“Careless Memories” was one of three singles released off of Duran Duran’s 1981 debut album. While the other two, “Planet Earth” and “Girls on Film,” were big hits for the boys, this one sputtered and went nowhere. This is a shame, as it’s one of their best, darkest, angriest songs. Of course, the other songs were helped up the charts by their sexy, iconic videos: “Planet Earth” has lots of stylish New Romantic weirdness, and “Girls on Film” has lots of bare breasts. “Careless Memories,” on the other hand, just has Simon hurling tulips around a white room. No wonder it couldn’t compete.
Nick has referred to “Careless Memories,” which was directed by Perry Haines and Terry Jones, as “the worst video we’ve ever made.” I don’t know about that, Nick, have you watched “A View to a Kill” recently? Nick’s claims to the contrary, “Careless Memories” isn’t wretched. Quality-wise, it’s indistinguishable from a lot of the videos that came out during this time, which makes it disappointing only by the lofty standard the boys would soon set for themselves.
We open with a scene of the boys driving around. Simon sits in the front seat, while John and Roger and Andy are wedged together in the back. There’s nary a glimpse of Nick, and the universe is just a little less dazzling and glamorous in his absence. Roger and Andy whisper and snicker to themselves. They’re probably gloating about how they’re the only Durans in this video who didn’t get stuck wearing flouncy white peasant blouses.
Next to them in the back seat, John looks mighty pleased about something. John, we’ll find out later, has reason to look pleased.
Wow, they all look like adorable little puppies here. They’re so young!
In a stark white apartment, we see a fleeting glimpse of a lovely dark-haired woman—Simon’s girlfriend, it seems—walking out the door. Simon is feeling very dramatic about this turn of events.
Actually, you know what he’s doing here? You know the line in the song that goes “…but it always takes so damned long before I feel how much my eyes have darkened”? He’s feeling how much his eyes have darkened. No, really. That’s what he’s doing.
Keep watching. It gets worse.
There’s not much plot to this video, so it’s padded out with lots of performance footage. Dig the way Simon dramatically poses with finger guns when he sings the “Fear hangs a plane of gunsmoke…” line.
Back to Simon’s apartment. Roger and Nick sit at a table and look over a sheet of photographic negatives. Nick! At long last, Nick! Oh, man—they all look really, really young in this video, but Nick, the baby of the group, is practically embryonic. Aside from the performance footage, Nick spends most of his scenes either partially or entirely hidden behind Roger. This marks the first and only time in Duran Duran’s thirty-year history that Nick will be stuck in Roger’s shadow.
The plot, such as it is, thickens: On a city street, Simon’s girlfriend secretly canoodles with a leggy bassist. Heh. John, you dog. No wonder he was looking smug in the opening scene.
Simon sits on the couch in his apartment and angrily shreds a letter written on pink stationary into tiny pieces. While he emotes in anguish in the foreground, the rest of the band sit at a table behind him, having themselves a fine old time while ignoring Simon’s latest personal drama. Andy talks on the phone, John looks smug, and Nick and Roger still pore over those all-important film negatives. Simon flings the shredded pieces of the letter onto the coffee table, just as he sings the lyric, “On the table, signs of love lie scattered…” This is the most painfully literal video ever.
In a fit of pique, he yanks a bunch of pink tulips out of a vase and hurls them around the room.
It’s a fair guess the pink letter is from his girlfriend, who’s obviously breaking up with him. It’s also a fair guess that she left out the part about how she’s been seeking comfort in the arms of a leggy bassist, or Simon would be hurling those tulips at John. Actually, that might have perked this video right up. Some vigorous Duran-versus-Duran fisticuffs could’ve sent this video hurtling into the realm of the awesome, especially if it had then degenerated into a hair-pulling, chair-throwing, vase-smashing, multi-Duran brawl.
But no. ‘Twas not to be. Simon throws tulips around. The rest of the boys continue to pay him no mind.
Yeah, it’s kind of a dorky video, huh? At least Simon appears to be having a good time. If he’s embarrassed by any of this nonsense—the tulip-hurling, the finger guns, the super-dramatic emoting—he sure doesn’t let it show. Just to make this all about me for a moment: Whilst sorting through my worldly goods last week in preparation for a cross-country move, I came across a box of dusty, decaying VHS tapes of my old appearances on Talk Soup from when I worked on the show in the late nineties, back when staff members got routinely dragged in front of the camera because the E! network was too cheap to hire real actors. While this could be exciting and glamorous, it all too often turned into a grim exercise in ritual humiliation. I recall one episode in which I was forced to wear frozen turkeys on my feet (it was our Thanksgiving special, natch). It wasn’t an especially hilarious sketch to begin with, and no, I did not soar above the material.
This is because I am not Simon Le Bon. You could stick a pair of frozen turkeys on Simon’s feet, and he’d sell the crap out of them without a trace of embarrassment or self-doubt. Born performer, that Simon.
Ah, there, see, he’s whipped out his special “Fear hangs a plane of gunsmoke” finger guns again. Never change, Simon.
My fierce admiration and respect for Nick is not going to stop me from mocking his outfit here. Within a few short years—months, really—Nick would evolve into a sleek, stylish fashion icon with the magical ability to wear any awful garment (his nubbly pink princess-sleeved sweater in the “Reflex” video springs to mind) and look like the most glamorous pixie in the room. At this early stage, however, the kid’s not quite there yet. Notice how in the performance footage Nick and John are dressed almost like twins (frilly white blouses paired with billowy white pants tucked into ankle boots), but while tall, willowy John looks catwalk-ready, tiny, fragile Nick looks like he just stepped out of the pages of Elfquest.
Some may disagree, but to my way of thinking, it is never a good thing to be compared to an Elfquest character.
Back at the apartment, the guys are still sitting around the table. Andy still yammers on the phone; John still looks smug. Everybody’s still ignoring Simon’s mad burst of tulip-hurling. And Roger is still blocking poor Nick. Nobody puts Nick in a corner.
Bereft from being dumped, Simon flings open the door of his apartment and walks out into the sun while singing, “I walk out into the sun, I try to find a new day…”
…which is immediately followed by, “But the whole place, it just screams in my eyes.” See? His eyes, they’re screaming.
Yeah, it’s probably for the best that Duran Duran quickly dropped this business of having their videos serve as line-by-line reenactments of their lyrics. “Wild Boys“, for example, would have been very, very different. I’m just picturing Simon pantomiming his way through, “Your telephone’s been ringing while you’re dancing in the rain…”
In the backseat of the car, Simon’s girlfriend tries to nuzzle with him. He’s either asleep, or ignoring her, or is just being an ass. In any case, he blows her off.
So she shrugs and turns toward the other window seat, where John appears to be perfectly willing to join her in some nuzzling.
Simon pops into his apartment one last time to drop to his knees in the doorway and shoot off more super-dramatic finger guns.
That’s the original version of the video. There’s also a slightly less dorky version in which some of the cheesier moments have been replaced with added footage of Simon walking down a flight of stairs. Wow, the boys just loved doing alternate versions, didn’t they? I’ve seen two versions of “Wild Boys,” two versions of “Union of the Snake,” three versions of “Girls on Film”… Counting various Easter eggs, Duran Duran’s Greatest DVD, which features a compilation of their best-known videos, contains a staggering five different versions of “New Moon on Monday.” (Curiously, there seems to be only one “A View to a Kill,” which is a video just screaming out for some judicious re-editing.)
But! Here’s a very special “Careless Memories” bonus! It’s the animated video the boys whipped together in 2004 to display onstage while performing the song in concert, in which cool anime (Duranime?) versions of the boys wage war against ninjas, UFOs, robots, Godzilla, and, er, the EMI building. The animation is a little on the cheap side, but still, it’s plenty awesome.
Oh, sure, the lyrics of “Careless Memories” aren’t really about a ninja massacre, but all the same, doesn’t this fit the song’s angry, urgent mood better than some dreary fluff about how Simon’s girlfriend maybe secretly prefers John? Viewer warning for copious amounts of animated blood (as in, blood, blood, blood, blood, blood), but if you’ve ever wanted to see Simon wielding a microphone stand like a samurai sword, or sweet-natured Roger slaughtering a ninja with a cymbal to the brain (and come on, who hasn’t wanted to see that?), this is going to be right up your alley.