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.
On November 25, 1984, Bob Geldof, frontman of the Boomtown Rats, and Midge Ure, lead singer of Ultravox, assembled over thirty of Britain’s leading rock and pop music talents, including Sting, George Michael, and members of Duran Duran, Culture Club, and U2, at Sarn Studios in London to form a supergroup known as Band Aid and record a Christmas-themed single, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, the proceeds of which would be used to help relieve the crippling famine in Ethiopia.
Yep, you’re right: “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” is a terrible song (for what it’s worth,Geldof calls it one of the “worst songs in history”). The criticisms levied against it—that the lyrics are clunky, that the expressed sentiments are smug and condescending—are valid. You know what? It doesn’t matter. I love it to bits. Those involved with the project participated out of a genuine passion for it, and while the end result might be dreadful, it sure is sincere.
In 2002, Nick Rhodes collaborated with Stephen Duffy, lead singer of The Lilac Time and one of the co-founders of Duran Duran, on an album, Dark Circles, which they released under the name The Devils. Dark Circles was mostly comprised of music Nick and Stephen had written together back in 1978 shortly after forming Duran Duran; for an added layer of authenticity, Nick used era-appropriate vintage analog synthesizers on the album to recreate Duran’s 1978 sound.
“…an album that was made by some guys once, and that’s it.”
I’ve been paying a lot of extra attention to Simon and Nick in recent Duranalyses. Since I don’t want Andy and John to feel neglected*, this week I’m taking a look at the Power Station, the supergroup John and Andy formed in 1984 with singer Robert Palmer and drummer Tony Thompson of Chic; Chic bassist Bernard Edwards produced the band’s self-titled 1985 album, which scored two monster hit singles with “Some Like It Hot” and a cover of T. Rex’s “Get It On (Bang a Gong)”.
*I’ve probably paid even less attention to Roger than to Andy and John, but I feel confident Roger prefers it that way, thank you very much.
We’re so busted, done and dusted…
Let’s take a look at this forty-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, which was included with some deluxe editions of Duran Duran’s 2007 Red Carpet Massacre album. Misfortune plagued the album from the beginning; for starters, Andy left the band for the second (and presumably final) time under acrimonious circumstances during the recording sessions. The remaining band members were pushed by their label, Sony Music, to work with a slew of different producers, including Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, and Nate “Danja” Hills, to give the album a more contemporary R&B feel. Upon release, the album was a critical and commercial failure; shortly thereafter, Sony dropped Duran Duran from the label.
Hide the lacy frocks! Nick and Simon have descended upon Sears!
In the summer of 1993, back when Duran Duran was riding high on its post-Wedding Album renaissance, Nick and Simon appeared on an episode of MTV’s long-running fashion series House of Style. In I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution, an oral history compiled by Rob Tannenbaum and Craig Marks, Nick says, “Going on House of Style was one of the funniest things we ever did on MTV.” He’s right: The segment, in which the boys go a whirlwind shopping spree at Sears, is a trip.
Know you’ve got to save some for the shoeshine boy…
“All She Wants Is” was the second single off of Duran Duran’s 1988 Big Thing album. The video was directed by acclaimed photographer Dean Chamberlain, who first became acquainted with the band through Nick’s then-girlfriend (now ex-wife) Julie Anne Rhodes, and who previously worked with Nick and Simon on Arcadia’s video for “Missing”*. As with “Missing”, “All She Wants Is” was created using a visual technique in which individual frames were exposed for long periods of time, which, when combined with a moving light source, enabled Chamberlain to “draw” on the film with light. To add an extra layer of difficulty, the video was then pieced together one frame at a time to create a stop-motion effect.
The music’s between us…
The video for “(Reach up for the) Sunrise”, the first single off of Duran Duran’s 2004 Astronaut album, marked the first time the five original band members had teamed up to shoot a video since 1985’s “A View To A Kill”. To celebrate the triumphant return of the crown princes of MTV’s golden age, something grandiose was required. All total, the band filmed six different videos for “Sunrise”: one apiece for Simon, John, Nick, Roger, and Andy, plus one master video made from cutting together brief snippets of all the above. Here’s Nick in Paper Magazine discussing the concept: “The idea was to make five separate videos, one for each band member, showing some kind of journey home, all edited to different remixes.” Each video was shot on a different film format: color Super 8, black and white Super 8, MiniDV, 24p, or Super 16.
Here’s an incomprehensible ghost story, featuring Simon, Nick, and Warren. “Out of My Mind” is a single off of Duran Duran’s 1997 Medazzaland album. The album, despite being quite good, was a commercial failure; outside of the core Duran fandom, “Out of My Mind” is mostly known for being featured on the soundtrack for the 1997 Val Kilmer film The Saint. The video, which was directed by Dean Karr, is similarly obscure. If you’ve seen it, you probably remember it as the one in which Nick Rhodes makes out with a demonic tattooed bald lady while his head melts.
If you haven’t seen it, you’re probably thinking one of two things right now, just based on that description:
- Holy crap! That sounds awesome. I must see this!
- Holy crap! That sounds awful. I must see this!
Everybody, everywhere, feel it in the air…
Duran Duran just released the video for “Pressure Off”, the first single off their new Paper Gods album, and it’s a good one; since first viewing it, my fingers have been itching to Duranalyze the crap out of it. “Pressure Off” was directed by the band’s frequent collaborator, visual artist/director Nick Egan, who, in addition to creating the cover art for Duran Duran’s Wedding Album, also directed four of their earlier videos: “White Lines”, “Perfect Day”, “Ordinary World”, and “All You Need is Now.” Hey, those are all great songs! And those are all beautifully composed and visually compelling videos! However, while I have Duranalyzed a grand total of twenty-four videos to date, none of the aforementioned have made the cut. You know why? Because Egan doesn’t really do plots. His videos for the band, which mostly feature impeccably-shot performance footage mixed with cool visuals, don’t have storylines. Trust me, it’s much easier coming up with a thousand words or so about a video when there’s at least a loose narrative thread to follow.
“Pressure Off” has no storyline, either, but it’s so damn fun that I’m going to give this a whirl anyway. Here goes: