Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mr Mike's High School Record Collection: Duran Duran - Seven And The Ragged Tiger (1984)

I guess I'm never going to get around to writing about Emerson, Lake and Powell because I keep thinking of other albums to write about. While in a Barnes and Noble bookstore today viewing the plethora of Twilight New Moon books, games, picture books, etc it struck me that no one has remade Duran Duran's "New Moon On Monday". With all the 80's songs getting remade by newer acts to tie in with a movie or tv show, this seemed an obvious choice. It appears to not be though, leaving me with my memories of the Duranie's third album. The British quintet were at the height of their popularity, regularly appearing on MTV and teen girls walls all over the Western world. This was one of the last records I taped off my buddy Mike, who was really into Duran Duran for a week and then turned completely Metal the next. No longer interested in the musical qualifications of Duran squared, he derisively (and very un Pc by todays standards) declared this album Seven and the F*ggot Tiger. And I would point out to him that it was he who bought this record. And he would claim that was before he realized they sucked. Proving that teenagers can't argue with other teenager's logic, because there is none.

1. The Reflex

I don't know if it happens as much now, back in the day it was common for singles to be remixed for radio - which meant if you spent your $7.99 for the record by the time the tune hit the airwaves it didn't match what you had bought. Instead, it sounded better leaving me wondering what the hell I just spent my money on. Though I didn't spend money on this one, still I felt ripped off. And so it goes with "The Reflex", one of Duran Duran's greatest hits. On record "The Reflex" dragged a little though that lumbering bass line, prancing keyboards and Le Bon's riddle filled lyrics were intact. It was OK but once the 45 came out with the remixed "Sha la la la"s and tightened song length "The Reflex" became audio awesomeness. The breakdown with Roger Taylor's fancy drumwork and John Taylor's bass shone brighter in the remix adding more dynamics to this jam. Still one of their most enduring hits, a segment of one of the American Pie sequels had its funniest bit with the jock dude dancing to this. Oh, the video clip for this song was one of the best live footage style promos I've seen, great editing and camera work. Because Simon Le Bon's lyrics are obtuse, I wondered: Is "The Reflex" him singing about, er, "Turning Japanese"? If you know the rumored story behind that song you know what I mean. It's the same subject matter that was tackled in Def Leppard's "Let It Go" and Foo Fighters "All My Life" for those in need of a bigger hint.

You have frosted moussed hair, guyliner, pouty expressions...c'mon say it: Duran Duran. Before Vampires were cool, before the Wall was torn down, five English pretty boy musicians railed for an abstract rebellion in the super cool video for "New Moon On Monday". Because if you're going to rebel, why not base it on a lunar calendar? In a case where a video overtakes the song its for, the meaning of "New Moon" for me is that video so I didn't bother to try deciphering the lyrics. I wanted to join a vague European underground movement so I could send coded messages with matchboxes and wave burning torches at people. Saw this video often after coming home from school and tuning into the California Music Channel. Still floored that no one has remade this song. Please please tell me now if it ever does get remade. (A note, the link with the song title is the original video and below is an alternate version)

A filler track for sure, it wasn't their best by a long shot. Just mediocre pop, quite a comedown after a strong debut and the near faultless Rio records. They were the shizzle, the bees knees, the living end in '84 due to good music and their photogenic looks. Thanks to the increased demand the group was a little "ragged" at this point and I think choked a touch trying to follow up on their massive success. Duran Duran would never be as strong musically as the first two records, what would follow would be decent albums with a few highpoints each time out. At least guitarist Andy Taylor gets to cut loose a little here on the solo, something he would later leave the group to get more of. A few years later I saw Taylor perform live at a concert, he tried hard but was bor-ing! I would fast forward this song when I would play back this album on my trusty Maxell 90 minute tape.

Duran took the dice because they owned the game at this point. Girls on the bus would go on and on loudly about how hot they thought John or Roger Taylor was and trade teen mags about the group. At the time this seemed obnoxious, but looking back when was the last time a boy band played their own instruments or wrote their own distinct style of music? We had it pretty good to have a teen pop group with some musical talent that extends beyond choreography. Now, is it me or does Simon Le Bon's voice could get kinda whiny? Remember when he was in that boat race and his boat flipped over? Did you know he nearly drowned filming the video for "Wild Boys"? Why am I spouting random Simon Le Bon trivia?? I have no freakin' clue.

Ending side one is this fast paced ditty, it doesn't go very far though. The beat is quick, Nick Rhodes' shiny keyboards provide a decent fanfare and the chorus has that exclamatory "look here" or "look away" that Le Bon loves. It reminds me that I really liked the song at the end of side one of Rio called "Hold Back The Rain". There was this girl on the school bus who loved Duran Duran that I thought was kinda attractive, it was a cloudy day so getting off the bus I sarcastically said to her "Hold Back The Rain". When the bus doors shut behind me, I looked back to see her stand up and mouth "F*ck you!" at me through the bus window. Ah, teen romance. So mature of me to provoke her like that.

Okay, if "The Reflex" isn't about sex then surely "Union Of The Snake" is? Nick Rhodes serves up a killer keyboard riff and the appropriately slinky groove works. One of my favorite song hooks, "The Union (Bam!) Of The Snake is on the clliiimmmbbbb" is forever stuck in my head. This video was huge news and played nonstop on all video programs when this was released. The fact that this promo clip made no sense was all the better, I mean what is going on in this video? Something about being like Indiana Jones and elevators or some crap? Man, I miss ridiculously expensive high concept videos where it only makes sense halfway, honestly I do. I dunno, more random trivia did you know Nick Rhodes produced Kajagoogoo? Yeah, he had a hand in "Too Shy". Small world. Although I don't think Rhodes had anything to do with that group shooting themselves in the foot by firing Limahl and shortening their moniker to Kaja. And regarding the world, below is the band's appearance at Live Aid performing this song!

Duran Duran was all about faux sophistication, capturing that feeling of getting all gussied up for a school dance. You know that feeling, you got your pleated pants, Izod shirt and Members Only jacket on to impress the ladies with your bad self. Because when you put on a Members Only jacket, something happens. I wish, nothing ever happened to me wearing that dumb jacket! Alright, maybe that was just me. In any event, this song is fast and forgettable yet makes me feel like James Bond listening to it. Which is a good fit, since their theme song was the best part of A View To A Kill.

Speaking of James Bond, there was this character in You Only Live Twice named Tiger Tanaka that was pretty cool. And Mary Jane calls Peter Parker "Tiger". But Duran Duran, making a thing out of repeating a word twice twice, have this pleasant instrumental called "Tiger Tiger". This is one of the most listenable tracks on the record, full of cool atmospherics. Produced by Alex Sadkin, a guy that had a firm grasp on echoey sound effects who would later turn in outstanding work on Foreigner's Agent Provacateur album.

When they were on, Duran Duran could get a bit exotic and mysterious. While I guess I could compare this style to Roxy Music, they could be a little haunting. They nail that mood here, the closing track. Any vampire would be happy to stalk his prey listening to this dark, slow tune. This would be the last album the original lineup (Le Bon, Rhodes and the three Taylors) would record together until the 21st Century. After the side projects of Arcadia and The Power Station, Duran Duran would be cut down to a three piece of Le Bon, Rhodes and John Taylor for many years to come.

Duran Duran, the last of the teeny bopper bands to have any musical cred (though I guess Hanson comes close for playing their own instruments as well). They rode the New Romantic vibe and flashy music videos to success creating a sound that succeeded in putting style over substance.


Arsenette said...

I never thought any of them were cute but I was definitely into Duran Duran :) I know this sounds geeky.. but whenever I play D&D and my DM asks me to do a check against Reflex.. the stupid song pops in my head.... Yes.. I know.. that has to be the geekiest thing .. ever..

Mr. Mike said...

Is it the "sha la la la" part or "The Re-flex-flexflexflexflexflex"? Or do you feel the urge to hit someone in the stomach so they bowl over?

Arsenette said...


Aww man you totally messed me up for D&D now.. it's already bad I start to chuckle.. (most of my spells are against .. reflex).. and my DM just laughs at me and asks me to get a grip.. aww man.. now I'm totally screwed.. gee thanks.. LOL!!!