Happy Duran Duran Appreciation Day!—Celebrating my fave songs, Part II

To mark DDAD 2020, I decided to do a Part II of last year’s celebration of my personal Top 10 faves. The songs in the second half of my Top 20 are in no particular order. I can hardly believe Valentine’s Day 2021 will mark ten years since I became a Duranie! Where did all that time go already?

11. “The Edge of America,” eleventh track on Big Thing (1988). So many lovely, deep, thought-provoking lyrics. I particularly love the refrain, “Learn to love your anger now, anger here is all you possess.” This is the kind of political song I like, intelligently and respectfully making a point without angrily, one-sidedly ranting and condemning anyone who doesn’t think that way.

My 34-year-old little brother just disowned me, in a fit of rage, because I support J.K. Rowling and don’t share his toxic woke ideology, so this is a very relevant subject now. So many people, particularly the younger ones, have forgotten, or never learnt, how to have dialogue and state their case without a torrent of insults and ignoring anything that contradicts their ideology.

12. “Do You Believe in Shame?,” sixth track on Big Thing. This tribute to Andy Warhol, record producer Alex Sadkin, and Simon’s childhood friend David Miles has such beautiful, poetic lyrics. The music video is also great.

13. “Last Chance on the Stairway,” seventh track on Rio (1982). Once again, such lovely lyrics, pure poetry in motion. So many people criminally underestimate this wonderful band because of the stigma of throngs of screaming teenyboppers in the Eighties. Some bands who get really popular really quickly and are heavily marketed to teenyboppers have substance below the prettyboy image.

14. “New Religion,” sixth track on Rio. This is a quintessential example of a song with a very long intro done right. There’s over a minute of instrumentation before the first note is sung, but it’s more than worth the wait. It builds anticipation beautifully.

I love the haunting lyrics and vocal tracking. They work so well with the music. The title of my future sixth book with my Russian characters (to be set 1957–64) will be Seagulls Gathered on the Wind, after a line from this song.

15. “Khanada,” B-side of “Careless Memories.” I named my eleventh journal after this song (pronounced Ka-NAY-da, not like the country). The lyrics are like surrealistic poetry, and very evocative of a dream or fairytale.

16. “Serious,” fourth track on Liberty (1990). One of the two standout gems from an awful album that bombed for a reason. Even if the record company had promoted it a lot better, most of the songs are terrible. How did beautiful songs like “Serious” and “My Antarctica” end up among so many bottom of the barrel scrapings!

Warning: Video NSFW or under 18!

17. “The Chauffeur,” final track on Rio. Like “Khanada,” the lyrics are rather trippy and surrealistic, and like poetry in motion. At least twenty other artists have covered it, and it’s been sampled in several other songs. The music video is a prime example of how to be sexy without being smutty.

18. “Breath After Breath,” seventh track on The Wedding Album (1993). I love how part of it is in Portuguese (sung by Milton Nascimento). Romance languages have a natural poetry built into them. Though I’ve never studied Portuguese, either formally or independently, I usually understand a fair amount because it’s so close to Spanish, which I studied for seven years.

19. “Too Much Information,” first track on The Wedding Album. The message about a constant barrage of capitalist advertising and over-commercialized music industry is still relevant over 25 years later.

20. “Tel Aviv” with lyrics, bonus track on their eponymous début (1981). The instrumental version is the final track on the album, but this powerful song somehow went unreleased for 30 years. Though I want to live in the Lower Galilee (preferably Tiberias, right on the lake) when I make aliyah, Tel Aviv is also awesome. Hearing this song makes me wish I could visit Israel again soon!

A double album full of eclectic goodies

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Released autumn 2001, Scoop 3 is the last of Pete’s double albums in this series, unless he decides to surprise us with a fourth installment after all these years. Owing to its fairly recent vintage, most of the material dates from the late Seventies through 2001 instead of mining the deep vault. Most of the songs are also from Pete’s solo career instead of Who demos or later revisitings of Who songs, and many are instrumentals.

As Pete explains in his liner notes, he wrote fewer songs with lyrics as of 2001, owning to not being under contract for either The Who or his own solo career. Thus, he had complete freedom to pursue a more experimental type of music, and different types of music than he had when he was obligated to produce albums.

He didn’t entirely stop writing lyrical songs, though. He simply chose to keep them unpublished in case he recorded with The Who or as a solo artist again. (To date, I’ve not listened to either of the albums Pete and Roger made after John’s passing, and have no desire to ever do so.)

Pete also started doing a lot more piano and keyboard music because he seriously hurt his wrist in a 1991 bicycle accident, and using those instruments was wonderful physiotherapy.

Amazingly, at least 27 of the 34 tracks were made in my lifetime!

Disc One:

“Can You See the Real Me” (1973)
“Dirty Water” (1979)
“Commonwealth Boys” (1984; later became closing track “Come to Mama” on White City)
“Theme 015” (1987)
“Marty Robbins” (1984)
“I Like It the Way It Is” (1978)
“Theme 016” (1987)
“No Way Out (However Much I Booze)” (1975)
“Collings” (2000)
“Parvardigar” (German version) (1971)
“Sea and Sand” (1972)
“971104 Arpeggio Piano” (1997)
“Theme 017” (probably 1983, given it was intended for the aborted final Who album Siege)
“I Am Afraid” (1990)
“Maxims for Lunch” (1983)
“Wistful” (1991)
“Eminence Front” (1995; obviously not the demo version!)
“Lonely Words” (1985)

Disc Two:

“Prelude 970519” (1997)
“Iron Man Recitative” (1993)
“Tough Boys” (1979; later became “Rough Boys”)
“Did You Steal My Money?” (1980 or 1981) (“The true story behind this doesn’t make anyone look good—especially me. It is not the time to tell it.”)

“Can You Really Dance?” (1988)
“Variations on ‘Dirty Jobs'” (recorded 1997, fully orchestrated 2001)
“All Lovers Are Deranged” (1983)
“Elephants” (1984)
“Wired to the Moon, Pt. 2” (recorded on piano 1997; strings and vocals added in 2001)

“How Can You Do It Alone” (1980) (“I quite liked The Who’s rendering of this song. Roger sang it really well. But it is probably one of those songs that needed my acidic tone to work without awkwardness. Whichever version is your favourite [and you may hate both of them] it’s good to be able to compare.”)

“Poem Disturbed” (1994) (“You can hear my phone ring. I knew who it was: my then girlfriend. These were strange times for me.”)

“Squirm Squirm” (1990)  (“At last, a song with a happy inspiration. One day I was holding my new-born son Joseph and singing him to sleep. It came into my mind that seen from high above we humans must look just like insects, or worms. As he wriggled in my arms I sang to him about the messages we all believe we get sometimes from above. At the time I was gathering material for Psychoderelict, which was—among other things—about the loneliness and collapse of a once famous and beloved rock star. The song seemed to contain and reflect both the peace and safety of this child in my arms, and the chaos and danger that surrounded us out there in the crazy world.”)

“Outlive the Dinosaur” (1990) (“The word dinosaur was of course first used to describe ageing rock stars with vicious irony and I use it here with vicious irony redoubled.”)
“Teresa” (1980; later became opening track “Athena” on It’s Hard)
“Man and Machines” (1985)

“It’s in Ya” (1981) (“Not much to say about this song. A woman I vaguely knew sent me a letter rightly complaining I was getting self-indulgent [after the release of the Who Are You album] and it later sparked this song about what makes the magic of rock ‘n’ roll. It isn’t the musician—it’s the listener.”)

I only listened to this album for the first time in 2019, on Spotify, despite how long it’d been out. I personally would recommend the first two Scoop albums to a new fan first, since a lot of these songs seem more geared to longtime, serious fans.

While I’ve not listened to Scoop 3 nearly enough to be familiar with all the songs, I’d count “Lonely Words,” “I Like It the Way It Is,” and the German “Parvardigar” among my favorite tracks.

A has-been in search of a comeback

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Released 15 June 1993, Psychoderelict is, to date, Pete’s final studio solo album. Though he’s since released a number of other albums, they’re all compilations and live shows instead of new material. Most critics hated this album, though loyal fans have always held it as a criminally underrated masterpiece.

Many casual listeners also hated the radio play structure, with dialogues placed between songs and linking them together. To placate these whiners, Pete released a music-only version. That still wasn’t good enough for the unwashed masses, and sales continued to be poor.

Psychoderelict tells the story of washed-up Sixties rocker Raymond Highsmith (Ray High), who hasn’t had a hit in ages and is now an alcoholic recluse running out of money. His manager Rastus Knight is on his tail to produce something, anything, new, but Ray is convinced the public will hate it.

Ruth Streeting, a radio music critic whom Ray hates, comes up with a very dangerous plan to lure Ray out of retirement and into making new music. Rastus is delighted to hear this, and says they could shift millions if Ruth is successful. He’ll also cut her in on the deal.

Ray receives a letter from 14-year-old aspiring singer Rosalind Nathan, along with a naked photo of her on her mother’s grave. That definitely piques his interest, and he begins a penpal correspondence with her. Ray feels Rosalind is a kindred spirit, since “we both share complicated problems.”

He promises to tell her the secrets of stardom, so long as Rosalind doesn’t tell anyone what he says in his letters. In addition to very personal letters, Ray also sends her a tape of “Flame,” a song he wrote for his secret Gridlife project, telling Rosalind to prove her singing skills by recording it.

Scandal erupts when Ruth airs “the porno penpal story” and excoriates Ray as a nasty slimeball who took advantage of a trusting young girl who opened her heart to him and trusted him. She accuses Ray of soliciting the naked photo and using Rosalind “to test out his weird theories.”

However, the public isn’t that morally outraged, since Ray’s record sales immediately begin surging upon his catalogue’s rerelease. Rosalind’s début album, produced by Ruth, also becomes a huge hit.

Instead of being thrilled at his replenished fortune and being “back in calculator country,” Ray is outraged at Ruth for her role in the situation. When he goes to confront her, he discovers she’s having an affair with Rastus.

Will there be a happy ending to this story? And will Rosalind ever make an appearance?

Track listing (with dialogues running between all songs):

“English Boy”
“Meher Baba M3”
“Let’s Get Pretentious”
“Meher Baba M4 (Signal Box)”
“Early Morning Dreams”
“I Want That Thing”
Dialogue introduction to “Outlive the Dinosaur”
“Outlive the Dinosaur”
“Flame” (demo version)
“Now and Then”
“I Am Afraid”
“Don’t Try to Make Me Real”
Dialogue introduction to “Predictable”
“Predictable”
“Flame” (written by Pete’s baby brother Simon, a talented musician in his own right)
“Meher Baba M5 (Vivaldi)”
“Fake It”
Dialogue introduction to “Now and Then (Reprise)”
“Baba O’Riley” (demo)
“English Boy (Reprise)”

In 2006, the album was reissued with bonus tracks “Psychomontage,” “English Boy” (long intro), “Early Morning Dreams” (demo; alternate vocal), “Uneasy Street,” and “There Is No Message in a Broken Heart.”

I’ve loved this album since I first listened to it in February 2002. I was so excited to see it in the used CD section of Mystery Train Records! My fave tracks are “Now and Then,” “English Boy,” “Predictable,” “Don’t Try to Make Me Real,” and “Fake It.”

The dialogues have so many awesome lines, like:

“Rumour has it the sad old lush can’t do it anymore. I mean make records.”

“Only four nipples? Poor underprivileged kid.”

“That’s all it was, my life on the road, prostitution.”

“That cow wrote that I’m ugly.”
“Well, you are ugly.”

“If you must be introspective, at least do it in public.”

“Remember, you don’t have to bury the past or the pain. You can use it.”

“It’s her job to hate your guts. She’s a journalist.”

“Insecurity is the principle driving force we performers share.”

“Her disgust is the most powerful motivator of the artist in me.”

“Although Ray High’s albums have been rereleased this week, decent, normal people will be more interested in young Rosalind.”

“I can’t wait to see Ray’s face.”
“Well, I can’t wait to see Rosalind’s fucking face.”

“Careful what you’ll say, I’ll print it.”
“I don’t give a smorgasbord about that load of old bollocks you churn out.”

Longtime fans will recognise a lot of Pete’s own life in the story of Ray High, including the parallels between his magnum opus Lifehouse and Ray’s Gridlife. Eerily, there also ended up being parallels with “the porno penpal story” when Pete (along with thousands of other innocent people) was falsely accused of the unthinkable during the severely mishandled Operation Ore in 2003.

Since this album bombed so badly, Pete decided not to make any new albums. Ironically, many people have since pestered him for something new besides compilations. What did they expect would happen after panning so many of his solo albums as pretentious and not commercial enough!

Read more in Pete’s own words

Happy Duran Duran Appreciation Day!—Celebrating my fave songs

To mark DDAD 2019, I decided to showcase ten of my favourite songs. One of the many reasons I’ve been a Duranie for almost eight and a half years is because of the wonderful lyrics. So many of their songs are like poetry.

1: “The Seventh Stranger,” last track on Seven and the Ragged Tiger (1983). Where to start! Every line is like pure poetry. I’ve used the line “like splinters of ice” in my own writing, and titled a chapter “Trading in His Shelter for Danger.”

2: “Secret Oktober,” B-side of “Union of the Snake” (1983). It’s like an avant-garde, surrealistic poem. I really want to use some of the lines as part of chapter titles.

3: “My Antarctica,” sixth track on Liberty (1991). While Liberty is one of the worst albums I’ve ever heard (even worse than Extra Texture), this is one of two standout gems. So romantic! I titled one chapter “Heat Beneath His Winter.”

4: “Lonely in Your Nightmare,” third track on Rio (1982). It’s so beautiful and romantic. I have a chapter entitled “Lonely in Their Nightmares,” and called the first part of a book “Angry in His Nightmare.”

5: “Perfect Day,” third track on Thank You (1995), an album of covers. This was originally a Lou Reed song, and one of the album’s standouts. It reached #28 in the U.K. Lou said, “I think Duran Duran’s version of ‘Perfect Day’ is possibly the best rerecording of a song of mine. I’m not sure that I sang it as well as Simon sang it. I think he sings it better than I. If I could’ve sung it the way he did, I would’ve. It wasn’t from lack of trying.”

6: “To the Shore,” fourth track on their eponymous début (1981). More beautiful surrealistic poetry! It’s a shame this lovely song was left off the U.S. repackaging of their first album, replaced with the single “Is There Something I Should Know?”

7: “Out of My Mind,” fourth track on Medazzaland (1997). The video is so deliciously macabre, making the lyrics even better and taking them in such a wonderfully dark direction. It reached #21 in the U.K. and #14 in Italy.

8: “Beautiful Colours,” recorded 2005 but not officially released on an album or as a single. I love the line “Life isn’t standard-issue, it’s customised.” I’ve used riffs on that line a number of times in my writing.

9: “Palomino,” seventh track on Big Thing (1988). Absolutely gorgeous, lush poetry!

10: “Come Undone,” sixth track on The Wedding Album (1993). Officially, it’s their second eponymous album, but just about everyone calls it The Wedding Album because of the cover art with photos of the bandmembers’ parents’ weddings. The song reached #2 in Canada, #6 in Italy, #7 in the U.S., #9 in Ireland, #13 in the U.K., #16 in New Zealand, #19 in Finland and Australia, and #42 in Belgium and Germany.

This was the song that flipped the switch and made me a Duranie on Valentine’s Day 2011. Someone named it as one of their most romantic songs, and I looked up the video and ended up watching it over and over. This song made me come undone!

A botched swan song

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Released September 1992 by Curb Records, Hope + Glory was The Four Seasons’ final studio album, and unfortunately failed on every level. Just to start with, the cover makes it look like a New Age record!

As always, songwriter Bob Gaudio’s strategy was to keenly listen to popular sounds of the day and translate that into a winning album full of hits for his band. This was a winning strategy for most of the Sixties, and while it was hit-or-miss during the Seventies, it nevertheless resulted in possibly the band’s best work.

It missed the mark in 1985, but there were still enough touches of the band’s established voice and style to pull it off somewhat decently. (I also admit my nostalgic bias for that trademark Eighties sound!)

In spite of a string of commercial failures, Bob was determined to try yet again to mount a successful comeback and prove his band could still sit comfortably on the Top 100 with a bunch of young whippersnappers who hadn’t even been born when The Four Seasons had their first hit.

What was all the rage in ’92? Hip-hop, new jack swing, soft rock, and adult contemporary. Many of those songs were also full of synths and electronic beats. A far cry from their familiar hits of the Sixties, but they’d constantly proven they weren’t afraid to try new things.

Yet Hope + Glory was also a commercial bomb, with no singles. Why might that have been, beyond the band being long past their heyday and a time when a new generation would’ve eagerly given them a third wind of popularity?

Remember my analogy about the historical fantasy writer who moves into subgenres related to fantasy and historical with a fair bit of success, then tries sci-fi because it’s trendy? Many of her fans eagerly bought her steampunk, alternative history, and contemporary urban fantasy novels, and while her sci-fi attempt was far less successful, it still had enough touches of her established voice and style, albeit buried under copycatting of the latest trends.

Now imagine she hitches her star to YA contemporary. Not only that, her POV and tense are completely different, and she’s trying to sound like someone she’s never been. Every page is full of quickly-dated language like “So I may or may not be doing all the things and having all the feels.”

Longtime fans, by and large, are going to cringe in horror. It’s not that no one can write a popular book like that, but it won’t age well. In fact, it already sounds dated upon its release! Age doesn’t improve it either. It still sounds like a sad attempt to be someone she’s not decades later, with no emotional connection to the story.

Not only did she fail to read the strongest examples of this subgenre and understand what made them stand above the pack, she mindlessly copied instead of translating anything into her long-established unique voice and style. Neither her most devoted fans nor a new generation were having it.

There are some great lyrics on Hope + Glory, but they’re so buried under awful production! This also sounds more like Frankie with any old backing band, not a true Four Seasons record. He even sings two songs with a female vocalist.

Compare this to The Wedding Album, released February ’93. They came out only months apart, yet whereas Hope + Glory sounds super-dated and like a mindless copycat of popular songs anyone in that era could’ve done, The Wedding Album has aged so well and shines with timelessness. One band was true to themselves and earned a huge comeback, while the other cared more about chasing the next big trend and in so doing forgot what made them special.

I also feel really uncomfortable listening to Frankie singing about sex! It’s nowhere near Prince-level explicit, but that’s never been his style! His prior songs with sexual subtexts weren’t that up-front or disturbing.

Track listing:

“Love Has a Mind of Its Own”
“Learn How to Say Goodbye”
“Hope and Glory” (a duet with Frankie and Bob, possibly the standout)
“This Time”
“You and Your Heart So Blue”
“Run for Your Life”
“Help Me to Believe in You” (everything about this song makes me cringe, even the title!)
“State of My Heart”
“The Girl of My Dreams”
“Even Now”
“Just the Way You Make Love”
“The Naked I”