Seven and the Ragged Tiger entered the UK album chart at #1 in 1983 and went to #8 in the US a bit later. Quoting myself (and others) from a year ago when I wrote about the album for its 35th anniversary: “’Opulently produced, their new romantic origins blooming into lush decadent pop’ from The Telegraph and ‘Restores danger and menace [to Duran Duran]’ from Melody Maker. Danger and menace definitely describes several of the tracks on Seven and the Ragged Tiger including their first single from the album, “Union of the Snake” which hit #3 in both the US and the UK, the non-single tracks “(I’m Looking For) Cracks in the Pavement,” “Of Crime and Passion” and “Shadows on Your Side,” as well as the third and final single “The Reflex” which went to #1 in the US and UK. New romantic, opulent and lushly decadent are apt descriptions for the other songs from Seven and the Ragged Tiger like the instrumental “Tiger Tiger,” sultry and aching “The Seventh Stranger” and the second released single “New Moon on Monday.” “New Moon on Monday” has always been one of my favorites (my Duranie name was La Luna Le Bon – we Duranies had our own special names, a worldwide network of penpals and other nutball schemes only pre-teen and teenage girls could come up with); it went to #9 in the UK and #10 in the US and its video won two Grammy awards though Nick and Andy both hated the video and making it: it was miserably cold and by the end of the shoot the entire band was drunk. On the upside we get to see Nick dance which is a rare occurrence.
Duran Duran “Arena” released 35 years ago today, November 12th, 1984. My original gatefold copy from ‘84, complete with an 8-page glossy booklet featuring sultry photos of each band member (the one of Nick clutching what looks to be a pole is particularly amusing).
Arena (which went to #6 in the UK and #4 in the US) was “recorded around the world” when Duran Duran toured in ‘83 and ‘84 promoting Seven and the Ragged Tiger and includes songs from that album performed live like “The Seventh Stranger” and “Union of the Snake” but also many from Rio. Those are the always popular “Hungry Like the Wolf” which Simon introduces by asking the audience “Is anybody hungry??!!” as well as “New Religion” (which fabulously demonstrates the tension between Andy’s desire to be a rock-n-roll (metal???) band, Simon and Nick’s art-rock tendencies and John’s funky disco bass playing), “Save a Prayer” (I love it when Simon sings this live, adding in “ch-ch-ch” after the word “fire”), and “The Chauffeur.” They also perform the stand-alone “Is There Something I Should Know?” which appears on the US reissue of their debut record Duran Duran, plus “Planet Earth” and “Careless Memories” from that LP. The only non-live track on Arena is “The Wild Boys” (produced by Nile Rodgers) which they released as a single just prior to Arena; itwent to #2 in both the US and the UK and became infamous for having the most expensive video ever made up to that point.
Duran Duran “Save a Prayer” 1982. I’m spinning the most perfect 80′s new wave/synthpop ballad today for Simon Le Bon’s 61st birthday (b. Oct. 27th, 1958). Released in the UK as their third single from Rio (it wouldn’t be released in the US until ‘85), “Save a Prayer” was a massive hit, going to #2, their biggest hit to that date. In ‘85 it went to #16 in the US, though American audiences had a ton of exposure to the track before then as it had heavy rotation on MTV. The video is gorgeous, shot in Sri Lanka, and I vaguely remember reading or hearing an interview with one of the other band members – maybe Roger? – lamenting that Simon always got to dance with the pretty girls in Duran Duran videos. Side B of this 12″ has “Hold Back the Rain (remix),” the regular version of which is also on Rio.
Duran Duran “Duran Duran Video Album” aka “Duran Duran: The First 11 Videos” 1983. VHS. I’m treating myself to a vintage tape of Duran videos ‘cos it’s my birthday! Released in March 1983 to promote the single “Is There Something I Should Know?” and the US reissue of their debut LP Duran Duran, the video comp was a huge success and earned them a Grammy. I remember watching it on Betamax at my friend Allyson’s house, along with a small gaggle of other teenage Duranies.
Duran Duran “Duran Duran” 1981/2010 limited edition double vinyl reissue. Today, June 20th, is DD2 bassist John Taylor’s birthday (b. Nigel John Taylor, 1960) so I’m spinning my 20th copy of their debut album – that might be an exaggeration but I do have several different versions of Duran Duran. And for good reason: it’s an amazing new wave, new romantic synth pop debut that still sounds amazing almost 40 years on. It hit #3 on the UK charts and while reception was initially lackluster in the US, its re-release (with a slightly altered track listing and different cover) in ‘83 sent it to #10 on the Billboard album chart. This 2010 edition has the original UK release with the original single version of “Planet Earth” and the dreamy “To the Shore” track (the original US version on Harvest Records had the “Night Version” remix of “Planet Earth” and dropped “To the Shore;” the ‘83 reissue went back to the original “Planet Earth” and added “Is There Something I Should Know?”).
The record sleeve insert for Disc Two has this amazing photo of the band – it also makes me laugh because my dear friend Carrie keeps a file on her computer titled “Awkward Photos of Duran Duran” that include several that either highlight or try (in vain) to obscure the massive height difference between Simon and John vs Nick, Roger and Andy. This is one that highlights it, obviously. Plus OMG Nick’s hair!!!
Duran Duran “Rio” – It’s a #Duraniversary! Rio, Duran’s second LP, was released on this date, May 10th, 1982, though this version is a 2014 reissue, limited edition double vinyl. Of course I have an original US version (I think purchased in ‘83 or so), which is one of my top 10 records of all-time. This copy has the original UK album on disc one and the select tracks that were remixed for the US version (released November ‘82): Side A – “Rio (US album remix),” “My Own Way (Carnival remix)” and “Lonely in Your Nightmare (US album remix)” and Side B – “Hungry Like the Wolf (US album remix)” and “Hold Back the Rain (US album remix)” (all remixes by David Kershenbaum). Because the US version was the one I primarily listened to (over and over and over) in the 80′s, these mixes are the ones I’m most familiar with, though recently I’ve listened to the UK version with more frequency. Most of the remixes are fairly subtle (“My Own Way” is simplified on the US version) though “Hold Back the Rain” is probably the most obviously different of the two variations: Nick’s synth on the US version is missing a lot of the bright top-note chords that are present on the UK variation and John’s bass is far funkier on the UK original. I love that song so much – my favorite recollection of listening to that song was when my parents and I went to England in the summer of ‘83, I blasted “Hold Back the Rain” into my off-brand Walkman headphones while driving down some English highway en route to Wales late in the evening – it’s a fantastic fast-driving tune.
My DD2 obsession is long-lasting and never-ending (I recently renewed my Duran Duran fan club membership…aaaanndd I’m not that far away from 50 years old. Sigh). I’ve written about this a couple of times previously, but back at age 13 or 14 my Duranie pal and I went a little nuts and wrote an entire story based on the lyrics from Rio (and a few tracks from Seven and the Ragged Tiger). If you want a laugh and a glimpse into the psyches of two teenage girls in the mid-80′s, you can read the entire transcript here.