Yesterday’s winner: The Reflex
For the win!!!
Pick the song that would make the best opening track on the ultimate Duran Duran album:
Yesterday’s winner: The Reflex
For the win!!!
Pick the song that would make the best opening track on the ultimate Duran Duran album:
Yesterday’s winner: White Lines
Which song would make a better opening track on the ultimate Duran Duran album?
Yesterday’s winner: (Reach Up for the) Sunrise
Daily Duranie welcomes new opinions and we wish to give all fans a voice. Today we feature a brand new guest blogger to Daily Duranie. Enjoy!!
By Jason Lent
Understanding the impact of Duran Duran is near impossible if you did not experience it firsthand. They were pioneers of the New Romantic movement (which pulled its artistic aspirations from the likes of David Bowie and Roxy Music) and almost singlehandedly turned the music video into art. As a young kid discovering music, it was hard not to be lured into a world of exotic locations and mostly naked models set to exciting synth pop music.
Over the last thirty years, I’ve taken my share of jokes for sticking by Duran Duran through their musical highs and lows and I understand that the band will always be divisive amongst serious music fans. However, there is more depth and substance to their career than the majority of what passes for popular music in 2014. With that in mind, I dusted off every studio Duran Duran album they’ve recorded and ranked them from the most essential to the, um, best forgotten. I decided to skip the live album Arena (it’s a pleasant reminder of an epic tour but offers little to listeners) and the covers album Thank You which was disappointing but not quite as bad as most remember.
The point at which New Romantic music crossed into the mainstream and simultaneously established the fledgling MTV as a creative outlet that would shape the future of music. The impact of videos such as “Rio” and “Hungry Like The Wolf” are so culturally significant that the music gets slightly overlooked, which is criminal. As a band, Duran Duran hit on all cylinders throughout the record with John Taylor’s exquisite bass lines serving as the glue that holds the synths and electric guitar together to form one of the finest records of the decade. The album artwork also captured the decade perfectly adding to the overall aesthetic of a young band rising to the top of the world to define a generation. Quite simply, there are no weak songs on Rio making it the band’s preeminent album. At the time, “Hold Back the Rain” was just a kick-ass pop-rock tune but it takes on more meaning now knowing it was Simon’s plea to John to get control of his substance abuse, something that wouldn’t happen for another decade. The ballad “Save A Prayer” will always be the band’s most delicate moment while “The Chauffeur” closes the album on an artistic road that kept the band’s pop success balanced with their more artistic interests. This Duran Duran album is essential to any music collection.
The perfect example of the New Romantic movement in music, Duran Duran’s debut sounded fresh and exciting even before the artfully conceived videos took the band to larger audiences. While “Planet Earth” and “Girls On Film” remain some of the band’s most notable songs, the album has a whole captures the essence of Duran Duran. The second side of this Duran Duran album edged into darker, moodier territory that revealed a depth to the music that critics have often overlooked. The opening two minutes of “Night Boat” strike a sinister mood while “Friends Of Mine” and “Careless Memories” are spirited punk songs filtered through the New Romantic prism. When released as the second single, “Careless Memories” faired poorly and the accompanying video remains one of the few misfires in the band’s catalogue. Listening now, that song was far from disappointing and, like the rest of the record, has aged quite well. When the album was re-released in 1983, the hit single “Is There Something I Should Know?” replaced “To The Shore” which made sense for the band and record company though it doesn’t fit the flow of the album.
How do you make a Duran Duran album that almost matches the greatness of the band’s early work? You dust off the old instruments and allow the talented Mark Ronson to guide the recording process. From the title single on, the band recreates the magic of their first three records while updating it for 2010. The hook of “All You Need Is Now” recalls the sway of “New Moon Monday” and there are plenty of other sonic touchstones that harken back to the biggest days of Duran. The opening synth of “The Man Who Stole The Leopard” recall the band’s instrumental track “Tel Aviv” from their debut album while the opening drums of “Girl Panic” are “Girls On Film” redux. Who gives a shit?! It’s shimmering pop-rock beauty that the band once did better than anyone on planet earth.
Three years is a long time in music. For Duran Duran, it meant one live album (Arena), a troubled live performance at Live Aid, and a breakdown in the line-up. “Who gives a damn for a flaky bandit” sang Simon Le Bon in the title track letting the world know how the remaining members viewed departed guitarist Andy Taylor. The album was a departure for the band as the age gap between them and their fans was suddenly felt in the music. For a thirteen year old, Nile Rodgers was just a name the band occasionally dropped as an influence. With little understanding of Chic and the other bands that shaped the band’s style, Notorious felt like a sudden shift away from the new wave glory of MTV that they did better than others. Over time, this Duran Duran album has matured well and reveals a talented group of musicians finding space to write smarter songs. The title track and “Skin Trade” are two of their tightest singles and the feisty “Meet El Presidente” finds a new groove for the Duran sound. The album’s strength lies in the quality of the songs throughout. “Vertigo (Do The Demolition)” and “American Science” are stylish pop tracks that hold their own with the singles. Closer “Proposition” (placed at the opposite end from the title track that takes a dig at him) gives us a final taste of the band with Andy Taylor (at least for a few decades) and it’s clear that the band’s sound needs his razor edge on guitar to compliment the synth explorations of Nick Rhodes. An album that has held up very well in the Duran Duran story.
To this day, I’m not sure why this Duran Duran album was such a disconnect for audiences. The singles didn’t make a lasting impact on the charts and the tour (at least at the Miami Arena, my first concert, finally!) played to less than full venues. After Notorious, I thought this was a bold step forward as the band pushed the music into new territory. “All She Wants Is” incorporates house music into the Duran sound to create a hypnotic tone and the accompanying video was one of the last great reasons to watch MTV. One of the band’s best ballads to this day, “Do You Believe In Shame?” opens a second half of the album which slides away from the dance floor towards the art house. The razor-sharp guitar the closes out “Lake Shore Driving” is the sort of six string showcase Andy Taylor would have eaten up had he not become a disillusioned guitar hero and left for a disappointing solo career (yes, I own Thunder on vinyl and yes, I’m still disappointed). Why the b-side “I Believe/All I Need To Know” failed to make Big Thing while the dreadful “Drug (It’s Just A State Of Mind)” secured a spot mystifies me. Swapping those tracks would move this further up my list.
A complicated album from inception to completion, Seven is a difficult album for me to view through a lens not colored by nostalgia. After the monumental Rio, the band could do know wrong in my eyes and this record held my fascination. The lead single “The Reflex” needed a snappy remix to really bring it alive (“Whyyy-y-y-y-y-y-y-y-y- -don’t you use it”) and the live video helped showcase a slightly disappointing hit single. “Union Of the Snake” remains my favorite moment on the album. Andy adds some excellent guitar to the synth melody, the kind of small touch that future records would often be missing. While all quite fine, the non-singles tend to run together in my brain. “I Take The Dice” and “Shadows On Your Side” are interchangeable Duran songs. Heavily produced and sometimes sounding like a challenge to write, the success of this Duran Duran album resided more on the band’s name at that point in music.
I remember exactly where I was when I first heard “Ordinary World” on the radio. I was returning from my girlfriend’s house and passing over Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach, FL. I pulled over after crossing the railroad tracks knowing Duran Duran was about to return to the charts. The song sat perfectly on the radio and remains a classic pop song. However, it’s not one of the better Duran Duran songs. It could have been recorded by just about any pop rock band at the time and lacked the unique Duran alchemy. “Come Undone” felt more like a classic Duran single and sounds beautiful with a slippery bass line and sexy rhythm. Opener “Too Much Information” still holds up as one of their better rock songs though the line “a cola manufacturer is sponsoring the war” feels a little uncomfortable coming from a band that Coca Cola sponsored in the 1980’s. The rest of this Duran Duran album falters and suffers from an indistinctive sameness. The disappointing Lou Reed cover (“Femme Fatale”) serves as a harbinger of the Thank You album that would follow. In the end, a stylish Duran Duran album with three excellent singles is hardly a disappointing trip.
With the dismal performance of Pop Trash and no record label, it was a widely held assumption that Duran Duran were finished. The reunion nobody saw coming became reality (I figured Roger Taylor had retired from music forever and Andy always seemed like a loose cannon who resented his role in the band). To their credit, the band went into the studio instead of just filling arenas with the same reunion tour for a few summers. Opening track “(Reach Up For) The Sunrise” is a powerful reminder that, at its core, the rhythm section of Roger and John Taylor anchors Duran Duran. A driving chorus with Andy’s guitar jostling with Nick’s synths is Duran at their best. On the whole, the album proves a successful reunion of the Fab Five. “Nice” sounds like an updated Duran Duran, which is better than the slightly misguided band of the late 1990’s. This Duran Duran album suffers on the production side with just too much happening at once. It gives the record a cluttered atmosphere that they would sort out on their most recent work. At the time, any Duran Duran album from the original line-up would have been welcome but this album has aged well and remains sneaky good.
By 1997, Duran Duran had crumbled as the creative entity that launched so many memorable albums. After the hugely disappointing Thank You record, the band was down to Nick and Simon with guitarist Warren Cucurrullo. Nick and Warren were the creative force giving this and it’s follow-up, Pop Trash, a unique place within the Duran canon. “Out Of Mind” completed Simon’s trilogy for a lost friend (“Ordinary World” and “Do You Believe In Shame” were the others) and sounded like an extension of earlier albums. However, the rest of the music moves into electronic dance sounds that felt alien to where Duran Duran started as a live unit. On a whole, Cucurrullo’s contributions to Duran Duran are difficult to assess. A gifted guitarist, it feels like he pushed the band into creative areas they might have been best to not explore. With the release of him and Nick’s side project TV Mania in 2013, some of this experimentation does make a bit more sense but Medazzaland is lacking in memorable moments.
Album opener “Someone Else Not Me” hints at a return to form for Duran Duran but it was the only song written by Simon Le Bon for the album and it shows. With Warren Cuccurullo and Nick Rhodes in creative control of the music, this Duran Duran album feels like more of Medazzaland with a few less highlights. “Last Day On Earth” (written but rejected for a Bond film) gives the album a little more muscle and overall, the album does have a little more guitar pop than the more electronic Medazzaland. The acoustic driven “Starting To Remember” shows promise and is one of the better songs written during this period for the band but ultimately gets lost in a record of uninspired songs. At the end of the road with the record label, this was the first album I didn’t immediately buy from Duran Duran and I assumed (again, like I did after Liberty) that Duran Duran were at their creative end.
The momentum of Astronaut may have corrupted the direction of the band when they returned to the studio. The original five worked on an album titled Reportage, which eventually reached the record label only to be rejected until the band recorded an obvious lead single. In their search for that single, the band began working with Timbaland and Justin Timberlake minus Andy Taylor, who would not return. The result is a trend-chasing Duran Duran album of club music that simply doesn’t work. The drums are heavily processed and the band’s more rocking edges are smoothed over until they are gone. Without hearing Reportage, it’s still safe to say the band would have fared better with their original plans. For a Duran Duran album trying to be dark and sexy, the album sounds embarrassingly bland.
After Big Thing, I had high hopes for the slimmed down version of Duran Duran to remain relevant in popular music. Liberty seriously hampered my belief. For the first time, it sounded like the band was chasing trends and losing touch with who they were. Declining sales and success can do that to a band’s confidence. For the most part, this Duran Duran album attempts to capture the adult pop market in 1990, which was the least interesting direction the band could have pursued. The label eventually cut and run on the album’s poor sales and the album’s best track (“First Impressions”) never reached audiences. Even if it had, there’s not enough of Duran Duran in this album to ignite much interest. John Taylor, to this day under appreciated as a bass player, never found his groove with Sterling Campbell. It’s not a knock on Campbell, rhythm sections either click or they don’t. Without that, the band could not achieve the foundation for greatness that they had on earlier records. At the time, I remember thinking this was the end of the road for Duran Duran.
Jason Lent discovered Duran Duran on MTV 1983 and a lifelong musical love affair was born. In 2010, he left a job in Hawaii to tour with Cowboy Junkies as a music writer and his work has appeared in various online music outlets. He currently resides in Las Vegas managing a music venue while trying to learn John Taylor’s bass line from Rio.
We move back to the music. This time, we ask you to pick the song you prefer. Please note, you may click on the video to hear the songs, to help you make your decision. You might also realize that these songs were the first tracks on their respective albums.
On this date, the Rio single was released, worldwide in 1982. It peaked at number 9 in the UK. It peaked at number 14 in the US and spent 13 weeks on the chart.
How about we watch the video to celebrate its 32nd anniversary?!
It’s that time again! Today I listened to the October edition of the Katy Kafé with the birthday boy this month – none other than Simon Le Bon. I took notes, shook my head several times, and came up with some highlights to share.
Now for the disclaimer: this is not going to be even remotely close to word-for-word. I picked out what *I* wanted to comment on and share, and if you’re looking for something a little more inclusive, I strongly recommend getting your membership to DDM.
VENICE: The band went to Venice last week for a private party – it was actually the party of Simon’s friend and it sounds as though a good time was had by all. I guess if you’ve got to play a private gig, I can think of worse places to have to play. If you follow Dom on Twitter or Facebook, you can see a photo from the water “taxi” that took him from the airport to the hotel. Yes, I can definitely think of worse places to have to go for work.
NILE: Katy asked Simon about working with Nile on the album. Simon said that Nile seemed very happy to reconnect with Duran Duran, and that the process of working with Nile is very easy. Nile loves music and he stays current. Given Nile’s current popularity, I would say that the band was lucky to have him work on the album. The man is incredibly busy!!
Simon also said that currently, it appears that Nile and Mark are on two or three tracks for DD14, and that he hopes that they “make it onto the album”. Between these tracks and the potential of what John Frusciante worked on, I have absolutely no sense of what the finished product will sound like, and I’m sure I’m not alone.
MR. HUDSON: He has been the main drive with the album and has become a good friend of Simon’s, helping him with “getting the lyrics right”. Mr. Hudson (Ben) is currently working with Spike Stent to mix the album. (Rhonda asks, does this mean it’s really finished being written and recorded?!)
which leads to….
WHEN WILL THE ALBUM BE READY?: Simon begins with this song and dance about how he’s a great writer, lyricist, etc…but he’s not a businessman, he doesn’t manage his own career, and so therefore he hasn’t a “fucking clue” when this album will be done. He says that HE thinks it should be ready in a month, but that he’s also the optimist. They still have to find a label, and labels want a six month lead time. (Six months?!? This waiting thing is just going to go on and on, isn’t it??) Then he goes on to say that he has been going around playing the album for anyone who will listen. (That’s funny, I don’t remember anyone asking ME….) Katy mentions that she wants to listen, and that launches Simon into a short discussion of how nobody gets sent roughs anymore. “No digital files”. It’s too risky. Yeah, you know why it’s risky?? Because fans are productive and downright sneaky. We get hold of things and the next thing you know, everyone in the community has it. Anyone remember Astronaut??
THE BIRTHDAY: Simon will be 56 this year, for those who have lost count. There was a lot of talk about cake and some innuendo about the shape of the tiers of the cake…but if you want that, you can go listen to the file yourself. I just shook my head and willed the topic to change. Simon is going to spend the day with his dad, which he does every year, since they share a birthday,
FASHION ROCKS: Simon said this was a fun show and that he met Gene Simmons, who declared (more than once) that Simon would be popular with the guys in jail. Good to know….
FORMULA-ONE FAN EVENT IN AUSTIN: For those who only read our blog for the Kafés, the band is playing November 1st at the ACL/Formula-One FanFest in Austin, Texas. They play at the Moody Theater in Austin, which is an intimate venue, and it should be a fantastic show as long as you’re comfortable parting with the $325-575 per ticket price. Simon made sure to say that this is the only public show for 2014. (unless of course you want to go see them at Dell World…which is STILL kind of a public performance, even though the show is at an industry trade event. The general public, like you and I, can purchase tickets, so check out the details on the blog link above.)
LASTLY: Check out the October 2014 Vanity Fair if you haven’t already. Simon has a photo spread from the deck of the boat we know from “Rio” (Eilean) and an article in the magazine.
Til next time!
On today’s date in 2009, the remastered versions of Live at Hammersmith ’82 and Rio were released. Do you have them?
What is really great about the remastered Rio is that the Carnival mixes stand next to the originals (and even the night versions and some demos) here – so if you ever had a question about their sounds, here was your chance to really hear the subtle, yet significant differences. While I think that for most people, the CD set was probably overkill, for the Duranies I’m probably writing for out there loved it. I know I still play these in my car, which yes – means I love them. Which do you prefer – the UK originals, Kershenbaum mixes or the night versions?
Hammersmith, on the other hand, is a fascinating show to have and hold. If you think about this show, it was recorded in November, just before the band took over the US charts by storm. Yes, they were already famous, but in 1983 they were about to take over the entire world. Go ahead, take another listen. When you experience the show with that frame of mind, it puts an entirely different emotion into your listening, not to mention that the set itself is really kind of kick-ass. Thirty-one years later and they can still put on a show that will knock you out flat if you’re not expecting it. Not that I really need it, but the CD reminds me why I’m still a fan.
On today’s date in 1982, Carnival broke the Top 100 (#98) in the US, being the first Duran album to do so. Once I was older and realized that the Kershenbaum mixes on Carnival were slightly different than the original, I sat down and really listened to both. I was surprised at how subtle the changes were, and yet that somehow made all the difference when it came to radio play in the US. Anyone else??
Just recently, duranduran.com featured a Collectors Corner regarding Carnival. You can check that out here.
It is that time of the week when I sit down and actually make sure I know what all happened over the past week. I do this to ensure that I am caught up but to help any of you reading this who might be in a similar boat. So, what happened this week? No more Unstaged screenings. No more performances–aired or streamed. Was it a completely quiet one, then, in Duranland? Let’s take a look!
September’s Collector’s Corner was published!
This month’s corner focused on the three different versions of the Carnival EP, which was released in 1982. I do own the US version and appreciated finding out the differences between the versions. It made me want to get all three now! If you, too, would like to learn about the EP and the different versions, check it out on duranduran.com here.
Vanity Fair UK October edition!
The October issue of Vanity Fair UK contains a supplement called, Vanity Fair On Time, which features those pictures of Simon on the Rio boat that Simon fans have been dying for! It also contains an essay written by Simon himself! See a couple of pictures on the official press release!
Fashion Rock photos!
If you are a paying member of DuranDuranMusic, there are some photos from Fashion Rocks that can be seen in the photos section.
John Warwicker Interview
DuranDuranMusic is featuring an exclusive interview with John Warwicker, a graphic designer who worked on Astronaut and the singles from that album. While he didn’t work on anything official until 2004, I found the interview to be fascinating as he met and did some posters for the band before they signed with EMI. He has also been recently involved with Denis O’Regan’s Careless Memories project. What really caught my attention, though, were his comments about John and Nick and their ambitious nature.
Rio’s Bass Line:
Bestbassgear.com mentioned John Taylor’s bass line in Rio as being one of the toughest bass lines around. They also featured an isolated clip of the bass here. While I always appreciate recognition of John’s work, I hate that it is wrapped up with a line that reads, “In fact, some of you might think, ‘Duran Duran counts as a band?'” Really?! They wrote and played their own music for decades. I cannot believe that people are still saying crap like that.
Mark Ronson Article:
On a better note, Mark Ronson discussed Duran Duran on cue point. As a fan who LOVED All You Need Is Now, I adore Mark Ronson both as the producer on that album but also as a fellow fan. I love the comments he made in this article about how he was a great producer and a super fan when working on that album. I will always say that part of the reason that album turned out SO WELL is because Mark is a fan. He gets it.
Rolling Stone Magazine on 1984:
This week, Rolling Stone magazine published the list of the Best 100 Singles of 1984. As someone who loved music that year, I couldn’t wait to see who and what made the list. The Reflex made it. Any guesses at what position it landed at?
Crave Online also featured a little article on Duran Duran, which is available on duranduran.com. In this article, there is a brief review at the Madza party and the lack of recognition by the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
Simon hasn’t tweeted much this past week but he did come on to comment about the Scotland vote and to mention one of U2’s new songs. Did anyone listen to that one? Simon said that he wished Duran would do something like it. John didn’t tweet much but did post a few pictures.
Is that it? Did I get it all? For a “quiet” week, there was still quite a bit of activity! On to the next week…