With the recent release of “All You Need is Now”, Duran Duran has entered their fourth decade of recording. The Birmingham, England-based band was at the forefront of the music video revolution, combining a flair for the visual with art-rock and disco influences and becoming one of the Eighties’ most iconic bands. Despite a series of personnel switches over the years, Duran has maintained a level of popularity over the years that’s only rivaled by the biggest names of the era-among similar bands who came out around the same time, their popularity has arguably only been equaled by The Cure and Depeche Mode.
In commemoration of Duran Duran’s success, I’ve decided to take a look at their lengthy catalog of albums, but I also decided that I didn’t want to do it alone, so I asked some friends to help me out. Joining me for this guide to their music, I have Carlos Halston, 1/2 of Popblerd! favorites Halston and a human Duran Duran encyclopedia. We’re also joined by our friend Jesse, who you’ve gotten to know over the past couple of weeks via our Metal Monday column, in addition to several other pieces he’s written on the site. Sit back, relax and see what happens when three fanboys decide to take a spin through thirty years of Simon, John, Nick, Roger and Andy (plus Warren and that one black dude who was in the band for one album).
Duran Duran (1981)
Carlos: The first Duran album (cassette, actually) I bought. The version with no “To The Shore” (eegad!), the ‘night version’ of “Planet Earth” (Norman Whitfield producing Japan), and no “Is There Something I Should Know?” (great song, but didn’t belong on this record).
Blerd: How many versions of this album were there?
Jesse: I’m not gonna pretend I was into their ?rst album when it came out. Sure I was alive, but my music appreciation didn’t really start until 1987 (Peter Gabriel-So/INXS-Kick). Like the rest of the world, I was a sucker for the singles “Girls on Film” and “Planet
Carlos: Very glam… a bit disco, a bit goth, a lil bubblegum. It’s their second best record. Go hunt down “Late Bar,” “Faster Than Light” and “Khanada” for some fantastic early b-siding.
Blerd: I think John Taylor said he was going for a mixture of the Sex Pistols and Chic? I don’t hear much Sex Pistols here, but the disco-rock fusion was already formed here. I’ll have to look up “To the Shore” (since my version of the album doesn’t have it), but this is a pretty solid debut-the singles are great, “Night Boat” and “Careless Memories” are two of Duran’s best album tracks, and as someone who hates instrumentals, the fact that I can tolerate “Tel Aviv” speaks volumes.
Blerd: The best Duran Duran album. Easily.
Carlos: A text fit to sit alongside the work of (obvious) heroes like Bowie, Roxy and Japan. Throw in some Chic, T.Rex and New York City, and you have the sound of a band succeeding at whatever they try. “The Chauffeur” will always be their best song.
Jesse: “The Chauffeur” is still one of my all-time favorite DD songs.
Blerd: Rio justifiably made Duran Duran huge in America. “Hungry Like the Wolf” is one of the Eighties’ defining songs. It’s the only Duran album with no skip-worthy or groan-inducing tracks.
Jesse: I come back to this album at least once a month and it usually stays in the bag that I carry all my essential CDs at all times. There are so many memorable songs on here besides the obvious singles. “My Own Way” and “Lonely” In Your Nightmare” are just the perfect 1-2 punch after “Rio”.
Blerd: This guy carries his essential CDs with him at all times! I want to be like him when I grow up.
Seven & The Ragged Tiger (1983)
Jesse: Sexy Duran Duran! I always associate this era/album with a time we’re they were
becoming more “grown up” and risque.
Carlos: What do you do when you want to be taken more seriously? The road to oblivion is littered with yer Beauty Stab/Neither Fish Nor Flesh/Congratulations/etc…
Blerd: Hey, I like Neither Fish Nor Flesh!!
Carlos: Duran didn’t blow it (yet), but this was, by a long shot, their worst album. STILL a great album, mind. Something bout “Union Of The Snake” will remain ever evocative to me, and “Secret Oktober”? Rightly, a classic.
Blerd: Definitely their weakest effort to that point, although now it sits somewhere in the middle of their catalog. Nile Rodgers definitely punched up “The Reflex” quite a bit in it’s single version. The version on Ragged Tiger sounds kind of lifeless.
Jesse: While not a solid album all the way through, the shining moments (“Union of the Snake”, “The Re?ex”, “New Moon on Monday”) far outweigh the clunkers (“I Take The Dice”, “The Seventh Stranger”).
Blerd: I like “The Seventh Stranger”, too. What’s wrong with you guys?
Jesse: Plus, we got Arena because of this one.
Blerd: This is a good thing?
Blerd: Did the world really need a Duran Duran live album?
Carlos: Can’t think of a reason to listen to this. Sounded shit to me at 13 even! 🙂
The Power Station, The Power Station (John & Andy Taylor w/Robert Palmer and Chic’s Tony Thompson) (1985)
Carlos: Haven’t listened much to the Power Station album. Not sure that that’s necessary. Bit too blustery for me.
Jesse: I honestly never owned this album. I love John Taylor, I love Robert Palmer. I just never picked it up. I liked the singles, too. Team Simon all the way!
Blerd: Not blustery at all. The most rockin’ effort any of the Durans ever contributed to. It revitalized Robert Palmer’s career here in the U.S. and gave John and Andy a little musicians’ cred. Most of the tracks here are good. They probably should’ve passed on the Isley Brothers cover, though.
Arcadia (Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes and John Taylor): So Red The Rose (1985)
Jesse: Like I said, Team Simon. When I heard of this I immediately
downloaded….nope, this was the ’80’s. I immediately ordered it from Columbia House.
Carlos: The Arcadia record is genius of course. Well, apart from Sting(k) being on it… and those other parts of it that aren’t as good, but come on… it’s OUR Dark Side Of The Moon! heh
Blerd: (bugs eyes out)
Jesse: I loved “Election Day” but “The Promise” (and “Rose Arcana”, the song that precedes it…) is one of my favorite Simon LeBon songs ever. When he hits the falsetto singing “Heaven hide your eyes…” and Sting (!) answers, it just always gets me.
Great song. Great album. To me.
Blerd: A little too artsy-fartsy for my taste, but they had good taste in guests, getting Grace Jones and Sting (who was still awesome at this point) to chip in. Both segments of Duran Duran needed the other to balance them out.
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