Lost Treasures #7: Read My Lips
Our latest entrant in this great Cherry Lipstick series is a competition winner! All entries were considered anonymously. C.K. Shortell won over a competitive field with this accolade from the judges:
"It is humorous and honest, punchy and aggressive, tongue-in-cheek but sincere. It would be very much at home in a Cherry Lipstick fanzine."
Well done, Chris - who wins the prize of a rare 10" Vinyl from the 2013 Duran Record Store Day release.
Below Chris's piece are extracts from our second and third place entries. Thank you to all who entered!
And the beautiful Liberty Mood Board was created, as ever, for Cherry Lipstick by @The Paper Goddess
Read My Lips is the pot of gold (not salt) at the end of the rainbow, a diamond of misunderstood poetry from the mind of Simon Le Bon. For too long have people dismissed Liberty, one small step for Duran (and one giant leap for Durankind) into the new decade of the 1990s. And then apologists will argue yes, “My Antarctica” and “Serious” and the title track do bear some resemblance to the band we fell in love with on the yacht, but nothing more. And these people would be wrong, wrong wrong.
Duran once claimed to want to be the band you played when the bomb dropped. Nothing epitomizes this spirit more than Read My Lips. It’s post-apocalyptic Duran at its best. The bomb fucking dropped—they lost their guitarist and their drummer—and then two of their most brilliant albums of the decade, Notorious and Big Thing, failed to vault them back to superstardom.
Then came the decision to go back to a true five piece band, and from there, a rousing few months (or weeks? Nobody is quite sure or exactly remembers) spent writing and recording in a sugar shack. As a true, five piece bloody band again.
What do you want to do when the bomb drops? You want to ROCK IT. That’s where “Read My Lips” starts, with a distorted LeBon vocal announcing the band’s intentions so there is no confusion. Sterling Campbell’s drums and John’s bass immediately follow, as the suspense builds. Then comes Warren’s kick-ass guitar—more kick ass than anything on The Power Station album, I might add—and now we’re in business.
Okay, fine, I may have neglected to mention Nick’s squeegee sound effect thing that comes in just before Warren’s guitars. You might argue it’s annoying and unnecessary. But you’d be wrong and missing the point. It’s all part of the manifesto for the new decade—this iteration of Duran ROCKS IT. Nick lost the creative war—the former superpower of synth is reduced to a banana republic of squeegee on “Read My Lips.” A pyrrhic victory for Andy, to be sure, but fuck him, he left.
LeBon’s got something and he’s going to give you so much more than you’re used to. Lyrically, Read My Lips doesn’t mess around. None of the “sing blue silver” shit—this is the 90s. Don’t resist—read his lips. Get a grip—tellingly followed by a John bass solo—and then Nick is allowed back in the proceedings for a brief moment to actually play synths. Don’t worry, it doesn’t last, Warren returns to go completely apeshit on guitar. ROCK IT! This is the apogee of Duran’s machismo era. ROCK IT! His repeated exhortations to “don’t resist” foreshadow the mid-90’s “Resistance is futile” from Star Trek’s Borg villains. ROCK IT!
Duran didn’t give a fuck, and neither should you. This isn’t their “Power Station” rip off or homage. It’s five guys, smoking God knows what, rocking out. They didn’t care if this song got played on the radio, or pleased the record company executives. There were no fucking collaborations with pop stars in completely antithetical genres. It was raw, it had guitars, okay, it was a little over produced in the final analysis. Stop bashing it. Get a grip. Don’t resist. It’s a trip. Don’t resist. Read my lips!
In second place was Jason Lent:
“Read My Lips” has playful squeaks of synths reminiscent of early Prince tracks like “Delirious” while Cuccurullo’s overdriven guitar works against the melody. The narrator admits to being unreliable (“that’s a lie”) and the lyrics are nothing more than a misogynistic come-on for sex in a loud club. It reeks of desperation and the male need for conquest (“she’s all mine”). LeBon comes at us from a lower register that doesn’t sound like his normal voice. I find this to be a significant clue that LeBon wrote this from a perspective of an outsider to the behaviour.
The psychedelic fuzz of Cuccurullo’s guitar on “Read My Lips” becomes more dominant as the song progresses. The chemicals of the evening are taking over with each passing minute and the final minute finds the guitar completely unhinged. It ends in a dark place for the characters and the band.
The trilogy of “First Impression”, “Read My Lips”, and “Can You Deal With It” can be read as a metaphor for the band’s own rise and fall from fame. The lowest point occurs in “Read My Lips” which makes the song pivotal to the redemption that follows not only on Liberty but in the 1990s with a return to commercial success. Yes, the song can be uncomfortable to listen to but the dark journey proves essential to the Duran Duran story.
In third place was Dee Cooke, who also gives us an excellent link to a cover of Read My Lips!
Warren’s almost-metal rock guitar is the driving force of this track. The guitar riff, for the first half of the song, is repetitive but endlessly danceable. The funk accent that comes in here feels reminiscent of the Notorious era for a moment, and subtly changes the direction of the song, which takes on a more valiant, punch-the-air feel from this point onward.
The lyrical content is playfully predatory, which of course is familiar territory for Duran, but also has a pleasing simplicity that adds to the urgent, driving tone. I have to confess (being terrible for mishearing lyrics) that for a long time I assumed the repetition of ‘she’s all mine’ towards the end of the song was actually ‘she don’t mind’. The actual lyric is a little more sinister and hence more fitting!
All in all, while it’s the unashamedly hard rock guitar and goosebumps-inducing atmosphere that make me a fan of the song, I think it’s the simplicity and determined harmony of ‘Read My Lips’ that make it a good song.
Try the Fly Moon Royalty cover which is a pleasant stripped-back keyboards ‘n’ vocals version that everyone should have a listen to at least once. It doesn’t have the same spiky feel but it’s a lovely cover!