I hate Duran Duran, I love Duran Duran: The Remastered Rio

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I hate Duran Duran, I love Duran Duran: The Remastered Rio
October 14, 2009 at 3:22 pm by Gabe Echazabal

As a teenager in the 1980’s, I was the proverbial “kid in a candy store” when it came to all the great music that was at my fingertips for me to explore and experience. Many of the discoveries I made during the “decade of decadence” have stayed with me until this day and more than likely will until the day I hang up my rock ‘n’ roll shoes. I’ll never be able to deny the impact that Billy Idol and U2 had on me. They both helped define who I was and who I’ve become and they gave me a feeling of importance and belonging. I will always be eternally grateful to those artists for helping me achieve that.

The band that pretty much defined the decade wasn’t really a major player in my adolescence until the latter part of the ’80s, though. I owned a few 12″ singles by Duran Duran and that’s about where it ended. I loved “Girls On Film”; I thought it was the quintessential bridge between 1970’s Disco and present-day dance music. It fused loud guitars with syncopated dance rhythms and naughty lyrics to boot. I thought it was brilliant … and in all honesty, it still holds up and sounds devastatingly modern today.

On the flip side, I despised the annoying little girls that buzzed and flitted around my high school halls trying to spread the word about the five boys from Birmingham, England, like overzealous televangelists. I felt like I was being force-fed some inane propaganda, all in an attempt to become a Duran Duran convert. But what a horrible way to try and gain my allegiance. I really didn’t give a shit about what lead singer Simon LeBon’s favorite color was … or what drummer Roger Taylor’s nickname was. In actuality, if any of those obnoxious little creatures would have told me that bassist John Taylor’s inspiration to pick up the instrument was the brilliant bassist from the amazing disco-era band Chic, Bernard Edwards, or that the synthesizer keyboardist Nick Rhodes used was the same model that Brian Eno introduced David Bowie to during their groundbreaking recording sessions in Berlin — I would have been intrigued.

Now, it’s not fair for me to say I turned my back on Duran in an act of defiance towards the brainwashed zombies that were intent to get me onto bandwagon. I could/should have delved deeper on my own and found that under the glossy surface of pastel designer suits and hair dye, there was some real depth. I can honestly say that in those days, I NEVER would have imagined that the band was capable of recording a bonafide slice of brilliant avant art-rock like the final song on their second album, Rio , “The Chauffeur.” That song, incidentally, was the key to my future dedication to Duran Duran. It’s so different and so detached from anything else on that record. A brilliant choice for closing out the set of songs on their career-changing sophomore album. It sounds more at home on Bowie’s “Low” than on what was then considered an album by a “teeny-bopper” band.

The ability to blend that type of slow, icy dirge with lighter, bouncier pop songs was brilliant. I came around and became an unabashed follower at the tail-end of the 1980’s. In 1987, I decided to tag along with a clan of insanely passionate girls I’d befriended the year before and joined them for a trek up to Atlanta to see DD perform live. These girls were the antitheses of the swarming gnats I’d had to shoo away three or four years prior. These girls loved Duran Duran and were calmly proud of it. Their motto was more like “If you like Duran Duran, cool; if you don’t like Duran Duran, that’s cool too.” Besides relating to their stance, I liked these girls, too. They were entertaining, friendly and a hell of a lot more daring and spontaneous that anyone else I’d ever met in my life, male or female.

So I thought this would be a fun trip despite the chance of DD sucking out loud in concert. I was with fun people on a road trip to a show that took place at an amusement park with a band I LOVED at the time (Erasure) opening the show. It would not be a total loss; I was already guaranteed of that.

The trip was great, the rides were thrilling, Erasure was a lot of fun … check, check, check. Everything was clicking. The final part of the equation was now at the forefront … lights dimmed, time for the main attraction…

Let’s just say that the two hours that followed changed and converted me and my opinions. And it was the aforementioned tune, “The Chauffeur” that sealed the deal. Performed live, it turned into an eerie slice of minimalist theatrics that spoke louder and clearer than any light show or laser display could. It was the flashiest band of the decade stripping away all the excess and bringing it back down to the rudimentary basics. OK, Duran Duran and gang of cool chicks, I am with you. You win. I am powerless to all this now. I’ve been defeated. Here — I’ll say it. No, I’ll scream it loud and clear: “I LOVE DURAN DURAN!!!” OK, you happy?

Fast forward to the present day and I still love the band, to the extent of hardcore collecting of their records and memorabilia to multiple concert attendances on every tour since that night in July, 1987. You could say I’m hooked. So imagine my elation when the DELUXE , 2-CD edition of their milestone album “Rio” hit the shelves last week. Along with a slick DVD/CD package commemorating their earliest days of catapulting to concert headliners, both releases were enough to get me digging into my wallet to revel in the brilliance of the band’s ascent into worldwide mega-stars.

Listening to “Rio” now is quite a revelation. In what got dismissed as bouncy pop in mid-1982 is now heard with a different set of ears. Sure, the obvious influences are there: Roxy Music, David Bowie, Chic, Grace Jones. However, the ability to combine all those inspirations and create genre-bending dance music with unusually worded, obtuse lyrics that topped the charts in every corner of the globe was quite an accomplishment. The record still sounds fresh and imaginative today. Besides the obvious contributions on the part of the band, the production is really a subtle but integral part of this masterpiece. Producer Colin Thurston’s decision to lay the gloss on top of the music in varying doses is genius; things get slick and polished at the appropriate moments. But there’s no forgetting that this is a ROCK band. Andy Taylor’s guitars are crunchy and loud at the right times and Roger Taylor’s booming drums are in the forefront for the whole affair.

What a great way to memorialize the decade-defining album that changed the musical landscape for the remainder of the 1980’s. Casual fans and die-hards alike would be wise to treat themselves to this tasteful nod to 1982’s Rio.

And yes, I still am in contact with most of that group of girls (now ladies, thank you very much) who gave me the respectful yet forceful nudge into the world of Duran Duran. And yes, they still love Duran Duran. Juggling kids, careers and relationships doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for music and entertainment for them. However, they’ve already been alerted that a new Duran album and tour is imminent in 2010. So fill up the the gas tank ladies … the road is calling our names.

Courtesy Creative Loafing