parodies by nacrowe
i first became aware of the ENGLISH NEW WAVE band DURAN DURAN when i the singles from their then-current album DURAN DURAN [THE WEDDING ALBUM] (PARLOPHONE, 1993) playing throughout DISNEYLAND's TOMORROWLAND as a child. its interesting because that album is a bit SUBDUED and sonically much of a down-tempo departure from the celebrated core elements of their earlier sound. i just felt "COME UNDONE" and "ORDINARY WORLD" were catchy songs and made an impact on me as a child.
for whatever reason DURAN DURAN don't get the credit they deserve as ACCOMPLISHED musicians or songwriters. maybe its because they were so globally MASSIVE and commercially SUCCESSFUL back in the 1980s and had lots of young female fans. i dont know, i wasnt there. like everything, i heard their music out of context when i was in high school living in KUWAIT of all places. what really struck me about their sound on records like their debut DURAN DURAN (review linked HERE) and RIO (EMI, 1982) was the FUNKY and PROPULSIVE bass lines of JOHN TAYLOR and the LUSH layered keyboard pad textures of NICK RHODES. the combination of those two brought a sound that was both KINETIC and CATCHY while being SOPHISTICATED and well-ORCHESTRATED. because of such i always considered DURAN DURAN to be INTELLIGENTLY constructed pop music.
still not sure why this band doesnt get the attention or acclaim they deserve, but my guess is that the context of the 1980s was such that there were other "serious" artists during that era that had "SERIOUS" socio-political messages about the state of the world, i.e. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, U2, DIRE STRAITS, MADONNA, PRINCE and even THE SMITHS. for me, listening to DURAN DURAN is just fun and i dont overthink it.
as GEORGE CLINTON once so astutely surmised, "FREE YOUR MIND AND YOUR ASS WILL FOLLOW." and that was the general fun vibe of this episode from two and a half years ago.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
if you are fan of music then you already know about NILE RODGERS. he is arguably one of the great composers, arrangers and musicians of the 20th century with a list of musical collaborations that spans from DAVID BOWIE, SISTER SLEDGE, DEBORAH HARRY, MADONNA and BRYAN FERRY to AVICII, DURAN DURAN, DAFT PUNK, GRACE JONES, THE B-52s and even his legendary 70s outfit CHIC. he is very much a musician's musician and no less a guitar-playing connoisseur than JOHNNY MARR named his son after him. just let that one sink in for a moment.
but until recently his public profile was behind the scenes in production.
the documentary NILE RODGERS: THE HITMAKER (BBC, 2013) is attempt to change all that. filmed during a break from rehearsing for a worldwide CHIC tour at time he was fighting prostate cancer, this film very much feels like an opportunity for the man and his admirers to give their props should the worst happen (thankfully he survived and continues to work to present day).
and survive the dude has. raised by heroin-addicted, bohemian parents in MANHATTAN, he grew up intimately aware of street life and drug culture along with the lexicon of music by devouring his parents JAZZ and CLASSICAL vinyl records. their is an aspirational quality to the uplifting, kinetic rhythms of CHIC and their escapist messaging to the audience of the emerging DISCO scene all over NYC. their is an almost symbiotic relationship between his guitar work and the pulsing, driving FUNK rhythms of bassist and collaborator BERNARD EDWARDS. They rode that initial wave in the late 1970s until the xenophobic, anti-BLACK and anti-LGBT DISCO SUX wave effectively stopped them in the their tracks. this led to his production career which was jumpstarted by DAVID BOWIE with the "LET'S DANCE" record basically has sustained him since as an in-demand writer, arranger, composer, guest musician and producer.
what i appreciated most about this film was how past collaborators spoke of his uncanny ear to see space in a mix where he could contribute a guitar line or texture. these small contributions are the details that make a record pop and although maybe unnoticed by your average listener, these are the sonic details that musicians strive to achieve in the studio. they notice. participants included that of BRYAN FERRY, JOHNNY MARR, DEBBIE HARRY and CHRIS STEIN of BLONDIE, JOHN TAYLOR of DURAN DURAN, STEVE WINWOOD, LA ROUX, NORMA JEAN WRIGHT of CHIC and NILE RODGERS himself.
I think it is touching that this documentary was showcased before his biggest hit in decades, "GET LUCKY" by FRENCH electronic duo DAFT PUNK, was released to worldwide admiration. just proves the dude always has something up his sleeve.