Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Durannies Never Die

As I mentioned earlier today, I had the pleasure of going to the Duran Duran concert last night. That show was only the third in my 23 years of life as a Durannie. Unfortunately, when they were at their peak I was too young to be able to afford my own tickets, so I was kind of at the mercy of my father. I will never forget that Seven and the Ragged Tiger tour, which breezed through Pittsburgh on a bitter cold, snowy evening. It was February, right around my birthday, and all I wanted was to see that show. I didn't get to go. I never did get over that. I still regret not being there that night. I bet they would've played "New Moon on Monday", since it was on the damn album they were promoting! They certainly don't play it anymore.

Every decade had its artist that just made the ladies weak in the knees. The '50s had Elvis, the '60s had The Beatles, and the '70s had...oh, I don't know, maybe the Bay City Rollers? But the '80s belonged to Duran Duran. Even though they started gaining popularity with their self-titled debut album, I never really heard of them until Rio came out. Even though they were already huge in the U.K., they didn't really catch fire here in the U.S. until that second record. My introduction to the boys came via Martha Quinn, who babbled something about them being the best-looking band on the scene, and then played "Hungry Like the Wolf". I remember watching it, and even as a young girl of 9 or 10, I was quite taken with Simon and his pouty lips. I certainly liked the song right off the bat. And thus my obsession began. More videos followed, each one more exotic than the last, and I was a full-fledged Fab Five freak.

They really hit their stride with the release of Seven and the Ragged Tiger, which produced a trio of hits that I feel are still some of their best songs - "Union of the Snake", "New Moon on Monday" and "The Reflex". At this point, I was an insane pre-teen whose bedroom walls were unidentifiable. Every square inch was covered with a Duran picture of some sort. I dreamed of moving to England. I read "Star Hits" magazine. I was in love with John Taylor and hated all the various models he hooked up with. Now, I know I said I was sucked in by Simon earlier, but I went through my phases. I started out as a Simon-ite, but quickly moved on to Nick Rhodes. Something about Nick was just so adorable. But when he started wearing more makeup than Tammy Faye-Baker, I switched allegiance to John. And with John is where my heart stayed. (I still think Simon is hot, but Nick looks like the bastard child of Andy Warhol these days. I still like him though. Hey, he's a founding member!)

As I said, I never got to see the band live in their heyday. I can't remember exactly when my first show was, but I'm thinking it was somewhere around 1986-1987. I remember virtually nothing about that concert. My sister was living in Dallas at the time, and they were playing at Six Flags over Texas. She took me to see them when I went down to visit her. I'm almost positive that it was not the original 5. If I have the date correct, it definitely wasn't because Roger Taylor left the band in 1986 and Andy Taylor soon followed. It must have been the tour supporting Notorious. I think I would have a better recollection of the show had it been the original lineup. I remember not being super excited about it, although John, Simon and Nick were my three favorites anyway, so I don't know what my problem was. Maybe it was the fact that it was an outdoor concert in the middle of August in Texas. Or maybe it had something to do with the suck-job seats we had. We were all the way at the top of the amphitheater, in the next-to-last row. I just remember seeing specks on the stage and the guy next to us constantly saying "duuuuuude". Not much else remains in my memory. I guess I was pissed that they were breaking apart. Who knows.

After '87, and side projects like Arcadia and The Power Station, the double D kind of fell off the radar. I wasn't a big fan of the next record, Big Thing, however, the first single, "I Don't Want Your Love", remains one of my favorites. I couldn't name one song from Liberty, although a former co-worker of mine is a big fan of that record. I have been meaning to check it out for a long time, but never got around to it.

At some point, Warren Cucurullo from Missing Persons joined up with the band, and in 1993 they returned to radio prominency with a second self-titled album (they could've at least gone the Led Zeppelin route and called it Duran Duran II) which would later become popularly known as The Wedding Album so as not to confuse it with their debut. This was once again the band I loved, capable of writing moving ballads, sexy soft-rockers and funky, disco-pop ditties. ("Come Undone" is, in my opinion, right up there with the best songs of the old Duran era, yet it has a much more sophisticated sound.) The guys toured in support of the record and my best friend (also a life-long Durannie) and I were so there. It was so much fun to act like teenage girls again. Their live show surprised even me. I always knew they weren't given the respect they deserved as musicians, but I had no idea they were as good a live unit as they ended up being. Now,that show was memorable. I often think of it as the first time I saw them, since the real first time was such a blur.

I was feeling pretty good about the future of Duran Duran in the early '90s. I had no idea disaster was lurking around the corner. Disaster came in the form of my main man, John Taylor, leaving the band. At the moment of that announcment, you could hear the sound of millions of women's hearts breaking at once. Not good. I showed my disapproval for the LeBon/Rhodes/Cuccurullo lineup by not buying 1997's Medazzaland. I've heard that it's not much to write home about, although I do find "Electric Barbarella" to be quite fun. My self-imposed ban on the band ended in 2000, when Pop Trash came out. I bought it on the strength of the beautiful single "Someone Else Not Me", and because well, it was still Simon and Nick! I couldn't be mad forever. It's not like they kicked the most gorgeous Taylor out. He left on his own. So, I bought the record and was actually pleasantly surprised. I've heard it get pretty negative reviews, most of which describe it as "disposable disco", but I disagree. I think it's one of their most underrated albums.

Soon after Pop Trash was released, there were rumors flying around about the original 5 getting back together. This went on for some time and I kept checking internet sources looking for confirmation and kept coming up empty. It got to the point where I thought it was just an urban legend. But as we all know now it was, in fact, true. It took them long enough to get back together though! It was about 2 or 3 years between the first tales of "new recordings" started circulating and when Astronaut finally saw the light of day.

Although I never really paid much attention to Roger and Andy back in the day, once they were gone I definitely missed them. It's easy to overlook band members until they're not there, and when they're replaced it's just a completely different vibe. I have nothing against Warren Cuccurullo; he's a talented guitarist. And he did nothing to change the basic sound of the band. It's nothing I could ever put my finger on, but without Roger and Andy (and later, John) it just wasn't the Duran Duran I knew and loved. But the first time I heard "(Reach Up for The)Sunrise", I knew my boys were back. It was pure exuberance, like hearing 5 old friends finding their way back to each other and having a grand old time.

So, this mini-double D history lesson brings us up to present day, and the Astronaut tour. Of course, as soon as the record came out I was checking the Duran Duran website every day, looking for new tour dates. Believe me, if they hadn't come to Pittsburgh, I would've been taking a road trip somewhere. There was no way in hell I was going to miss out on an experience that I had been waiting for since I was 10 years old. Luckily they did come here, so I only had to travel a mere 15 minutes to see them. It wasn't without a few minor disappointments - the seating set-up was completely asinine and confusing, we couldn't see Nick from the angle we were sitting at, we were on the opposite side of the stage as John and that great trio of songs I mentioned earlier was strangely missing from the set list. However, those little things aside, it was worth the wait to see my boys back together again and they put on an energetic, fantastic show. Even though some of the "hits" were missing, it was interesting to hear them play older, more obscure tunes that the die-hard fans appreciate. They played five songs from their debut and four from Rio....none from Seven and the Ragged Tiger. A bit odd, but I guess they were reaching back to their roots. (That's my current theory, but why then did they play "Notorious" and two songs from The Wedding Album? Dammit, I just wanted to hear "New Moon on Monday"!) The songs from the new record all sounded great and blended well with the oldies. I was again reminded what a shame it is that this band never got the props that they so deserved. Not back then, anyway. It seems that former music snobs have gotten past the fact that the guys just happen to look good, and faced with some of the craptastic music of today, they're all realizing that they were wrong about DD. Twenty-some years later, they're finally getting their due.

Speaking of looking good, John and Simon still look hot, but the big surprise is Roger. Whoa, Nellie! To say he aged well is an understatement. The man is F-I-N-E! I guess there's something to be said for getting out before all the drugs and partying does a number on your face.

Again, as the last time I saw them, I was with my best pal, and we acted like hornier versions of our former pre-teen selves. Near the end of the show, Simon was introducing the band and pulled some girl from the front row up on stage to introduce him. I guess this is a little thing they do at each show. I thought my friend was going to blow a gasket upon seeing this. You see, she's a Simon gal. I thought it was funny and sweet. Hey, the girl didn't get to paw at John, so what do I care!

I'd just like to say thank you to the band for helping to make my younger years so memorable, and helping me stay young now. My musical tastes may be ever-changing, but I'll never outgrow Duran Duran.

Thank you and goodnight!


Doggie Extraordinaire's Mom said...

I went through a Duran Duran phase, which was not anywhere near as long as yours has been. While I did think Roger was adorable (in a boy-next-door kind of way), John was the sexy one. As their own tastes changed, I found myself drawn more to rock and actually liked Andy's solo stuff, wondered why he didn't pursue it. Oh well. If they're back together and you're happy, that's great.

It's a wonder that none of them had a crash and burn experience with the drugs and hedonism that was rampant then, that claimed the lives and livelihoods of many of their peers. Good for them.

Oh, do you have a clue what ANY of their songs meant? I didn't get any of them, but I sang along with all my heart.

BeckEye said...

If you ask Simon LeBon, they were pretty much all about sex.

BadGod said...

'Hungry like the wolf' is one of the greatest songs.

Kate said...

I still love Duran Duran! Oh my God, I'm listening to their new song, Sunrise and it's so wonderfully familiar. Wow. My first ever love. You never forget your first love. When I was like 7, I wanted to grow up to marry John Taylor!
I love how I can just cut to the chase, talking with any female around my age, maybe a couple years older, and just simply ask who was your favorite Duran Duran member, and they'll have one and they'll gush like it's 1983 all over again. NKOTB have nothing on these guys.

Danius Maximus said...

show me someone who doesn't like duran duran and I'll show you a commie! the stuff never gets old!

Anonymous said...

Beck, you are HOT.

Melanie said...

Just wanted to say 'hello' to a fellow Pittsburgh blogger!

Layla said...

Love your blog and totally appreciate your love Duran Duran but PLEASE tell me the comment on the Bay City Rollers was a joke...that was the era of ZEPPELIN, AEROSMITH, THE STONES, THE WHO!!!!

Ok, I feel better now. Glad you had fun at the concert!!!

Bar Bar A said...

Just linked your great review to my site...hope you don't mind!!! It's too good not to share :)

If you do mind, let me know!


BeckEye said...

Wow, someone tells me I'm hot and links my blog all in one day! I should write about Duran Duran more often!

Lee Ann said...

I ditto Badgod...really good song!

Arun said...

yeah, Duran Duran were a real phenomenon in their own rights. Their videos were so cool. remember, 'girls on film'?

Kate said...

Their video to The Reflex, with the low-grade CGI waterfall that came over the crowd during the middle of the song was the coolest thing I had ever seen in my 7 year old history. :0

Ruben said...

My sister used to have a serious case of jungle fever for Simon .

teletart said...

I was a Nick girl, but I'm not sure now whether it's cos I really liked him or cos all my friends already had dibs on the others and I wanted to be different. Secretly (shhh) I think I liked Simon the most. John's cheekbones freaked me out, Andy scared me and Roger seemed a little ordinary. Of course they all spoke very highly of me.

PS. Beckeye - thx for the link!

Spinning Girl said...

Yeah! I just put about 12 DD songs on my iPod. Her name is Rio and she dances on the sand....

Serena said...

Did you see them accept their MTV Lifetime achievement award? I was mortified that Kelly Osborne had to convince the crowd to get on their feet! Those guys absolutely deserved that recognition and all they got was polite applause from the audience. It was a sad day in music. A sad day for the MTV Generation.

BeckEye said...

Serena - yes I saw it and was disgusted. But what do you expect from a generation who probably doesn't even know that MTV used to actually be Music Television?

Teri said...

...and a firedance through the night.
Duran Duran is still great!


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