They say everybody remembers their first time. I remember mine but some of the details are a bit hazy. I might have embellished it over time with things that never actually happened. I do remember the build-up, the growing sense of excitement. Then there a certain amount of frenzied movement, probably some gyrating of hips and the sweet smell of sweat which built up to a crescendo of screams of pleasure. A whole lot of screaming in fact.
It was the 23rd December 1988. I was fourteen years old and Nick Rhodes (and this will sound weird if you didn’t realise this was an analogy) who was there at the time was just 26. That’s enough to make anyone feel old.
The venue was Wembley Arena and I was there with my brother and a couple of his friends. We’d spent the day in London raiding HMV and Virgin and running amok in Harrod’s – I don’t remember all the details. We were in a store when we heard that Capital Radio was broadcasting the concert live that night which caused a whole host of phone calls to people to see if someone could record it for us. Capitol Radio being a London station and as we were not from London, it was a long shot at best. Years later at a street market we saw someone selling bootleg cassettes and bought a copy.
Outside the stadium I remember trying to guess what they would play. I was hoping for Girls on Film. Surely they had to play Wild Boys. It didn’t seem possible that they would play everything. There was no way of getting your hands on the set list in those days and that only added to the sense of mystique. Our seats were not great, about three quarters of the way back and half way up one side. The stage was a long way away and there were no screens. I would have loved to have been closer but actually I didn’t care. There was still a feeling of it not being real.
The support band according to Duran Wiki was J.J Slick. If he still exists Google doesn’t know about him. My memory was of a couple of female rappers who kept singing about not being Salt and Pepper but who seemed very similar to Salt and Pepper. I also remember the bass vibrating through every bone in my body. This was beginning to feel more real. When the lights went down Simon’s voice started mumbling about God or possibly how a road is made, or both. And then they were there, we joined in the screaming and they were playing Big Thing. I could have died right there and then and consider that I’d completed my bucket list.
I’d like to tell you I remember the music, the different renditions they did of old classics as Duran were able to do. Or how All She Wants Is morphed into Planet Earth and back. By that point I’d almost lost my voice and my ears were ringing. My cassette tells me that at that point, about six songs in, they played Palomino, Winter Marches On and Too Late Marlene back to back, which, you would think, would have slowed the pulses a bit but I don’t remember caring too much at the time.
After that though there was just a whirlwind of old classics and you just had time to realise how many hits they had already had. And they played just about everything I had ever hoped for. Suddenly it was GirlsOnFilm-Notorious-SkinTrade-IsThere SomethingIShouldKnow-WildBoys-SaveAPrayer-TheReflex-Rio. There was hardly a break and even ‘Drug’ which they sneaked into the middle of that didn’t allow us to catch breath.
The cassette highlights some of the things that we misremember or didn’t pick up on at the time. My brother was sure that John introduced Girls on Film by saying ‘Now we’re going to take you back’. He didn’t in fact say that but it would have been much cooler if he had. What he actually said was, ‘Now it’s about time, we take you back in time.’ Not that it mattered at the time but incredibly Simon forgot the words to Save a Prayer. I have a vague memory of wondering whether I was singing it wrong during the most famous part… he forgot the line about the one night stand being paradise.
You might be wondering what they could possibly have played for an encore. They’d closed the show with Rio. They’d already played Wild Boys and Girls on Film. So they went for Edge of America and Lake Shore Driving. Maybe because by that point they’d already won us over. Even the guy next to me who spent the whole concert sitting down. They could have played anything so long as it meant they stayed on stage for another few minutes.
We floated out of there afterwards. I remember buying the most expensive can of coke ever from a stand just outside. It was late, but I was too wired to sleep on the way home and the next morning the ringing in my ears and the ridiculously expensive programme, (half of which was just coloured pages with no pictures or writing on them) were the proof that I had been there.
I’ve seen them since, they’ve always been amazing but nothing so far has bettered that first time. My guess is, nothing will ever come close.
Big Cassette Thing
The set list that night as stated on Setlist.fm - but it misses the infamous encore
I Don't Want Your Love
Hungry Like the Wolf
Do You Believe in Shame
All She Wants Is
Winter Marches On
Too Late Marlene
Girls on Film
Is There Something I Should Know?
The Wild Boys
Drug (It's Just a State of Mind)
Save a Prayer