Tag Archives: Rio

The Heart, The Mind, The Albums

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

Heart/(Mind)

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

What they should have covered.

(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.

(Yep.)

Built on Hope

Now I can see the big idea

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.

The feeling that I’m moving on

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.

You walk the line

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.

I waited long enough

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.

Happy to watch it fade

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.

-R

Your mission: Find Duran Duran

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? 

What Makes You Think of Summer?

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?

-R

In Conversation with Simon Le Bon

By Douglas Armstrong

Prologue

“Excuse me? Aren’t you…?”

“Bon. SIMON…Le Bon”

This humorous Paris conversation atop the Eiffel Tower marked the end to the cinematic music video for the 1985 MTV anthem, “A View To A Kill”. The film theme marked a crossroads for Duran Duran, and for global pop culture itself. Why?

  • “A View To A Kill” became the FIRST single from the (decades old) James Bond motion picture series to reach # 1 in America.
  • “A View To A Kill” remains the ONLY Bond anthem to reach #1 in America.
  • LIVE AID became the concert event of the decade in the 1980s. In the “Woodstock” of its era, the one-day charity stadium mega concert spanning the Atlantic Ocean in both London (UK) and Philadelphia (America) simultaneously played host to a wealth of music legends: Queen, David Bowie, Tina Turner, Mick Jagger, U2, Madonna, George Michael, Adam Ant, Phil Collins, Sting… with reunions by Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. (Only one band, however, marked the zeitgeist of the moment with the NUMBER ONE single on the Billboard Hot 100 that week: “A View To A Kill” by LIVE AID’s ABC and MTV prime-time headliner: Duran Duran.)
  • “A View To A Kill” came to mark the summit of Duran Duran’s commercial blaze as well. As guitarist Andy Taylor and drummer Roger Taylor soon departed, keyboardist Nick Rhodes and bass guitarist John Taylor forged ahead as a trio with singer Simon Le Bon.

Styles change. Style doesn’t.

This promotional manifesto emerged from Capitol-EMI Records in the 1990s, serving as the catalyst for a return to form for Duran Duran. New Wave was out. Glam Metal was out. Hip-Hop was in. Grunge was in. Was there room for the unflagging vision of Duran Duran? Yes.

“Comeback” is a tricky word for Duran Duran and their fans… this omnipresent dance-rock band has seen the top, the bottom, and the middle of the mountain creatively and commercially for 40 years since their 1978 formation.

(FOR THE RECORD: Duran Duran have never broken up… there has never “not been” a Duran Duran in existence since they dominated radio, MTV, poster and magazine sales, and sold out sports arenas in the 1980s.)

Billboard interviewed the band in the studio with producer Chris Kimsey in 1990 for the making of LIBERTY. Remarkably self-aware, singer Simon Le Bon stated defiantly: “We’re aware of the struggle we’re involved in. We will not be killed off.”

2019: A Space Coast Odyssey

In this spirit, I could hardly wait to be part of the 2019 Cultural Summit presented by the BCA (Brevard Cultural Alliance) in Melbourne, Florida. As a devout fan of Duran Duran since 1983 (at age 10!), I had seen many interviews with this band – in writing, on MTV and VH1, and later online. I have been fortunate to personally see Duran Duran live nearly 30 times since 1989, and met each founding member.

Was there anything left to “learn”? I wondered to myself.

I did know that I was delighted to be invited to this rare event. In 2000, while watching Duran Duran “Storytellers” on VH-1, I marvelled at the intimate British audience allowed into that “inner circle”… I observed how keenly these fans listened to the band members as they shared anecdotes of their culture-shifting history.

Nineteen years LATER… I was surprised to receive an e-mail from the BCA asking me if I had a question I would like considered for inclusion in the Q&A with Simon Le Bon. (My inner voice’s response: “WHOA….ME?”)

IS THERE SOMETHING I SHOULD KNOW?

May 23rd, 2019. Award-winning Orlando/Melbourne journalist Greg Pallone (Spectrum News 13) was appointed to moderate the onstage exchange: “In Conversation With Simon Le Bon.”

“Hundreds of artists, creative professionals, business and political leaders from Brevard County and beyond” were welcomed by the arts and cultural nonprofit organization BCA in their event handbill. A full day conference of morning and evening workshops were scheduled for paying attendees in the business-related fields of arts, culture, and the music industry. Wendy Laister, CEO of Magus Entertainment (and long-time Duran Duran band manager), was one of many notable presenters who spoke during the day’s breakout sessions.

12:00 PM – 2:00 PM was reserved for the luncheon, prior to which hundreds of animated Duran Duran fans swelled the ample hallways of the Hilton Melbourne Rialto Place. The Florida resort and the BCA Team were well-prepared for the “Sold Out” 420-seat capacity marquee event. Fans relished reliving key DD fan moments in the resort hallways. A table of BCA volunteers cheerfully logged in each guest, and handed the “Golden Ticket”-like wristband to each pre-paid attendee. And then the ballroom doors opened…

Is Anybody… HUNGRY?!

Doug and some of his tablemates!

Flank Steak.

Grilled Chicken.

The choice of entree was yours upon reserving your tickets online. My food was delicious – better than the catered hotel fare typically experienced at such events. The lunch I was served:

  • Flank Steak (with feta cheese, garden herbs, and sun-dried tomatoes)
  • Garden Vegetables (steamed green beans, carrots, broccoli)
  • Mashed Potatoes (whipped in butter)
  • Coffee / Water / Tea
  • Key Lime Pie (w/fresh whipped cream)

My good friend Mike McCoy drove across the state from Tampa Bay for this event. We grew up together in the 1980s listening to Duran Duran’s hits when they were NEW songs – so our history as friends just added to the fun of the luncheon for each of us. Summoning the spirit of “Hungry Like The Wolf”, Mike says during our proper meal: “Wouldn’t it be AWESOME when Simon comes out, if we just ‘THREW’ the table over…??!”

(…as Mike gestures his arms upward, in a slow ‘throwing’ motion…)

Mike clearly knew we would obviously NEVER misbehave in such a way. But oh, the laugh. I’ll never forget that line. It was one of MANY great “Duran moments” from this day.

MY line at lunch: When the server places the china before me, I look upon my juicy flank steak and say aloud to our tablemates: “Is anybody… HUNGRY?!”

We all laughed. Among this crowd – we all know the lines, the cues, the nuances, the looks – and there is never a need to explain ourselves. We’re about to have lunch with ‘SIMON LE BON’. Just a PERFECT DAY…

While we dined, Neil Levine (BCA Executive Director) lead a powerpoint presentation revealing the findings of the “2019 Economic Contribution of Arts & Culture to the Space Coast. Levine made the case of how the creative community made the area a desirable locale for residents and for tourism alike. Then, Greg Pallone of Spectrum News 13 was introduced and welcomed to the stage. The audience excitement was palpable – and to the sound of forks and knives clanging chinaware, Greg enthusiastically profiled our conference’s special luncheon guest…

All You Need Is NOW…

Entering from stage right: The singer of Duran Duran – SIMON LE BON. The applause and cheers evoke a Duran Duran concert. Simon looks calm and relaxed… to describe his look in 3 words? “MIAMI VICE. HAVANA.”

  • White, long-sleeved button-down collar casual dress shirt. A few buttons undone, he looks ready to sail into Florida’s cool coastal breezes…
  • White slacks
  • Off-white, low-top deck shoes. (No socks, that I could tell?)
  • A small gold, hoop earring in his left ear. (It’s BACK! LOL)
  • Fresh haircut: short on the sides, lightly spiky length on top. Sun-bleached brown. (Think: “Last Night In The City” video.)

…Greg notes that many WOMEN are here in today’s audience. As the crowd calls out to him, Simon relishes the moment – yet with good-nature, defers to his interviewer and bellows into his microphone: “Let’s hear it for GREG!!”

The light banter introductions segue into about 10 minutes of Greg asking Simon to share some of his music stories. Simon speaks of the early days starting out with Duran Duran in working class Birmingham, England. He speaks of how when the band toured in America early on, radio wouldn’t play their music – yet the risque music video for “Girls On Film” gained them airplay and underground credibility in American dance clubs. During this time in their young life (“Nick was only 19!”), they were very excited to play in New York City. Dancing in Studio 54, and meeting legendary artist Andy Warhol, were quite exciting bucket list moments for them.

After playing clubs around the world, the band finally got a mainstream break in America: MTV. Simon said that MTV brought the music of Duran Duran straight into people’s homes in America. He talked of the relationship they built with the fledgling music video network – especially “the VJ’s on MTV… when they actually PLAYED ‘music’!”

Greg asked Simon to highlight his childhood inspiration to make or perform music. Simon responded by singing: “She loves you / YEAH, yeah, yeah! / She loves you / YEAH, yeah, yeah!” as he namechecks “The Beatles… Stones… classical… T-Rex… David Bowie!”

As the crowd cheers and hangs on to every name cited, the interviewer cites the similar effect that Duran Duran had upon a generation of young people, particularly in the 1980s. Simon good naturedly interrupts, to a roar of laughing approval: “…***I’M*** stuck in the Eighties!!”

Simon talks about his relationship with his fans, stating how it is special “…to be a PART of their conscience – be a PART of their wallpaper.”

Shortly after, Greg announces that a few fans in attendance have been invited to submit questions for today’s event. As the host lifts a small stack of index cards, he announces that when your name is called, you will be invited to stand up and ask Simon your question… or Greg will read it for you, if preferred. Making eye contact with his fans in the eager audience, Simon grins widely: he knows it’s TIME to leave you…

…ANSWERED WITH A QUESTION MARK

  • Simon is asked how it feels to have recently become a grandfather. He notes that he recently turned 60 years old – and he loves family, and loves having a newborn child in his life again.
  • Simon talks about the effect of his fame upon his children. He namechecks the SING BLUE SILVER 1984 tour DVD (to enthusiastic audience cheers). “I recently showed it to my CHILDREN for the first time. They were VERY surprised……. (with a look of being awestruck, the audience laughs loudly with him).”
  • A fan says “You are a HEALER…” and tells Simon how his music has given hope to so many fans through the years, and asks how he feels about that. Simon thanks the fans, who have sent him so many letters detailing how his songs saved them. He says “Save A Prayer” may be the one that fans give him the most feedback on in helping them out of dark times…
  • A woman stands up and tells Simon that she was the person who introduced him to the modelling photos of (his now wife) YASMIN in the 80s, backstage at Madison Square Garden in New York. Simon is completely floored… “Do you have the pictures WITH you?” he asks. She says yes, and holds up the portfolio. Simon motions to her, to come join him onstage. Standing up, Simon and this young woman leaf purposefully through the book of glossy photos. Slowing down the present with his own eyes – Simon indulges his PAST, recalling how falling in love with the face of a girl forever changed his FUTURE.
  • Another fan asks if DD will be making any new music together again… Simon confirms that in the 40th year of the band, they have been. “We’re writing a new Duran Duran studio album in London with new dance producer Erol Alkan – and in L.A. with Mark Ronson. We’ll be celebrating (DD 40) all year… and for the NEXT 10 years…!”
  • “You know what your music has done for US…” the next fan is called upon to ask. “What has it done for YOU?” Simon answers: “It… has kept me OCCUPIED. It has given me the SCRIPT for my LIFE, really. Time FLIES, when you’re having FUN… It’s given me a reason to wake up in the morning, to wake up with these guys (his bandmates).”
  • Host Greg Pallone takes up the subject of sailing (close to the heart of Melbourne locals and many Floridians)… calling upon the fan who submitted that question. Simon waxes poetic, tying in his draw towards the ocean and being a member of a sailing crew, into his love of the give-and-take process of creating music in a band. “You learn to RELY on other people…”
  • Somebody asks Simon what music he enjoys today. He loses me personally with some names I am unfamiliar with. He mentions relishing the music of Fela Kuti, a frequent fallback for him. And Tame Impala is one of many new bands he thinks is great.
  • “We’ve heard from a lot of female fans today,” host Greg says, “now let’s hear from some of the MEN. Where’s Douglas Armstrong…” “RIGHT HERE! Hi!” I enthusiastically reply, standing up. I roll up my left sleeve, showing the skin of my upper arm, declaring, “I just want to represent – ‘MAN’ with a Duran Duran TATTOO!” Our spirited ballroom of Duran fans cheered my ‘ink reveal’ to the singer approvingly. What could feel better! Simon responds: “It’s quite a rare BREED, you know…!”
  • My question: “I just wanted to welcome you today to Melbourne, Florida. It is the birthplace of Jim Morrison. I know in 1995, The Doors’ ‘Crystal Ship’ was a song that Duran Duran covered. So I just want to ask: A lot of us know the ‘MUSIC’ – but part of what always captivated me about Duran Duran was a ‘POETIC’ aspect… it wasn’t just literal. It didn’t ‘TELL’ you where to go… it was open to interpretation. I get a lot of that listening to The Doors as well. So I just want you to go into that a little.”
  • “Yeah, I think it’s a very valid point,” Simon replied. “I think it’s something in works with a lot of lyrics – AND poetry as well. A lot of songs are not ‘specific’. And they leave a lot to the imagination. I think there’s a very good REASON for that. I know there is in my songwriting. And that is because I want to leave room for you, and you, and you, and YOU to insert your own experiences, and points-of-view, into the song – so you can make it your OWN. Because for whatever happens – the songs that come back, the way that people interpret them into their own way, are WAY more important than the ones that convey a ‘message’. Because it’s when you get that FEEDBACK from people… You say ‘I understand this song, I know what it’s all about’ – and its NOTHING that you intended. But it means SUCH a lot to THEM. And suddenly, it speaks to the audience about their OWN lives. And I think that’s a really wonderful thing.” (Crowd applauses… Simon breaks back in, to close.) “And I think – that’s a really IMPORTANT part – of what makes ‘poetry’, poetry.”
  • “In the Eighties, NOTHING was more important than music to people…” Today, Simon notes the most unifying passion across generational and cultural lines “seems to be sports.”
  • Host Greg asks aloud to know who is the “youngest” fan of Duran Duran in the audience (a mother speaks aloud for her daughter, named Rio(!) – aged 9! The mother of Rio asks: “Why did you name the song “Rio”? Simon replies, “I LOVE that name! I was just BLOWN AWAY by this beautiful country (America). I felt that ‘Rio’ could be about something much MORE than a girl. I wrote ‘Rio’ about your country. I wrote ‘Rio’ about the United States of America!!”
  • Greg turns back to ask the crowd who is the “oldest” person in the audience… “ME!” Simon cheekily says into the mic. The crowd loves it, rewarding him with hearty laughter at his self-effacing British humor. A young woman arises and introduces her elderly mother (I couldn’t discern her age), who smiles and waves back while remaining comfortably seated at her table. Her daughter then asks Simon who his biggest influence was in pursuing the arts? Immediately he answers: “My MOTHER, Anne Le Bon.” He goes into some detailed recollection about all the ways she encouraged him in his creative life. He was pursuing academics in university, only to find himself at an impasse after joining a local Birmingham, England band… “SHE said I should go for the band. I MISS her, everyday.”
  • He then adds “My choirmaster…” as a mentor who figured heavily into his musical development. Simon wraps up his answer by encouraging us to watch the recent BBC documentary “There’s Something You Should Know”, adding that the career retrospective “…really showed great footage when we were young.”
  • Will Simon ever write a published BIOGRAPHY about his life and career? The question came from an inquiring mind, pointing out that John Taylor has written his bio about Duran, and Andy Taylor has as well… the singer’s response? “I don’t have any particular ambition to write a book.”

“Did you read John or Andy’s book?”

“NO.”

Simon just let that one ‘hang’ out there… and the one-word response grew funnier to the laughing crowd, as he deliberately resisted elaboration. “I LIVED with them!” he finally pleads. “Why should I READ it?” (Again, the crowd laughter has not abated, as Simon holds his mic waiting for the next comic line to arrive from the ether like the 5:30 train…)

“You SHOULD read Andy Taylor’s book. You SHOULD read John’s book. I… ‘HIIIIGHLY recommend’, that you read them. Have ‘I’ read them? ‘NO’.”

  • Once the audience’s amused laughs tapered, Greg deferred to the next audience pre-screened question. How does Simon feel, about a possible induction to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame one day? He shared how honored he was to be asked by the organization (along with John) to present Roxy Music with their induction to the Class Of 2019 this year. Simon elaborated by saying how astonishing it felt to be considered for that honor – and what it was like to be backstage and onstage with Bryan Ferry and his heroes who he admired as a young lad growing up. He then stated in earnest that if there were NO Roxy Music in the world – there would be no Duran Duran. But yielding slightly to the nature of the original question, Simon said of a Duran Duran induction to the Rock Hall: “We would be grateful. We would WELCOME it, with open arms.”
  • Greg directed another audience member to ask Simon about his favorite “football club” (I.E. American soccer). As I personally follow American NFL football and NBA basketball – I honestly didn’t pay much attention to this answer. (Sorry, soccer fans! LOL)
  • A GREAT question emerged from the audience, asking: “How would you like Duran Duran to be ‘remembered’?”

Simon looked thoughtful. He elaborated that it didn’t matter what he thought or preferred – he just wanted the band’s life work to continue to be soundtracks to people’s lives. “I would like my ‘MUSIC’ to be remembered. I would like people to JUST, STILL, PLAY – DURAN DURAN music.”

  • The last question asked of Simon was for… his autograph. (Hey, who doesn’t want that, right?!) Simon smiled, but explained why it truly wasn’t practical due to the scale of audience in attendance here today. There were music industry workshops still scheduled for the afternoon session of BCA Cultural Summit, and he did not want to impede upon their times. Yet, as Simon talked himself OUT of autographs for 420 giddy Duran fans – he cracked open the window for ONE lucky fan… “If I do ONE, I’ll have to do it for all… (sigh) I’ll do ONE. Where is ‘RIO’…….?”
Simon and the youngest fan in the audience…who just happens to be named after one of their biggest songs!

The young girl of 9 was brought to the stage by her mother. Simon revealed his sweet, paternal instincts – lifting the joyous child into the air. It was near OLYMPIAN in pose… delivering on the promise of an icon who adorned school lockers, Trapper Keepers, bedroom walls, and even the daily TV or VCR rituals of the 1980s “MTV Generation.” The frontman of Duran Duran was a music video “god” to teenagers of a different era – yet today’s Simon Le Bon is a 60-year old grandfather. Simon lifting the living embodiment of his band’s legacy into the air onstage was the perfect ending for our private “Storytellers” Q&A luncheon today with this pleasant and engaged music legend. Our luncheon ended with a NEW iconic image for Simon Le Bon and Duran Duran fans.

“HER NAME IS ‘RIO’…….”

Douglas Armstrong is from The Palm Beaches, Florida. He has been an ardent Duran Duran fan since the days of MTV, Martha Quinn and Union of the Snake. He loves music, dreaming, and traveling with his wife and three children. You can reach him on Twitter: @TravelAgentA

April 2019 Katy Kafe with Roger

Someone else has a birthday this month, along with Amanda and my youngest, and his name is Roger! As he explains early in this month’s Katy Kafe, this year isn’t the “big” year – and we’re not talking about that yet!

We did hear within the first few seconds that the band is going back into the studio today, and that his birthday is also a studio day. Little by little, we’re hearing more teensy little items of interest about that studio time. I can’t lie, for me, a lot of this Kafe, seemed to be about his drums, and while some of the questions were interesting, others really didn’t resonate – purely because I am not a drummer, and I don’t know the difference between Tama drums or any other brands. I took notes, and as always, I encourage everyone to get their own DDM membership!

Today’s Kafe featured a selection of Katy-chosen questions from their Instagram.

What is your max heart rate when playing Wild Boys?

Roger laughed, because I would imagine he hasn’t had too much of an opportunity to measure his own heart rate (kind of wonder what an Apple Watch would do under those conditions though, I must admit). However, he did say that whatever it might be – it would be much faster for “Rio”. Somehow this led into a short sidebar about the fact that he finds that he plays far more powerfully when he is relaxed. It isn’t about sheer strength, it is about playing with flexibility and precision. So while you and I might think he has pretty strong arms….he says no.

I’ve seen them. Well…I have in pictures before, anyway. I’m still gonna go with yes. <big grin>

Which drum track from your entire catalog makes you the most proud?

Roger says “Anything from Rio”.

What tracks from other drummers do you admire most?

“Trampled Under Foot” – John Bonham (Led Zeppelin)

“Superstition” – Stevie Wonder.

Your homework, fellow Duranies – is to go listen to both. 🙂

What provides inspirations when writing new songs?

“What is going on around me”, Roger explains. Just as they enter the studio today, they won’t have any preconceived ideas of what they’ll play. Nick might begin playing something and then that will give Roger inspiration for a drum beat and so on. They write “off the cuff” and have done so for many years (and albums). He mentions how they were in the studio with Errol Alkan and Mark Ronson, and that in each case – they had no ideas of what they might do, but that each of them had their own creative ideas, and that in turn inspired them.

Katy interjects at this point and asks if he’s heard any of the finished songs and Roger quickly says that nothing is finished yet. I add this tidbit purely because if you were hoping for finished music in 2019….I’m still thinking you’d be better off hoping for 2020!!

What were you whispering to yourself in the video for “Night Boat”?

Roger laughs and says “I was probably wondering what in the hell we were doing or what it was all about!” Then he explains that he hasn’t WATCHED the video since they made it!

I just have to say, this little kernel of truth shocked me. I mean, I know these guys have been busy over the years, especially back then – and maybe I’m just a control freak (I know I am), but really? You didn’t even WATCH it to see if you thought it was any good? I really hope Roger watches it, and that eventually somehow, we hear what he thought when he did! (In case you’re reading: your acting on it was A+, Roger. <big grin> I must have watched that video 30,000 times when I first got the video album. I mean…you were speaking! It didn’t even matter what you were saying – I could hear your voice.

Wow. Yep, I was indeed a fan. Big fan. Huge!

If you were stranded on a desert island and had the choice of what band member was with you – who would you choose and why?

Apparently, there is only one answer to this question as far as Katy and Roger are concerned. They’d choose Simon because he could get them out. (It turns out, they trust Simon’s sailing ability. Ok then. I can’t argue…except to ask, “Who said we wanted to leave the island?!?”).

Where’s the one “bucket list” place you’d like to visit?

India. Roger has never been to India, and he’d like to go and visit – not just a resort, but the “real” India.

What song from Arcadia (aside from Election Day) would you like to add to the set list?

Roger’s favorite Arcadia song is “The Promise”, and he’d like to add that – in fact, he says he may suggest that the next time the set list conversation comes up!

What drum gear are you using in the studio for the new recordings?

He is working with more of a live drum set-up. Errol and Mark both had kits in their studios he used. While the last album relied a little more heavily on electronics, these songs are more live, less electronic. More organic. Acoustic.

**note here for everyone committing this to memory, expecting whatever music to come out to be exactly as Roger describes here. It is still early in the process. Roger himself said nothing is finished. While this is how it’s sounding now, WHO KNOWS what will end up coming through our speakers when it is done…and remember he’s talking about the drums. We don’t know what the rest of it will sound like at all. Right?

Do you still have your earliest Tama drum kit?

They have a lot in storage, but Roger says he doesn’t really have anything from his first kit. As a side note though, Paul McCartney did at one time have a drum of his in his studio. Roger knows one of Paul’s daughters and gave her one of the drums he no longer needed.

Roger continues by explaining that he’s really not a collector. He doesn’t keep things – same with clothes. He has his Rio jacket, but he doesn’t know where the trousers are. That beautiful blue silk jacket was on display at the O2 Music Experience when I was in London back in 2011 – don’t know if it’s still there though!

Which song would you go back and re-record if you had the opportunity?

Roger said “None”.

His feeling here is like most artists – when you record a song, it is like a snapshot in time for that particular period. Going back and changing it is similar to stepping into a time machine and going back to fix some part of history. Once you do that, everything changes.

Would you still join the band if you had already known what was going to happen (all of the ups and downs, etc.)

He says he wouldn’t change a thing. One thing I can hear in Roger’s voice is how grateful he is for his career. He talks about how he might have been a mechanic or hated his day job, and obviously that’s not the case with the band. Despite the ups and downs, he clearly still loves his life just as it is.

Favorite performance of his entire career?

I would have thought a question like this would stump someone. I mean, this includes thousands of performances! However, he said that the last time they played the O2 – he had his family there with him. There was an incredible synergy with the audience, and the night was magical. So there you have it!

Happy birthday, Roger! It might be a working birthday, but we hope it is still fantastic!

-R

You Catch That Mirror Way Out West

Her name is Rio

True confession time: I love “Rio”.

Hold on, before you click the red “x” in the corner – I know this isn’t breaking news. No, it’s not earth shattering, or really even all that important in the grand scheme of things. Even so, it’s the one song that I don’t ever seem to get tired of.

“Hungry Like the Wolf”? 200% over it. I’m convinced it will outlive the human race. “A View to a Kill”? That’s my cue for Kodak moments – as in, I take pictures. “Come Undone”? It’s fine, but I wouldn’t miss seeing them play it live.

“Rio”? LOVE IT. Can’t imagine a show without it!

I’ve seen you on the beach, and I’ve seen you on TV

I don’t know exactly what it is about that one song. For me, it is pretty much the epitome of Duran Duran. Perhaps it is because Rio was the first Duran Duran album I purchased. Maybe it is because it is likely one of the first videos I ever saw. I have vivid recollection of my friend Marsha calling me on the phone after she saw it for the first time. (Of course she was first. She had her finger on the pulse of anything Duran-related the entire time we were in middle school!) I can remember her cracking up at the idea of Simon falling off of the dock. I remember her description of Nick. “Rhonda, if I didn’t know better, I’d think he was seasick.” Little did she know then that yes, he was! I also recall her explanation of the neon-colored drinks in the champagne glasses – for whatever reason, those always interested me. I couldn’t wait to see the video for myself. It did not disappoint. To this day, when I think of the song and/or video, I think of those drinks!

Growing up in California, we had plenty of beaches around us, but none looked this tropical (and the water definitely was not that clear!). I was captivated by the entire vibe of the song and video. It seemed about as far away from my life as I could get. At the point Rio was released, I don’t think I’d even been on an airplane before. I’d never traveled outside of the state! Antigua?? I thought to myself….what is that?? The imagery stuck with me though. I always felt that it was summer, encapsulated in song.

In the years since, I’ve caught on to the idea that the video isn’t all about glitz and glamour. In fact, the guys look like they trip all over themselves trying to be cool rock stars and get the girl, when in fact they mostly just look like nerds. I never quite picked up on that until adulthood though, and I tend to believe it is because I was so awkward and nerdy myself, that it all seemed normal! <big cheesy grin right here>

Like a birthday or a pretty view

When I was finally able to go to Antigua myself as an adult with three kids and a husband, I insisted that we go to Miller’s Beach – which is where some of the scenes were filmed. Absolutely stunning. You’d swear it wasn’t real, the water is so clear and perfect – and the weather is gorgeous. Naturally, my kids barely remember being there. Our youngest was only about three when we went – the only thing she remembers was having a fresh coconut to drink and deciding it was “awful”. For me though, it was extra special knowing what had been filmed there!

Our Day in Duran History spreadsheet tells me that on this day in 1983, the single “Rio” peaked at #14. I have several thoughts about that which include the following:

  • Only 14?? Really??
  • 1983? That was 36 years ago!!!
  • Where did those 36 years vanish off to?
  • How did Simon get so tan??
  • Why haven’t I ever tried playing the solo from Rio before? (Seriously! Here I am – clarinet player/sax player – and I’ve never ONCE tried it. What?!?)
  • What was in those glasses that Simon drank underwater anyway? Don’t just say food coloring. That’s boring.

She dances on the sand

I know that everyone has “that” song or “those songs” on the set list that they can’t imagine ever being removed. That’s the problem, because I think between all of us – there’s literally no chance of their set list ever changing if they were to take advice from fans. That said, Rio is mine. I can’t imagine not hearing it in a set. Many fans would probably love to see them can it for a while, but I would be sad. I wouldn’t vow to come after them with torches blazing, but I really can’t imagine it not being in their set at all. To me, it is a closer like no other. It ends the party with…what else but a party!

Since I’ve gushed about “Rio” so much, I’m going to watch the video again. It is warming up here in Atascadero. I’ve moved the chickens into their coop (Finally. OMG they are enormous and WAY past the time for being moved out of the house!!), and I heard a crazy rumor that our temperatures are supposed to start soaring next week. It’s time for a brief, visual vacation! Enjoy

– R

Some New Romantic Looking For the TV Sound

I heard you making patterns rhyme

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?

My head is stuck on something precious

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!)

My eyes so cloudy, I can’t see

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.

Can you hear me now?

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?

Is there anybody out there trying to get through?

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.

Hmm.

Throw your electronic devices away, gentlemen… and good luck!

-R

Bowie and Time

Am I sitting in a tin can

It’s hard to imagine, but we’ve already been surviving on this planet without David Bowie for three years. Some say that’s when it all really went to hell….

I’m not so sure I’d go as far to make that claim. However, I know a good many of my friends – including those in that band I tend to talk about here and there – that might! I don’t know where those three years went so fast, but they did.

And here we are.

Find yourself in the moment

Also on this date, but in 2011, Time Magazine published a short Q&A with Simon and Nick, on the heels of the release of All You Need is Now. Here, by the grace of the internet, is the link!

Time Magazine Q&A with Simon and Nick

I read through it as there’s only a few questions. I just have to take a second to marvel at how much my own prospective has changed between 2011 and now. The very first question is in regard to the vision of AYNIN as the “imaginary follow-up to Rio“.
Simon explains that Mark Ronson comes from a fan perspective. Mark guided them to create something that truly was the follow up to their second album. Apparently the third album (SATRT) disappointed Mark as a kid.

I remember hearing all about this over and over during the interviews/press junket for AYNIN. It was all about the “follow-up to Rio” back then. What I didn’t pick up on though, was how artfully the band would put that characterization in Mark’s corner. Rather than accept ownership and say that they wanted to make their own imaginary follow-up, they really hand that over to Mark. I’m not saying that wasn’t indeed the case, but in hindsight – I think the wording may have been very telling.

Like a diamond in the mind

In subsequent interviews since then, particularly during the release of Paper Gods, the band has always been careful to say that they already went “back” for AYNIN, and they wouldn’t want to do that again. I think they know that the album was a fan favorite, but I have often wondered if they felt that it was a bit TOO contrived in parts. I’m thinking of “The Man Who Stole a Leopard” or as I think of it – “The Chauffeur, with Different Lyrics”. I like the song, mind you, but it is VERY close, musically, to “The Chauffeur”. Then again, there are other songs on the album, like “Safe”, or even the title track, that definitely hold up on their own and don’t even need to be characterized as a follow-up to Rio.

I’m still tickled I was able to find the the Q&A online, because if nothing else, it gets me thinking about what they could possibly be cooking up for the next one. Obviously, it is incredibly early in the journey. I can’t imagine they’ve had too much time in the studio to do much – but I still enjoy the wide open feeling of possibilities ahead. It is a good way to begin my weekend, which starts NOW.

Until Monday for me…

-R


Make Me Smile

I was in the car a couple of days ago, driving home from dropping off the youngest at school. Traffic was heavy, because it was raining.  I felt fairly brain dead and cold as I would tap the gas, then the brake pedal, over and over. The stereo was playing an endless conglomeration of Christmas tunes, and I was pretty weary of the whole episode. I reached over and switched radio stations, hoping for anything that might wake me up. The familiar backwards-piano sound from the beginning of Rio filled the car, and I immediately grinned. I went from dreary and drowsy to energized in less than a second, because of a single song. 

Rio is one of those songs that I can hear anywhere, and will almost always smile. I say almost because I don’t think I’ve heard it at a funeral yet. I’m not quite sure I’d smile if I did. Never know, but here’s hoping I don’t have to test that theory.  Not every Duran song has that superpower hidden within it’s tracks, at least, not for me.  For example, occasionally I’ll be out at a store and hear Ordinary World. While I will acknowledge it’s Duran Duran (I don’t actually stop people and tell them who it is – I’m not quite that far gone just yet), I might not break into a toothy grin. Though as far as “Rio”goes, that song has just the right magic.  I can feel the smile coming on, almost as a reflex. (Yes, really.)

(Although once again, I must reiterate I haven’t excitedly stopped anyone and said “That’s Duran Duran. I love them!! or “I know them!!” ….probably because I don’t know them.  BUT… I’m not going around shouting that I blog about them every day either. Yet. ) 

I know there are other songs in their catalog that wave a similar wand and cast the same spell on me. The list is rather lengthy when I think about it, which isn’t surprising. This IS my favorite band. I think the rather remarkable point is that like Rio, many of the songs I find myself smiling in response to aren’t necessarily at the top of my list of favorites. They’re unmistakably songs that my memory references as Duran Duran, of course – and typically they are ones that have great memories attached to them. 

For me, when I hear Rio, I think of touring and giant beach balls. The scene of the band kicking said balls in the general direction of the audience, while we attempt to aim them right back… oh wait…I probably shouldn’t have mentioned that. 

Never mind. Nothing else to see or read there…

I think of summer and sand, and seeing pictures of the band in Hawaii.  That moment at the end of the show comes to mind, too. It is when Dom, John and Roger are all watching one another, waiting for Roger to signal that his chops have had enough for one night and he’s about to end the wind-up at the very end of Rio. I think of seeing John, Roger, Nick, Simon, Dom, Simon W., Anna and Erin at the front of the stage waving. I’m back in my happy place. How could I not smile?

What about you? 

-R