This past week was a pretty intense one for me. One of the ways that I got through it was knowing that I had a big reward at the end. Not only did I go see and have lunch with my niece today but I finished the day with the watching the remastered edition of the remaster of Behind the Music on Duran Duran. Before I blog about what I thought of the latest version, I want to acknowledge that I was a big fan of the first edition and the second one. I’m not sure why. Years ago, my friend, Sara, and I had a running list of essential elements of any good Duran Duran documentary. I think that the majority of the list came from Behind the Music. So, needless to say, I was pretty excited to check out the 2021 version. I also had a lot of questions. Would it cover the entire history? What would be emphasized? What would be left out? How much would be new and how much would be old footage?
First thing that I noticed as I started the latest edition was that it was 53 minutes. I’m not sure how long the previous versions were but I imagine that they were close to that. This means that there would definitely be some changes and some parts of the Duran story that would be left out. That being said, the episode stayed with the general chronology after doing the introduction to suck the viewers in. That means that they told the story of the band’s beginning, the rise to fame, Duran-mania, personal struggles with that, the rising tension in the band and the side projects, the loss of Roger, Andy and John (in that order), the reunion, Andy leaving again and the current state. As a historian, I definitely understand that you cannot tell everything but I have to wonder if two hours or at least an hour and a half would be better.
As I watched the retelling of Duran’s history, I found myself taking notes as many quotes and moments jumped out at me. That first moment was the emphasis on Nick and John’s friendship. I know that in the previous Behind the Musics, their friendship was discussed but this one had more. It went a little deeper with their inspirations and influences. I love how they talked about how they used to go to gigs together and analyze every aspect, from the musical moments to the visuals. It reminded me of many, many conversations I have had with Rhonda after a Duran show. Heck, we probably have many, many blogs or videos on here capturing some of those conversations.
From there, the rest of the origins story felt very familiar from Roger joining to finding the Rum Runner and the Berrow brothers who would become their managers. Of course, they talked about finding Andy and the infamous Simon audition. I loved when John mentioned the “mythology” of Simon’s lyric book in Duran history. Of course, they described that first night and playing around with the song that we all know as Sound of Thunder. As soon as the band line-up was filled, the focus of the story was how they turned this into the success that we all know. The show mentioned building of the band’s image with fashion, art, etc. They discussed the importance of MTV and how the showing of the videos directly impacted radio play and album sales. One part of this section of the show that I loved, though, was the emphasis on the band’s chemistry. Nick mentioned something about how when they played on stage electricity fired throughout the room. That’s exactly it. Still.
Of course, the show moved through the making of Rio and Seven and the Ragged Tiger. The show covered more of the making of Rio than I remember from the previous versions. As far as Seven goes, the focus was more about the growing tension in the band. This is, of course, when there is a lot of discussion about the “hysteria” of the fans and the fame that followed them. This episode discussed more of the rivalry and competition between band members, which was new. I laughed when Simon said that John won in their personal rivalry. There was also an acknowledgement that girlfriends and wives changed the dynamic, too.
In typical Duran documentary fashion, there was some time spent talking about how fame was handled by the band, specifically Roger and John. In Roger’s case, Simon told a story of a time that they were surrounded by fans that really got to Roger. This story was new to me. Present day Roger talked about how he didn’t have the tools to handle the fame and that he needed to walk away to find himself. I, for one, appreciated his openness and vulnerability. Similarly, John talked about how his drug addiction was to numb his emotions and that life then was “just too much.” My love and respect for both of them continues to grow.
A lot of attention was paid to the side projects of Power Station and Arcadia. This version had more of a focus on how difficult it was to shoot the video for A View to a Kill and how tough playing Live Aid really was. There was a lot of openness in regards to the tension between Nick and Andy. Nick described Andy as a “forceful character” and admits that he is as well. He acknowledges that the tension between them helped them musically in the beginning of their career but was not really sustainable.
The rest of the 1980s discussion focused on coming back together as a three piece and how Nile Rodgers saved the band during Notorious. Big Thing and Liberty were mentioned in one sentence. Likewise, Warren was only mentioned in a sentence and that was when the focus turned to the Wedding Album and Ordinary World. The show told the story about how Ordinary World was about the loss of Simon’s friend and his way of dealing with grief. The show talked about how it became a big hit for the band, showing the world that they were not just an 80s band.
The rest of the 1990s was overlooked except for when John left the band. Like Roger, John admitted that he needed to focus on his personal life. He views rehab as a rebirth and learned that addiction wasn’t his fault. Of course, his leaving was tough on the rest of the band as Simon admitted that he felt “deserted,” leading him to question continuing as it did not feel like Duran Duran anymore. Luckily for all of us, they decided to reunite. In this version, there was an emphasis on how tough that reunion really was as they struggled to work together and how the record labels were not interested in them. What saved it clearly was the return to the stage where they once again realized how Duran is so much bigger than the individual members as there is a chemistry between them but also between them and the audience. I couldn’t agree more.
As the show wraps up, there is a brief discussion about how the reunion with Andy was short lived. John claimed everyone in the band thought that Andy was difficult to work with and Nick stated that he never really fit in with the rest of the band. (I wonder if those statements will end the never-ending hope from fans that Andy might return in some capacity at some point but probably not…) Of course, there are also some scenes and quotes about the upcoming Future Past album that Simon described as “cutting edge but still sounds like Duran Duran.”
Overall, I enjoyed the heck out of this latest Behind the Music. It made me smile at so much, squee at other moments, feel excitement thinking about what is coming next with the band and more. I appreciated that a lot of this version was really new. In fact, there were a lot of new photos included, many of which were new to me. I also liked the idea that the band watched parts of the old versions to respond to the same topics. I thought that was a clever way to do it. That isn’t to say that it was perfect. There were a couple of dates that I cringed at and the chronology didn’t seem entirely perfect but I think the general vibe of Duran’s history was captured even if whole albums were left out. I recommend seeing it, if you haven’t. If you have seen it, I would love to know what you thought of it!