I (heart) Duran Duran

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I (heart) Duran Duran

By Leslie Gray Streeter

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Friday, February 11, 2005

Sometimes, love is written in the stars. Mine was written on my bedroom desk in hot pink fingernail polish.

In retrospect, I can appreciate that scrawling "I (heart) Simon LeBon" on my furniture with a cheap bottle of Wet-N-Wild was perhaps not the smartest testament of my affection for the cheeky lead singer of Duran Duran. Especially considering my mother's reaction, which was something like "Girl! Why are you writing on good furniture with fingernail polish? Are you crazy?"

Well, Mommy, funny you should ask, because... yes, yes I was! For the better part of three years, between 1984 and 1987, I was a full-fledged Durannie — a big button-wearing, lyric spouting, poster-hanging, pinup-trading, screaming freaky ninny in the service of Duran Duran, those five lip-glossed New Wave Adonises who helped usher in the age of over-the-top glamazon sexiness to MTV.

They were decent musicians, but still, Duran Duran was accused of being style over substance.

Actually, their style was their substance. And that's why the band, which plays the Office Depot Center tonight, remains so important.

There are many reasons why my friends, sister and I were so bowled over by every single thing that Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes and John, Roger and Andy Taylor (no relation) did. There was the unabashed naughtiness of their videos that spoke to the sweet little 13-year-old me in ways that Air Supply and Lionel Richie, my previous favorite performers, did not. Go figure.

Then there was the infectious synthesizer-driven beat of hits like The Reflex, Hungry Like The Wolf and Save A Prayer, with their seemingly deep and cryptic lyrics about rivers, lights flashing on windowsills and lonely children waiting in the park, lyrics we assumed were heavily important but were probably just about sex and having drunk too much champagne before entering the studio.

But at 13, I mostly knew that they were the cutest things ever. And that as much as I wished for it, Simon would never marry me. So I was left with only my dreams, my gazillion posters and my dangerous bright pink cosmetics.

Nearly 21 years later, I no longer wear my devotion to the boys from Birmingham, England, on my sleeve, or on my bedroom door, notebook, turntable and any fabric surface to which I can affix a button.

So tonight, I'll try my best to maintain my composure and not scream my fool head off but... I'm lying. I'm fixing to freak out. Don't say you weren't warned.

This current tour is in support of their latest album, Astronaut, and marks the first time in two decades that all five original members have toured and recorded together. And that's important, because like The Beatles before them, each guy had his own distinct and integral personality that made the band what it was.

There was Simon, with his nasally sexy voice; John, the devastatingly gorgeous bass player whose intense stare was so sexy it kinda freaked me out; Nick, the pouty and expertly eyeshadowed keyboard player; Roger, my favorite, the brooding, quiet drummer with whom I share a birthday; and Andy, the cranky-looking guitarist, who wasn't really all that cute but who I loved because of his musicianship, and because none of my friends liked him, therefore leaving his BOP! pinups uncontested.

Then, and now, Duran Duran has met their share of criticism about their pretty-boy looks, their heavy-handed use of eyeliner, their nonsensical songs and their nutty hordes of female fans. Even I admit that they're not as monumentally, musically groundbreaking as The Beatles, or Prince, or Michael Jackson back before he consigned himself to freakdom.

But whether or not you like them, history cannot be denied. For better or worse, Duran Duran, along with David Bowie and Bryan Ferry among others, changed the way that MTV looked and sounded — which, in the early '80s, means that they changed pop culture.

Videos like Hungry Like The Wolf and Rio weren't just performance footage or grainy low-tech extravaganzas of bad lighting and funny costumes. They were pricey, pretty mini-movies with exotic locations, nice clothing and lots of barely dressed women for good measure. I used to fast-forward the naked girls to get to the cute shots of Roger and Simon. And I must add that those women made it harder for me to justify to my parents why this was all harmless and why I should be able to wear my Duran Duran buttons on my purse when we went to church.

MTV, back when they actually played videos, was a breathless new medium waiting for the perfect marriage of exciting sound and cutting-edge visuals. And that's what Duran Duran was. They were about looking good, about being young and beautiful and fun, with the promise of a wide, exotic world and beautiful people to decorate your journey.

All that probably inspired my hot pink declarations on my bedroom furniture. I wouldn't do that again, but I'm happy to report that somewhere in my parents' garage is an old desk that reads "I (Heart) Simon LeBon." Some things, like Duran Duran's career, and teeny bopper devotion, seem to last forever.

A view to a thrill

Duran Duran's five best songs

1) 'Rio,' from 'Rio' (1982): It's an audible vacation, a twisty trip through the heart of an exotic femme fatale and the legendary river for which she's named. Plus, an addictive chorus of "Doo, doo doo doo doo doos" at the end. Brilliant, boppy fun.

2) 'Save A Prayer,' from 'Rio' (1982) : The eerie melancholy keyboard intro tells you that this ain't no party song, unless it's a pity party for a desperately lonely playboy resigned to his fate. The best line — "Some people call it a one night stand, but we can call it paradise." So sad! Come here, let me comfort you, Simon.

3) 'Planet Earth,' from 'Duran Duran' (1981): Replace Rio's "Doo doos" with an insistent round of "Ba ba bas" and you've got a catchy devil of a song.

4) 'New Moon on Monday,' from 'Seven and the Ragged Tiger' (1983): The first line goes "Shake up the picture, the lizard mixture." What does that mean? Aww, who knows? Or cares? Shut up and dance, man!

5) 'Ordinary World,' from 'Duran Duran (The Wedding Album),' (1993) : "I won't cry for yesterday/ there's an ordinary world... I will learn to survive." Ten years after their heyday, was this the band's acceptance that their youth was behind them? Touching stuff.

Courtesy palm Beach Post