In lieu of an uplifting topic today…I’m posting videos of songs and moments that make me happy. Enjoy!
I miss this band.
In lieu of an uplifting topic today…I’m posting videos of songs and moments that make me happy. Enjoy!
I miss this band.
Yesterday’s winner: Rio
Which song better represents the All You Need Is Now Tour: Runway Runaway or Safe?
Yesterday’s winner: Other People’s Lives
Which song better represents the All You Need Is Now Tour: The Reflex or Rio?
Yesterday’s winner: Only in Dreams
Which song better represents the Paper Gods Tour: Pressure Off or Rio?
The last winner: Rio
Which song better represents the Paper Gods Tour: Save a Prayer or The Seventh Stranger?
The last winner: Pressure Off
Which song better represents the Paper Gods Tour: The Reflex or Rio?
a dialogue between the ego and the alter-ego
As a music writer who recently lost his primary publishing outlet, the kind offer from Daily Duranie to be their intern and write once a week really softened the disappointment. Over the last few weeks, I have dove back into every corner of my Duran Duran memories and music to establish a mental base of operations for future writing. I’ve listened to every album again and watched some DVDs that I had missed. In the end, I realized one thing about myself. I am a divided self. At least, I am with Duran Duran albums.
When I think about Duran Duran albums, there is a friction between my critical mind (which reviews an album or two each week) and my nostalgic heart. If you asked either piece of me to rank the albums, the lists would look quite different. So, I had to make a list. It’s a guy thing. We like making lists and arranging our taste in some sort of hierarchy that proves how smart we are. We are aware of this issue and we are working on it.
The Best Duran Duran Albums
1. (1.) Rio
Rio is never a debate. From the artwork to the videos to every single song, the album captured a moment in popular culture and convinced us the our lives could be a James Bond film in some way. The bass lines are the stuff of legend and the band never again found such a perfect balance between Andy’s aggressive guitars and Nick’s carefully arranged melodies. Every band has “that” album where they are in the zone but sometimes you get tired of it. Not with Rio.
(What he said.)
2. (2.) Duran Duran
A formidable debut album. From the Buzzcocks’ 1977 Spiral Scratch EP to this sounds like an eternity but it was only four years from punk to post-punk to Duran Duran. The musical maturity is already there in the arrangements and the band still sounds young and hungry. If this and Rio were all they ever released, Duran Duran would be revered like Joy Division.
(OK, not Joy Division. But this debut rocks harder than people remember. The later addition of “Is There Something I Should Know?” in 1983 actually disrupts the album with Alex Sadkin’s production sounding too bright and colorful amongst the Colin Thurston tracks. Rarely talked about by critics, this is one of the strongest debuts of the decade.)
3. (5.) Big Thing
Experimental with purpose and the proper dose of Warren on guitar has aged this album extremely well. “All She Wants Is” still sounds pristine with a low-end that can shake the room. From moody ballads to driving dance tracks, Duran Duran colorfully (those outfits…) flaunt the ease with which they juggle pop and art.
(Your neon colored eyes were at this show in 1989 and the band was fading in popularity. This album’s lukewarm success further pushed the band asunder of popular culture so how grand could it all be? Well, it is pretty grand but “Drug (It’s Just A State of Mind)” sounds completely out of place and is a total duff. If only there was an incredible B-side that should have replaced it. Hmm.)
4. (14.) Arena
The opening drums of “Is There Something I Should Know”. Is anybody hungry? Switch-it off. Was I chasing after rainbows? So many lines ignite the memory of listening to and watching this concert. Hearing “Seventh Stranger” on the last tour with the footage from 1984 playing above the stage was truly special.
(How many live albums are really not that “live”? Probably most. How many of those also “live albums” include a studio recording mid-set? “Wild Boys” drops out of the sky into the middle of a concert and nobody thinks this is weird? When you can actually hear John’s bass, the songs sound better but the original version of Arena sounds like it was mixed in a soup can.)
5. (7.) Seven & the Ragged Tiger
As a kid, the build-up to the video premier of “Union Of the Snake” felt as exciting as watching the Space Shuttle launch. Lizard people in a desert. An underground society of freaks. The song and video ushered in the band’s most saturated time in popular culture. Soon after, “The Reflex” brought Duran their first US #1. As good as the singles are, the desolate “Seventh Stranger” remains the masterpiece here.
(Nile Rodgers saved this album by fixing “The Reflex”. There are three songs in the middle of the album that I have always confused. As I try to hear them in my head, “(I’m Looking For) Cracks In the Pavement” is the one I like best and the one that isn’t about dice is the one I like least (at a loss for what it is called right now and I listened to this cassette every day for a year when it came out). This album is inconsistent and the band sounds stressed that the fans might catch on.)
6. (4.) Notorious
I wasn’t ready for it when it arrived but this and Big Thing really stand-out in the band’s career. The band really fought themselves out of a corner with Notorious and established themselves as musicians, not teenage heart throbs. The musical talent was always there but the band sounds more focused and precise.
(Notorious was when Duran Duran stopped trying to be James Bond and took a deeper interest in the relationships of our beloved 007. “Skin Trade” is as sexy as Duran has ever been. Even with Andy gone, the guitars are still keeping Mr. Rhodes’ more pretentious proclivities in balance yielding a mature and confident Duran Duran. Song for song, there is a consistent quality to the album where every song serves a purpose.)
7. (3.) All You Need Is Now
Without a doubt, my favorite Duran album post-80s. Mark Ronson keeps it simple by focusing on what works best. They might not be hits in a commercial sense but fans of a band know when a song is a “hit”. The title track and “Girl Panic!” were top-shelf singles in any decade. An unfair criticism but the fact that we don’t listen to albums on repeat day after day anymore probably makes this slightly under-appreciated by me.
(Slightly under-appreciated?! Song for song, this belongs in their top three. The artwork, the analogue synths, the stellar guitar work of Dom Brown, and an arsenal of hooks makes this an unforgettable Duran Duran album. What is harder than following up a massive debut album with an even bigger one that conquers the world? Recording an album two decades later that holds its own with the first two.)
8. (6.) Medazzaland
Mid-period Duran Duran without a Taylor was a little uncertain but Medazzaland remains an experimental delight. The video for “Electric Barbarella” might stir debate but the song sounds futuristic and kitsch. They even erupt like Tesla on the chorus of “Who Do You Think You Are?”. A few anonymous tracks drift-by but the album never loses its grip on you.
(Not releasing it in the UK was a tragedy. The UK audience would have appreciated the cold electronics. While not exactly Bowie’s Low, the band’s experiment pays off with a strong collection of songs. Warren colors between the lines when he needs to and enhances Nick’s digital landscapes. Best experienced as a whole, Medazzaland sounds like a place we should visit.)
9. (11.) Red Carpet Massacre
The follow-up to Reportage (apparently), suffers from a case of uncertainty but there are some genuinely killer dance tracks on here. Hearing “Tempted” live sent me back to this album and I found more than I remembered. Simon’s voice on “Box full o’ Honey” sounds exquisite, for one. “Dirty Great Monster” sounds like a lost Cheap Trick gem and “Last Man Standing” is the sort of album track that can carry an album beyond the singles.
(Parting ways with Andy should have ignited a spark of swagger from the band but they sound content to the let the high-priced producers do the driving. Timberlake really brings little to the party besides being popular at the time. He is a once-in-a-generation talent but the collaboration was stale. Chasing a more “authentic” club sound only reminds us how important Roger Taylor on real drums is to the Duran Duran formula.)
10. (8.) Liberty
Unfairly maligned for some misteps like “Hothead”, there is some really great material on Liberty. Every critic said the lead single was a terrible choice but I actually dig “Violence”. The second side of the album definitely loses some focus but the first half proves worthy of frequent listens and “My Antartica” is nothing short of beautiful.
(The modern-pop of “Serious” and the fierce “First Impression” showcase a band considering future paths. At the time, it was easy to call this indecision but I think it was borne from curiosity the more I listen to the album. The myth that Wedding Album “saved” the band implies that Liberty was a catastrophe. Nothing is further from the truth.)
11. (12.) Wedding Album
The first time I heard “Ordinary World”, I was crossing the railroad tracks near Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach, FL. I remember it that vividly. Duran Duran was back! Three classic singles and some interesting filler made for a respectable but overrated album.
(No matter how successful “Ordinary World” was to the band, it still doesn’t sound like a classic Duran Duran song. While the liquid grace of “Come Undone” and the attitude of “Too Much Information” were dynamite, the rest of the album is far less coherent than Liberty.)
12. (9.) Astronaut
Andy Taylor’s guitar tone has a unique frequency that just soothes my soul. His style is a breath of fresh air after Warren’s antics on the fretboard (and in the bedroom). Even if there was only the reunion tour, it was worth it but the band took the time to deliver new material that often reminds you of their best work while not quite getting there.
(I would have liked to see them hit the studio after a reunion tour while the juices were flowing but “What Happens Tomorrow” and “Nice” will always make my Duran playlist. Rest of it is somewhat forgettable but I enjoy it when I listen to it.)
13. (10.) Paper Gods
Living in Vegas, you build up an instant distain for anything that smells like EDM. So, “Last Night In the City” will always be an album killer for me. The ballads lack the necessary hooks and the best songs from this period were relegated to b-side status. Paper Gods took too long to record and there were too many cooks in the kitchen.
(Not nearly as bad as I think. “Sunset Garage” could almost slip into a Motown playlist while “Danceophobia” is a legendary band having a laugh. The bold title song shows confidence at the front of the album and the band sounds ready to keep the party going for at least another decade.)
14. (13.) Thank You
(The critics were savages when this came out but the production is quite good. “Perfect Day” is full of grace and “White Lines” captures the paranoia of the original. Still, it could have been much better than it is. )
15. (15.) Pop Trash
This was mostly trash.
Just when you think you’ve seen enough popularity contests for a while, another pops up!
Last week, while ruminating on the nomination list for the RRHOF, there was a poll for the greatest album of 1982. This very serious, scientifically accurate poll by @RickMayer_Vinyl, pitted 1000 albums from that year against one another, bracket style. Each bracket was whittled down to the final four, which consisted of Rio, Signals (Rush), Number of the Beast (Iron Maiden), and Never Surrender (Triumph).
At first, Rio was losing, and badly at that. But we Duranies got out the vote, and eventually came out on top at 44% to Rush’s Signals at 36%. To those who are unaware, Rush has a fantastically strong fan community, not unlike our own. They are connected, they have get togethers all over the country, and they do fan conventions that in turn, inspire me to do more. To beat such very dedicated fans was not a small feat, and really – in this situation, that’s what it is about. Whether you’re a Rush fan or not, I think it is prudent to acknowledge that polls like that aren’t really about the quality of the music, but the strength of numbers in voting. Signals is a fantastic album, and I wouldn’t have been too upset had it won. These polls amount to a popularity contest, but then – many things do.
However, participating in things like that, while fun from time to time, also reminds me of where this fan community, as well as the band, sits in the world of music. There was certainly some good natured shade thrown between fans. Most of it, as I said, was good natured ribbing. No harm, no foul. However, there’s always someone who feels it necessary to take it a bit farther. It is a shame that in 2019, that we need to still be reminded that a good portion of the world – the “rock” portion of the music-listening world, mind you – believes that only girls ever listened to Duran Duran. Unfortunately, this thinking still prevails amongst a certain segment, and does little more than remind me how much of an uphill battle we have when even fellow music fans cannot give credit where it is due without a backhanded comment This doesn’t come down to critics and music journalists gathered in a room, determined to snub bands like Duran Duran. I wish it did.
This morning, yet another popularity contest of sorts reared it’s head on Twitter, although this one had already been decided. Rolling Stone published a list of the 100 best singers of all time, and the results are between tweeted. If you haven’t seen it yet, you most likely will see it being retweeted at some point. There is a full article about it here at Rolling Stone, too. It is worth reading if you can manage the time because it goes into full detail about each person and their ranking on the list. Otherwise, here’s the full list:
I don’t know why they bleeped out Joe Cocker’s last name, but whatever. In some ways, it plays to the childish sort of dumbassery that goes into creating a list like this to begin with. Content is content, I suppose.
My problem isn’t so much with the list, although any list that contains Bono and not Simon Le Bon is just stupid, although I wonder why this needed to be done to begin with. Do we really need to rank singers?? Isn’t it all just opinion anyway? While I am fairly certain that someone out there has devised some sort of scientific method to break down what is most pleasing about voices combined with how influential each voice has been over time – my argument is simply that none of it matters, unless you happen to agree that Axl Rose (64) deserves to be on this list, while Chris Cornell (or Simon Le Bon for that matter), does not.
I’ve had so many people respond directly and indirectly to me that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just doesn’t matter. I’d say the same about the Oscars, the Grammy’s, even the Tony’s. None of it matters, yet for some reason, a lot of people pay attention – even if it’s just in passing. For example, I know more than a few people who make a point to go out and see the movies nominated for Oscars each year. Nick and Katy dedicate a full Katy Kafe to talking about the nominees! Yet, I couldn’t care less. I rarely watch the show in full, and I almost never see all of the nominees each year. I don’t have time, and I don’t make it a priority. Yet I sit and watch the Hall of Fame induction every year as soon as it airs, and I know I’m not the only one. If I were, there would be no show each year.
It doesn’t matter that Duran Duran hasn’t been nominated, and it doesn’t matter that Simon hasn’t been included on this list. After all, Rolling Stone magazine was started by none other than Jann Wenner, who in fact was the head of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame until this past August! I still think Simon is far and away a better singer than Axl Rose, Bruce Springsteen (36), or Bono (32). Sadly, I wasn’t consulted, so Patty Labelle is at 95, and Stevie Nicks is at 98, while Kurt Cobain is at 45.
Suffice to say, it is all a popularity contest. The list doesn’t need to exist at all, but somehow – it does. Is that the real problem though? I’m not sure. There are some very widely and tightly held beliefs about what sorts of bands and people are most worthy – and THAT, my friends, is the problem. It isn’t about whether or not the list matters. Too many people pay attention, and too many eyes see the list and allow it in as an influence for that argument to hold water. Until we are able to speak plainly and truthfully about what this constant snub means in context, it will continue – whether you think it matters or not.
More puzzling than why Jane Fonda installed floor-to-ceiling shag carpet in her spacecraft, is why it has taken me all these years to watch Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy (1968). As the second-highest-grossing film in the UK that year, it isn’t surprising that a few young men from Birmingham would come across it and choose to name their band after a character. From the science fiction storyline to, well, Jane Fonda, it is the sort of film that captures the imagination of young men. Much like Duran Duran’s own videos, the film is a product of its time but remains a, sometimes, revolutionary text.
Equal parts Flash Gordon and Austin Powers, Barbarella finds herself trying to save the universe from the evil Durand Durand. There is a blind angel, the blonde adonis John Phillip Law, some evil dolls that try to eat Barbarella, an attack of parakeets, a bi-sexual princess and a lot of other ridiculousness along the way. As far as storylines go, it unfolds like the comic strip it originated from. The scenes look individually brilliant with a retro-futurist style the screams 1968 but it is far from gripping as a story.
While most will want to dismiss the film as soft-core sexist fluff, Barbarella has proven to be an iconic and influential character, most recently being reprised by Ariana Grande in her “Break Free” video and celebrated by Clutch with “In Walks Barbarella” . The kitsch and camp of the film overshadow how in-control of her sexuality Barbarella is throughout the film; ultimately undermining patriarchal attitudes and reflecting the sexual revolution of the late 1960s. Nobody exerts any power over Barbarella’s choices and she possesses the same sexual freedom of James Bond, moving from bed to bed without a second-thought.
Nobody, not even Durand Durand with his excessive-pleasure machine, can tame Barbarella and her innocence ultimately is what saves her from the Matmos, some sort of evil energy substance. That innocence is not tied to chasteness, but to peace and love and the search for a utopia that we know we will never find. Barbarella’s charm lies in how it celebrates and ridicules such thinking simultaneously. It’s all a bit daft and the film embraces that fully. Fonda may have been cast by her husband for other reasons but she magnificently threads the needle as an actor throughout.
Which brings us to Duran Duran. From “Girls On Film” to “Electric Barbarella”, many of the same criticisms of Barbarella apply to their work but they can be dismissed for the same reasons. If patriarchy is rooted in power, it is hard to see how the band has exerted that power over women in their music and short-films. In the subversive “Girls On Film”, the video unfolds with vignettes that establish power ultimately resides with the women and the band are kept at a distance, unable to participate. When they are allowed into the fray with “Rio”, they all make fools of themselves chasing their idea of female beauty.
The most troubling video is likely “Electric Barbarella” with the boys purchasing a sexbot for their flat. Why Nick, Simon, and Warren are sharing a flat is never addressed but I know record sales were declining at the time. Director Ellen von Unwerth brings her iconic photography to life in the video and, admittedly, her visuals threaten to overshadow the underlying message of the song. As much as the men wish to control their electric Barbarella, they are destined to fail in every regard. Myka Dunkel shrewdly exaggerates the ridiculousness of it all with her acting; something I missed the first few times I saw it upon release. Much like Barbarella, the video is a parody that mocks social conventions of the time without becoming too cynical. And it looks amazing doing so.
Did Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy give Duran Duran more than a cool name for their band? Definitely. When you watch the film, notice how many times Fonda says “planet earth” for example and how many Duran Duran songs can fit into a science-fiction context. With the band’s recent NASA show, this is the perfect time to watch Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy and ponder the ultimate question: is there anybody out there?
Today is Thursday! As you read this, I’m off trying to enjoy the last few days of summer and forget that in a few days, I’m going to be standing in a long line of middle schoolers and their parents at registration. I’m not ready!! (Don’t tell my youngest!)
Since it is in fact, the final few glorious days of summer…I’ve decided to go ahead and call it a video-day. Sure, you might say it is because I haven’t prepared, or because I can’t think of anything blog-worthy to write. You might also say that I’m taking a day off. However, *I* would say that we should all take a moment and enjoy a few videos!!
So, here are my top “summer” video picks!
If there is one video that reminds me of sunshine, sand and fair weather – it is Rio. All I have to do is hear the first bit of piano rumbling and I am transported to the beach, smell of salt and sunscreen in the air.
Another obvious choice, at least for me, is Violence of Summer. This song – which I love to belt at the top of my lungs as I’m driving home (obviously alone) from a very late night out – reminds me of the carefree nights of no curfew, no children to put to bed, and no one waking up before 9am.
Summer makes me smile. While I’m not one to love heat, I do love the long, lazy days, and the beautifully warm evenings where I live. I feel a certain amount of joy during the summer because my time is typically my own. (and I’m great at wasting it!) The ONE song that always makes me feel joyous (no matter what) is Sunrise.
For the past 8 years, I’ve been a homeschooling parent. As my kids would get ready to go back to school come August, so did I. Curriculum had to be ordered, and lessons needed to be planned. Additionally, Amanda and I still blogged. During some school years, we worked on writing projects too. The pressure of it all sometimes felt pretty hefty by about mid-winter. Watching the fun antics of the “Pressure-Off” video, I think of going to summer shows in the past, visiting Amanda. recording vlogs, vodka tonics, margaritas, confetti, and giving Simon as rough of a time (at said shows) as possible. Sometimes that’s hard from 8th row, but we try our best because…well…it makes us laugh!! (probably more us than him, but that’s ok!) Summer=Pressure Off for me.
Lastly, I can’t help but think about Save a Prayer. Yes, I suppose it might be cliché with the sweeping vistas, the guys in bare feet or the beach scenes. I don’t care. We’ve earned the right to love every last bit of that video, and I do.
What about you? What videos make you think of summer?