Monday, June 6, 2016

In Defence of Duran Duran (Guest Post)

Today's guest blogger is Joey Baltimore, a music and board game enthusiast from the USA. Joe has introduced me to lots of great bands (including Hallelujah the Hills and Hop Along, both of whom feature in my latest monthly playlist), and so I was a little surprised when this cool American guy - my portal to the States and all the awesome rock music being made there - offered to write a guest blog post about his appreciation for Duran Duran.

Now, I've never really listened to Duran Duran - to my mind, they were a bunch of aspirational New Romantic Tory boys who were mainly known for making videos full of scantily-clad women and music that was slightly worse than Spandau Ballet's. Still, I'm always happy to be proven wrong, so here's Joe on why you and I should give DD another go:

On April 4, 2016, The Album Wall had a nice entry discussing #realmusic meme nonsense. Then in May, when Joel was soliciting guest posts for the blog, this exchange happened:

Me: "I wonder how many words I can write about Duran Duran"
Joel: "I suspect you're joking..."

OUTRAGE. Why would anyone suspect I was joking when I referenced Duran Duran? According to the band's Wikipedia page, they were called the 'Fab Five' and compared to the Beatles (I cannot prove that Simon LeBon is not an avid Wikipedia editor). Why would people not take this seriously? Is it because they had a stylist before they had a record contract?* Is it because of this quote about the formation of the band?
"We wouldn't buy records by ugly groups," [Duran Duran keyboardist Nick] Rhodes told People, adding that when he and [John] Taylor decided to start a band they "had vivid ideas of what we wanted to look and sound like, but we looked at the instruments and said, 'Do we have to learn to play these things?'"
Whatever the reason is, I'm here to say I wasn't joking: if you love catchy pop songs, and you like music that makes people want to dance, go listen to Duran Duran again (or for the first time). There is no doubt that their second album, Rio, is their most popular and probably their best. But I've got a special spot in my heart for the band's self-titled debut.

I can't recall when I first heard Duran Duran, but it was probably in the late '80s, while I was visiting an older cousin. I was familiar with the singles Rio and Hungry like the Wolf from the constant MTV rotation (here's where people complain that MTV used to play videos...they did, it was great, move along). But then I got to borrow the full record, and hear the non-single tracks, and I was hooked. The bass on the album is great; it's moving around constantly.  The songs are pop songs, they're written with choruses that get stuck in your head, choruses that you want to hum after you've heard them. This is music that's meant to be consumed purely for entertainment purposes and it does a great job.

I think my favourite track is Friends of Mine...

...but Planet Earth is up there, too...

...and now that you've heard Planet Earth and the New Romantic lyric reference, you can learn about people who dressed like pirates for some reason and understand more about this 1989 bonus track:

I remember a point in high school: I was hanging out at a friend's house, searching through a wall of punk, hardcore, and rock CDs, when I saw a copy of Duran Duran. We instantly bonded over the greatness of this unheralded hit, and to this day, some 20 years later, we still play the record when we get together (much to the chagrin of our #realmusic-loving friends).

*I have no proof of the 'stylist before record contract' thing, but I'm almost positive I read it somewhere and it sure sounds true.

Post Script

There's a track on this album called Night Boat. It is not the theme song to a show about a crime-solving boat. But if you didn't enjoy today's blog post, this should make up for it:

If, like me, you did enjoy today's blog post, you should definitely follow @joeybaltimore78 on Twitter. Oh, and if you'd like to write a guest post about one of your favourite albums, please email any submissions to

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