This week, we are covering the 28th single by Duran Duran, “Out of My Mind”. This song is not only included on Medazzaland, but was also released as a single from the soundtrack to the film, The Saint.
The song is known for being one of a trilogy of songs that Simon wrote in tribute to his late friend, David Miles. After Medazzaland was complete, Capitol Records shopped certain tracks to movie studios, hoping to get one attached to a soundtrack for a summer blockbuster. “Out of My Mind” was the lucky tune, and was released in March of 1997 on Virgin Records. This is compelling because it marks the first time a Duran Duran song was released on any imprint other than EMI/Parlophone (UK) or Capitol/EMI (North America). At the time, Virgin was a division of EMI.
As most fans are aware, there is a music video for “Out of My Mind” that features Krumlov Castle in the Czech Republic, and includes the use of prosthetics and makeup to age Simon over the course of the video.
Any time I listen to this song, I think of a bit of sunshine dipped in gloom. Written in a minor key (I believe it is C# minor), the tune plays in my brain like a one-time happy song, soaking in a bathtub of dispair. When I think of Duran Duran, I think happy, and this song is much the opposite. There aren’t many Duran Duran songs written in this key, and the feeling of slight discomfort while listening fits the theme.
The song has a decidedly middle-eastern, gothic sort of feel, and has plenty of unique sounds and effects that make it interesting and even bright for a minor key. For example, they introduce the use of a santoor (which is a type of dulcimer or zither that you hit with a sort of mallet or hammer). The sound created is part of the melody, which I hear in the background, dancing among the arpeggiated synthesizer loops and tracks of layered guitar – both melody and rhythm. Additionally, the percussion is not just live drums (played by Dave DiCenso), but also includes the tabla (a set of connected drums played by hand). These simple, yet effective touches help to bolster the sound so that the minor key doesn’t sound quite so morose. The sound becomes a little brighter, a little more intriguing, and perhaps even a bit more troubling. It is almost like feeling the dysphoria as opposed to blatantly hearing it.
The lyrics are mournful, if not a bit twisted. The prevailing sense of grief is palatable, but it also describes a sick sort of obsession one might experience if unable to work through feelings of grief and loss. Reminds me that watching someone lose their mind is not at all beautiful, but one of the ugliest things a human can witness. If not the darkest Duran Duran song written, it must certainly be well near the top of the list. While I can’t say I’m a fan of the song in what it means or portrays, I can say the song was artfully written, and masterfully recorded.
Whenever I think of this song or listen to it, the first word that comes to mind is haunted. It is not a song that is haunting in the same way as a song like Night Boat is. No, they are two very different tracks. Night Boat feels supernatural, spooky in more of a Halloween sort of way. This track, on the other hand, is very much about the haunting that happens to people when they lose someone or something that they cannot let go of. In this case, Simon is still struggling to let go of his friend, David Miles. As Rhonda mentioned earlier in the post, it is the last of three songs with the focus on his friend’s death with the other two being Do You Believe in Shame and Ordinary World. It is quite something when you think about the timeline here. Do You Believe in Shame was released on 1988’s Big Thing album and Ordinary World came out in 1992 with the Wedding Album. Yet, this song was released in 1997, almost ten years later than the first one. On that note, it seems incredibly fitting that it is about not being able to let go. While many might cringe when they think about Simon or anyone else still struggling with grief after almost a decade, I appreciate the honesty, the vulnerability that Simon showed in tackling this. I think too often our society pushes the idea that you should just be able to get over a loss easily and quickly. That doesn’t happen for many and I applaud Simon for giving others permission to just feel their feelings. If that was not enough, the lyrics really are beautiful with lines like, “Light a candle lay flowers at the door for those who left behind and the one’s who’ve gone before; Here it comes now sure as silence follows rain.” The incoming sense of grief is one that so many can relate to. Simon might have been working on his own grief but I’m sure that he helped many others.
Musically, it is very different than what we traditionally think of when it comes to Duran Duran songs, especially when you consider that this track comes right after Electric Barbarella on the album. Just within the first four songs of Medazzaland, you know that this is not your childhood’s Duran Duran, beginning with Nick’s spoken word on the title and opening track to more pop songs like Electric Barbarella to a haunting track like this one. Clearly, they were not afraid to experiment and weren’t trying to have a singular, unified vibe to the album. The fact that they chose very untraditional instrumentation on this one shows that they were letting the art point them in the direction as opposed to chasing after chart success in the way that it sometimes feels like they do. It is interesting to me how with this track, the musicality adds to the emotionality of the song as do Simon’s vocals. He does not want to sound like anything but the person in pain, longing for a different outcome. The instrumentation allows for the listener’s focus to be on Simon’s vocals and lyrics. My attention always goes to the vocals and lyrics before I remind myself to check out the unique and very cool instrumentation that they used.
Looking back on this song, it is interesting to note that it was a song chosen for a movie soundtrack as opposed to almost any other song on the album that could have been chosen. It is not the typical choice for a movie soundtrack or even a video. Yet, the video enhances the mood of the song, really bringing home the feeling. It makes me wish that the band had chosen an official video for similar songs like Before the Rain. This is one of those tracks that must be acknowledged for the creative masterpiece that it is.