Record Review: Duran Duran – Nite Romantics JPN EP

Toshiba-EMI ‎| JPN | EP | 1981 | EMS-41005

Duran Duran: Nite Romatics JPN EP [1981]

  1. Planet Earth [Nite Version]
  2. Khanada
  3. Fame
  4. Girls On Film [Nite Version]

I’ll wager that for many of my generation, this might have been the first Japanese import anyone reading this may have bought. There were practical reasons why. Japan was ground zero for Durandemonium as the band [surprisingly to their notions] became teen-beat stars in Japan first, before pubescent females worldwide eventually joined them in plastering photos of the Phab Five on their walls. Naturally, Toshiba-EMI worked that action like pros by licensing single tracks and cobbling together this first of many foreign DD EPs for the local specialty markets. They probably sold tens of thousands of this for export only. It is, reliably, a record that I see at least twice a year shopping for records even 36 years later!

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Due to the enormous popularity of DD by 1982, this EP got imported pretty much everywhere where records were sold. It was the first Japanese record I every remember seeing in stores, that’s for certain. It graced many an import section I recall browsing. We all got introduced to the notion of the obi [see left], or paper band with the Japanese kanji text so that buyers locally would be able to know what the record was about if they didn’t speak English. If one could read Japanese, this would probably be like a deluxe “hype sticker” and every release got it. One of the most interesting things about obis was that they told you the date of release for the record, but also had the price listed on it. This EP was ¥1,500, or about $15 US dollars. US importers usually placed a premium on Japanese records, so this went for $15-20, back in the day. I did not buy it new, but found a used copy at Crunchy Armadillo Records some time in 1983, I’m guessing. It’s been in the Record Cell ever since. I bought it because I already had the “Careless Memories” UK 12″, where the two non-LP B-sides here came from. As I’ve already written about those, we’ll concern ourselves only with the “Nite Versions” available here.

A ca. 1981 shot of DD when Nick was in his shocking brunette phase

I had bought the US pressing of “Duran Duran” in 1981, so US Harvest Records [a budget line of the Capitol Records mothership] had already messed around with the running order of the album. The 12″ version of “Planet Earth” was included instead of the 7″ version and the LP deep cut “To The Shore.” The Nite Version of “Planet Earth” was heavily indebted to Chic with its in-your-face disco bass lines courtesy of John Taylor. JT was probably the most talented member of the band at this point as I thought his bass work on the album was pretty good. The long disco buildup on this version had John Taylor performing bass solos; trading licks off of the sax player [presumably Andy Hamilton]. Then the song was a slicker arrangement of the song going forward that threw out niceties like the [interesting] middle eight on the 7″ version to be a more propulsive dance-floor filler.

The Nite Version of “Girls On Film” sported a new arrangement that gave the song a new backbeat bite that added some complexity to the song. Roger Taylor added even more timbale fills here and there which contrasted nicely with the synthetic claps. As with “Planet Earth” they stuck to the tried and true “long slow buildup” paradigm for crafting an extended version. It’s perhaps telling that at the early stage of the game the band made a new arrangement of the song that was longer and re-recorded it! They [or apparently producer Colin Thurston] had not known that in most cases, the multitrack was remixed to create a 12″ mix! It’s for this reason that the Nite Versions here are so endearing. “Girls On Film” was never a favorite, but the version here had a little more class than the straightforward pop of the 7″ version.

The success of this Ep probably led to the practice of making EPs for many of the world markets where DD records were suddenly selling big in the next few years. This was the first shot of the starting gun, but eventually releases like “Carnival” would be issued in multiple countries [even America!] with different covers and contents for each territory. This continued for at least another five years as Duran Duran had their five year run at the brass ring.

– 30 –

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10 Responses to Record Review: Duran Duran – Nite Romantics JPN EP

  1. Vlad says:

    Actually DD became superstars right away in their own country, in 1981, beating Spandau almost instantly. Where that happened next is subject to much myth-making – the band themselves think it was in Australia, Japan also figures. But really the next country to fall for them was Portugal – where they had No. 1 after No. 1 on both single and album charts even in their first year. But Portugal sounds much less fascinating and prestigious, so this country that stayed fiercely loyal to the band got swiped under the floor.

    As for Japanese releases, it wasn’t because they conquered the country – it was a way to conquer it: to release as much new records as possible to maximize the publicity (as it was quite hard for foreign newcomers to get onto the airwaves and in the charts – at least for those that didn’t play hard rock or mainstream pop) and keep interest in the band. True, their popularity soared in Japan as well – but it was after they took off in the States (as was quite often the case – even YMO got going this way) in late 1982. Before that they didn’t really sell significant numbers

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    • SimonH says:

      I’m not sure they did become superstars immediately. Although Planet Earth did well, Careless Memories stalled well outside the top 30. I think Simon Le Bon has said it felt touch and go for a minute and it was only when Girls on Film became a big hit after the album had been out a little while, that they really secured their star status.
      I love the cover design of his ep, the shade of green is perfect and why do I find ‘Nite’ so much more appealing than ‘night’ ??

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      • postpunkmonk says:

        SimonH – I think you have a better handle on DD’s rise in the UK than Vlad. Things were shaky after the #12 hit they scored with “Planet Earth.” “Careless Memories” was not a hit [#37] and that was near fatal to a fledgeling band in that time. But “Girls On Film” went to #5 and that cinched their reputation. I suspect the skeevy video was to blame there. For a thoroughly unpleasant experience, try reading the description of the video at the song’s wikipedia page. The clinically descriptive writing makes it seem even more awful than my memory of it. And this quote from Simon LeBon really took the cake!

        Simon Le Bon commented in the audio interview on the Greatest DVD collection that the scandal of the music video overshadowed the song’s message of fashion model exploitation.

        That took some crust, Simon. In his case it must have been a pro-fashion model exploitation subtext, as the band have gleefully exploited/married/divorced more fashion models than I could ever begin naming.

        On a happier note, yes. The green cover was a great look wasn’t it?

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  2. Tim says:

    I wonder if it’s a regional thing that you spot this one with so much ubiquity on the used market.
    I think that I’ve only seen this one turn up at record shows in the early 90’s.
    The Carnival ep with the individual portraits of the band members on the sleeve, that’s the one that I snagged back in the 80’s and the one that I see with the commonality that you do for yours here in my neck of the woods.
    Regarding breaking through, I think that they were in the right place and the right time and they knew how to work the system at the time, especially the video end of it. I read years ago a comment that part of why early MTV was so new wave heavy was that videos were already being made in Europe and there was a ready made quantity of these things to be had for UK acts, bands in the states were slow adopters to the medium. Everything about a lot of the new wave/new romantic product felt very much ”other” compared to what was the bread and butter of the musical diet where I grew up. The art, the color palettes, the fashion, electronica, etc. I was living in a place where the expectation was that you listen to RAWK, serious stuff made by MEN and all of this was a huge u-turn from that. And it was fun. As a teen, if i had the choice between chasing Rio on a yacht with Simon or dodging Lisa’s cocktail glass with Martin…..or……..getting into Rush as was expected, well, the idea of the technocolor adventure offered by the New Romantics seemed a hell of a lot more interesting.

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  3. Echorich says:

    Back in 81, I was already a Japan fan, traveling with the band through their Anglo-Glam NY Dolls phase and into their still undefined move towards the a more emotive, “romantic” sound. Duran Duran came along and seemed like some even younger kids (I believe they were, even if by just a couple years) mirroring Japan, but at the same time, taking things in a more brightly colored and slick fashion. It took only a little time to see/hear the differences in the two bands and decide they both had their place at the New Pop table. That debut album is packed with so many great tracks. But when the Night Versions started making their way to my ears, it was a revelation. They built their own cache, their own atmosphere, making them a bit like a secret revealed. The fact that they were flooded onto a hungry market, but still seemed somehow special speaks to the power of the versions. My friends and I traded mixtapes that always included the Night Versions from the first two albums over the album or extended mixes.
    My final point is that I would like to give kudos to two early DD b-sides that have followed me for 38 years now as particular favorites by the Brummie 5 – Khanada and The Chauffer. The latter is song which I have always felt Ferry/Roxy has been searching for 49 years. Khanada is just simply takes the Roxy/Glam sound and injects it with a vitality only young musicians could ever get away with.

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  4. negative1ne says:

    hi mr monk,
    for some reason, i thought this was an old post, that people were responding to.
    anyways, great release, but i never bought the Duran EPs on vinyl, except for carnival.

    i did find a 2xcd version that did have all the Japanese EP’s in one place.

    i’ll add more later, but one thing that stood out:
    Planet Earth [Nite Version]
    Girls On Film [Nite Version]

    I know the title mispells night as ‘Nite’, but the tracks are both actually titled as:
    Planet Earth (Night version)
    Girls on Film (Night version)

    That was common for their first few singles, but they abandoned it around the time
    of Is There Something I Should Know, and Union of the Snake.

    Pedantic, I know.

    later
    -1

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      negative1ne – Yeah, I immediately jumped on that JPN 2xCD with the four Japanese EPs on it but there were some mixups/substitutions with the tracks. Discogs page for it has the details.

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  5. bpdp3 says:

    Damn you monk… you’ve caused me to stay up way past my bedtime YouTube-searching unfamiliar early Duran tracks.

    Case in point… I had no idea there was a ninth track ‘to the shore’ on the uk debut which my paltry US Harvest version bought in ‘81 didn’t have.

    Then I had to search ‘khanada’. Then ‘like an angel’. Then a Discogs search sent me to ‘faster than light’.

    Surprisingly little non-lp b-side activity from the ‘rio’ singles. Odd, considering how musically adventurous (and melodically gifted) they were getting at that point.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      bpdp3 – Wow! Early DD B-sides [apart from “Fame”] are a fun part of their story. I would imagine that most of that activity stopped when the treadmill got too fast for that sort of thing. There might have been one per album period going forward, until their productive 1993 “Wedding Album” period. I seem to remember a burst of /-sides material then. Their last album had five tracks left off of the album for “retailer exclusives” and those were definitely better than mush of what made the album!

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  6. bpdp3 says:

    …. and back in the early 80s I saw a live DD video on MTV that had them singing a song I’d never heard before. All I remembered was JT wearing THAT hat singing ‘ooo la la la’

    Tonight I learned it was them singing ‘make me smile come up and see me’ by cockney rebel on their live at Hammersmith ‘82 video release.
    Thanks for getting me to expand my Duran knowledge base tonight!

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