We’ve all been looking for things to do during this lockdown. Having decided against regular exercise, opening the cook book I was bought 5 years ago or decluttering the loft, I went back to basics – my old record collection.
I play a fair amount of LPs, but there is one (large) corner of it that just never gets played – my old Duran Duran singles. I decided that this was a manageable lockdown challenge - to play Duran’s vinyl singles from my collection back-to-back.
First of all, I had to find them. They were scattered in various piles. Gathering them together I realised I had all of them from the ‘80s – but they weren’t all mine. A box had been delivered to me by parents eager to do their own de-cluttering some years ago, and I had inherited a fair few from my brother. A good job too, as my own purchases did not complete the sequence.
I next became aware that every record had its own story and memory. Where did I buy them? How old was I? And as so many of these records were not mine, my brother is sharing his memories with you here too.
Planet Earth was first up. Even 39 years later, it’s a cracking song. I’ve been getting into Blondie recently, and Planet Earth picked up their pop-rock-dance baton perfectly. Play Hanging On The Telephone or Call Me and you’ll see. I’d love to show off and say I snatched my copy of Planet Earth off the shelves in February 1981, but was I only 8 and enjoying Abba. Even through 1982, my ears were attuned to The Police and Madness.
Planet Earth, like all of those that followed up to The Reflex, were rounded up with spare pocket money from second hand record stores / charity shops. I was not cash-rich for some time. Buying a record was a big decision. I was therefore on the look out for a) a bargain and b) something I liked. Once home they would be played and enjoyed many times, a- and b-sides almost equally, as these were special purchases.
It would appear I never bought Girls On Film or Careless Memories – but my brother did:
J.R. Kiss: “Most of the ones I bought are from raids on HMV / Virgin in Oxford Street in the mid-to-late ‘80s (HMV was always better). Others were from Rock Bottom in Canterbury High Street.”
Imagine – Duran Duran 12”s, several years old, were available to buy in mainstream London record shops.
My Own Way features that strange band logo which sits forgotten between the first album and the pizazz of Rio. It bursts to life and then fades like a May Fly. HLTW has its coy hajib cover, which kicks off Duran’s golden age of pop singles. It shares a heritage with I Want To Hold Your Hand and Anarchy In The UK for punching its way out of my speakers with pure adrenalin. Save A Prayer is a piece of magic in transporting me via that silly, innocuous little piece of vinyl to another world with its hypnotic beat and melody.
These cute bits of plastic are perfectly shaped for speed and an instant teenage hit. These are joyous wonders of disposable pop, that linked us back to the shared experiences of our parents and older siblings from the 50s, 60s and 70s.
The Rio 7” sleeve proves to be empty, so I play ‘Part One’ on the 12”. It’s quite strange hearing it like this, after years of it being an album track or extended in concert with added balloons and confetti.
J.R. Kiss: “I don’t remember buying the 12” of Rio. I remember looking for the 12” of New Religion before I realised it wasn’t a single. Add it to the ‘should’ve been a single’ list – along with Hold Me and Big Thing. (I would have loved Big Thing to be the lead single in ’88).”
Problems do emerge amongst the fun. There can be a sense of shockingly poor value for money. HLTW and Rio 12” mixes suggest the boys went, "That'll do," and fled the studio. From Girls On Film to Skin Trade, there are just THREE original b-sides (Like An Angel (meh), Secret Oktober (yay!) and Faith In This Colour (yuck)), while there are a plethora or poor ‘Monkey / Monster Mixes’. The Wild Boys 12” is fantastic fun and offers a real extended version, but A View To A Kill gives a cute-but-slight two minute instrumental (which I suppose is better than the lazy album tracks on the 7” b-sides of Save A Prayer, New Moon On Monday, Notorious and Meet el Presidente).
There’s also something overly fussy and brash about 12” singles. The 7” single has a brute honesty about its one track per side. You sit back for an adrenalin blast and then have to shake yourself down to play again or change the track. 12” singles offer neither the instant hit of a single, or the breadth of an album. The remixes often add little. The least said about the joyless, functional 'cassingles' the better.
Is There Something I Should Know? crackles along as the band take their shot at the title and mix their metaphors by hitting a home run. As a stand-alone single it is peerless. On Decade it gets lost amongst the machine gun of hits. By taking the time to unpack it, set it up on the turntable, waiting for it to start, and then pop it back in the sleeve, it is re-born as nature intended.
This 7” single also has a hidden secret – a receipt, from Woolworths in Clacton, dated Saturday 26th March 1983 (the week in which the record was released). Please welcome back Cloggs to Cherry Lipstick to pick up the story:
Cloggs: “I was 13 and used to do ballet in Clacton on Saturdays. I remember the hype about the new single by Duran Duran. I remember there had been a gap since their new music. I’d got the Rio LP for the previous Christmas, and you wanted the latest song. There was a lot of build up: Smash Hits magazine, Radio 1, Saturday morning kids shows. I remember seeing the video on Top of the Pops. I thought it was fantastic – the opening chant, the beat, it sounded really powerful. What came next? (Union of the Snake) Oh, I’d lost interest by then. The Reflex was huge and I remember watching The Wild Boys video over and over again, but I felt like I’d moved on. (What was the other single you bought that day? – reads out the chart for the week of 26th March 1983) Probably Let’s Dance. I remember Bowie being considered old, but it was a good song.”
I was STILL not a fully fledged Duranie at the time of Union of the Snake. They were on my ‘like’ list, but I preferred Paul Young, Michael Jackson and Wham! (The latter were very attractive to me in their ‘bad boys’ faze, being all mean’n’moody, but I was just appalled by Club Tropicana and never went back. Hey, we all have our shameful secrets).
Union Of The Snake is a sonic mess compared to the clarity of Hungry Like The Wolf, and Simon sounds too busy. For the first time since Planet Earth, you can hear the band trying too hard. It is not very loveable, especially compared to ITSISK.
New Moon On Monday creeps out all mysterious and moody, like a prototype Arcadia. There’s too much tinkle-tinkles and not enough Andy. By the time of the chorus, Simon is straining away and it settles into its historical state as a bang-average piece of 80s duffage.
Woo hoo – finally it’s The Reflex. Once considered by yours truly to be the Best Song Ever, it is a remarkable step-up from the trudgery of New Moon On Monday. Pow! This tour-de-force of brilliance, sounds better than ever – and with a b-side to die for.
1984 (age 13) was my personal Golden Year. The Reflex was the deal-sealer. Bromance, exotica and exhilaration at the glamour were quite over-whelming. It was loud, delirious and mysterious. Things would not be the same again.
On the other side of the teenage Lipstick-house, possibly influenced by his older brother:
J.R. Kiss: “The Reflex was the first Duran song I was aware of. I seem to have the 7” and the 12” version of this one. Nile Rodgers did a fine job on the remix. The Da na na na and the flec-flec-flex was genius. Still a great song, cool artwork on the sleeve of the 12” but the Dance Mix spends far too long on the Why’ay’ay’aya don’t you… part with even more strange sounds. Impossible to dance to and detracts from a great song.”
I remember buying The Wild Boys 12” from Tower Records in London on one of those exciting days out. Full marks for the powerful sleeve design of this single. I used to play this over and over again. It is a treat to hear this again.
I was obviously still struggling financially as I didn’t buy A View To A Kill on release. It’s another ex-jukebox find. This single completes the five Duran glory years of astonishing creativity and consistent excellence. I’m glancing now at the disc turning and the needle tracking the warps on the increasingly ancient vinyl.
One of the many mis-steps in Duran Duran’s career has to be sleeve design of Notorious. No doubt it was intended to wipe clean the image of pop-fabulous, pretty-boy cuties, but it was neither inviting nor backed by up the album cover which emphasised the band more than any other Duran album before or since. It is another fine single, which manages to mute the excesses of 1984 and 1985, without losing the essence of the kitchen-sink drama of the perfect 3-minute pop single. That’s why they did it again, but life ain’t fair and Notorious was sunk by factors beyond the music’s control.
Contrary to my earlier assertion, my Skin Trade 12” has gone AWOL, so we skip to Meet ‘el Presidente’ (to give it its full title). Dear Lord, it is poor. John’s hair looks like Princess Anne’s and the 12” remixes go one forever. At best, this is bang-average. At worst, it is a desperate wannabe.
1987 saw me aged 16, and with more cash available, but no Duran product to buy. I was not allowed to go to see them live in ’87 as I had exams the next day. I remember complaining that this was not fair as “no one likes them anymore and they’re going to split up soon” (true story). My attentions and devotion moved on to U2 and Prince, both of whom had very good 1987s (Joshua Tree and Sign O’ The Times).
I return to my record player and decide to play the 12” ‘Big Mix’ of I Don’t Want Your Love. The drift from the exhilaration of the early years is immediately evident. J.R. Kiss takes up the story:
“This was a lonely time to be a Duran fan. None of my friends at school were into them. A few people told me they used to be good, but they didn’t like the new stuff… and this was before Big Thing. I was a bit shocked by this single. It didn’t really sound like them. The title was too simple and direct – compare and contrast to Meet El Presidente, The Union of the Snake or Save a Prayer. The artwork for the cover was… a little lacking in imagination. I had the t-shirt. A teacher asked me if it was an anti-Valentine’s day manifesto. I mumbled, “No, it’s a song.” By who? ‘Drandran’. But I bought it even though at the time I didn’t really like it. It might even be the first Duran single I got at the time it was released (though that might have been Skin Trade). These days, I think I judged it too harshly. It’s grown on me and it definitely has its place on any Duran playlist. I still can’t forgive them temporarily renaming the band in one word: Duranduran. I remember buying All She Wants Is in a record shop in Herne Bay on a Sunday and being surprised it was out – records weren’t released on Sundays in the UK.”
The 12” single was given a spin (as there is no 7” single at CLHQ). It is sprightlier than I Don’t Want Your Love, though the Euro Dub version is all a bit Pet Shop Boys.
Which brings us to my last ever vinyl Duran Duran single, Do You Believe in Shame? in April 1989. At least I went out with a bang – I snaffled up all three singles for the triple-pack, along with the associated postcards. I had to get the nice man at Gatefield Sounds in Whitstable to specially order in the second and third of them. 30 years I popped back in for Record Store Day and bought As The Lights Go Down. For the record, for this challenge I played the second single with Nick on the cover (and stared at the postcard of the Get Me High Club, Chicago).
We’re on the home stretch now, and the vinyl is all provided by J.R. Kiss as I migrated to CD in late '89. Burning The Ground gets rather wearisome on re-listening, managing to turn all the good bits rubbish and has Simon wailing ‘yeaaaaah!" a lot. It sounds like I made it.
J.R. Kiss: “I suspect even the most diehard fan would prefer never to listen to this again. Well, I did, and it wasn’t quite as abominably awful as I remember it, but it was still a solid 0 out of 10. Except if you were Italian apparently because it charted at number 7 there. It was put in a brown paper bag when I bought it from the local record shop. It wasn’t played a lot. I have now put it back in the bag. If we move house, it might not come with us.”
Violence of Summer (Love’s Taking Over) (to give it its full title), astonishingly was awarded the honour of being one of the top 8 tracks of the 1990s in the recent CL poll. This is simply wrong, as evidenced by actually listening to it. There’s no danger of me accidently playing the Power Mix, or Story Mix, as my memory of doing that once in 1990 is still powerful. Serious is nice enough.
There’s no vinyl for The Wedding Album’s singles, meaning the final one is Perfect Day.
J.R. Kiss: “My first listen to Ordinary World was when your editor came over to my chic Parisian flat and had recorded it off the radio that morning (on to a cassette – kids, ask your parents) As I recall it, none of us were instant fans. The DJ said it was a “grower”. I was dubious. Turns out, he was right. I know I had the vinyl LP. It got played a lot. I don’t remember if I bought the singles or not. Virgin Megastore (RIP) on the Champs Elysées would have had them. Probably even on vinyl. If I did get them, they are now lost. Thinking about it, I probably wouldn’t have bought TMI. That track often got skipped when listening to the album. I bought Perfect Day in Leeds. Virgin Megastore again. I’m an unashamed fan of Thank You and particularly this song. It’s what cover versions should be. Close your eyes and it could be a Duran song. After that, I didn’t buy any more singles, but then the world of singles had already changed.”
J.R. Kiss is right. 12 years earlier, Is There Something I Should Know went straight into the UK charts at no 1. 12 years later, Falling Down flittered in at no 51 for Duran Duran’s last ever week on the UK singles chart.
There’s nothing like the magic of a hit single, and the 7” was the perfect medium for them. Rediscovering Duran Duran like this is to know them again, back when they ruled the world.