.  The controversy on the Andy’s affair, the words sometimes spoken by the guys I found hard to acknowledge as the “down” moments that disappointed me. I won’t cry any tears for those things I have seen or heard and didn’t like. These three albums are what will survive. Words can pass by, music doesn’t. Both Negative and positive events took place in these past few years, but the music was the energy above all.

Manuela picManuela is a long time Duran fan and of pop rock music from the 70s right thru today. She is a public employee at the Milan Town Hall, for a Bureau that provides with a service of help, advice, moderation and support, but no PR, to all organizers of small and big events in her town: EXPO 2015, she is behind the scenes of Fashion Weeks, of MTV and other live concerts, big sport events like Champions League, NBA. She is also a loyal, kind and loving friend and partner.