Happy Duran Duran Appreciation Day! (Rio at 35, Part II [Behind the scenes])

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“My Own Way” was the very first Rio single to be written and recorded, in October ’81. It was released as a single the next month, in a very different style from the album version. The other eight tracks were recorded in early ’82, produced and engineered by Colin Thurston, at London’s Air Studios.

The massively overplayed “HLTW” was the second single, released 4 May 1982. “Save a Prayer” became the third single on 9 August 1982, and the title track was released as a single on 1 November.

In September 1982, record label EMI released the EP Carnival, featuring the Night Versions (extended dance remixes) of some of the band’s hit singles. The Dutch and Spanish version contained “HLTW,” “Rio,” “Planet Earth,” and “Girls on Film,” while the Canadian and U.S. version had “HLTW,” “Girls on Film,” “Hold Back the Rain,” and “My Own Way.” The Japanese version had “Rio (Part II),” “Hold Back the Rain,” “My Own Way,” “HLTW,” and “New Religion.”

Carnival was very successful, leading Capitol Records to start marketing them as a dance band instead of New Romantics. Seizing the moment, the band compelled Capitol to re-release Rio in the U.S. In November, they got their wishes, and this new version (with the first five tracks re-mixed by David Kershenbaum) went to #6.

The international success of the album and its four singles was due in huge part to the newly-mainstreamed artform of the music video. While music videos had been around for quite a long time, they were typically done only as promotion prior to MTV. They weren’t a carefully-considered artform in the old days.

Who could imagine any Eighties band, artist, or song without the music videos? They’re such a quintessential aspect of my childhood decade. While music videos are still being made (shocking as it is to discover), the modern ones are nothing like the classics from the Eighties.

Music videos were made for the title track, “HLTW,” “Lonely in Your Nightmare,” and “Save a Prayer” in Antigua and Sri Lanka. Also filmed was a very weird music video for “Nightboat,” from their first album.


Warning: Video NSFW or under 18!

A video album was released in 1983, featuring the four singles from Rio, plus album tracks “Lonely in Your Nightmare” and “The Chauffeur.” Also included were four songs from their début album and the March 1983 single “Is There Something I Should Know?”

The album cover was designed by Malcolm Garrett and famously painted by American artist Patrick Nagel, and went on to become one of Nagel’s best-known images. His alternate version of the cover was finally used in 2001 for a limited edition remaster. Most of his works were female figures in a style inspired by Art Déco and initially based off photographs.

Copyright EMI or Patrick Nagel’s estate; used solely to illustrate the subject and consistent with Fair Use doctrine

Rio frequently makes those incessant “best-of” albums lists, for British albums, Eighties albums, and greatest albums of all time. The album has not only remained popular and relevant over the last 35 years, but also influential on many other musicians. It’s not an album anyone could go wrong buying.

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Rio at 35, Part I (General overview)

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Released 10 May 1982, Rio was Duran Duran’s sophomore album and reached #2 in the U.K. and #1 in Australia. Initially, it didn’t do well in the U.S. (far from the first time a British band has been much more successful in their native land than across the pond). Only in 1983, after Durandemonium broke in the U.S., did it reach #6 on Billboard.

This is one of those quintessentially perfect albums, the album by which all other releases from an artist or band are judged. While I personally have grown to prefer their eponymous 1981 début, there’s no denying Rio is an absolutely perfect album from start to finish.

This is also my cold weather album for the car stereo. When I hear Eighties songs, I automatically picture the music videos. Thinking of the music videos in warm climates like Sri Lanka and the Caribbean makes me feel at least psychosomatically warmed up.

Track listing, with stars by the bonus tracks on the 2009 two-disc CD version:

“Rio” (#9 in the U.K. and Ireland, #3 in Canada, #14 in Finland, #36 in New Zealand, #14 on U.S. Billboard, #5 on U.S. Billboard Mainstream Rock, #14 on U.S. Cash Box Top 100)
“My Own Way” (#14 in the U.K., #10 in Australia, #20 in Ireland, #1 in Portugal)
“Lonely in Your Nightmare” (my favourite track)
“Hungry Like the Wolf” (#1 in Canada and on the U.S. Billboard Top Rock Tracks; #3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100; #4 in Ireland, South Africa, and New Zealand; #5 in the U.K. and Australia; #25 in Poland; #32 in Italy; #36 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play; #50 in The Netherlands)
“Hold Back the Rain”
“New Religion” (another favourite)
“Last Chance on the Stairway” (also love this one)
“Save a Prayer” (final line on the album version shorter than the music video version) (#1 in France, #2 in Ireland, #2 in the U.K., #56 in Australia, belatedly #16 in the U.S. in 1985)
“The Chauffeur” (such a sexy, sensual song and music video, back when “sexy” wasn’t synonymous with, pardon the misogynistic expression. “video hos” bumping and grinding in next to no clothes, accompanied by lyrics about horniness and cheap, tawdry sexual exploits)

“Rio” (U.S. album remix)*
“My Own Way” (Carnival remix)*
“Lonely in Your Nightmare” (U.S. album remix)*
“Hungry Like the Wolf” (U.S. album remix)*
“Hold Back the Rain” (U.S. album remix)*
“Last Chance on the Stairway” (Manchester Square Demo)*
“My Own Way” (Manchester Square Demo)*
“New Religion” (Manchester Square Demo)*
“Like an Angel” (Manchester Square Demo)*
“My Own Way” (original 7-inch version)*
“The Chauffeur” (Blue Silver) (early version)*
“My Own Way” (Night version; i.e., an extended dance remix)*
“Hungry Like the Wolf” (Night version)*
“Rio” (Night version)*
“New Religion” (Carnival remix)*
“Hold Back the Rain” (Carnival remix)*
“My Own Way” (instrumental version)*
“Hold Back the Rain” (alternate remix)*

I absolutely love this album, as obscenely overplayed as the title track and “HLTW” are. Everything holds up unbelievably well after 35 years, both the songs themselves and the incredible music videos.

I got it on vinyl in 2007 because it was only $2 and I wanted to indulge my Eighties nostalgia. It didn’t do much for me at first, which wasn’t helped by how I thought they were just a bunch of prettyboys who were only around in the Eighties, a boygroup like NKOTB or Backstreet Boys.

The respective sparks created by both my Eighties childhood and listening to this album a few times finally burst into a beautiful flame when I became a Duranie in early 2011. I can’t believe it’s already been six and a half years since I fell in love with this band!

“I wish I could stop, and start it again”

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In loving memory of John Alec Entwistle, 9 October 1944–27 June 2002

Image used solely to illustrate the subject for the purposes of an album review, and consistent with Fair Use Doctrine

In honor of John Entwistle’s upcoming 15th Jahrzeit (death anniversary), I decided to review his awesome solo album Too Late the Hero. Some of the material is edited from my old Angelfire posts. Though I own several of his albums on vinyl, this is the only one I’ve gotten around to listening to so far.

TLTH was recorded from 1979–May 1981, and released 23 November 1981. This was his only solo album of the Eighties, though he tried to release The Rock in 1986. Instead, The Rock released in 1996.

TLTH went to #71 on the U.S. Billboard 200, his highest-charting position since his 1971 solo début Smash Your Head Against the Wall. This was also his last album to chart before his untimely death.

The single “Talk Dirty” went to #41 on the U.S. Mainstream Rock chart, with the B-side of “Try Me.” (I’m sure many of my younger readers don’t even know what a B-side is!) The other single, title track “Too Late the Hero,” charted at #76 on the U.K. NME (New Musical Express) chart, and #101 on the U.S. Billboard chart. “Fallen Angel,” while not a single, also received much radio play on album-oriented rock stations.

TLTH was John’s first solo album in six years, since 1975’s Mad Dog. He felt he’d been going in the wrong direction musically, and wanted to get away from that old-style rock and roll with its “shoo-bop, shoo-bop” stuff. With this album, John returned to his previous style of songwriting. (Read more in a 1981 Rolling Stone interview.)

Critical reception over the years, both then and now, has typically been rather underwhelming or negative. A rare positive review came from venerable music critic Chris Welch of Melody Maker.

I’ve always absolutely adored this album. It’s pulsing with so much musical energy, and as a proud Eighties kid, I can’t resist that trademark Eighties production style!

It’s been said that John’s voice was never this top-notch again after this period.

Track listing, with stars by the CD reissue bonus tracks:

“Try Me”
“Talk Dirty”
“Lovebird” (so lovely and poignant, with John’s voice sounding particularly pretty)
“Sleeping Man”
“I’m Coming Back” (catchy and upbeat, though veers a bit dangerously close to filler)
“Dancing Master” (claims to not be a disco song, but so obviously is, even if it’s more of a spoof!)
“Fallen Angel” (has some very insightful lyrics about how cynical and fickle people can be towards those who are no longer on top)
“Love Is a Heart Attack” (an eerily prophetic song he played at all his solo shows)
“Too Late the Hero” (so beautiful, epic, and haunting, with John’s voice sounding not only very pretty, but delicate)
“Sleeping Man” (demo)*
“Dancing Master” (demo)*
“I’m Coming Back” (demo)*
“Love Is a Heart Attack” (demo)*
“Overture” (unreleased outtake)*

I’m sorry I waited to long to get this album. There was a $3 or $2 copy at Mystery Train Records in Amherst for quite some time, along with Smash Your Head Against the Wall, but I always hesitated, since I wasn’t enough of an established, longtime, serious Who freak to be ready for solo work. But when I found it for $1 at the (now out of business) Saratoga branch of Last Vestige Records, I hesitated no more.

In spite of the many lacklustre reviews, I’d strongly recommend this album to someone interested in John’s unique solo work. Though he only had eight solo albums, it’s quality that matters, not quantity. Ideally, one should also be well-versed in a solo artist’s band of origin before branching out into solo work.

All these years later, I’d still rate it a 4.5.

Happy 50th birthday, Headquarters!

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Image used solely to illustrate subject for the purposes of an album review, and consistent with Fair Use Doctrine

Released 22 May 1967, Headquarters was The Monkees’ third studio album, and their first with almost complete creative control. The few outside musicians were properly credited, as were the professional songwriters.

Though The Monkees began life as a TV show band, assembled from four guys chosen via auditions, they rebelled against their handlers and became a real band. It was also beshert, destiny, that those four guys were chosen out of everyone who auditioned, and that they meshed together so well.

HQ immediately reached #1, but was dethroned by the most overrated album of all time a mere week later. It stayed at #2 for the next 11 weeks. HQ also reached #1 in Canada and the U.K. In Norway and Finland, it charted at #2.

Track listing, with stars by the 2007 bonus tracks:

“You Told Me” (Nez)
“I’ll Spend My Life with You” (Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart)
“Forget That Girl” (Douglas Farthing Hatlelid)
“Band 6” (mostly instrumental)
“You Just May Be the One” (Nez, with a chorus line some people have famously misheard as “Oh, Nimbus” instead of “All men must”)
“Shades of Gray” (Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil)
“I Can’t Get Her Off My Mind” (Boyce and Hart)
“For Pete’s Sake” (Peter and Joey Richards; used as the closing theme for the second season of the TV show)
“Mr. Webster” (Boyce and Hart; reminds me very much of “Richard Cory” on Sounds of Silence)
“Sunny Girlfriend” (Nez)
“Zilch” (a fun nonsense number that’s a group effort)
“No Time” (Hank Cicalo)
“Early Morning Blues and Greens” (Diane Hildebrand and Jack Keller)
“Randy Scouse Git” (Famously written by Micky about his wild, exciting experience in London and meeting his first wife. The title translates as “Horny Liverpudlian Jerk,” and was hence retitled “Alternate Title” in the U.K.)
“All of Your Toys” (Bill Martin)*
“The Girl I Knew Somewhere” (Nez)*
“A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” (Neil Diamond)*
“She Hangs Out” (Jeff Barry)*
“Love to Love” (Neil Diamond)*
“You Can’t Tie a Mustang Down” (Jeff Barry)*
“If I Learned to Play the Violin” (Joey Levine and Artie Resnick)*
“99 Pounds” (Jeff Barry)*
“The Girl I Knew Somewhere” (single version)*
“Randy Scouse Git” (alternate version)*
“Tema Dei Monkees” (Boyce and Hart)*
“All of Your Toys” (early mono mix)*
“The Girl I Knew Somewhere” (second version)*
“A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” (mono single remix)*
“She Hangs Out” (mono single mix)*
“The Girl I Knew Somewhere” (mono single mix)*
“Nine Times Blue” (Nez; demo version)*
“She’ll Be There” (Sharon Sheeley; acoustic duet)*
“Midnight Train” (Micky; demo version)*
“Peter Gunn’s Gun” (Henry Mancini; jam session)*
“Jericho” (studio dialogue, arranged by Peter)*
“Pillow Time” (Janelle Scott and Matt Willis; demo version)*

I absolutely adore this album, and easily give it 5 stars. The bonus tracks on the most updated reissue are also awesome, though I personally feel like they go on too long and start detracting from the listening experience. The last few bonus tracks are kind of like the endless jam sessions on the third LP of ATMP, where I’d constantly wonder, “Isn’t this over yet?” It would feel less bloated with less bonus tracks, and the rest saved for a boxed set or disc of rarities or outtakes.

HQ is definitely one of the key albums to get acquainted with if you’re just getting into The Monkees!

Zionism and “Zog Nit Keyn Mol”

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My WeWriWa post is here.

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Theodor (né Tivadar) Herzl (2 May 1860–3 July 1904), Father of Zionism

Contrary to what you might’ve heard about Zionism from the modern-day extreme Left, it’s simply a movement for Jewish sovereignty in our own nation. It never outlived its usefulness, and there’s absolutely nothing racist about it. Certain individuals don’t speak to the movement as a whole.

There are many streams—Religious, Socialist, Practical, Political, Labour, Synthetic, Revisionist, Revolutionary, Cultural, Neo, et al. It’s a total lie that you have to be super-religious and/or super-conservative politically to be a Zionist. Many of the early Zionists were committed Socialists.

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Though many countries emancipated their Jewish communities between 1791–1923, it was still very difficult to live as a religious minority. Just because the law says one thing doesn’t mean all of society will change long-established attitudes overnight.

There also wasn’t any emancipation in places like the Russian Empire, and while the Jewish communities in the Islamic world were almost equal legally, they had dhimmi status. Dhimmitude entailed certain restrictions, and the payment of special taxes.

While I still feel it held people back to exclusively speak Yiddish and make no attempt to become a real part of their respective host cultures, I now understand why so many resisted. What incentive did they have to, e.g., adopt real Russian names, speak Polish, dress in modern clothes, or apply to secular schools when they were so hated and held back from so many opportunities?

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Moving to Israel, then called Palestine, was freedom. Even North America, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand didn’t afford the opportunity to be surrounded by one’s own people, instinctively understood, part of the majority. The Romans renamed Israel Palestina as a humiliation, a punishment, using the name of the enemy Philistines. Arabs in Israel didn’t begin calling themselves Palestinians till 1967!

These early pioneers took desert wastelands and turned them into oases, dug ditches, planted crops and fruit trees, established modern towns and cities, brought this largely abandoned land into the modern era. This is how Tel-Aviv looked in 1909, when the first settlers (drawn by lot) arrived:

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People needed a safe refuge from pogroms, institutionalised discrimination, numerus clausus quotas for schools, anti-Semitism, denied opportunities. Had there been a self-governing State of Israel, free of British rule, so many people would’ve been saved from the Shoah. Thanks to the horrific White Paper, countless people were denied immigration visas when there was still a window of opportunity to flee.

Most of my Hungarian-born characters were deeply involved in the Socialist–Zionist youth group Hashomer Hatzair, which convinced them their place is in Israel. After the war, all the survivors do indeed go to Israel, either on legal visas after the British are gone, or through relatives already in Israel sending papers for them.

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Partisans’ Memorial in Givatayim, Israel, Copyright Avi1111 (Dr. Avishai Teicher)

“Zog Nit Keyn Mol” (“Never Say”) was written by Yiddish poet and partisan Hirsh Glik in 1943. Born in Vilna (then part of Poland) in 1922, he began writing poetry in his teens and co-founded Yungvald (Young Forest), a group of young Jewish poets. Following the German invasion of the Baltic states in 1941, he was sent to the camp Weiße Wache, and later transferred to the Vilna Ghetto.

Many ghettoes tried to keep up a semblance of normalcy with a strong cultural life, and Vilna was possibly the greatest of all cultural centres. Hirsh was a big part of the artistic community, and simultaneously served in the underground. On 21 January 1942, the Fareynikte Partizaner Organizatsye (United Partisan Organisation) was founded, with the motto “We will not go like sheep to the slaughter.”

Paul Robeson, one of my heroes, singing a shortened version in the USSR in 1949

In 1943, Hirsh wrote “Zog Nit Keyn Mol” to the music of Russian composer Dmitriy Yakovlevich Pokrass. Though he managed to flee during the ghetto’s liquidation in October 1943, he was recaptured and deported to a camp in Estonia. He continued writing poetry and songs in captivity, and escaped in July 1944 as the Red Army neared. Hirsh was never heard from again.

The song made the rounds among other partisans, and today, it’s commonly sung at Shoah memorial services all over the world. Though my characters aren’t from a Yiddish-speaking area, they nevertheless express sentiments from the song a few times, “Never say this is our final road when the hour we longed for is so near.”

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