[…continued from last post]
The last post, we set out the notion of compiling a Duran Duran disc that might be a good listen for someone who had preconceived notions of the band due to their often unfortunate image, which sometimes gets in the way of the music’s merits. By cherry-picking deep cuts and the occasional B-side, we might be able to circumvent the band’s image and sometimes crass pop sound. Shall we begin?
Is There Anyone Out There?
The band’s penchant for an adroit and sophisticated melodic sensibility has, thankfully, been apparent from day one. Strip away the JAPAN-goes-RockDisco trappings of their debut album and there was already an example of their penchant for a beautiful melody manifest. Some bands would eschew such movement. Beauty is not always a hip thing, but DD had no reticence to explore the pleasures of a beautiful melody. The pull of Nick Rhodes’ synth washes and the bass ganks of John Taylor gave a strong foundation to one of Simon LeBon’s better early vocals. Credit EMI Brazil for being the only territory who saw this as single material, at least as far as the scarce promo stage.
I can imagine that “Khanada,” the B-side to their second single, “Careless Memories,” was among the tracks recorded for inclusion on the “Duran Duran” album, but that it lost out to “Is There Anyone Out There?” for ultimate inclusion. The vibes of the songs were similar, but LeBon’s multi-tracks vocals were a big difference here. As was the jazzy fadeout with sitar [?] licks from Andy Taylor pushing the band further afield.
The band’s sophomore album took them from the UK top 10 to top 10 charts worldwide. Along with the patented Double Duran rock disco monsters like “Hungry Like The Wolf” and the title track, were their first example of a lighter waving ballad single in “Save A Prayer.” But we are digging deeper than that. Instead we will opt for the insouciant pop of “Last Chance On The Stairway.” Andy Taylor’s guitar chords were tougher here than so far in the program, but the xylophone solo by [presumably] Nick Rhodes showed that this band would be fearless in plowing forward with sounds that were not a part of their image.
While DD fell far out of my favor with the “Union of The Snake” single [and album that followed], if the listener flipped the pre-release single over, they were rewarded with one of the best non-LP B-sides ever in “Secret Oktober.” The A-side was a crass re-write of “Let’s Dance,” but the hastily recorded B-side [written/recorded in the last 24 hours before the band began their pre-sold-out ‘Seven + the Ragged Tiger’ world tour] caught the band with their disarmingly finest foot forward. A gorgeous melody was given a sensitive and subtle framing by the arrangement that might have been just Rhodes himself frantically playing all of the parts. Unlike the album it prefaced, none of it sounds rushed and haphazard. If “Seven + The Ragged Tiger” was an overcooked mess, the speed and economy that led to the creation of “Secret Oktober” belied all of the panic and cocaine that set the tone for the album itself. It is the perfect picture of zen calm and poise. One of the band’s finest ever moments.
Next: …Scientific American