Yes, you read that correctly. Arcadia’s album, So Red the Rose, was released 35 years ago. While logically that makes sense, my brain struggles to really comprehend that. I remember getting the vinyl and staring for what felt like forever at the cover since it felt like is contained a special code that I needed to be able to unlock. When this album came out as a kid, I was not terribly impressed by the guest stars by the likes of Sting, Grace Jones, etc. They were no where near the level of cool as Duran Duran, in my mind, so I dismissed that. It also felt so different from songs like the Reflex in my mind. There was also no John Taylor. All of this meant that while I was excited to own anything Duran related, my ten year self didn’t fall in love with it as so many others seemed to. Thankfully, I have grown up (or at least older) and now can appreciate the album for all that it is. Therefore, when I saw that superdeluxeedition.com featured an article celebrating this anniversary, I was all over it. You can read the interview for yourself here.
As I read the interview, I had a few reactions (shocking, I know!). First, the interview brought a real context to how this album got made. While I suspect that Power Station had a lot to do with it, to hear Nick talk about the subtle competition feels so real to me. Of course, Nick might get pushed by boredom to do something creative, it sounds like seeing John and Andy do Power Station turned him towards making music. Luckily for all of us, Simon was on board with it. It could be argued that the competitive spirit helped to create the fabulous album that we have known and loved for over three decades. This reminds me of how there was always a musical tug-of-war between Nick and Andy in Duran. Does that band need competition in some shape or form to really shine? Food for thought.
Anyway, once the idea hatched, it seems clear that they were given freedom and financial support to do what they thought was best, musically. This obviously meant going in a more artistic direction and bringing in those guest artists that I mentioned earlier. I wonder what Duran Duran in 2020/2021 would create if they really felt this freedom. (Maybe they do. I don’t know. It just feels like there is an undercurrent of pressure to me. They definitely don’t have a blank check like it sounds like Arcadia did.) What if they need financial backing from a record label? Would this change the results? Of course, as the article points out, time is very different now.
Interestingly enough, the freedom that Nick and Simon had when recording this album, so did the guest artists. Nick rightly points out that it would have been weird to have these guests come in and then dictate to them about what to do. One thing that I did not realize, however, is how they left a lot of the songs open or with musical holes to allow these artists to come in and fill them as they chose. That’s cool.
The article continues by describing the making of the album, often song-by-song. If you are someone who loves the details about each and every step and note of a song, you should definitely read this. It’s fascinating. One part of the “making of” that I really enjoyed is how they had different versions for the songs. For example, Election Day had 30 different guitar parts on it. Needless to say, there is a lot of music in the vault that never made it to the album itself. It would be super cool to be able to hear some of that. Reading this, though, I get why it took them so long to make this album with all of the subtle changes that were done on a daily basis. In some ways, they are lucky they finished at all!
I think it might be time for me to take some time to listen and appreciate the album again! Happy 35th Birthday, Arcadia!