Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Still Breathing

There's been much ado this week about Roger's announcement during a Belfast television interview that he does not expect the new album to be out until next year. The internet has been abuzz with anger, disappointment, and speculation. Reactions have ranged from mild disappointment to fans actually claiming they are going to walk away in disgust. In an effort to put things into perspective, I went through the time lines to take a look at approximately how Duran Duran worked each major album from inception to release.

Duran Duran - April 1980 - June 1981

Rio - October 1981 - May 1982

Seven and the Ragged Tiger - August 1983 - November 1983

Notorious - Feb 1986 - November 1986

Big Thing - May 1988 - October 1988

The Wedding Album - January 1991 - February 1993

Medazzaland - October 1996 - October 1997

Pop Trash - June 1998 - June 2000

Astronaut - May 11 2001 - October 11 2004

Red Carpet Massacre - November 2006 - November 2007

(work supposedly began on Reportage in Jan 2006, so you could add this time in)

In my opinion, two years or so is not really that long to work on an album. Sure, I'm just as disappointed as the next person, especially since John said last year that they hoped to have a single out in 2009. With enthusiasm, though not always the case, often comes disappointment. I don't think that's any reason to not be enthusiastic... we all just need to keep things in perspective, which I'm sure is not an easy task for us or for them.

Recent comments show that the band is still very optimistic about the upcoming album and with their work with Mark Ronson. They are keeping busy with outside projects (Simon's work on Ronson's upcoming album, John's recent work with Danimals and the New Roads school project, Roger's DJ gigs, and who knows what that devious Mr. Rhodes has up his elegant sleeve). There are the corporate gigs to keep their stage presence and pocketbooks in shape. In fact, another one has been scheduled for SAP in Frankfurt on May 19.

We can only speculate as to what circumstances are causing the album to take longer than expected. Shopping for a new label? Busy summer schedules for all involved? Imagine the pressure, the logistics, the timing and the personalities that have to come together perfectly in order to make a beautiful, unique, relevant and marketable album. We may find out the reasons for the delay, and we may not. The band's recent struggles to communicate efficiently with their fans have taken a toll on our patience, to be sure, but making a Duran Duran album has got to be a Herculean effort in many ways that we will never truly understand.

It's normal to be a little disappointed, to want new music, to want to see the band in the flesh, to want them to succeed. These are all things that as fans, we want badly. Personally, I am going to keep the faith and do my best to be patient and supportive. They are together, and they are working. They are still breathing. Let's give them some room to do this, and all take a deep breath together.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Las Vegas 3.20.10

On Saturday night, Duran Duran played a private show at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas as the grand finale of the Arbonne National Training Conference. Family obligations prevented me from attending, but a few lucky Duranies were able to make their way into the crowd of almost nine-thousand cosmetics saleswomen.
All of the reports I received were extremely positive. Simon's voice was strong, the band sounded energetic and tight, and they all really seemed to enjoy themselves. I've heard from more than one person that the show seemed a bit "chaste" without some of Simon's signature moves, but apparently one woman was still worked into enough of a frenzy to run onstage.
The band always seems to enjoy themselves in Vegas, and this time was no exception. They enjoyed Cirque du Soleil Love (again), hit up the Ghost Bar, and enjoyed a private cabana at the MGM's Wet Republic pool.
Click on the song titles below for YouTube clips from the show. Warm thanks to Lisa Onsurez for the photos and commentary.

Save a Prayer
Wild Boys
The Reflex (beginning)
The Reflex (end)
White Lines
Nite Runner
Ordinary World

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Air Miles

"A man is not an orange. You can't eat the fruit and throw the peel away."
– Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman

John Taylor is stressing me out.

Last week, John answered a question from a fan named Peggy, which had been submitted to Ask Katy. Peggy wondered, “with all the advances in technology, if there are any songs from the early days that the guys were unhappy with the final result and would be interested in re-recording?”

John answered, “Hmm.. Good question Peggy. Do you? That is, are there any of the older recordings you would like to hear re-recorded, with Dom playing guitar I guess, instead of Andy? I think most of the early (pre-Notorious) recordings are pretty darn perfect if I say so myself. Come to think of it, I probably wouldn’t change anything on Notorious or Big Thing either. Everyone knows that Liberty is the least satisfactory of the elpees, but that has nothing to do with technology. Do you know, sometimes I really dislike technology? An excuse for a new coat of paint is all it is sometimes..Em, yes.. I think we’ve always been pretty on time technologically speaking. The early albums were very forward for their time. I cannot imagine them being any different. And please feel free to answer my question…”

My first reaction was amazement that John would even dare to utter such a thing… to re-record previous materials with another guitarist would be blasphemy. I’m pretty sure such an event would throw the earth off its axis, causing it to spin so fast that that we actually would, in fact, fly off.

I then realized that he was being sarcastic, probably taking offense to the question. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time. But Peggy wasn’t actually suggesting that things could be done better with another guitarist. I think she was really just inquiring about technology. However, I can see how John could make that leap. As scientists are still unable to create an Artificial Andy, any re-recording would have to be done with a session guitarist, and well, that simply would not do.

And yes, John has made it quite clear lately exactly just how much he hates technology, many times over in just the past few months. I think we’re beginning to understand.

Overall, this response really unsettled me. To me, it seemed a bit more than just the regular grumpiness. It was a continuation of his somber views put forth at the UCLA conference, but even more chilly. With this answer, John had gone from a crotchety old man pining for the album art of yesteryear to an angry young teen, wanting to hide in his room with his “elpees.”

Almost before I could reach for a sweater, the following was posted on

A “Blog” from John
March 11th, 2010


There is not one person staying in this hotel
who would rather not be somewhere else.
At home in bed with a warm wife perhaps,
or watching a son play soccer on a winter field,
or walking the dog along a leafy street &
(waving hello to the neighbours).
Helping daughter with last minute homework or
helping her pick out her wedding dress even or
Quality time with ageing Dad or Mom or both.

Not work though, not here, Anywhere but here.

Why do we have to come so far?
It turned out to be a rumour that the world had grown small,
And whoever said it had no frequent flyer miles.
We think nothing these days, of vast distances
and crossings, of two or three oceans for one nights work.
So here we all are, for one night or maybe two,
roaming the halls at midnight, like jagged Willy Lomans.

At least I got my breakfast in bed. That’s different.
Would not have gotten that at home (unless I was sick.)
which I never am, anymore (I’m over that.)
Endless supplies of coffee on tap,
Heuvos Fritos at a moments notice,
Hmmm.. I guess it’s not so uncomfortable!

The only real hurt is the restless gentle pull that
says ‘Don’t stay, get away,
get home & isolate, turn away.
Pull up the covers and don’t play with others, quick,
before you get found out..’

But that would not be living life,
and I must move forward and not be afraid
of the darkness that lives in my skull anymore.
Meet some people, make some friends,
imitate a human being, that’s how they all do it,
and what could be better than that?
At the All-Star Telecom Conference I could win,
a free cell-phone or a blackberry to call home with,
at least.

Not that it isn’t beautiful. I even have a sea view.
Was a time when that would have been more than enough,
(the mid-nineteenth century perhaps) but now, it just gets in the way..
Perception is everything, I have to keep my mind right,
and get it right with God- keep the channel clear, strong, wide, free-flowing.

I see this as the expression of a deeply depressed man. Duran Duran has been on the road almost non-stop for the past seven years, so “world-weary” would probably be an underestimation. Also, John has a milestone birthday coming up, which can cause the best of us to go into a bit of an Existential tailspin. Even so, this communiqué struck me as being heartbreakingly sad.

I can’t help but wonder what John’s motivation is for delivering this “blog” directly to his fans. Yes, it is couched in beautiful, song-like prose that one can romantically imagine being written late at night on hotel stationary… but I am surprised that such rawness was shared so immediately and broadly, via the dreaded technology. Several days had passed since it was penned, so clearly the desire to share it was well thought out. Is it a plea for help, a desire to be comforted or reassured? Is it a warning of terrible things to come? Perhaps, to quote Arthur Miller once more, “One had the right to write because other people needed news of the inner world, and if they went too long without such news they would go mad with the chaos of their lives.”

Whatever John’s motivation may be, this blog has deeply worried, especially in light of past transgressions. There is some kind of struggle going on in his beautiful mind, and it appears that our champion has named “technology" as his foe. He keeps poking at it with a stick… and now it’s making me moody.

This past weekend, as all of this was weighing heavily upon me, Ask Katy asked for questions to be submitted for a “roundtable” discussion with the band. My question is this:

“The topic of technology seems to be on the tip of everyone's tongue lately, from John's speech at UCLA, to Nick's keynote in Barcelona, even creeping into Ask Katy questions. Perhaps this is a result of technology itself being so pervasive... we can't all hide from the world, listening to elpees in our bedrooms, can we?

John mentioned the "immense power of restriction" that artists once held over their audience, before the days of YouTube and Twitter. Do you, as a band, feel that it is in your best interest to adhere to this sentimental notion, or do you see yourselves adapting to and harnessing technology as a way to promote interaction with fans both new and old? If the answer is the latter, what new technologies are you considering, besides content delivery on mobile phones, to promote what will surely be a groundbreaking new album? Also, since there is such a clear dichotomy within the band on this topic, do you think there is a way to blend the traditional with the modern, resulting in a truly innovative approach to fan interaction and music promotion?”

Whether this question merits an answer from the band remains to be seen, but I am obviously keen to hear what the group has to say. I have a few ideas of my own on the subject, but I will continue to wait patiently in hopes of hearing theirs.

In the meantime, I really hope John can feel better. For whatever it's worth, I will offer this advice: spend less time hating technology and more time using it to get what you want. Follow the instinct that tells you to move forward, to not be afraid.
If perception is everything, then reality, including technology, is what you make it. Find a way to use it to shine light on those dark places in your skull.

Maybe... this process has already started.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tel Aviv

In May of 1980, Simon Le Bon arrived at the Rum Runner in Birmingham to audition for Duran Duran, wearing pink leopard print trousers and clutching a book full of lyrics. One of the songs in this book was called Tel Aviv, memories of the time Simon spent working on a kibbutz in Israel.
Tel Aviv was the first song ever recorded by the band.

That song was not the instrumental Tel Aviv that we all know from the first album. This Tel Aviv is an entirely different song, including those lyrics, that we have never heard... until today.

Click here to listen to the original Tel Aviv

the afternoon

it's one maybe two

sipping away my last gold star

not so much to do

dream away the sunny day

'til its time to leave

I'll just watch you pass on by

when I'm on my own
in Tel Aviv

with the blocks to one side

and the beach on the other

and the trees and the leaves

on my own in Tel Aviv

and the leaves and the trees

on my own in Tel Aviv

I see smoke is rolling
breaking off the shore

the sound of traffic fades

like someone closed the door

see I might stay here

watch the skins keeping cool

like Greene's man overseas

I read the rules

with the blocks to one side

and the beach on the other

and the trees and the leaves

on my own in Tel Aviv

and the palms and the trees
on my own in Tel Aviv

This version of Tel Aviv will be included on the upcoming EMI reissue of "Duran Duran," along with five other previously unreleased demos.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Do You Believe in Faith?

EMI has officially announced the details for the Big Thing and Notorious issues. The track listing can be found here. I think it's great that EMI is putting these out, however, it would have been lovely to have a few demos included. There are interesting demos of pretty good quality from both of these albums. Also, there's only one unreleased track out of all of this (Eurohouse version of All She Wants Is). Perhaps the most troubling question of all is why they are not issuing the classic Three to Get Ready on DVD.

Ok, time to put away my crankypants. I love both albums and will be fully stoked to have the new CDs and digital downloads, hopefully with excellent artwork and packaging. And hey... the Big Thing Live shows in Italy (Milan 12.12.88 will be included) are a riot, with a strange aggressive energy and delightfully festive wardrobe choices.

Let's keep a focus on faith. Faith that the old songs are being treated with respect, and faith that the guys are hard at work on the new songs. Looking at these recent photos from the studio, I believe you can sense their determination.

I hope you enjoy some of my favorite demos from Big Thing. These are reportedly stolen... perhaps that has something to do with them not being included in the re-issue.

Do You Believe in Shame (alternate "faith" lyrics)

Pressure (piano chorus rough)

The Edge of America (acoustic)

All She Wants Is (alternate lyrics)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Perfect Day

Simon spent some time with Nick Wood and Silvio Anastacio at Saigo Yama Park in Tokyo yesterday, filming a video of Save a Prayer. It makes me smile to know that our boys were fortunate enough to be in Japan while the cherry blossoms are in bloom.

Simon Le Bon and Nick Wood - Dream Boy video

Simon Le Bon and Nick Wood - Nobody Knows video

Muchas gracias to Den and Sil for the photos.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Friends of Mine

I just heard that Simon will be performing on Mark Ronson's new album, which is due out in July. If it's even half as gorgeous as Simon's recent collaboration with Beautiful Small Machines, I think we're in for a treat. Watch this space.

UPDATE: I'm hearing that Simon worked with Wiley on the track for Mark. Check out Wiley on his myspace.

Speaking of collaborations... here's The Moody One hanging out at a pre-Oscar party the other night with Gavin Rossdale and Gwen Stefani. John recently mentioned that he would love to work with Gwen. I'll get my pom-poms out for that one.