Duran Duran had been around for a few years before I finally caught on. Two of my closest friends in elementary school, Rori and Missy, were devoted Duranies by the time we were in fifth grade, wearing their black satin logo jackets every single day no matter the weather. Those things were never washed and could probably stand up on their own from being fortified with lots of pre-teen sweat and 1980s hair spray! I was totally jealous that they had Duran Duran jackets and I didn’t.
I was head over heels in love with Ricky Schroder at the time and planned on marrying him in just a few years. There is an episode of Silver Spoons where The Ricker and his friend Derek use front row Duran tickets to pick up some cheerleaders while they’re on a trip to Chicago. That definitely would have worked on me! I was becoming fascinated with the band, especially its sexy blonde lead singer, Simon LeBon. (As you can tell, I had a thing for blondes back then!)
I wish I could remember which Duran song I heard first, because now it all seems like a big jumble of catchy songs, sexy videos, and glossy teen magazines. I am certain that I bought the special edition (with a totally awesome poster fold-out cover) 45 of “The Reflex” before anything else, and then I got Rio and Seven and the Ragged Tiger at the same time after that. Those records are inextricably linked for me, so I have to present them together as one piece of my personal history.
Upon listening to Rio and Seven for the first time in decades over the past two weeks, I have again become quite excited about Duran Duran’s awesomeness. I never stopped loving those songs of my youth, but hearing these albums back to back like this has really renewed my interest not only in Duran Duran as a major part of my life, but now enables me to place them in the proper context of popular music in the second half of the 20th century. I can hear their music as influenced by a previous generation of artists (“New Moon on Monday” starts out as an excellent tribute to 80s Bowie) and as an influence on performers in the last few decades. I never thought I’d look at them as an influence on Nine Inch Nails, but when I hear “New Religion” all I can think of is NIN. You know Trent was sitting in his bedroom blasting “Is There Something I Should Know” when he was in high school!
And let’s talk about those videos. Aside from Michael Jackson, Duran Duran made the best videos. They were always in some exotic location, featured flawless women, and were shot movie-style on film instead of video. These guys really took videos seriously, and were an early MTV favorite. My fellow fifth-graders and I were very impressed.
I was particularly impressed with Simon’s hotness. I even spiked my hair after seeing him in the video for “The Reflex.” But I was not allowed to dye my hair blonde, so my brunette tribute to Simon would have to do. When he was in a freak boating accident in 1985 I was so concerned about him! It was the worst thing to happen to me since Michael Jackson’s Pepsi hair fire of 1984.
The video for “Rio,” in which the boys star as the original metrosexuals, features stunning color and cinematography. And Simon looks especially sexy straddling the bow of that boat—yummy! The guys are all wearing pastel and white suits that seem to have been borrowed by Miami Vice a few years later. It’s a great look, and definitely helped put Duran Duran on the map. Oh, and Simon wears a string bikini bottom at one point, so that’s some more eye candy for you!
“Hungry Like the Wolf” has an Indiana Jones vibe to it, with Simon, of course, as the dashing and adventurous lead character. Watching this video now, I still get that special feeling in my lady bits while watching him sweating, bleeding, and rolling around in the forest with that wild woman. Once a sexy motherfucker, always a sexy motherfucker. Get it, Simon!
“Save A Prayer” is a really great song, and the beautifully-made video for it is just perfect.
My favorite song from Rio that I don’t remember is “My Own Way,” a super catchy tune that I find myself singing as soon as I wake up in the morning. The album version is the one I prefer, but there is another recording that has a disco beat to it, and that’s the one they actually made a video for. The one I like has a very modern feel, and I can hear shades of its influence on music of the past ten years.
So “The Reflex” video was completely mind-blowing to my sister and me. We really thought there was a waterfall going from the stage to the audience! I mean, all those fans were fucking drenched, so obviously there had to be a real waterfall there. My mother always told us it was special effects, but we would have none of that. Duran Duran were awesome enough to make that shit happen for real.
You can tell that this video was made in 1984. Not only does the band look very different from how they appeared in all the videos for Rio, sporting a bolder look with leather, chains, and a lot more hair—Simon looks particularly sexy in his white and black ensemble and single leather glove—but the female audience members are fiercely representing their love for the thrift store Cyndi Lauper and Madonna looks. Lots of lace gloves littered that crowd, and I know I was wearing the same shit to school.
The song itself is super fun to sing along to, even though the lyrics are among the most nonsensical of all time. But when we were singing in the 80s we didn’t think about that.
You’ve gone too far this time
But I’m dancing on the Valentine
I tell you somebody’s fooling around
With my chances on the danger line…
Um, what? All right, I guess that’s…something. But then what’s this?
So why don’t you use it?
Try not to bruise it
Buy time, don’t lose it
What, exactly, should I be using instead of bruising? Here is a possible explanation:
The reflex is an only child, he’s waiting in the park
The reflex is in charge of finding treasure in the dark
And watching over lucky clover—isn’t that bizarre?
Every little thing the reflex does leaves you answered with a ?
So…that’s what it’s about. The reflex is a kid in the park who is in charge of a treasure hunt? Cool. And he watches lucky clovers, which I’ll admit is quite bizarre. And I do still have questions about what exactly the reflex is doing, but I think it’s best to just leave them be.
“New Moon On Monday” is another song that gets stuck in my head, and that is not a complaint! The video is set in what seems to be some sort of police state, the closest Duran Duran ever came to political commentary about the Cold War.
I can’t really explain the video for “Union of the Snake,” but our hero Simon is wandering through some post-apocalyptic or futuristic or some shit world in the sand, where a lady in a bell hop uniform takes him on an elevator ride to a weird underground scene. Nick’s hair does look especially flawless in this video, so watch for that.
It’s so much fun to watch these videos and hear all this great music again. I’m a nostalgic person, obviously, so I am instantly reminded of my childhood and all the details of my record collection and the posters of my favorite stars that decorated my bedroom walls, the way I would dress to try to emulate them and express my love for them. Whenever I think about the first few years of MTV I laugh about how I used to keep track of how many times I saw every video, as if it were some sort of competition—I had indisputable proof that I was the biggest MTV fan, that I loved music and knew more about it than anyone!
I love you, Duran Duran, for giving me such a great childhood soundtrack. And thank you, Simon, for still being such a hot piece. You can get it any time you want.