Tag Archives: Union of the Snake

Duran Duran History – American Top 40

Duran Duran history for January 28 has me thinking about the old days of Casey Kasem and the American Top 40 that I would listen to on the radio (and watch on TV) each Saturday morning here in Los Angeles.  On this date in 1984, Duran Duran was all over the countdown, as “New Moon on Monday” as well as “Union of the Snake” was featured on the broadcast for that day. It was a good time to be a Duranie!

-R

Duran Duran History: Formel Eins

Today’s Duran Duran history takes us back to 1984 when the band was completing a lot of promotion on their album, Seven and the Ragged Tiger.  Some of this promotion included TV shows like the German TV chart show Formel Eins.  In this case, the band lip-synched a performance of Union of the Snake.  Since the band was actually in Japan on this date, it is likely that the performance was filmed sometime in late 1983.

I was able to find a clip of this performance:

What do you think?  Reactions?

-A

Union of the Snake – The Daily Duranie Review (A)

If you read the blog last week, last Thursday, in fact, you would have learned of our new review process.  For now, each Thursday will be a review.  First, Rhonda will tackle the song; then, the following week, I will take my turn with the same song.  Last week, Rhonda started with Union of the Snake.  This week, it is my turn.  Will we agree or do we hear this song very differently?  If you want to review hers, go here.  Also, we decided to incorporate the production part of our review to the overall section.

Musicality/Instrumentation:  This is one of those Duran songs with the very distinct beginning.  As soon as we hear the opening notes, Duranies can all recognize the song.  I’m not sure if they intended it that way but it is that way now.  I know it certainly works to be instantaneously recognizable live as some of their bigger hits are that way (Rio and Girls on Film, in particular).  The beginning of the song really feels like the focus is on Nick and Andy.  I always enjoy those moments of musical conflict or musical back-and-forth between the two of them.  John’s bass is felt, at times, but isn’t a standout.  Neither is Roger, really.  Of course, as the songs moves closer to the chorus and through the chorus, Nick’s seems more dominant.  Even there, though, as with most songs of this album, there are always extra sounds, extra elements added.  It is multi-layered.  Likewise, the bridge of the song also holds some interest as there are definite extra percussion instruments included and very noticeable sax.  Truly, this is one thing that I have always admired about Duran.  They never shy away from using instruments outside of their standard guitars, drums, bass and keyboards.

Vocals:  Like a lot of this album, once the vocals begin, they certainly take center stage, seemingly mixed a bit louder than the already loud sounding instrumentation.  The vocals are a solid performance of Simon’s with some particularly interesting moments in which certain words are emphasized with the use of back-ups singers.  These words are obvious including “singers”, “radio”, “borderline”, and “climb”.  What could have been a cool way to add drama simply becomes over the top and too much.  I think it would have been fine if that had been done for a word or two but they used the back-up singers a lot here.  Too much.

Lyrics:  Ah, this song is one of those songs off Seven and the Ragged Tiger with very cryptic lyrics.  There have been many attempts to decipher what this song means or is about.  Is it about sin?  Is it something sexual?  Is it about losing it and having a nervous breakdown?  Is about the pressure of fame?  I have no idea.  I just know that I never connected to them.  I have had moments that the song seems to fit a situation, but those moments are short-lasting.  What do I think of the lyrics?  On one hand, I like that the lyrics aren’t clear and obvious.  I want lyrics that I either need to figure out or that I can create an interpretation that works for me.  On the other hand, I, sometimes, think that Simon tried TOO much to be clever.  He wanted to demonstrate that poetry.  In previous albums, he showed that creative side without it being or feeling forced.  In this song, it feels a bit forced to me.

Overall:  The song has a lot of potential.  I like the play between the keyboards and guitar during the verses.  The use of the saxophone and extra percussion sounds were a nice touch that showed that Duran wasn’t afraid to use other instruments beyond what the members traditionally brought to the table.  The lyrics could be interesting and the vocals could have been great without the overpowering backing vocals.  Likewise, the production seemed to really push the vocals over every other element of the song.  This enhances the two parts of the song that seem weaker to me (vocals and lyrics).  Also, when thinking about this song as a whole, I can’t help but to think about the more recent live performances of this song that I saw.  It seemed lifeless.  I’m not sure why that is.  The band didn’t seem all that into it and neither did the crowd, for some reason.  Perhaps, if the song was given a very long rest, there might be more appreciation for it.

Cocktail Rating:  3 cocktails!

Union of the Snake – The Daily Duranie Review (R)

This being the first review of 2014, we have decided to mix it up a bit. Since we have fewer breaking stories from the band…*coughs*…we are going to break up our reviews into two parts. Each week you can look forward a review: one week will feature my review of a particular song, and the next will be Amanda’s review (of the same song). Additionally, instead of doing a separate category for production, we have incorporated production into the “Overall” section – found at the end of each review just before our final cocktail rating.

For the next two weeks, we are going to examine “Union of the Snake” off of, yes…Seven and the Ragged Tiger.  This was the lead single off of the album, released in October of 1983 and peaked at #3 on both the US and UK charts.  Rhonda will start off the review, followed by Amanda’s next week.

Musicality/Instrumentation:  The introduction to this song is intriguing to me, purely because of the dichotomy of Andy on guitar verses Nick on synthesizers. This is one song where there is a real “call and response” happening between the two – which I find plays into the theme of the song beautifully.  What I did not notice much of, though, is bass. There are moments when I can actually hear John’s bass, but it’s very faint (in my opinion). I think the sound would be better supported with a touch more of him in the mix, and it wouldn’t sound quite as top heavy. One element that I love in this song though, is Andy Hamilton on both soprano and tenor saxophone. He can be heard throughout the song, and rather than a guitar solo, we hear Andy Hamilton on soprano sax about 2/3 of the way through the song. The tenor sax is heard in several places and helps to provide some much needed depth and dimension to the overall sound. I also really appreciate the extra sounds – like the click/clack sounds of percussion that take place throughout – it’s an added element without being too intrusive and overwhelming. Speaking of percussions brings me to the drums.  Truthfully I would have not necessarily noticed Roger’s drums – they are there without being overly obtrusive.  However, I read that Roger took this beat from David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”, and now that I listen to the song – I very much hear that influence, which works well with the instrumentation.

Vocals: I really like Simon’s vocals on this song – what I don’t enjoy quite as much though is the very loud backup singers in the mix.  They seem to overpower Simon, and I don’t know that it adds as much as it detracts. I’ve always imagined Simon singing the entire song with a sneaky smile on his face – as it very much sounds that way when I listen. He sings the song with emotion, but not so much that it becomes comical.

Lyrics: Ok, who here can tell me what in the hell this song really means?? In doing my initial research for this song, I ran across several suggestions online ranging from “tantric sex” (apparently Simon offered this up as a reasoning behind the lyrics) to the borderline being the area between the conscious and subconscious minds. Again…this courtesy of Simon Le Bon, who just loves to toy with us all. Thanks, Simon. I must fall to my own reasoning, which sadly in this case, is very much lacking. I think that I always felt the Union of the Snake was the band, and the line “The union of the snake is on the climb. It’s gonna race, gonna break through the borderline” was about the band’s upward movement. World domination and all.  “If I listen close, I can hear them singers…”  “voices in your body coming through on the radio”…I don’t know why, but I always felt that was about the fans. That if he listens, he can hear us.  We’re loud, you know. I joke, but I find these lyrics in particular to be a good example of the prose-type lyrics that Simon was famous (infamous?) for writing during this era.

Overall: As I mentioned, we are incorporating production into the “overall” category – which really is meant to be a survey of how the different elements fit together.  With that in mind, this is one of the songs off of this album that I feel was produced rather well. The overall sound is not overwhelming, and I can hear most of the instrumentation pretty clearly.  However, I do find it odd that John was not worked into the mix better to add more of a “grounding” to the sound.  I still think the background singers are incredibly loud at times, and while I can understand the reasoning for having them there – I don’t think the intention was to overpower the lead singer. I like the call and response between synthesizers and guitar, and I feel like entire song is more of a “it’s us against the world” type of anthem, which plays out well through the instrumentation and lyrics.  Overall, I have to wonder if this was truly the best song on the album that could have been the lead single – it was done at the last minute, with mixing taking place up to the last minute before EMI took the tapes for pressing, although to be sure, the song does not sound as though it was rushed together – and perhaps in that regard, the song was well-executed.  The song was never on my list of favorites for the band, but I believe that since this song was the first released from this album, Duranies were starving for new music – and this song met the need.

Cocktail Rating:  3 Cocktails!

-R