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Violence of Summer – The Daily Duranie Review

So here we are, at the beginning of the Liberty album. Violence of Summer [Love’s Taking Over] was the 21st single from Duran Duran, and the first off of Liberty. Curiously, this song was originally titled “Live-in Lover”, using the same musical track but different lyrics. A demo of this song (which we always find fascinating to hear), is included on an unofficial compilation Didn’t Anybody Tell You? if you can find it!

The album itself, or at least the band image, seemed to change dramatically between Big Thing and Liberty. Shorter haircuts, paler skin…and a serious muscular increase in guitarist Warren Cuccurullo, along with the addition of drummer Sterling Campbell. It was very clear this was a very different Duran Duran at the beginning of the 1990s. With that, let’s get started!

Rhonda

Musicality/Instrumentation

I don’t know how one can listen to this song and sit still. It is incredibly pop – I mean, there’s absolutely no hiding that fact with this one. Nick doesn’t even try with his semi-funhouse sounding keyboards. The other thing I notice about the song, almost immediately, is that the sound is incredibly top heavy. There isn’t much of a bottom (bass) to it, although it is there deep in the mix! Drums are there, but again- not obvious. The result is a song that doesn’t feel balanced. Fun, yes! Balanced? No.

Guitar is barely discernible as well – enough to where I have to wonder if it’s there at all! I do love the piano both at the beginning and end, and it is only then (at the end) that I hear the high hat cymbal, along with a ton of background “bubbling” as though they’ve poured (yep, you guessed it!) soda pop into a glass!

Yep, this is 100% pure, shamelessly fun, pop.

Vocals

I don’t know what in the hell was going on in Simon’s life at this time, but his vocals sound like he took a rake, swallowed it, and dragged it back out. They’re incredibly rough sounding. I don’t know if they made him sing the song 5,000 times in succession or if he had a nasty sore throat. He still hits the notes, but the ones at the top of his range suffer. Oddly, it isn’t off-putting and adds to the style of the song.

Lyrics

The themes are decidedly Duran, but presented far differently. Fleeting love, flirtation, and a bit of the female/male push and pull – nothing we haven’t seen before. What IS different, however, is the way the themes are portrayed. Rather than the somewhat romantic, poetic imagery as in previous albums, Violence of Summer is rather blatant. Girl with boy meets another boy and decides to go with him instead, causing what I can only assume is a fight later on. It’s a bit, well, pedestrian, really – and seems to be such a huge departure from songs like “Edge of America” or even “Palomino”. This is a very different Duran Duran in 1990.

Overall

Violence of Summer is a fun song. It is the song I blast in my car at 2am when I’m driving somewhere and need to stay awake. It is a carefree, sing-a-long without a worry song. The song isn’t deep, definitely not introspective, and not really the Duran Duran that I am used to. When critics speak of how pop driven Duran Duran has been during their career, my mind automatically drifts to this song.

The song still sounds incredibly top-heavy to me, as though I have my stereo turned all the way to treble without any bass. I fault the mixing here, as well as the production, because it does feel very overdone. Additionally, Simon’s raspiness – it’s distracting only because I know what he normally sounded like, and this wasn’t it. I can remember hearing this song when it was released, and while it had many of the hallmarks of a typical Duran Duran song – something was indeed different. The unbalanced sound, the lyrics about girls and bikers, and the naming of Warren as an official member of Duran Duran (1989 at the end of the Big Thing tour), along with Sterling Campbell were all things that changed the band’s sound. It would be unfair to review this song without fairly considering those major changes. I enjoy the song, but it has never been one that I take seriously. It has merit for those occasions when I need those carefree moments.

Cocktail Rating

3 cocktails!

Amanda

Musicality/Instrumentation

It hard for me to imagine, off the top of my head, another Duran song that is so focused on piano. It grabs you right away. Now, of course, this isn’t your serious piano recital kind of piano but one that it is designed to be fun and pop-focused, which I don’t mind. I like that Duran mixes it up a bit like that. Of course, other instruments chime in but it really feels like I have to really concentrate to notice them, especially guitar for the most part. As with many other Duran songs, there is some effects going on as well giving an almost underwater sort of sound through the verses. Rhonda called it “bubbling” in her review above, which is a good word for it! One final note on the musicality of this song that I have noticed is how little difference there really is between verse and chorus until the end. I have to really to listen to there lyrics to tell when the song switches from one to the other, which doesn’t feel like typical Duran to me.

Vocals

I’m not exactly sure what to think about Simon’s vocals here. One thing that amazes me about Simon’s voice is how it helps to create a mood, a feeling.  In this case, his vocals works to create a fun mood, forcing each listener to sing along even if you try to resist. I tend to think that is the only thing that was the focus when recording and mixing this one. All that was wanted was for Simon to add to the pop nature and feel of the song. That’s it. Nothing more and nothing less. One thing that intrigues me is how the band never played this album live and from what I know this song has never been played live much despite it being a single. Did the vocals play a role in that?

Lyrics

The lyrics to this song are different than a lot of Duran lyrics up until this point.  Usually, they have been either poetic or vague enough that a story is not created.  These lyrics, on the other hand, feel exactly like a story where this woman is flirting hardcore with a “biker” who is a “metalhead.”  Then, of course, the context is summer when “love takes over.”  I am not a huge fan of the whole storyline thing as I much prefer to give my own interpretation unless the story could/does act as a metaphor to something else.  That said, there are some lines that I just cannot help but sing, including, “Don’t give me drink, I don’t wanna get too stoned.”  Who hasn’t said the exact same thing at some point or another?!

Overall


I cannot say that this is best quality Duran Duran song ever made. While I appreciate the fact that this song makes me want to sing along no matter what, I miss some more typical Duran elements. I wish that the lyrics weren’t so obvious, for example. On top of that, I missed the balanced instrumentation. It feels to me that the band worked really hard to create a feeling rather than just letting the process go where it may. What interests me is the fact that there are SO many remixes of this song on various releases. Why? Did they think that the remixes would help it sell? Yet, they did not tour the album. It all just makes me wonder what they were all thinking about.

Cocktail Rating

Back to the Sugar Shack: Liberty Turns 29

Another Duraniversary popped up this week on the socials. Has it really been twenty-nine years since Liberty arrived, somewhat uncomfortably, in our lives? Often dismissed as the band’s worst album, it was a difficult album for me to grasp upon its release. The 80s were over, that much was clear and where the new decade was headed remained unclear. Caught between decades, Duran Duran’s Liberty remains an important piece of the band’s history, and might even be a more consistent listen than the commercial juggernaut that followed it.

As far as album openers go, Duran Duran has done far worse than “Violence of Summer (Love’s Taking Over)”, and it made for an effervescent first single. The 12” single was a wonderful introduction to the band’s new direction. The artwork and the video clicked for me, and I was excited about the album. Ultimately, it never wormed its way into my bloodstream like previous albums had. Some of this was the new decade and exciting new bands arriving on the scene. However, Duran Duran also bears some responsibility for putting forth an album where insecurity and over-confidence lock horns.

Overconfidence or insecurity?

The over-confidence comes through in the guitars of Warren Cuccurullo and the lyrics of Simon LeBon. Playing against the melody, as if to prove a point, Cuccurullo’s work disrupts the otherwise perfectly pleasant “Liberty” while LeBon’s socially charged lyrics on “Hothead” are all a bit silly coming from a band that capitalized on the decade of excess better than most. While the band revisits that sentiment a bit on “Too Much Information”, the song rocks so hard that I give them the benefit of the doubt. A cola company is sponsoring the war? Well, they also sponsored your biggest tour. We are winking at each other, right? 

The insecurity comes through whenever LeBon tries to sing about sex. Unless your Prince, rhyming jism and catechism sounds creepy and desperate. “Take Me To Your Water” doesn’t exactly conjure pastoral images of an English countryside and “Read My Lips” unfolds like a drunken come-on by a once cool geezer in a once trendy club. Listening almost three decades later, I hear a writer trying to recapture his mojo by becoming edgier. While it worked in 1990 for Madonna with “Justify My Love”, LeBon’s poetry was never meant to be so direct and explicit.

Liberty and The Wedding Album, side-by-side

It isn’t hard to pick “Serious” and “My Antartica” out of this album as the crown jewels of Liberty. I’d trade “Ordinary World” for “My Antartica” in a set list each and every show. It is more “Duran” than “Ordinary World” even if it didn’t re-ignite their commercial fortunes. The sophisticated “Serious” ranks up there with some of the best music on Notorious and still sounds like a hit single to me. Having hung my heart on the importance of Andy Taylor’s guitar, the rock-n-roll stomp of “First Impression” remains an absolute high point even if the song is, ahem, a bit like this Lords Of the New Church song (https://open.spotify.com/track/3Em6rJJUdozR2qj6jnAZ5u). If nothing else, it finally gave Sterling Campbell’s youthful energy room to move.

But, really, is Liberty a more consistent listen than the wedding album as I hypothesized earlier? Side by side, I find about six songs on each that I am excited to hear more than a few times a year. The production of Liberty is, even by the band’s own admission, dreadful. The rumor of demos being out there on a bootleg sounds tantalizing (someone hook me up!). Much like the fabled Reportage, a different production might have yielded a far different result for the album and the Duran Duran story could be totally different. However, the wedding album has some filler on it and the cover of “Femme Fatale” should have been enough to sink the whole idea of a covers album. 

For your reconsideration

Without Liberty, the band would not have been forced to reconsider everything. Commercial flops have a way of doing that. Returning with a hit single in “Ordinary World”, the confidence of a band rejuvenated was enough to sell us on an album that wasn’t a huge artistic leap from Liberty. If anything, revisiting Liberty on its 29th anniversary makes me appreciate how important it was in shaking up the band. We learned that Campbell was not a good fit, that LeBon’s lyrics were best when shrouded in metaphors, and that the band could write sophisticated pop songs when they didn’t push too hard to fit into the foreign landscape of a new decade. For their so-called worst album, that is a pretty fabulous outcome! 

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

Keeping the Rhythm Going 28 Years and Counting: Liberty

Liberty was released on this date in 1990. My excellent math skills tell me that adds up to birthday #28 for this album. Back on the 25th anniversary, Simon posted some thoughts about Liberty on dd.com.  If you haven’t read it yet, you really should.

Liberty is one of those albums that feels like a guilty pleasure. I have been known to blast “Violence of Summer” on long drives, some of which may or may not have taken place at like 2am on the way home from gigs at the Key Club in Los Angeles. The word “overproduced” has been used in tandem with this album frequently over the years. At one point, I suppose I might have agreed. I tried to be one of those critical listeners that might be taken seriously. These days, however, I’m far more apt to say “So what??? I think it’s fun and I like it!”, than anything else. Life is far too short to worry about explaining why a song or two makes my heart sing.

The album is 28 years old. I think it might be fair to put the criticisms aside and just love the music. Frivolity and fun are not bad qualities. I happen to agree with Simon on “Serious”. It is by far one of the best Duran Duran songs ever recorded. It ranks right up with “Ordinary World”, and I applaud its simple beauty. “My Antarctica” is another stunning example of the band’s songwriting genius.  I don’t know what Simon meant by the lyrics, but when I think about them, they remind me of the saying “life happens when you’re making other plans”.  Simon seems to call out a relationship with someone who is set to have the public see his/her life one way when in fact it is completely another. I love the vagueness and how the words allow themselves to tell your own story. It is absolutely some of Duran Duran’s best work, and hits home with me far more than some of their major hits. It is a song I wish they’d play live.

There is plenty on the album to love. While Simon wasn’t fond of “All Along the Water”, I adore the song, even with its fair amount of cheek. Again – it’s FUN. It keeps me moving, and I’m certainly smiling. Is it lyrically captivating? Probably not as much as others, but not every song needs to punch me in the gut with emotion. I love it.

When I think about Liberty and this period of time, it makes sense to me when Simon says it felt like part of The Wedding Album. On my own Duran Duran timeline in my head – there’s not really much I remember about the time period for Liberty, only that it was released, and before I knew it the band was on to something else. Maybe they needed that album as a creative precursor to what came next, but I believe it is worthy of standing on its own and not be known as the “also appearing” album of the 1990’s. In fact, I’m going to give it a listen today!

-R

 

Duran Duran History: Violence of Summer

According to my handy dandy chart of Duran Duran history, the song, Violence of Summer, was released on this date in 1990 in the U.S.  Ignoring the fact that this was a heck of a long time ago, I appreciate an anniversary that allows me a chance to really explore and acknowledge one individual song.

So, here are some Violence of Summer facts to begin with:
*21st single
*B-side was a song called Throb
*There are a lot of different versions:

  • 4:20 (Album version)
  • 3:30 (7″ Mix)
  • 3:18 (The Story Mix)
  • 4:56 (Power Mix)
  • 4:01 (Power Cutdown)
  • 4:45 (The Dub Mix)
  • 4:23 (The Rock Mix)
  • 6:02 (Version Maxi)

Wikipedia describes the song in this way:

“Violence of Summer” is a bright, simple rock song, with ringing piano-like chords over a slick bass underpinning. Lyrically, the song plays with familiar Duran themes: of fleeting romance in the face of sexual politics, and mars-meets-venus peculiarities between the genders. Le Bon continues to set these preoccupations into more realist scenarios, challenging himself to leave behind the opaque mysticism of the band’s first three albums.

Also worth noting lyrically, is this tracks return to the U.S.-inspired lyrics of Notorious: “going South where her mother writes”, and “breaking heads in the sugar shack” (which references the cover art of Marvin Gaye’s I Want You.)

It was released 23 July 1990 in the UK, and 11 August in the US.”

I, for one, am fascinated with how the song is described both musically and lyrically.  It is simple?  I can get behind the idea of piano-like chords over a slick bass.  As for the lyrical description, I’m not sure about the idea of “fleeting romance in the face of sexual politics”.  I get the idea of a fleeting romance–I suspect that is why the lyric “summer” was included, to show that it was a short term thing.  Was Simon challenging himself, lyrically?  No idea.

What about the video?  Wikipedia describes it this way:

“The video for “Violence of Summer” was filmed in Paris by the young directing duo Big TV! (more conventionally known as Andy Delaney and Monty Whitebloom). The band, with paler skin and shorter hair than before, plays energetically on a set constructed to look like a bumper-car rig (mirroring the amusement park theme of the album sleeve), while models (including Tess Daly) in platinum blonde wigs hang about outside looking seductive. Newly muscular guitarist Warren Cuccurullo is almost unrecognizable to fans who were accustomed to his formerly waif-like appearance.”

First of all, I find it interesting that the writer focused on Warren’s appearance so much.  I don’t know that I would have ever described Warren as “waif-like.”  Then again, there is a lot here about appearances, in general.  There is only one mention of the band playing live and nothing on the rest of the storyline.  Let’s watch the video.  How would you describe it?

What about chart success?  How did it do?

  • #20 UK Singles Chart
  • #64 Billboard Hot 100
  • #36 Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play
  • #13 Billboard Modern Rock Tracks
  • #3 Federation of the Italian Music Industry
  • #29 The Swiss Top 30
  • #59 Australia (ARIA Chart)[1]

Number 20 in the UK really isn’t bad.  64 isn’t great in the US but better than many of the singles that followed.  Isn’t it funny how what is deemed successful is relative.

What do I think of this song?  It is one that I definitely enjoy especially when I am in the mood to sing aloud at the top of my lungs.  Favorite lyrics?  Let’s look at them first.

Hey!, pick it up
This’ll get you out.. of your head
China’s heading up, by the ratings on a motion
She goes with a real head biker, he’s a metalhead
She looks me up and down talkin’ dirty eyes
Sweet sayin’ boy, baby I can lick you any time.
(keep it up)
(Ha ha, that’s right)
Here we go again…
Bit later…
I’m gonna run into ’em round the back
While all them guys break heads in the sugar shack
Don’t give me drink, I don’t wanna get too stoned
Then we’re gonna see who’s gonna take who home
The violence of summer, and love’s taking over
It starts with desire, ends up under cover
Those lips will make me right..
You may look down but don’t think twice (ooh-oh)
So death is on the way,
So what man? I still want to play….
(oh-oh Yeah..)
One, two!
This’ll get you out, of your money
This’ll pick you up, let’s go!
We’ll take a ride, going south where her mother writes
For bad news catches up, we still got a little time
We made it all so far away,
One thing is sure, we shouldn’t stay
I’ll take it all – China gonna get the run around,
A run, a run around..
The violence of summer, and love’s taking over
It starts with desire, ends up under cover
China, na China, na, na, na
China, na China, na, na, na
China, na China, na, na, na
China, na China, na, na
The violence of summer, and love’s taking over
It starts with desire, ends up under cover
Mmmmmm
Loves taking over..
Yes loves taking over..
Loves taking over..
I’m not going to lie.  My favorite line, “Don’t give me drink, I don’t wanna get too stoned.”  What about the rest of you?  What do you think of the song?  Video?  Lyrics?
-A