Duran Duran Not On Track To Ever “Get” This Bowie Cover Groove Thang With Limp, Soggy “Five Years” DL

S-Curve/Tape Modern | DL | 2021

Last week I was reading online about the live Bowie tribute concert that Mike Garson was holding online as I was wondering if it would be something that I could see easily.

Hint – it wasn’t; being one of those 24 hour only things and priced outside of my “love boundaries” for Duran Duran in any case at $35-65 for a streaming show. The stories I saw about it related how Duran Duran were there and playing a cover of “Five Years” and that was as far as I thought it went. Until ace commenter Tim dropped a comment letting me know that it was also a “new release” by the band. Presumably a DL? Well, let’s get right on that one! This Monk is on a vow of poverty but we can usually afford $1.29 to feed a timely urge.

Let it not be said that Duran Duran and David Bowie didn’t have a pedigree going back to their very earliest days. The B-side to “Careless Memory” was a cover version of “Fame” and it was definitely the runt of the early Duran B-side litter. The awful “Thank You” album had a Japan-only bonus track of “Diamond Dogs” that was slightly better [actually one of the better tracks in that whole project, which was not saying much], yet it was still marred by an obnoxious toy dog sample hook that brought it screeching to a halt. And I’d almost forgotten about their cover of “Boys Keep Swinging” which happened [looks] a decade ago. It was another freeze-dried DD quickie with only synths and drum machine and more tawdry goods from the Fab Five. Could they redeem themselves by covering the stunning opening track to the career-making “Ziggy Stardust” album?

Mullet-era Bowie grimaces at having to share the lens with Duran Duran

As soon as I heard the cheap, nasty drum machine loop in the faded up intro I knew that I had wasted my $1.29. When, oh when will Duran Duran finally get a clue and actually let their very fine rhythm section actually play on their records? Why do they hate the Taylor’s?!! Unless John and Roger are perhaps now human vegetables and actually incapable of playing, but if that were the case, then how would all of those concerts be happening?

Simon LeBon’s performance was another train wreck. I hated it from the first second thanks to that vile rhythm track and when he started singing my heart sank further. His phrasing and timing was awkward and contrary as he gamely tried to make it his own without having a clue as to how that might happen. It’s hard to believe that this was the same guy whose singing on “Red Carpet Massacre” had completely charmed me for the first time ever.

The only point I will cede to him here was his hold of the note on the line “I kiss you, you’re beautiful, I want you to waaaaaaaaaaalk!” as the BVs came up under him very nicely. Listening to it, I can almost believe that it was him performing that and not Autotune®. Not so much on the far less believable holds on the closing “what a surpriiiiiiiiiiiiiiise!” An effect so ham fisted that he repeated it twice, of course. To twist the knife. It seems there’s a music video of the song on Vimeo. Who knew?

Only the piano by Nick that managed to dance adroitly between florid filigree and tasteful understatement [even Liberace knew how to work that action] had any dignity at the end of it all. Scratch all of that! Now that we have the video embedded above, the nagging truth is revealed: Mike Garson himself is playing the piano! I had serious doubts that I was hearing Nick Rhodes tickle the ivories! Homey don’t play dat. Nick was sticking to his synth atmosphere safety zone with the string patches.

In the end, we were left with another Bowie classic dispatched to the Double Duran slaughterhouse! Were is not for the piano of Garson, this would be another one star DD farrago. May heaven help us that there’s not a four track 12″ single EP this year for Record Store Day with all four Bowie covers on it for way more money than it would be worth. This in the year that Duran Duran are celebrating their 40th anniversary with a new album in the works. It’s produced by Giorgio Moroder [what took so long?], Mark Ronson [yay!] and one DJ Erol Alkan [uh-oh…]. Heaven help us that they don’t screw it up.

-30-

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32 Responses to Duran Duran Not On Track To Ever “Get” This Bowie Cover Groove Thang With Limp, Soggy “Five Years” DL

  1. jsd says:

    Erol Alkan produced “Fantasy Black Channel” by Late Of The Pier which is one of my favorite records of the 2000s. Check it out!

    Like

  2. The RAHB! says:

    Feh. I never, ever, EVER got the Duran Duran thing. I mean, the girls who liked ’em were generally cute, so I could feign benign interest as needed, but they never (even their biggest hits, and the non-hits friends would assail me with via “oh sure, their popular stuff is crap but THIS song is the real stuff”) left me cold and dry. And given the current day lack of chick-magnet factor, I could easily and happily pretend they never happened at all — much less spend valuable ear cycles (or even more God Forfend, actual MONEY) on their trying sadly to re-live their long eclipsed day(s) in the sun.

    I’d as likely buy a Wham! album, smash it into splinters, and then grind it into my ear canals shard by bitter shard

    Double Feh!

    Liked by 1 person

    • postpunkmonk says:

      RAHB – When I posted this review, I thought of you. You did not disappoint me in the slightest with your rich response! Keep ’em comin’!

      Like

    • jsd says:

      I was in high school when Duranmania was in full bloom in the USA. Every cute girl wore a pin on their jacket with the face of their favorite Durannie. As a guy, knowing which one was which was key to being able to strike up a conversation. Not that it got me anywhere, I was hopeless.

      However, I thought then, and I still do think, that their first two albums are absolute stone cold new wave classics. There is a level of musicianship there that you wouldn’t expect from a “pretty boy pop band”. But those dudes could play. John Taylor is finally getting his due as an incredible bassist. I spent hours back then trying to play along with the basslines on Rio. I know it’s probably impossible to divorce yourself from the cultural baggage but if you can give their first two albums a listen just from a purely musical point of view, I think there is a lot of merit there. It’s no surprise to me that when Mark Ronson produced them in 2010 he basically forced them to redo the sound of those albums.

      Like

      • postpunkmonk says:

        jsd – I honestly tried back in the day with The RAHB. He was quoting me in the comment. If he didn’t fall for “Hold Back The Rain” then there’s no hope. He lacks the gene and I sort of get where he’s coming from; even as a fan. Their personalities have overshadowed the music and that’s why I wrote this thread a while back. John’s bass on the debut was the shining path, as far as I was concerned. They were all teens and raw green, but I thought he had the most talent on display in ’81.

        Like

  3. Echorich says:

    I’m actually trying to digest the idea of a great artist/producer such as Erol Alkan getting involved with Duran Duran. Alkan is half of Beyond The Wizards Sleeve with Richard Norris and has been involved in the triumphant return of Ride for the last few years. Alkan’s dance credentials bring an exciting perspective to his rock and roll productions because of his love of machines that make beats. Finally, Alkan was producer of the majority of releases by The Long Blondes – which gave us the wonderful Kate Jackson.

    It’s Moroder producing DD that I find a yawn and pretty predictable. After all Japan did it 40 yrs ago. It’s about time DD copied them again. Let’s just hope he didn’t suggest they cover Life In Tokyo!!!!

    Oh, as for DD doing DB, full pass. They have already showed it’s not in their wheelhouse.

    Liked by 1 person

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – I hope my re-edit of your two posts meets your approval! Yours is the 2nd endorsement of Erol Alkan so far – a good trend! He was someone I’d never heard of before the mention by Duran Duran. I simply do not want another Mr. Hudson scenario to manifest! This sounds promising, though your cited Alkan love of “machines that make beats” is definitely going down the wrong path for that I want from DD. I want to hear Roger Taylor actually drumming for a change. Not to mention three producers on a single album potential over-egging of the worst kind. And there’s every reason why Moroder would push for a “Life In Tokyo” cover; he’d get half the publishing income on such a move as the co-writer of that song! We’ll see when it pops put of the oven. Surely this year.

      Like

      • jsd says:

        I promise you Alkan is not Mr. Hudson 2.0. More like Mark Ronson. A voracious musical omnivore with an encyclopedic knowledge of everything and the taste to know when to deploy it. Again I urge you to investigate Late Of The Pier if you want an idea of what a rock band-meets-Alkan scenario can be. LotP mash up Queen, Bowie, Numan, and much more. (“Space And The Woods” is the best song Numan never wrote.)

        I’m with Echorich on the Moroder thing. Predictable, and Moroder hasn’t done anything worthwhile in decades.

        Like

  4. Andy D says:

    Horrible review! You suck! Simon nailed the vocals! If anything Duran has always paid homage to Bowie!

    Listen to Fame and Rebel Rebel! They nailed Space Oddity!

    DD have sold over 100 million albums! What have you sold?

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Andy D – Welcome to the comments! Passionate Duran Duran fans are always welcome here. Even their opposite [see: The RAHB above for proof!]

      I’m all over the map on Duran Duran after 40 years of fandom. I have not usually been convinced by Simon’s singing. It’s true. More often than not it fails for me but when I think it’s on the mark, like on “Secret Oktober,” then I really get behind it. And when I think he’s on the top of his game, like on “Red Carpet Massacre,” I can overlook a lot of that album’s traits to really love the result because of his work.

      While I’m sure that Duran Duran hold David Bowie in their highest esteem, I don’t think that it makes for good cover versions. A lot of my favorite bands record cover tunes and the results are generally inferior to my ear. Simple Minds, for example. I think that over 95% of their cover versions are just wasting their time and mine. Even David Bowie had made some truly awful cover versions. Some are among his worst ever material if you ask me. But every now and then Bowie and even Simple Minds hit the target just right and for that reason I’ll make sure to give Duran Duran a try in case they really connect with a tune. As for “Rebel Rebel” and “Space Oddity,” I had no idea! I need to get out of my Record Cell more.

      What have I sold? A third of my life for small amounts of money.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The RAHB! says:

        Add the fact that a bunch of old dudes still trying to wear pancake-n-black-eye-shadow with spiky-moused-hair in 2020 (or even 2015) are just so embarrassing that words must fail in finding sufficient revulsion.

        If you’re gonna make music, then make the damned music and let it sell on its merits (if it has any of those, that is – I’ve not actually heard this track so I’ll withhold judgment until I do – which is most likely never, based on everyone else’s feedback).

        That said, I do eminently trust PPMs judgment in most things musical, and I’ve most CERTAINLY learned to enjoy MANY things I disdained in my foolish youth (STILL no brussels sprouts though, thenkewveddimuch) so I’d be willing to give his “non-hits-best-of” collection a fair listen.

        But act your damned age, guys…

        Like

        • SimonH says:

          When I hear someone say, ‘act your age’ I always wonder how they act and whether they analyse their every move or appearance choice for age-appropriateness… I’d rather just live thanks:)
          My wife still fancies John Taylor so he must be doing something right as she’s twenty years’ his junior…
          I’ll pass on the track though:)

          Like

          • postpunkmonk says:

            SimonH – As for Druan Duran, I think that the only lens they view anything through is their popularity. By their standards, their poor last album, which managed to go top 10 in America [!] was a “score!” Even though it fell out of the hot 200 in 3-4 weeks. My wife once saw Duran Duran with me and was completely immune to the band. But she did really enjoy The Power Station around the same time [late 90s]. But it wasn’t Andy Taylor she liked there. Strictly Mr. Robert Palmer. Which is understandable. And you’re right to pass on the track. But the more I hear about the new album, specifically the taste and skill of the heretofore unknown [by me] Erol Alkan, the more cautiously hopeful I get. We’ll see eventually.

            Like

          • The RAHB! says:

            @simonh – it’s a fair cop :)

            I shouldn’t say “act your age” (I certainly don’t, nor make any effort to). But there IS a certain amount of perspective (and dare I say “maturity”) which comes with the years. When you’re 20, wearing the current vogue clothing styles and makeup are relatively sensible (or at least forgivable) from the perspective of 1) getting chix (or your preferred equivalent), 2) making $$$ (or your preferred equivalent, ad/or 3) you’re young and stupid and trying to impress your peers (or preferred equivalent).

            Also, on an already innately handsome 20-year-old, most styles look good regardless of their actual inherent merit. Look back at all those gorgeous female super-models from the period, wearing god-only-knows-how-to-describe awful clothes and makeup (and looking phenomenal doing so) and then try to imagine them TODAY at 60 or 70 wearing the same. Obviously, the attractiveness was from their youth and beauty, not from whatever happened to be stylish at the time…

            When you’re 60 or 70, still trying to wear the same styles and makeup utterly flies in the face of ALL of the factors I mentioned above. They’re not gonna net you any action, money, or peer props. And they CERTAINLY aren’t attractive on their own merits anymore…

            Case in point: Bowie certainly gave up all the glam, TWD, and other extraneous foofarah as he aged; wisely realizing that such affectations only work(?) for the young, while older dudes must rely on their improved bearing and classic lines.

            Like

            • postpunkmonk says:

              The RAHB – That was an eloquent essay, sir. In the modern-a-go-go culture we have where infantilism has been monetized by The Man we are used to seeing an unhealthy “Peter Pan” culture where aging is denied [but only with the spending of a lot of money, of course!]. It is why so many celebrities distort their visage with gruesome [to my eye] plastic surgery or ridiculous amounts of makeup and dubious couture.

              Like

            • SimonH says:

              Fair response:)
              I’m probably reaching that ‘to hell with it stage of life’ hence my comment!
              One thing I would say though is that it’s interesting how our perceptions of what looks good or attractive are so skewed towards youth and our conditioning of what’s acceptable and/or beautiful. So to a degree I think my angle is in the end do what you feel is right for you and don’t let anyone dictate to you – that cuts both ways of course.
              Sorry for getting all sociological here:)

              Like

  5. americanscientist says:

    Alkan produced the last two Ride albums, both of which sounded amazing. And John and Roger are on the record that Alkan is indeed pushing a return to an organic sound. It’s a pretty dynamic lineup of producers, so I would not judge the forthcoming album on Five Years, a track that was clearly put together hastily in the studio with band members in different locations during the pandemic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • postpunkmonk says:

      americanscientist – Welcome to the comments! That’s a super great handle you have there. It references one of my absolute favorite Duran classics. So you’re another chiming in on Alkan’s abilities. This gives me optimism even though Mark Ronson has proven he knows how to produce a killer DD album. I still hope this new one doesn’t succumb to “too many cooks” syndrome. But I’m feeling better by the comment. One would hope that this new single was just a hasty one-off not redolent of the new album. In that respect, it’s not too far from the last two ABC DL singles; both of which were far below the standard that Martin Fry has brought to the last three [wonderful] ABC albums.

      Like

  6. Dave says:

    It is as good as anything from Thank You.
    ;-|

    Early Duran, all the Night Versions, are first class new romantic disco- great stuff. Even their imperial period has some classics (The Reflex, The Chauffeur) and Come Undone is as good a comeback single as you get.

    But when they are bad… wow, they are awful.

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Dave – I think you called it, there. My spouse says that I’ve been operant conditioned by Duran Duran since their track record is literally random. I pay attention [such that I do] because I can always hold out hope for a good one. Which is spot on true.

      Like

  7. Brian says:

    This comment string was great fun. The song… not so much. If you ever make it out to Seattle, I need to get you together with my pal Durandy. Andy has just about the largest collection of DD memorabilia in the world. He has put out a couple of books on his treasures that are very well done.

    Like

  8. negative1ne says:

    hey mr monk,

    i’ll be the outlier here, and say i’m not disturbed by this song.
    it’s simplicity, and basic sound are good enough for me.

    no, its not a great song, and no i haven’t heard the original,
    so i’m just basing it on it for what it is. a simple tune, with
    the duran stamp on it. (whatever that is nowadays).

    so i had some fun with it, and took out the beats to make
    it more of ambient piece, and also the reverse, where it
    was just the beats and simons voice.

    i think i have more fun playing around with songs nowadays,
    than actually listening to them.

    in my world, alt-universe, every song i like gets a remix,
    instrumental, and dub, so we can hear what groups should
    have done.

    i’m exploring every duran duran – duran duran (1st album)song that way for the 40th,
    along with pet shop boys please, new order, depeche mode, etc, etc.

    anyways, new songs aren’t immune to being improved that way also.

    so in the end, it’s good to see durans still kicking, but not for everyone.

    later
    -1

    Like

  9. I know you’ve all been breathlessly awaiting my take on this track (cough), so here it is:

    1. Simon: pretty remarkable vocal for a 62-year-old! I don’t think it’s as bad as some others here seem to. A few missteps to be sure (and I don’t appreciate the lyric changes either), but to my ears a sincere and impressive effort, apart from the “suprrriiiiiiiise” that the Monk already excoriated.

    2. Mike Garson’s (genuine!) piano: excellent, and rather restrained for him. Best part of the cover, IMO.

    3. Nick: well, frankly, he should have sat this one out completely. I love the guy, but he added nothing to this and actually brought it down with too much of the 80s sound. I think Simon must be the big Bowie fan in the band, because based on their other covers of Bowie I really don’t think Nick is.

    4. Backgrounders: the background singers were very good IMO and nicely utilised (not too much, not too little. The background strings (the ones that may or may not have been real): again not overbearing, but maybe a bit more than was needed.

    Overall, this may be one of DD’s better attempts at a Bowie song (which is not saying much). I appreciate that this was pulled together remotely and quickly, but I wouldn’t have released this as a single, particularly not with what I presume will be a very differently-styled album coming up. If they had dropped Nick’s stuff, kept Mike, and edited Simon’s vocal a bit, I think you’d have had an acceptable cover version. Till that happens, I’ll go with Bowie + Arcade Fire’s version of “Five Years” for my cover needs, thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Ade.W says:

    It will probably appear on the next grab bag hit and miss compilation cd of Bowie covers given away by “uncut” magazine.

    Like

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