Thursday, August 13, 2015

Duran Duran Appreciation Day

Yes, I know that Duran Duran Appreciation Day was on the 10th and today is the 13th, but I wanted to wait to talk about my favorite band until I hit a very special milestone, my 800th post! I seriously cannot believe that I have rant and raved, obsessed, and shared my stitching 800 times! How crazy is that? I'm also within 40 some-odd days of my 4th Blogoversary and I hope I don't forget about it like I did last year.

But on with the the important stuff...Simon and the boys (oh, and fair warning, this post is probably going to be huge because it's filled with tons of video clips). I'm not sure of the exact date I first heard a Duran Duran song but I do remember it was early fall 1981 and it was the video to Planet Earth, so the details aren't apparently too fuzzy. I had crushes before, the earliest one I remember was probably Li'l Abner at Dogpatch USA (a long gone amusement park in northwest Arkansas), then Shaun Cassidy, and Andy Gibb, followed by John Schneider and, for a very brief moment, Michael Jackson. I'm not sure if it was because I was 10, almost 11 years old and those teen hormones were starting to appear or what, but I literally went completely and utterly gaga over Simon LeBon and I've been much been that way ever since (although there have been wains and ebbs throughout the years). I often catch myself laughing at the Beliebers (or whatever they are called), but honestly, I made them look normal back in the day. I scared my parents, teachers, and so-called friends with my behavior on more than one occasion (but I do that anyway, so it was par for the course).

But my "day" was way before internet and I lived in po-dunk Arkansas, so information was little and far between. I never ate lunch at school so that I could have money to buy magazines at the grocery store. There was a schedule I had worked out, so I knew which magazine arrived on which day. I sent a letter (by snail mail...I know, I'm old right?) to The Record Runner in New York City, they sent me a supply list, and I'd order special records of remixes or foreign versions that had B-side songs that couldn't be found anywhere else (and if you don't know what a record is, then I give up because I must be ancient!) . I started my participation in the Duran Duran fan club from an advert in the back of a magazine, and although I also wain and ebb with that, I usually keep it renewed. It's internet based now and I need to actually renew it again...I let it lapse. I have written Simon more letters than I care to admit to professing my undying love and devotion (although, not since my early 20's thankfully) and despite my age, one of my childhood nicknames, the melding of the Keebles and LeBon into Keebslebon is still used quite a lot by me today. I am, what is commonly referred to, as a Diehard Duranie.

The new album is coming out next month, Paper Gods, and I've already heard two of the songs from it (and, I'm sure if I really searched, I could find more, but I try to stay away from the illegal stuff), Pressure Off

and today they released the title track, Paper Gods:

I was blown away when I first heard this song this morning. It's rare that a Duran Duran song makes me go "ah, wha?", but it has been known to happen. I cried like a baby the day Wild Boys came out because it was so different and I was afraid they were "going rock" and I hated rock (I was a New Wave Princess and still kind of am). Eventually, I loved it, especially after the video came out, but that initial blow was enough that my 14 year-old crazy self could have very easily had a nervous breakdown or done something really stupid (I was prone to such in those days). Paper Gods is so very different and yet, after about the 10th or so play (it's been on a continuous loop all day), I really started to love it and now I'm a bit obsessed with it!

I read numerous articles in the past couple of days, from The 20 Struggles of Being a Fan in the 80's (very few of these applied to me) to their 20 greatest hits of all time. I NEVER agree with these lists. Granted, as an actual fan, my Duran Duran library to reference from is MUCH bigger than the usual album fare, but still. Most of them just read like someone went on Wikipedia, read Duran Duran's page, and wrote their story.

So, in honor of Duran Duran Appreciation Day, I'm going to give an album by album favorite list of my own with possibly a B-side or two thrown in for good measure (do they still call them B-sides?), starting with album #1, Duran Duran. I do have the original album (of course), but most people don't know that the version you readily get now that is commonly referred to as their first album is actually a re-release, so technically it's their third album with Rio in the middle. They re-released the first album to add Is There Something I Should Know. So if you have Duran Duran's first album and ITSISK is not on it, then you actually have their real first album, so've got a collector's item! I'm getting off track again (hehe, off track? HA!).

Anyway, even though Planet Earth was the first Duran song I ever heard and the first publicly released video, it, as you can probably guess, is not my all-time first album favorite. That honor is reserved for Careless Memories. I just love F-You songs and this was the very first one I ever remember hearing.

As far as B-sides go, my absolute favorite from this album (and probably one of my favorite ones ever) is Late Bar. I found a very recent live version of it, and although it's not nearly as dark and heavy as the original (I was a very dark and heavy kid), it's still "got it".

With Rio, again, I don't lean to the mainstream releases, but rather, another song that they never released as a single, but did make a video for, Lonely In Your Nightmare. I wanted to find the original video, but too many people are obsessed with side-by-side comparisons of the different versions of the video. Any Duranie can tell you, there are as many different music video edits as there are versions of the songs. I bet I have over a hundred different remixes of Hungry Like The Wolf (my least favorite Duran song, FYI). I personally always preferred the version on the right, but focus on whichever side suits you.

For Seven And The Ragged Tiger, this was an easy choice. It's probably more about the video than the actual song, but New Moon On Monday started my love affair with all things French, simply because they speak it at the beginning. After 5 years of it in school though, it was an easily cured obsession. I think this video has more versions than any other. I know I have at least 10 in my collection, but my all-time favorite is the 17 minute movie version, because we get to hear Simon speak!!!

But you can't mention Seven without mentioning Secret Oktober. I don't know one Duranie who wouldn't list this one as, not only their top B-side, but one of their top 10 Duran songs of all time! I tried to find a good live version, but it was either the HOB version with Warren (it's bad enough we have to look at him later) or a fan recorded video where all you hear is the audience singing and shaky videos, so I'm going with just an audio version:

Technically, Arena is next, but it is a live album and not a studio album, so for the sake of brevity (yeah, right), I'm not going to do those because I have dozens of them. There was one studio song on Arena though, Wild Boys, but given a choice, I would still choose the live version of Careless Memories. But hey, this is my post, so why not?

After Arena, John and Andy split off into The Power Station and Simon and Nick dragged Roger off for Arcadia. As you can probably guess, Arcadia was my favorite of the two, it had more of a Duran sound, albeit a bit darker and heavier (but again, I was a dark and heavy kid). The Flame was my absolute favorite Arcadia song and the video had a very Clue-like feel to it. I just wish they would have made more.

They came back together to do the James Bond soundtrack for A View To A Kill and then disaster struck, Roger left first, and then Andy (which really wasn't that great of a loss, I never liked him anyway...that is until Warren came along, but thankfully we aren't there just yet). But hey, that left my favorite three, so all the better! When Notorious came out, I was at my obsessive worst. I literally burned through three cassettes of Notorious in the first year. My favorite song from this album was Meet El Presidente, probably because the line, "hell has no fury like a young girl's ego", it fit me perfectly! Of all Duran's looks, both the Arcadia era and the Notorious era wins out for me. I drew pictures of them ALL THE TIME (I still have a few somewhere) and by collection of Duran Duran posters and such was getting way out of control (I still have all of those too). I used to cut the little pictures and articles out of magazines and kept a scrapbook which turned into two, then three, and so on (and yes, I still have those too).

In rare Duran fashion, Big Thing came out a little more than a year after Notorious (usually, they go several years between albums). A Duranie is fully aware of Simon's innuendos about the size of his um...member (hate to freak out those that don't know, but that is what The Reflex is about), but this album was even more blatant. Sure, Simon can say that Big Thing is about fame until he's blue in the face, but seriously? "Get it up, get it out, get it in time, hang it up, hanging out, hanging on a big thing, move it in, move it out, move up the line, bang it up, bang it out, banging on a big thing" decide. My favorite song was actually Land.

They did release a Greatest Hits album after Big Thing and that one too had an unknown song on it. This is, quite possibly, the coolest song in the Duran library because it blends several songs together in one. See if you can pick out the separate songs (and the video clips are here to help). What was really shocking about this video was, at the end, it shows them walking as a five piece, with two new members. The music changed after that...Warren had arrived. I dog him a lot, most people only know him versus Andy since he was actually around a lot longer and present during the "Duran Revival" of the 90's, but I, as a diehard, saw the overall change in the band, not just the sound, but the attitude as well, and I didn't like it. You still can't convince me Warren wasn't one of the reasons why John left, but I'm digressing (yet again).

Liberty was next, and I've often said that it is my favorite and it is, but I do wish it had higher production values like all the other Duran albums. A lot of the songs have great rhythm sections and fabulous lyrics, but Warren's guitar playing and the over-simplistic production does take away from the songs quite a bit. Guess you guys already know my favorite song here, but how about the unplugged version for the video this time? Ladies and gentleman, the melodial Xanax that is Serious:

There are usually two different camps of Duran fans, those from the old days and those who start at The Wedding Album. Technically, it is actually named Duran Duran, but I find that so confusing since we already have two other versions of albums called Duran and most people refer to it as The Wedding Album anyway (as does the band). Again, while Ordinary World is a good song, it's not my favorite. That spot is reserved for None of the Above. There are several versions of this song and actually one demo version is actually my favorite, but I was unable to find it. I wanted to find a video with lyrics, because if any Duran song could be labeled my theme song, it's probably this one and the lyrics say it all, but Simon is pretty easy to understand, so you shouldn't have any trouble:

I also debated whether or not I should include Thank You in this list, but it was a studio album, even if it was an album of covers, so it does count. Some of them are really good, some of them are absolutely horrible (911 Is A Joke being the worst Duran song ever, even worse than Hungry). Believe it or not, one of my favorites from this album actually ended up being a single, Lou Reed's Perfect Day. When this video came out and I saw Roger playing drums, I bawled like a baby...I was so very happy! Unfortunately it was a one-off thing…at least at that point.

Lou Reed has been quoted on camera as saying he loves this version and he's also said he hates it, but his opinion means very little to me either way.

In the middle of recording Medazzaland, John left. My heart broke, but I still had Simon, so I held on. There are some great demos out there from that album, one even including John singing lead which is a pretty great F-You song to his ex-wife (I love him dearly, but singing is not his strong suit, even though I own every single solo album he ever did) . I did actually manage to find it on YouTube (gosh I love YouTube!):

but my favorite is Out Of My Mind. Definitely one of the top five coolest Duran videos ever because of the creepiness factor:

After Medazzaland, they not only lost John, but lost their record deal too. They switched over to Hollywood Records, which made me happy (Hollywood is a Disney company after all), but the album that came out was just kind of sad and Hollywood Records did a crap job of promoting it. Anyone who thinks that Liberty is bad, has never heard Pop Trash. It's my least favorite Duran album, hands down. There are a couple of OK songs, but I have to be in a deep Duran mood to listen to them. If I had to pick one though, I'd probably go with the French version of Someone Else Not Me, Un Autre Que Moi. Someone was nice enough to cut this version with the original video:

I think Pop Trash was the straw that broke the camel's back when it came to Warren...he was gone after that (it is still questionable whether he left on his own or he was kicked out) and back came John and Roger and then Andy. For the first time in over 20 years, I had my original five back and all was right in the world! The veritable icing on the cake was that the album that followed, Astronaut, on yet another new record label. It is quite possibly my favorite Duran album of all time second only to Rio and Liberty. The Astronaut tour was the first (and only) time I saw all five members together on stage. Maybe that is why it means so much to me. I was too young to go back in the day, and they never got close enough anyway. It's hard to pick a favorite from this album, but I'm going to try and go with What Happens Tomorrow.

The next album gets fuzzy. They had an almost finished album with Andy, but he decided to leave again. I was a bit nervous that Warren was going to come back, but thankfully, that didn't happen. They picked up Dom Brown pretty quickly, who is still with them today, but he's not an "official" member. I think they finally learned their lesson on that front. They trashed the almost finished album and pretty much started over. As the news started to come down about the new version, Red Carpet Massacre, I really got scared...they were working with Timbaland and Justin Timberlake. I like them both OK, but NOT on a Duran Duran album. That was the roughest wait of my life waiting for that album, but once it finally came out, I was pleasantly surprised and I really liked it. The general Duran community, however, HATED was TOO modern and people accused them of trying too hard to be relevant. I still heard the funky baseline of John and the melodious lyrics of Simon, and that's all I need to be happy. But anyway, my favorite song from this album is one of the most hated by Duranies, Skin Divers:

All You Need Is Now was the next album and they went back to the Astronaut vibe. It has that old Duran feel with enough modern to survive and I loved it too! It actually has a lot of "sequels" to songs from the Rio album and the diehards were happy once again. The title song is by far my favorite and an often used ringtone on my phone.

Granted, there are the numerous solo albums from John as well as his Neurotic Outsiders work (and there was even a lesser known second Power Station album), the occasional single from Simon and various production jobs from Nick, but I branched off a bit too much with Arcadia, so I think I'll wrap up here. I will say, Simon's solo stuff is very Duranish, so I guess it's safe to say that Simon IS Duran to me.

Album-wise, we're back to the present, waiting for Paper Gods. If the rest of the album is half as good as the two songs they've leaked, I absolutely can not wait! I obsessed fanatically over my boys in the 80's, I counted on them to get me through life in the 90's, I stuck with them through the hard times of the late 90's, early 2000's and I celebrated with them when they got back to themselves in the time since. So happy Duran Duran Appreciation Day boys...this little Arkansas girl will always love you!


Heather said...

Great post and very long lol congrats on your 800th post and your soon to be blogiversary! I'm glad you have a favorite band to obsess over. I get bored too quickly and can't do that so kudos!

Tiffany Pincombe said...

Congrats on 800 posts!! And wow... I need more time to watch the videos.