Duranalysis: Red Carpet Massacre

We’re so busted, done and dusted…

Misfortune plagued Duran Duran’s 2007 Red Carpet Massacre album from the beginning: Andy left the band for the second (and presumably final) time under acrimonious circumstances during the recording sessions, while the remaining band members were pushed by their label, Sony Music, into working with a slew of different producers, including Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, and Nate “Danja” Hills, to give the album a more contemporary R&B feel. Interesting idea, but it didn’t quite work; upon release, the album was a critical and commercial failure. Shortly thereafter, Sony dropped Duran Duran from the label.

None of that glum backstory makes its way into the relentlessly cheery behind-the-scenes featurette that was included with some deluxe editions of the album, which shadows the band throughout the recording sessions, the filming of the “Falling Down” video, and all the pre-launch festivities. Andy does not appear anywhere in this, nor is his name ever mentioned. Any reservations the remaining band members might’ve had about the direction their label was taking the album are left unspoken, at least while cameras are rolling. What we’ve got here are forty minutes of Simon, John, Nick, and Roger yammering on about the super awesome time they all had while making this album.

The album was recorded over the course of multiple sessions with multiple producers in multiple locations, though this featurette makes no real attempt to differentiate between them. Doesn’t matter. Much of what we see is the usual promotional stuff, and much of it isn’t especially fresh or interesting, but it’s still nice seeing candid footage of the Durans looking like they’re having a whale of a good time hanging out with each other.

Duran Duran Red Carpet Massacre John Taylor Nick Rhodes
Duran Duran Red Carpet Massacre Nick Rhodes Simon Le Bon

And occasionally looking like they’re getting a wee bit tired of hanging out with each other.

Duran Duran Red Carpet Massacre Nick Rhodes and John Taylor

There are also plenty of shots of various band members strumming acoustic guitars while looking focused and industrious:

Duran Duran Red Carpet Massacre Simon Le Bon playing guitar
Duran Duran Red Carpet Massacre John Taylor playing guitar

Everyone’s in good spirits. Here’s Justin Timberlake, airing his mind about collaborating with Duran Duran: “What’s it been like working with Mr. Le Bon? Absolute fucking hell.”

Duran Duran Red Carpet Massacre Justin Timberlake

Upon overhearing this, an indignant Simon charges up to Justin, squawking in protest. “He asked me a question, man!” Justin says in his defense.

Duran Duran Red Carpet Massacre Timberlake and Le Bon

Nick consults with Timbaland: “No, but is the track skinny or fat? That’s what I need to know.” Timbaland stares at Nick incredulously for a moment before replying, “Oh, it’s fat.”

Duran Duran Red Carpet Massacre Nick Rhodes and Timbaland

I have no idea what this exchange means. I’m not altogether convinced Nick and Timbaland know, either.

Roger gives viewers a concise rundown of the band’s approach to recording an album. He’s very polite and unassuming, as is his wont, though he does use the word “abrasive” twice while describing the working relationships amongst the band members. Would it surprise anyone to hear they squabble a lot? No? Roger continues: “And then we all go out for a drink together, and it’s fine.”

Duran Duran Red Carpet Massacre Roger Taylor

Oh, god, now we’ve reached this section where Nick talks for about eight years about the Red Carpet Massacre album art, which features his photographs. To followers of these Duranalyses, I don’t think it’s any secret that Nick is my favorite Duran; I find him dazzling and fascinating and brilliant and ridiculous in the best possible ways. Even still, that doesn’t mean my eyes don’t glaze over when he gets to talking about his Art. I’m only human. Anyway, Nick launches into a very long explanation about how he and John considered and discarded various approaches to the album design, and how he then he ended up staying in a lavish mansion in Cannes with four friends and their beautiful Russian girlfriends, and how he ended up running out and buying a red carpet and photographing the girlfriends for the album cover.

Duran Duran Red Carpet Massacre Nick Rhodes art direction

I mean, it’s a cool cover. He should feel justly proud of it. But by the time he starts gabbing about graphic overlays and font selection and logo placement, I’m exhausted.

Duran Duran Red Carpet Massacre album design

Then John tells a shorter, funnier version of the same story: “I called Nick one day and said, why don’t you just do it? … And he’s like, ‘That’s great, because I happen to be in the South of France in this big house with these four beautiful Russian girls.’ You know, typical.”

Duran Duran Red Carpet Massacre John Taylor knitted hat

We then jump ahead to the filming of the “Falling Down” video, which took place at the creepy Linda Vista hospital in Los Angeles in late 2007. I’ve already Duranalyzed the video itself, but the behind-the-scenes footage is fun.

Simon arrives on the video set at six in the morning. He’s whipped up his own tasty breakfast from the craft services truck: porridge with chili sauce, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar.

Duran Duran Red Carpet Massacre Simon breakfast

Roger stumbles around the set, looking groggy and glum: “It’s now seven AM. … I’m sure we’re not going to be doing anything for several hours, but they like to get you here at seven AM.”

Duran Duran Red Carpet Massacre humorless Roger

Filming gets underway, with the band members posing as singularly unconvincing doctors treating a gaggle of mental patients, all of whom are played by beautiful models. Between shots, the Durans chat with the very young models, who uniformly seem sharp-witted and fun and game for anything. Still, though, there’s a faint awkwardness to the lightly flirtatious banter between the band members—all of whom are fathers to teen or twentysomething daughters—and the models. You can almost see the cogs in Simon’s brain spinning as he struggles to strike the right balance between rakish and paternal.

Duran Duran Red Carpet Massacre Simon and model

And then there’s Nick, who’s hanging out with a pair of models, engaging them in a heavy-hitting discussion about their fancy shoes. He asks them what time they arrived on the set; both have been there since before six. Off-screen, someone pointedly asks Nick what time he arrived on the set, whereupon he stammers his way through excuses while the models burst into delighted giggles. So if the other band members arrived for filming at around six or seven in the morning, what’s our guess as to when Nick finally deigned to show up? I’m going to go with… two in the afternoon.

Duran Duran Red Carpet Massacre Nick and models

Update from an increasingly morose Roger: “It’s now 12:15 AM. We’ve been here for eighteen hours.”

Duran Duran Red Carpet Massacre Roger on set

Back in New York, the band members attend a big gala to celebrate the launch of the album. The drinks list features Duran Duran-themed cocktails; it’s hard to read it, but the drinks seem very sensible and tasty (the Night Runner, for example, consists of rum, passion fruit, and lime).

Duran Duran Red Carpet Massacre signature drink

This is all very nice, but come on! If you’re going to base cocktails off of Duran Duran, make them glamorous and ludicrous and inaccessible! Like so:

Duran Duran Red Carpet Massacre signature drink improved

The remainder of the featurette follows the guys through a bunch of photoshoots and interviews with various media outlets like Details and Nylon. The Nylon spread is shot by Japanese photographer Mari Sarai, who explains that she was expecting the band to behave like rock stars. Instead, she says, they were “very nice.”

Duran Duran Red Carpet Massacre photographer

We see Sarai directing the boys through a surprisingly rambunctious photoshoot—lots of running up and down staircases—while instructing them to be “more sexy.” “More sexy?” Simon asks, unable to fathom such a thing.

Duran Duran Red Carpet Massacre photo shoot

The featurette wraps up with more footage of the Durans gushing about how fantastic the album is going to be. They’ve always been consummate self-promoters, so they look like they mean it, mostly, though there are slight signs of strain beneath the surface. Of Red Carpet Massacre, John would grouse in an interview a few years later, “That whole project was a fucking nightmare.” The Durans are putting a good face on it here, but even so, John’s ultimate verdict comes as no major surprise.