Posts Tagged ‘Duran Duran’


The genius of Duran Duran was to freeze The Beatles in that train station that was surgin’ with girls. Almost everything Duran Duran did in the 1980s was “A Hard Day’s Night.” They just added the clothes and the hair.

In addition to their big idea, Duran Duran’s first album debuted two months before MTV’s launch in August 1981. Their videos were ready when the new network needed material now now now now now. In the alternate universe where there was no MTV, Duran Duran is a cult act from the U.K. that tours America once a year, playing small clubs with Spandau Ballet and Flock of Haircuts and staging charity cricket matches against Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.

Nick, John, Roger, Andy, and Simon lacked John, Paul, George, and Ringo’s skills and their drive to experiment, and so most of Duran Duran’s songs are filler. You only need eight of them in your life. As a public service, I here present the Essential Eight in album order:

From Duran Duran (1981):
“Girls on Film”

Social commentary on the plight of fashion models. Home-field advantage for this group.

“Is There Something I Should Know?”
No. But I cherish this song anyway.

From Rio (1982):
[The one album to own, and an excellent place to start any scholarly study of the 1980s.]

“Hold Back the Rain”
Rocks hard for five boys who were almost as pretty as me. Plus it’s danceable!

“Hungry Like the Wolf”
Duran Duran at their most swaggering. They were young and chock-full of hormones.

Jude Law is playing Thomas Wolfe in a new movie they’re calling Genius. Why don’t they call it Hungry Like the Wolfe? Am I the only Duranimal who’s thought of this?

This is the big crowd-pleaser, and certainly the most fun on a dance floor. The lyrics are a mess. Everyone loves to laugh at this line:

Her name is Rio and she dances on the sand

But look how good the next line is:

Just like that river twisting through a dusty land

From Seven and the Ragged Tiger (1983):
“The Reflex”

An outstanding dance number. It’s the remix you want, not the original, though both of them were hits. All the Duran Duran hits collections use the remix; that’s the only one I remember anymore.

This is another Beatles similarity, as Phil Spector remixed “The Long and Winding Road” into the version most Beatles fans know. The difference between The Beatles’ situation and Duran Duran’s is that producer Nile Rodgers’ remix of “Reflex” didn’t make Simon Le Bon so upset that he broke up the band and nobody got all mad for like forever.

“New Moon on Monday”
This is supposed to be a sad song, but the boys can’t stay sad for long!

From Notorious (1986):
Its closest kin is David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.” (Another Nile Rodgers production. You may remember Nile for producing Madonna’s Material Girl and for creating Chic and their 1978 disco anthem, “Le Freak.”) A big change for Duran Duran, just as “Let’s Dance” was a big change for Bowie.

From Medazzaland (1997):
[I have no idea what this title means. It sounds like an abandoned amusement park in Rhode Island.]

“Electric Barbarella”
Their most successful attempt at musical innovation, probably because all the young dudes were approaching 40 (that is, the ones who were still in the band – by this point, 11 musicians had cycled through Duran Duran, and only two of the originals were left). The story is straight out of the parallel-processor world of Gary Numan & His Tubeway Army:

I plug you in
Dim the lights
Electric Barbarella
Your perfect skin
Plastic kiss
Electric Barbarella

Whatever your feelings about dating outside your species, this is an improvement on the 50-below-zero Numan, who wrote about sex only from a distance of several light years.

That’s quite enough for one day about Duran Duran. But I must warn you that an artist or artists who go by the name Duran Duran Duran released a song called “I Hate the ’80s” in 2007. I loved the ’80s. Fail!

Random Pick of the Day
M People, Elegant Slumming (1994)
Not as commercially successful as their rivals, Deee-Lite (“Groove Is in the Heart”), but far more sophisticated. If you like dance pop with a soul flair, a woman with a deep dark voice, and Schroeder’s toy piano, you might be ready for some elegant slumming. This record deserved a better fate than selling for 75 cents on

Random Pan of the Day
Various artists, When Pigs Fly: Songs You Thought You’d Never Hear (2003)
When Pigs Fly pairs 12 pop hits with 15 unlikely artists. The disc stumbles off the starting line with Jackie Chan and Ani DiFranco crippling “Unforgettable” and doesn’t stop until Lesley Gore lets all the air out of AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.”

Good thing the guy who wrote “Unforgettable” is dead.

I actually felt sorry for AC/DC.

Most of this album sucks the chrome off a trailer hitch. So why spend two seconds on When Pigs Fly when you could be listening to Shatner torturing “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”? Because of Herman’s Hermits and their supernova reimagining of Billy Idol’s “White Wedding.” Far better than the original. And hey, all you screaming female tweens from the ’60s: Peter Noone is as good as ever!


In January we adopted an undersize corgi in need of rescue. Cleo is the abridged version of this type of dog – instead of weighing in around 30 pounds, she only weighs 20. She’s so small that we thought she was not far beyond puppyhood, but our vet says she’s a senior citizen – 10 or 11.

Cleo’s miniaturized frame works well for her because one of her back legs doesn’t work well at all. She probably has the same degenerative nerve condition that struck our last dog, Teddy. Her light weight makes it easier for her other legs to do most of the work. And they do!

Cleo running Jan 2014

This dog streaks like a missile across lawns and beaches and through any open door. She can outrun me in a sprint but not in a marathon. It was when I saw her racing around the perimeter of the large grassy pen where she was being held that I knew I wanted to give this dog a chance. She has a rage to live.

Cleo running looks from behind like a hook-and-ladder fire truck, except there’s no one steering on the back end.

When she’s not charging into the forest to chase another squirrel or racing around the base of our quince bush scolding the chickadees and goldfinches that perch there, she’s happy to curl up and sleep. On the bed, on the couch, on a pile of towels. She loves everyone and expects them all to love her. When we walk her at Reed College, she elicits a cascade of ooohs from coeds that we call The Sopranos Effect. She doesn’t like being left out. She can’t handle stairs, so if I’m downstairs she comes to the landing at the top and makes clicking sounds like the primitive drumbeats in Battlestar Galactica.

Manz Mar 14 Steve vs Cleo
Run-DMSteve takes Cleo for an al fresco editorial conference.

Yesterday we let her off the leash on a baseball field to play with another corgi. This other corgi owned a ball. It turns out that every ball Cleo sees belongs to her and she immediately transformed into Bilbo face-to-face with the Ring. The two dogs ran in circles, barking and snarling, with all of the humans shouting, which to dogs sounds like now we’re all barking. I cut off one of their circles (I haven’t owned herding dogs all these years without learning something) and tackled Cleo with a last-ditch slide. This is too much raging.

I’ve put off writing about Cleo because frankly, given her age and what’s going on with her back leg, we don’t know how long she’s going to last. But she’s already become a valued team member here at the Bureau. She’s probably going to win Employee of the Month for March. It’s time I introduced her.

Tomorrow: What I did on my mid-winter vacation!

Random Pick of the Day
The Smithereens, Blown to Smithereens (1995)
If The Beatles had stayed together, and if in the 1980s they got tired of listening to Simple Minds and Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark and decided to record something hard and dark but closer to their rock ’n’ roll roots, they might’ve come up with something similar to this.

The Smithereens are a solid band, though some of their songs do trudge along. If you like sad, they can deliver. “Beauty & Sadness” and “Only a Memory” touch the heart. “A Girl Like You” and “House We Use to Live in” rock so very hard. “Miles From Nowhere” borrows riffs from but none of the fun of The B-52s’ “Roam” and Duran Duran’s “Rio.” “Time Won’t Let Me” is a really bad cover.

And now that I’ve twice put “Rio” in your head, let’s all enjoy one of the funniest videos of all time. Oh, to dress in a tailored suit and engage in lip synchronization on a sailboat! If only they could’ve worked this into All Is Lost.

Get Close
The Pretenders

Pretenders (1980) is the kind of album that runs you over with a cement mixer then shoots you in the head five or six times for insurance. Bracing. Pretenders II (1981) is more of the same at a lesser pitch. Disappointed? Nah – that formula worked just fine for Led Zep I and II. On the Pretenders’ third at bat, Learning to Crawl (1984), they changed course and gave us a pop album with an edge. Though Learning to Crawl came nowhere near the sales of its contemporary, Michael Jackson’s Thriller (1982), it’s aged a whole lot better. Keeping Vincent Price off your record always helps.

But by Get Close, Chrissie Hynde’s original bandmates had either overdosed, or were fired and then overdosed, or had simply walked away. The session musicians on Get Close are good but they’re not James Honeyman-Scott, Pete Farndon, or Martin Chambers. Ms. Hynde doesn’t give her best when she’s not pushed by independent talents. Eric Clapton has the same problem. I do, too. There. I just wanted to put myself in the same paragraph with Chrissie Hynde and Eric Clapton.

Get Close is listenable, but it’s not exceptional. And Hynde’s new tendency to produce leisurely, sonically bloated, overly dramatic songs results in “My Baby,” “Hymn to Her,” “Tradition of Love,” and “Light of the Moon,” which is a lot of territory to give to the leisurely, the bloated, and the overly dramatic. This is not, after all, a Yes album.

(I should admit right here that I really like “Tradition of Love” and “Light of the Moon.” I even like the synths-gone-wild Jimi Hendrix cover, “Room Full of Mirrors,” which Hynde turns into a song with big hair and shoulder pads.)

There was a hint of this tendency on Pretenders (“Lovers of Today”), but back then Hynde had a band that swiped like a scimitar. This band swipes like a credit card. Many of The Pretenders’ contemporaries could’ve recorded the songs on Get Close. The letter D alone gives us three candidates in Depeche Mode, Def Leppard, and Duran Duran. Get Close’s one hit, “Don’t Get Me Wrong,” would’ve suited The Bangles just fine.

Special D, in that way she has of concisely cutting to the bone, says Get Close sounds “blurry.” Special D should have her own music blog, but she’d never write more than 10 words per post.

Random 1986 Pick of the Day
Steve Earle, Guitar Town
Mr. Earle is a country Springsteen. Guitar Town, his first album, intersects at times with Nebraska, though Springsteen fans who don’t like Nebraska will be relieved to hear that Guitar Town is much brighter.

I almost like this album. That may read like an insult, but country music normally gives me the hives (and I don’t mean The Hives). Even I can’t resist “Hillbilly Highway,” “Good Old Boy (Gettin’ Tough),” and especially “Fearless Heart.” Mr. Earle’s guitar playing on this album evokes Tom Petty and Mark Knopfler. Those are worthwhile evocations.

Random 1986 Pan of the Day
The Housemartins, London 0 Hull 4
The Smiths with sleep apnea.

“I am what I am. Thank God.” – Jimi Hendrix, “Message to Love”

A co-worker entered my humble cubicle one day late in 2012 and said, “Flashback!” He was looking at the two shelves above my desk, which held a row of CDs, a display of old postcards, and the Sock Puppet Spokesthing. While he gushed about these ancient cultural artifacts, I saw my possessions through his eyes. I realized that I could’ve decorated my space the same way at the job I had in 2000. In fact, I know I did.

I’m stuck in time!

In an email later that morning to this co-worker, after stating that I didn’t care what he thought of me, I wrote without even thinking “I’m through being cool!” and hit Send. Then I thought, Oh no, it’s Devo! I’m really stuck in time.

Rather than consider what all this says about me, let’s use it as an excuse to go back to the future. Welcome to 1986 Week, commemorating that stellar year when, as Paul Simon sang on Graceland, “I was single/and life was great!”*

Most of the artists I loved in the ’80s released nothing new in 1986. Echo & The Bunnymen, The Psychedelic Furs, The Cure, U2, Prince, and Bruce Springsteen held off until 1987 (when Prince gave us Sign ’O’ the Times, his equivalent of The White Album, and U2 gave us their masterpiece, The Unforgettable Fire**).

The B-52s didn’t record again until 1989, but in 1986 The Rolling Stones dressed up just like them.

Dirty Work

By 1986 Romeo Void had broken up. David Bowie and Michael Jackson had left the bulk of their best work behind. Gary Numan had left all of his best work behind. Robert Cray debuted with Strong Persuader, though I prefer what he did later. Duran Duran released Notorious, which was notorious for being awful. I refuse to listen to Madonna’s True Blue or Boston’s Third Stage. I can’t decide which is funnier, The Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill or Metallica’s Master of Puppets. I’ll get to Depeche Mode, The Pretenders, Paul Simon, Talking Heads, and Siouxsie & The Banshees as 1986 Week progresses.

What was the best song of 1986? Yo, pretty ladies around the world: Put your hands in the air like you just don’t care for Cameo’s “Word Up!”

Don’t expect 1986 Week to last all week. Don’t expect a comprehensive survey. Don’t get all army-foldy on me, either.

As we used to say in the peculiar slang we employed back in 1986: See you tomorrow!

* Special D is fond of quoting that line to me. Hey doll: “I sure do love you/let’s get that straight.”
** A tip of the critic’s pointy hat to my friend and fellow softball player Donald Keller, who put “mantlepiece” in my head whenever I want to say “masterpiece.” 

Random 1986 Pick of the Day
The Chills, Kaleidoscope World
1986 gave us albums from The Chills, The Cramps, and The Creeps. This reminds me of an evening I spent at Fenway Park in 1979 when we had three pitchers on hand named Clear, Frost, and Rainey.

I don’t know a thing about Kaleidoscope World; I just needed a Chills album from 1986 to fit my theme. The album I have heard is Submarine Bells (1990), which has two lovely pop songs, “Singing in My Sleep” and “Heavenly Pop Hit” (nice try, boys).

Random 1986 Pan of the Day
Stan Ridgway, The Big Heat
I must honor this man for rhyming “Tijuana” with “barbecued iguana” in Wall of Voodoo’s “Mexican Radio.” Sadly, on his solo debut he sounds like The B-52s’ Fred Schneider with really bad hair.