Duran Duran :: Duran Duran
Quintessential Album Tuesday
A Little History:
Duran Duran is the debut album by the English pop rock band Duran Duran, released worldwide in 1981.
The album reached # 3 on the United Kingdom charts and remained in the UK Top 100 for 117 weeks, achieving platinum status by December 1982. The initial United States release was unsuccessful, but the album was reissued there in 1983 following the success of the band’s second album, Rio. This time it reached # 10 on the US Billboard 200, and remained on that chart for 87 weeks. Duran Duran was certified platinum by the RIAA in June 1985.
The band wrote and recorded demos for the album at AIR Studios in 1980, while one of their main influences, the band Japan, was recording the Gentlemen Take Polaroids album just down the hall.
The album was formally recorded in December 1980 at various recording studios in London (as well as Chipping Norton Studios) with record producer Colin Thurston, shortly after Duran Duran signed their record deal with EMI. In interviews, the band has recalled the struggle to continue recording after hearing of the murder of John Lennon on 8 December.
Music videos for Planet Earth and Careless Memories were also filmed in December.
The first pressing of 30,000 copies of the Japanese version (Toshiba/EMI EMS-91019) came with a color poster. There is a notation on the OBI that mentions this. Later issues of the album have the notation on the OBI removed and contain only a lyric insert and a sheet with a bio in Japanese, some photos and some instructions on how to do the ‘new romantic‘ dance like in the Planet Earth video.
The original American release included the Night Version of Planet Earth instead of the original, even if it is not listed as such. To The Shore was dropped from the US track-listing to accommodate the-now increased length of Planet Earth. Earlier alternate titles for Anyone Out There and Night Boat are used.
Duran Duran was re-released in the USA on April 25 1983, after the success of their second album Rio in America gave the band another chance to market their first album there. The album had two changes to the original American track listing: Capitol Records replaced the Night Version of Planet Earth with the original single version. Most notably, the then-current Duran Duran single, Is There Something I Should Know? was added to the album’s track listing and “To the Shore” was removed.
The album also featured updated cover art designed by Malcolm Garrett, using the newer “double D” band logo featured on the Seven and the Ragged Tiger album and Is There Something I Should Know? single. The cover photo showed the evolution in the band’s image since 1981. In contrast to the earlier artwork, the new image positioned each band member equally close to the camera, and demonstrated the variety of looks within the band, from tanned adventurers to rouged androgynes. This reflected the band’s teen-focused marketing which promoted the image and personality of individual band members, recognizing that “everyone is someone’s favorite”.
Editor’s Note: It was the reissue that I first owned, bought after I received the Rio album as a birthday present. I searched long and hard for the UK version, finally finding it at a Swap Meet which featured an Import Music booth, that I would regularly frequent after, buying up imported 12″ singles from the UK, Japan and Australia, along with many a poster and Japanese picture book of the band.
The first single of the band’s career was Planet Earth (released on February 2, 1981), which reached # 12 on the UK charts.
The band followed up with the release of Careless Memories on April 20, 1981, but it only reached UK # 37.
The third single from this album was the most successful. Girls on Film, released July 13th, went to # 5 in the UK. The video for the single was directed by Godley & Creme and was filmed in August, just two weeks after MTV was launched in the United States, before anyone knew what an impact the music channel would have on the industry. The raunchy “soft porn” video which featured semi-naked women created an uproar and a heavily edited “day version” was aired on MTV (though the uncut version did receive regular airings on the Playboy Channel), and the band enjoyed and capitalized on the controversy.
All songs written and composed by Duran Duran. One of the band’s trademarks is equality among band members, always crediting the entire band on all song writing and composition, and seeking to have equal images of each member featured (though the press would not always follow suit).
What Makes This “Quintessential” In Three Sentences:
Besides the fact that this album was one of the key soundtracks to my adolescence, the album is more than that, and transcends far beyond that, continuing to be an album I still reach for, here in my mid-forties, and not just for nostalgic reasons. These songs are both a reflection of the band’s influences (David Bowie, Japan, The Velvet Underground, Chic, Blondie, Roxy Music, among others), and the music, and musicians, they have influenced (The “Second” British Invasion, New Wave, New Romantic, The Killers, Scissor Sisters, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Sounds, Goldfrapp, Panic at the Disco, Lostprophets, among others). There is poetry in the lyrics, a bass line like absolutely no other, and songs that are complex and danceable.
My Top 5 Favorite Songs:
1. Careless Memories
2. Girls on Film
3. Friends of Mine
4. Planet Earth
5. Night Boat (live)
Editor’s note: Original, and original video, have been removed from Youtube. Seek it out if you can, it is well worth a watch (the music video includes an excerpt from Shakespeare, and plays like a zombie horror film).