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Episode 9 – Discussion of Duran Duran in 1984 and 1985

Happy New Year, and welcome to New Wave Beat. I am your host, Jason D’Orazio.

0:00 – New Wave News
4:35 – Discussion of Duran Duran in 1984 and 1985

New Wave News

New Simple Minds Video

Simple Minds has just released a new lead track called “Magic”, with a stylish, 3D animated video to accompany it. The video features a masked man dancing near a series of mirrors. As the song goes on, he dances with a colored powder-wake and then with a metallic-colored liquid wake. The song itself sounds like an update of their early sound while not sounding entirely different. I found it to be pretty catchy. “Magic” is in support of their album, “Walk Between Worlds”, which will be released February 2. They will be co-touring with the Pretenders later in the year.

Nick Heyward’s Favorite Albums

Nick Heyward, of Haircut 100 fame, recently chimed in regarding his 6 favorite albums with the UK-base Sunday Express. To my mild surprise, only 2 were in the New Wave realm. Heyward likes XTC’s 1978 debut “White Music”, mentioning that it influenced him a lot. Another favorite was the Talking Heads’ debut “Talking Heads ‘77”. Heyward mentioned it had “Brilliant lyrics with surreal subject matter”, and was the band he wanted to be in. Other favorites included works by the Beatles, Earth, Wind, and Fire, Elliot Smith, and Sufjan Stevens. For what it’s worth, Heyward’s recent solo album is a departure from Haircut 100’s new wave sound.

Bananarama and Sexism

According to the Daily Mail, members of Bananarama have accused mega-producers Stock Aitken Waterman of sexism. According to Siobhan Fahey, the trio said some pretty lewd things to Bananarama, and subsequently labelled them difficult to work with. Keren Woodward shot back with “Good!”, stating that other artists sheepishly accepted the songs they were given. The songwriting and producing trio sold 40 million records and worked with the likes of Rick Astley and Kylie Minogue, among others. Bananarama had a string of top-ten UK hits, and reached the top of the US charts with their cover of “Venus”.  They are currently touring with their original lineup for the 1st time ever.

Dave Barbarossa Interview

Dave Barbarossa may not be a household name, but he has drummed for the likes of Adam and the Ants, Bow Wow Wow, Republica, and most recently Fine Young Cannibals. Recently he released an autobiography called “Mud Sharks”, which details his ups and downs as a musician. In speaking with Eileen Shapiro of the Huffington Post Barbarossa had high praise for Adam Ant, calling him a bit of a father figure. Also, he was self-taught with the drums, which kind of makes sense given his punk/new wave background. I got the impression in reading the interview that Barbarossa is nice and a real class act!

Boy George on the Australian Voice

Boy George is currently a coach on the Australian version of the Voice. He has been known for being in feuds with the other coaches. For example, Seal, who judged besides Boy George, openly fought with him. But to be fair, their disagreements were not a reason for Seal leaving the show, according to the Daily Telegraph. Joe Jonas replaces Seal, and Joe thinks there will be tension with Boy George. George himself has hinted that there will be more coach drama, this time between him and Delta Goodrem. With a current world tour with Culture Club, Boy George has indeed been very busy.

Elvis Costello’s Acting Gigs

Entertainment news outlet AV Club has this cool feature where they will ask a popular artist about random roles that they were in. For a recent segment, they talked to Elvis Costello. Besides being an accomplished musician, Costello has landed various acting roles. There was the time he tended bar for the Spice Girls in the movie “Spiceworld”. He was glad to do it because of his love for the band, which I find interesting. There was also his guest appearance on 30 Rock, where he played an art thief. AV Club has some cool clips of these and other Costello acting gigs.

Discussion of Duran Duran in 1984 and 1985

With 7 and the Ragged Tiger complete, Duran Duran were continuing their whirlwind schedule, touring at large arenas. In late 1984 and 1985, Duran Duran would release a live album, a couple of singles, and then briefly splinter into 2 groups. Today I will focus on their 2 post-Ragged singles, along with the album “So Red the Rose” by splinter group Arcadia.

Arena is Duran Duran’s 1st live album, featuring 8 live versions of their early work, along with the new “Wild Boys”. It features one of their concerts during the “7 and the Ragged Tiger” era, and offers 8 tracks (due to the limitations of what could fit on a vinyl record). John Taylor in his autobiography would lament that the intense crowd noise was mixed down a lot. However, I thought if it wasn’t, the album would sound like a bunch of screaming.

Wild Boys

“Arena” contained the a sole studio song in Wild Boys” This song has Duran Duran and Nile Rodgers collaborating again. The song begins with a strong drum beat and a chant of “Wild Boys”. The chant repeats in the bridge, which also features some military-style guitar work. The verses are more minimal with the instrumentation, with the vocals and drums taking more precedence than usual. The chorus has singer Simon LeBon hitting some very high notes. The topic of the song is straightforward: the band are wild boys, who refuse to be broken or tamed. The imagery is darker than their previous songs, with a lyric like “there’s murder by the roadside” and the line “there’s blood stain for your pain”. The video invokes imagery of Mad Max in the Thunderdome. There are a large group of mutants, or “wild boys” in an underground lair. The choreography of these wild boys are more elaborate than in many other Duran Duran and new wave videos. Reportedly LeBon, during filming,  got stuck underwater while strapped to the windmill device that is featured in the video. Wild Boys climbed all the way to #2 on the US charts, and stayed there for 4 weeks.

View to a Kill

In 1985 Duran Duran was tapped to record a theme for the upcoming James Bond Movie dubbed “View to a Kill” The tempo of the song starts a little slow, then increases to about mid-tempo. The horn-like synth at times sounds piercing, like James Bonds’ bullets. The guitar adds to the exciting choruses. LeBon’s vocals exhibit a wide range. This makes for a dynamic-sounding song, but it just a tad hard to sing at karaoke for me. The lyrics to “View to a Kill” are appropriately Bond-esque and continue the dark elements of “Wild Boys”. I am not sure if the song is from the point of view of James Bond or a villain, but whoever the character is wants his love interest to join him for high-stakes action and love. For example, “Dance into the fire, that fatal kiss is all we need.” The video has the band in and around the Eiffel Tower, fighting James Bond and each other with various gadgetry. It ends with Simon LeBon accidentally blowing up the Eiffel Tower in a tongue-in-cheek manner. “View to a Kill” was very popular, becoming and remaining to this day the only Bond theme to hit the top of the US charts.

Soon afterwards, the band splintered off into 2 groups. Singer Simon LeBon, synth wizard Nick Rhodes, and drummer Roger Taylor formed Arcadia. Meanwhile, the guitarists John and Andy Taylor joined singer Robert Palmer to create “Power Station”. I will talk a bit about Arcadia’s album, “So Red the Rose”, as it is closer to the Duran Duran sound than Power Station’s work, so I apologize in advance to fans of the latter.  Also, I preferred “So Red the Rose” because I am more of a synth than guitar person, and Arcadia had Nick Rhodes’s synth flourishes.

Election Day

The lead single off “So Red the Rose” was called “Election Day”. The intro is about a half-minute long and features a synth-workout by Rhodes. Then LeBon starts with the vocals which hit a high point in the chorus.  The song was also a collaboration with Grace Jones who helps add an ominous air to the song. Her bellowing “You can die!” at the end of the bridge is particularly intense. A saxophone in the choruses is welcome. I think the lyrics have quite a bit of double entendre. The song has some sexual elements to it: for instance, the words “I pull my shirt off and pray”. Taken literally, it could be seen as a song about political drama. Finally, it could be autobiographical. A line like “Cause maybe we have more play time than money“ implies that the band members. want a break from their hectic schedules. “Election Day” has a quite stylish video, much like Duran Duran’s video output up until that point. It features Arcadia and a lot of ladies dancing in a mostly black-and-white backdrop. It is an epic at 7+ minutes. Despite Arcadia being a side project, “Election Day” managed to crack the top 10 in the US and UK.

Goodbye is Forever

“Goodbye is Forever” was the next single for Arcadia, and is a good follow-up to “Election Day”. There’s a soaring main 4-note synth riff and a more minor raindrop-sounding synth which are quite catchy. LeBon delivers the vocal hooks and inflections in spades. Roger’s drums are solid, especially right before the 2nd chorus. It is a little light lyrically, but what is there is insightful. It could be interpreted as a breakup song, whether it be with a romantic interest, or perhaps foreshadowing the breakup of Duran Duran. Lyrics like “Caught up in our own barbed wire, to set us free” imply that the breakup is not totally a bad thing from the point of view of the narrator. The video has a theme of time passing, with clocks and calendars fast-forwarding. LeBon and Rhodes are seeing these as they are strapped in moving chairs, and later on a large clock. You could say that they are stranded in time, but they manage to escape by video’s end. Unfortunately the Arcadia videos, other than “Election Day”, are a little hard to find. “Goodbye is Forever” was a top 40 hit in the US, but did not do as well in other parts of the world.

The Flame

“The Flame” was another single for Arcadia. It has a female Spanish spoken-word section near the beginning, which hooks the listener in quicker than some of the other songs off “So Red the Rose”. The piercing synth riffs for “The Flame” sound a little like that for “View to a Kill”. The vocal hooks are there; for example, the inflections on words such as “Flame”. The song seems like it is about the narrator falling for someone that he knows is ultimately bad for him. Lyrics like “This sinking feeling scares me. Know my weakness call it dejavu.” and the line “Don’t give me any chance to wander back from this innocence.” hint at this interpretation, and imply that this situation has occurred before for him. The video for “The Flame” is pretty funny and has some in-jokes in it. Simon LeBon (in a nerdy persona), and a date visit a mansion. They sort of remind me of Brad and Janet from Rocky Horror. LeBon gets into various near-fatal misadventures at the mansion. Indeed, the video has a murder-mystery motif to it. “The Flame” only hit #58 in the UK charts, and failed to chart in the US, but it is a good song nevertheless.

Keep Me In the Dark

I would argue that the album track “Keep Me in Dark” is closest in spirit to their “7 and the Ragged Tiger” sound. It has some good synth wizardry on Nick Rhodes’ part, especially in the intro and bridge. As far as vocal range is concerned LeBon stays near the middle for a lot of the song. The chorus has a repeating vocal riff that I had played for you a little previously. I think the song is about the narrator wanting to learn more about his love interest. I figured that because of lyrics like “I need your blind full secrets”, and the chorus that repeats the song title.

Missing

The 2nd side of “So Red the Rose”, along with “Missing”, is more avant-garde and atmospheric, and has more guest appearances. The songs are also longer than almost any of their Duran Duran work.

“Missing” finished up side 1 of “So Red the Rose”. It kind of sounds like a slower, more avant-garde version of the song “Anyone Out There” from Duran Duran’s debut album. The instrumentation is atmospheric and pondering. LeBon repeats the word “calling” at some point. I think it is about a lost love, who either broke up with the narrator, or perhaps passed away. Lines like “How can you touch me when you’re not really there?” support this hypothesis. Unfortunately, it did not resonate with me, as the melody and vocals did not seem to advance as the song went on, instead they seemed to meander.

THe Promise

“The Promise” was another single off “So Red the Rose”. This 7+ minute opus has some great star cameo power, including Sting singing. Dave Gilmour from Pink Floyd also guest stars with his guitar. The instrumentation is more lush than the other songs on this album. Indeed, the song sounds a little like Sting’s early solo work. While not as immediately catchy as the other singles off “So Red the Rose”, it is an underrated song from Arcadia. I think “The Promise” is about the western world betraying the 3rd world. Lyrics like “And sometimes we make promises. We never mean to keep” imply that the promise is hollow, the promise in this case being a respite from war and other maladies. The 3rd world is starting to stand up for themselves though, as told through lyrics like “The hungry make their stand. When they’ll stand for no more”. The video, all in black-and-white, has the band looking at video of various war and other atrocities being committed through modern history. The single cut is a leaner 4:45, and hit the top 40 in the UK. “The Promise” was not released as a single in the United States, as far as I know.

El Diablo

The album track “El Diablo”, as appropriate to the title, has a bit of a Spanish flair to it. The long intro features violin and flute sections. Nick Rhodes’ synths adds to these instruments and a spanish guitar. Simon’s vocals are more relaxed than the other songs on this album. My opinion is that “El Diablo”, like “the Flame”, is about being drawn to a love that is ultimately bad for you. But “El Diablo” I feel is less tongue-in-cheek with both its darker lyrics and slower melody. Words like “She will tear your heart away” and “El diablo, won’t you sell me back my soul?” suggest more seriousness.

Lady Ice

I did not like “Lady Ice” at 1st but did grow on me as I began to appreciate its haunting quality. There is a particularly ominous synth about halfway through the song, stronger in timbre than “View to a Kill”. The melody is, well, cold and detached, which makes sense given the song title. There are not a lot of lyrics to “Lady Ice” when measured against the 7:41 running time. My educated guess to the song’s topic is that it’s about a woman who is growing colder as a result of negative  experiences she has had with men or the world in general.

In Conclusion

Looks-wise, the members of Arcadia dyed their hair black and wore smart black suits, and there was also black eyeliner for a little bit of a goth look. While Arcadia never toured, and Power Station toured without Andy or John Taylor, a song from each band made their way into the tour for the follow-up album “Notorious”. Duran Duran performed at “Live Aid” in August 1985, but it would be the last show with the original lineup until their reunion in the early 2000s. Andy Taylor left the band to form his own, and Roger Taylor mostly retired from music. The band did not totally break, up, however, and is still putting out albums and touring to this day.

 

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