Posts Tagged ‘Nile Rodgers’

Black Tie White Noise
1993
Black Tie White Noise Extras
2003
David Bowie

If I’m dreaming and I’m not satisfied with the dream I’m in, I rewrite it. I rearrange the plot and reinforce the dialog. When I’m awake, I do this with movies and TV shows. You’ll know it if I do this with you in conversation because I’ll give you new pages to read. I’ll advise you on where to stand and maybe suggest a wardrobe change.

A few nights ago I dreamed that someone had hired me to play drums for David Bowie. This was for an album Bowie had already recorded. (It was a dream, OK?) I was so concerned that I stopped the dream (I was still dreaming while I stopped the dream) and demanded to know which album. There are some that don’t interest me. There are some that could stampede Donald Trump’s hair. At least one should be stored in an ice volcano on Pluto.

I was also concerned about my ability to play. Though I’m competent (or at least annoying) with two pencils on a conference table while I’m waiting for a meeting to start, I haven’t played the drums since I was a teenager. My parents’ plan to keep me out of the Vietnam War was to have me learn to play an instrument. Then if I were drafted into the army, the Pentagon would assign me to a band. Simple. Why didn’t everybody do that?

I thought the drums would be easy to learn, but a year of instruction made it clear that I was never going to be a drummer, not even on a bad Bowie album. I turned 18 just in time for the last draft, but none of us from that year were called up. Today I serve my country as a blogger. It even says “Blogger” on my uniform.

Bowie’s version of The White Album
One thing we bloggers fight about when we fight about music is an artist’s best album, worst album, and last great album. Bowie almost managed all three in the same decade. His best albums live in the 1970s. His last great album was Scary Monsters in 1980. His worst album lurched into the daylight in 1987 – the unfortunately named Never Let Me Down.

After that one, Bowie barricaded himself in his Fortress of Silentude for six years. He opened the 1990s by marrying a model and stabilizing his life. David and I must be like chocolate and peanut butter because this was almost exactly my experience around that time, not counting all that stuff about music.

Bowie’s next album was Black Tie White Noise (1993). BTWN is not a great album, a return to form, or an innovation. It’s something I don’t associate with Bowie: It’s fun. It’s his most fun album.

BTWN has its quota of menace and paranoia, but even when it’s dark, happiness lurks behind every shadow. Happiness springs from his extraterrestrial sax playing (producer Nile Rodgers said that Bowie “painted” with the sax rather than played it) and from the chaos of musical styles on this disc: rock, pop, dance, terrific covers of Cream’s “I Feel Free” and Scott Walker’s “Nite Flights,” two symphonies for his new wife, Imam, and one avant-gardey track for of all you self-conscious hipsters.

Bowie issued several new versions of this record over the next 10 years, removing songs and adding others (including “Real Cool World,” which he wrote for the movie Cool World). You could theorize that with all this fiddling, Bowie was trying to improve the original pressing. I say that’s just a theory. I say it was too much fun not to.

Black Tie White Noise Extras, a collection of dance remixes, was released on the 10th anniversary of the original. BTWNx dropped five of the original 12 songs, added “new” tracks, and remixed all of them, some more than once. I loved most of the first record and I love most of the remixes.

(I don’t know why, but nobody changed a note in the only blank in this bandolier: the avant-gardey “Pallas Athena.” Here are all the words:

God
Is on top of it all
And that’s all it is.
We are praying.
Athena, Athena
Athena, Athena
Athena, Athena
Athena, Athena
etc., etc.

This stinker, which I admit has a kick-ass drum track, somehow survived every lineup change since 1992.)

This is a fun record in any version. It doesn’t matter which you choose, just choose already. As Kirk said to Balok in “The Corbormite Maneuver”: “We grow annoyed at your foolishness.” Or was he talking to Trump? Maybe I’m dreaming.

Random Pick of the Day
EMF, Schubert Dip (1991)
Hard rock with a scoop of hip-hop and a bedrock of danceability. “Unbelievable,” an unbelievably happy rock song, hit #1 in the U.S. and the U.K.

Schubert Dip is notable for “Unbelievable” and for the unstoppable expression of just being alive as only five guys in their 20s can express it. The first two tracks, “Children” and “Long Summer Days,” jump at you like puppies that haven’t had their walk today. The rest of the album sags – a 25-year-old can only go so far on all that natural energy – but come on, you can’t say no to an album that includes audio clips of T.S. Eliot and Bert & Ernie.

Random Pan of the Day
The Pretenders, Packed (1990)
Most of the album sounds like Don Henley. That’s OK for Henley, but Chrissie Hynde can do better. Her cover of Hendrix makes me dislike Hendrix. Pack this one away.

 

 

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?

“Rio”
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):
Notorious”
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 Half.com.

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!