Duran Duran have produced various amounts of music through side projects over the years. John has been probably the most prolific, with his solo work and two other bands, Power Station and Neurotic Outsiders. Nick has The Devils and TV Mania to his name.
Simon, however, has produced remarkably little over the years. Indeed, a round-up to produce a Simon Le Bon solo album provides slim pickings to make up 10 tracks. There is a bootleg solo album out there, The Story (2000), though this includes covers, an officially released Duran b-side (God / This is How a Road Gets Made) and even the horror of Tony Hadley (twice!).
So Cherry Lipstick offers you these 10 to consider. Some will be familiar, some forgotten, some never known. Which is your favourite?
1. Follow In My Footsteps (1989)
Perhaps the best known, and our lead track because it is also the best. It was trialled during the Big Thing demos and features Warren (and Steve Ferrone on drums). ‘Haunting’ is an oft-used decription, whilst ‘epic’ also is apt. Images of mountains, lightening streaks, and rolling thunder play out with Susanna Hoffs providing fine harmonies. Uplifting, tender and a must for your playlist. If you’ve got the fever’s rage, then Simon assures you, “I am the medicine.”
2. Nobody Knows (2006) ‘SLB and Nick Wood’
Simon’s long-time collaborator / muse, Nick Wood sets a tone for several tracks here. “The space between us is my subtle prison,” sings Simon, about the pressures of depression, albeit with the uplifting sentiment that “you turn it all around so many times.” With this subject matter the track inevitably has a lulling, dream-like quality but has a satisfying conclusion.
3. Fire (2006) ‘Ferry Corsten Ft SLB’
Liberty enters the 21st Century with a ‘trance’ track that plays off the melody of Serious with the line “oh woman you make me feel like I’m on fire.” The line was re-recorded by Simon, rather than sampled. As with many of these things, it all gets a bit tiresome by the end, and makes you long to put the original on. But if this is your 'bag' it'll be right up your street (in a bag).
4. Simple Joys (2010) ‘Beautiful Small Machines Ft SLB’
Back on track with this collaboration, Simon doesn’t show up til 2 minutes in, but it’s well worth the wait. Again we have a rather wonderful duet with a female singer. There’s a Duran t-shirt in the video as nod to the man’s involvement. The song is almost an update of New Religion in being hypnotic and builds with Simon’s alter-ego over a lyric of about cruel facades, plucking out the eyes of God, and the last boat out of hell.
5. Already Gone (1998)
This is an acoustic demo, unreleased. It appears to be an update on Who Do You Think You Are with its Oasis-tinged musicality and subject matter. It’s easy to read this as another swipe at Warren, or just Simon’s frustrations with how Duran had ended up down their late-90s dead-end. This sounds like a proto-type of Starting to Remember. It’s something of a throwaway tune, and all the better for it.
6. Grey Lady Of The Sea (1986)
Another familiar one, and, when followed by Follow In My Footsteps, made a lot of us think that SLB was forging a career away from Duran. It offers Arcadia-ish vocals but also a verse that is stronger than the chorus. It promises much, but fails to seal-the-deal for this listener. A near miss.
7. Record Collection (2010) ‘Mark Ronson Ft SLB’
Another collaboration with SLB offering back up vocals. It had a big release as it was launched as the soundtrack to the FIFA 11 video game. It’s all very 80s electronic (Soft Cell / Heaven 17) with Simon offering a deeper vocal performance. It owes a heavy debt to The Devils (Big Store) - maybe Si needed to prove one more time he was the man for the job?
8. Dream Boyz (1999) ‘SLB and Nick Wood’
This is a companion piece to Already Gone and featured on the OST to Love Kills. It's pleasant enough, but ultimately pretty incongruous and forgettable. Looking forward, one can hear shades of Beautiful Colours.
9. Kingdom (2015) ‘Charli xcx Ft SLB’
From the fourth Hunger Games film. We make our way through pretty film music with accompanying waif-like female vocals, appropriate for the target audience. Simon joins effectively just past mid-way. He has a softer vocal style, but with only 30 seconds of contribution, buyers of this SLB solo album might feel we’re scrapping the barrel a tad with its inclusion here.
10. Ordinary World (1995) ‘SLB and Pavarotti’
You know this one, but the duet and Italian language make it so special and it must be a highlight for Simon himself of his glittering career. The ending might need some, er, management, in the final mix, but this closes the album on a fitting high.
This album spans 30 years of music and collaborations, showing Simon in a variety of settings and musical styles. He is working here with a wide range of performers showing how respected he is. It may lack the purity of a wholly solo album, but as a side project to rank alongside his Duran work, it complements it perfectly.