Duran Duran’s rendition of “Femme Fatale,” originally recorded in 1966 by the Velvet Underground, appears on their 1993 self-titled album, which, in an attempt to avoid confusion with their 1981 self-titled debut album, is more commonly known as The Wedding Album. The black-and-white video was shot in New York by photographer/filmmaker Ellen von Unwerth, who would later direct the band in “Electric Barbarella.” Of the two, “Electric Barbarella” is the more interesting video; it’s cheerful and tawdry and contains some downright sordid and unsettling undertones, whereas “Femme Fatale” is languid and lazily glamorous in a noncommittal way, with the dreamy, gauzy gloss of a commercial for a high-end perfume. I like high-end perfume commercials, though, so let’s take a look at “Femme Fatale.”
“And we sway in the moon, the way we did when we were younger...”
The video for Duran Duran’s “All You Need Is Now,” the title track and first single off their 2011 album, was directed by Nick Egan, who’d previously worked with the band on the videos for “Come Undone,” “Ordinary World,” and “Too Much Information”; more recently, he directed the videos for “Pressure Off” and, in combination with the Snorri Brothers, “Last Night in the City,” both off of the Paper Gods album. Egan does consistently nice work, though he gravitates toward videos consisting mostly or entirely of performance footage, whereas I will always prefer even Duran’s cheesiest narrative-driven video—hello there, “Careless Memories,” I was just talking about you!—to videos without a plot. So while I feel a bit lukewarm overall on the content of “All You Need Is Now,” I think it’s a lovely song, and the video has some beautiful images.
I’ll only watch you leave me further behind…
While “The Chauffeur,” a track off of Duran Duran’s Rio album, was never released as a single, it’s beloved by critics, die-hard Duranies, and dabblers alike, thanks to its sleekly melancholy tune and its enigmatic lyrics, which were reportedly written by Simon Le Bon while on a kibbutz in Israel in his pre-Duran days. “The Chauffeur” is Simon at his most enigmatic and Lewis Carrollesque; surely “Out on the tar plains, the glides are moving/All looking for a new place to drive” is 1982’s response to “Twas brillig, and the slithy toves/Did gyre and gimble in the wabe.” The video was directed by Birmingham artist/filmmaker Ian Emes, who’d already achieved a degree of fame for his animated videos for Pink Floyd. Much as “The Chauffeur” is a beloved song, the video is equally beloved, for a few obvious reasons:
- It’s beautifully shot
- It’s stylish as hell
- It has boobs in it.
My love for Duran Duran’s anime-inspired “Careless Memories” video, the one that was projected above the stage during the Astronaut tour, is deep, abiding, and well documented. So it was with a great sense of joy that I became aware of the existence of a second, more obscure Duranime video, this one for “Nice,” a track off of the 2004 Astronaut album. As with “Careless Memories,” the “Nice” Duranime is the brainchild of artistic designer Gary Oldknow, a frequent Duran Duran collaborator, with artwork from Japanese-British illustrator Fumio Obata and artist/designer Ai Hasegawa.
Why do I love the Duranime videos so much? Simply put, they combine two of my great passions: the ridiculously outsized glamour of Duran Duran and the dedicated evil-fighting teamwork of old-school anime series like Voltron or Yoroiden Samurai Troopers. The combination is nothing short of magical.
“Perfect Day,” Duran Duran’s immaculate version of the 1972 Lou Reed classic, appeared on Thank You, their 1995 album of covers. While Thank You was critically savaged upon release (Rolling Stone called it “stunningly wrongheaded”; the Irish Times dubbed it “the single worst album in the history of recorded music”), “Perfect Day” escaped the carnage relatively unscathed: Metro Weekly called it “far and away the best thing on the album,” while Reed himself referred to it as “the best cover version ever completed of one of my songs.” Duran Duran pulled off a beautiful, bittersweet rendition of a beautiful, bittersweet song.
This band is perfect, just don’t scratch the surface…
The video for “Too Much Information”, the third single off of Duran Duran’s 1993 Wedding Album, was directed by Julien Temple, who also directed the band’s lovely and stylish video for “Come Undone”. More importantly, though, he helmed the 1988 sci-fi musical comedy Earth Girls Are Easy; “Come Undone” is swell, but Earth Girls Are Easy is a classic. Despite consisting mostly of performance footage, “Too Much Information” still manages to be a raucous good time. Let’s hit it:
Came in from a rainy Thursday on the avenue…
“Ordinary World” was the first single released off of Duran Duran’s 1992 self-titled album, which, because Duran Duran already had a self-titled album, is more often known as The Wedding Album. One self-titled album per band is plenty, even for Duran Duran. Here’s a splendid quote from Nick on the subject: “You know, it is NOT really called The Wedding Album, even though it is called The Wedding Album”. Thank you, Nick, that cleared the matter right up. Nick often speaks in Zen kōans peppered with bon mots, like a Vivienne Westwood-garbed Buddhist monk after a few glasses of champagne. Nick is, as always, the greatest.
Gear up, Simon. Let’s do this.
“Violence of Summer (Love’s Taking Over)” was the first single released off of Duran Duran’s 1990 Liberty album. The video, which was shot in France, is the work of prolific directors Andy Delaney and Monty Whitebloom, who collectively operate under the name Big TV! The single, like the album, was neither a critical nor a commercial success; it peaked at #65 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, which… seems about right, actually. It’s a decent song, and it’s a decent video, but it falls far short of the giddying, glorious heights these boys have been known to attain. As Simon put it in a 1998 Goldmine interview, in which he zeroes in on the song as one of the “weak spots” on the critically-disappointing Liberty, “it just didn’t have a proper chorus, great verse though. Just not paying enough attention, we lost our concentration.” Then again, in that same interview he refers to “Serious”*, the second single off of Liberty, as one of the greatest Duran songs ever written, so for reasons of sanity maintenance, it’s maybe safer to ignore everything he says.
Hey, remember back in 2001 when John Taylor starred as a wealthy, murderous rapist in a straight-to-DVD quasi-religious erotic thriller with incongruous supernatural undertones?
Neither did I. Until very recently, I had no clue this gem existed. Luckily, the wonderful people of the internet tipped me off to the existence of Vegas, City of Dreams.
Last month I received an email from Andrew Golub, wondering if I’d consider Duranalyzing his book, Beautiful Colors: The Posters of Duran Duran. This was the best idea I’d heard in a very long time.
Andy—well-known in Duran fandom by the irresistible portmanteau “Durandy”—is the world’s leading archivist of Duran Duran memorabilia: posters, photos, books, magazines, press materials, you name it. Much has been written about his collection in publications like The Stranger and The Examiner; I don’t really have a good way to wrap my head around the vastness of his personal archive, but from what I understand, a storage locker is involved. Durandy collects Duran Duran memorabilia the way Nick Rhodes collects art, or Simon Le Bon collects fine wine, or Andy Taylor collects grudges. In other words, it’s a serious business.