Tag Archives: Skin Trade

Duran Duran History: Rock Over London

Today’s Duran Duran history takes us back to 1987, to the era of Notorious, when Rock Over London featured Skin Trade.  Rock Over London was a vinyl radio show that broadcasted in the U.S.  Other artists featured on this particular episode included Wang Chung, Roger Waters, Heaven 17 and World Party.

Skin Trade peaked at number 39 on the Hot 100 chart in the U.S.  Shall we watch the video?

-A

Skin Trade – The Daily Duranie Review

It is time for another review!  Someday, we will have reviews of all Duran songs then…of course, we will have to cover videos, DVDs, etc.  This week, we are moving on to the third track off of Notorious, Skin Trade.  This song was the second single off the album and did not result in much chart success.  In fact, it peaked at number 22 in the UK and number 39 in the US.  Did the song deserve those chart placements?  Here’s what we think!

Rhonda:

Musicality/Instrumentation

There is no way to miss the slow, sexy funk in this song. From the pick up drum beat to the first chords, through to the way that Simon saunters in with his first lines of lyric. It’s laid back, easy and simple in it’s own way. I especially like how the guitar is played rhythmically for this song instead of grabbing the lead. The horns join in for the chorus, adding the proper accents and staccato to the melody.  The middle-8 breakdown, just prior to the trumpet solo is genius, and to even have a trumpet solo in a Duran Duran song like Skin Trade in the 1980’s was brave beyond measure. Musically, this song couldn’t really be more different from the early sounds of Duran Duran, as much of this song comes from an almost-but-not-quite jazz vein. There’s not much punk or pop to be heard, instead showcasing an entirely different sound, which makes this (as well as the entire Notorious album) an interesting song for a  Daily Duranie Review. The melody is almost a bit too slow and draggy for me – it’s never been a song that I’ve fully embraced, but it’s definitely a tune that is a fine example of the musical aptitude and ingenuity of the band. Duran Duran was never a band to shy away from seeking new avenues and trying new things – Skin Trade being an excellent example.

Vocals

Here’s the thing: I like the chorus to this song. It’s in Simon’s range,  he’s not pushing the envelope and is able to get a full, developed sound. I like the stacked harmony – and I especially love that the mix of the voices gives a fuller timbre to the bottom of the chords. I feel the exact opposite about much of the verse(s). In a desperate attempt to reach the notes, he squeezes off his vocal chords, eeks out the notes, goes for a really bad falsetto and as a result the sound comes out all wrong. I don’t know why they allowed it to finish this way, but it doesn’t work for me at all.

Lyrics

I never knew what Skin Trade really meant when I was a kid. I just knew it wasn’t something I wanted any part of. (Turns out, my first instincts were probably right.) Over the years, I suppose I’ve come to some sort of an understanding with the song. I really don’t get a lot from it the way others might, except that it seems to describe that we’ll do anything for money…and we’re all a part of that Skin Trade. We’ll all do whatever we’ve got to do because we’re all chasing after the dream. The money.  Of course everyone loves using the line, “Would someone please explain, the reason for this strange behaviour“, but my favorite lyric has always been, “So cool to get angry at the weekend then go back to school.” (I have no idea why. I guess I thought it was funny that Simon mentioned school, especially since at the time – that was a good description of my life.) Ultimately, I think the lyrics are pretty spot on, even if I never identified with it the way I know others have. There are people that I know who love this song to pieces, and I just haven’t ever felt it like that. Drives me crazy because I wish I got it….

Overall

As I said before, I know fans who are completely obsessed with this song.  I’ve never really had that kind of a relationship with this one. It continues to be a song that I either skip over, or let play through and not even notice in the way I might others. I do appreciate the innovation of the period – bands just were not playing jazz funk the way this band did back in the 80’s, and all critics really need to do is listen to a Duran Duran song like Careless Memories and then turn around and listen to this one to realize that this band was far, far more than just a bunch of pretty faces. In a lot of ways Skin Trade was incredibly underrated, both by fans like myself as well as critics – but I have to wonder why that is. Was it really because it was just so different at the time that critics discounted it? Was it because the vocals didn’t do the song justice…or was it because at this point, the Fab Five was no longer, and the “hype” of the band was gone – therefore allowing the band to simply fade into the background?  I would probably argue all of the above, but I’d give special attention to the fact that I think in the case of Skin Trade, the maturity of the band’s songwriting was well-ahead of the maturity of their fans. (as well as the music industry to a great extent.)  I continue to have a growing appreciation for Skin Trade as the years go by, although I still wish they’d changed the key of Simon’s vocals.

Cocktail Rating

3 cocktails! 3 cocktails Amanda:

Musicality/Instrumentation

This is one of those Duran songs that people seem to have strong feelings about.  I’m no exception.  Yet, I went ahead and listened to the song again to really HEAR it before I provided my review.  Right away, when listening to the opening notes of the song, you know that this isn’t the Duran of the early 80s.  While instrumentation is clearly present, they aren’t being played in the same way, in the same genre as songs like Sound of Thunder or New Moon on Monday.  No, this song is focused on making Duran sound as funky as possible.  While we always knew that Duran was influenced by a wide variety of musical genres, including funk, before this album and, especially, this song, this influence wasn’t very obvious.  What do I notice about the instrumentation of this song that seems to form the funky?  All of the instruments seem a bit slowed down, more of a saunter than a dance.  The guitars aren’t even played at a very quick tempo, even during the faster chorus.  Of course, the chorus is really noticeable because of the use of horns, which definitely get placed in the song spotlight.  Another part that captures my attention is the bridge of the song, about two-thirds of the way through, as it has more noticeable bass and drums with guitar being interwoven.  Of course, that moves back into more horns.  I give Duran credit for broadening their horizons and focusing on a a different musical influence.  That said, it isn’t my favorite.  For me, I have always felt and still feel, even after listening to it again, that the horns are too dominant and shadow the rest of the instrumentation.

Vocals

As I listened to this song again for purposes of this review, one thing became very clear for me.  The vocals are what bothers me the most.  While I’m not the biggest fan of horns, the vocals are the biggest negative to the song.  While Simon alters the range of his vocals throughout the verses, the higher notes/higher range don’t really work.  I get that his voice is supposed to go from high to low, multiple times within the verse.  It might have worked if he wasn’t pushed to go as high as he does.  Here, Simon doesn’t sound like the quality vocalist he is.  We all know that he has a great voice and is able to create mood, stack harmonies, etc.  Heck, the chorus shows off some of those skills.  Unfortunately, one has to get through the verses to get to that chorus.

Lyrics

The immediate thought that comes into my brain when I think of the lyrics to this song is prostitution.  Isn’t that what the first verse implies?  The woman is making money but she is also frustrated while she “works” on the weekend.  Yes, Simon does broaden the idea to include all exploitation and the desire we all have to make money.  Yet, I had no connection with the lyrics even with the line about going back to school or about “strange behaviour”.   Anyway, while I appreciate that Simon was thinking about society and one of the dark sides to society, it just didn’t hit me at all.

Overall

I wish this song did it for me.  I like, in theory, that Duran embraced a different musical direction.  I like that they discussed large issues of society and didn’t shy from using different instrumentation/tempo/vocals than they had previously.  On paper, I should love this song.  Yet, I have never been one to really get into it.  Yes, I think that the biggest factor is the vocals.  I wonder how the song would seem if Simon was pushed to recording his vocals in a different range for the verses.  Yet, I am also not a fan of horns.  Combine those two things with the lack of connection to the lyrics and you get my overall rating.

Cocktail Rating

2.5 cocktails!

3a186-twohalfglasses