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Duran Duran Singles Ranked, 21-30

Clearly something is wrong with me because there are more and more well known Duran Duran tunes on my list as we get closer to the top. Typically, the tops of my lists have been a pretty decent split of the obscure and the beloved but, no, I’ve covered the vast majority of the obscure already.

Pretty much every song from this point forth is a song I really dig.

30. Big Thing

From 1988’s Big Thing, Fourth single UK and Mexico Only

Duran Duran on this track: Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor

As I’ve mentioned, Big Thing is an underrated album.  Indeed, it was a poorly received album at the time of its release and is still widely panned.  It doesn’t quite sound like their first three records (those “classic line-up, classic sound” albums are sort of a set) and the production is inconsistent, but they wrote (in my opinion) some pretty darn likable songs. Three of those songs are in this ranking segment.  The production of the title track to “Big Thing” sounds a little tinny to me in 2017, but the chanted chorus and backing vocals really make this catchy as all get out. I feel like the band lacked confidence on Notorious but sound relaxed, seedy and even a little dangerous on this and other tracks from Big Thing.

Drummer Sterling Campbell and guitarist Warren Cuccurullo debuted on this album but didn’t become full members of the band until the next album, Liberty.

29. I Don’t Want Your Love

From 1988’s Big Thing, First Single

Duran Duran on this track: Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor

One of the things that I enjoy about Big Thing is that John Taylor really has a chance to play some funky bass.  Duran Duran embraced late 80’s hour music on several tracks from this record, perhaps most successfully on this song.  I remember this video got a bunch of airplay on MTV but I was a little perplexed about what I was watching.  Really, the years 86-88 weren’t especially happy ones for fans of early 80’s new wave.  Many of the classic new wave bands were having their sounds washed out into a sort of brown goo.  Its like they rejected some of the colder keyboard work and tried to replace it with disco flourishes to mixed results.  “I Don’t Want Your Love” happened to be good, but it could have easily gone the other way.

28. Ordinary World

From 1993’s Duran Duran (The Wedding Album), First Single

Duran Duran on this track: Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Warren Cuccurullo

“Ordinary World” was the song that sparked Duran Duran’s post-Liberty “come-back” in 1993.  When Simon Le Bon sang this in Honolulu recently, he dedicated it to his late mother.  I was familiar with the song but didn’t quite know what it was about so I just assumed it was a tune his ma had particularly liked.  Turns out, “Ordinary World” is a song about loss that Le Bon initially wrote about his friend, David Miles.  Miles (who passed in 1986) was also the inspiration for the lyrics of “Out Of My Mind” (#36) and “Do You Believe in Shame” (coming up).  The so-called “Wedding Album” was a huge hit for Duran Duran and, had internal tensions not interfered with the band’s creative output, could have propelled them into greater 90’s pop-success.  Duran Duran had found a sound that wasn’t exactly rock and roll but that fit in nicely with the top 40 zeitgeist of 1993.  Anyhow, I like “Ordinary World” more now than I did 27 years ago (I was into grunge and Brit-pop in ’93) and that’s largely due to my increased respect of Le Bon as a singer.  He sounds great on this track.

27. Union Of The Snake

From 1983’s Seven and the Ragged Tiger, First Single

Duran Duran on this track: Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Andy Taylor, Roger Taylor

What are they singing about?  What is even going on here?  Poking around the Internet, it seems that Simon Le Bon was singing about tantric sex.  Well, ok then.

So, back in the early 80’s, most of the new music we heard was still on the radio.  MTV was a thing, but to have MTV, you had to have cable TV and most people in my town did not.  It wasn’t unusual for a bunch of us to go visit a friend who had cable specifically to watch MTV or Night Flight or any number of cable shows that included music segments.  Anyhow, since we heard most of our new music on the radio, we relied on DJ’s identifying the song title and artist to know what we were listening to.

In 1983, David Bowie put out the song and album “Let’s Dance.”  I didn’t know this at the time, but drummer Roger Taylor based the drum track on “Union of the Snake” on that tune.  This makes what I’m about to confess a little more forgivable.  Between not hearing the DJ identify the artist and the similarity in rhythm, I assumed for about a month that this was a new Bowie song.  I did the same thing for “New Moon On Monday” (which makes a little more sense because Le Bon is singing in a lower register on that track).  I learned this wasn’t a Bowie song when I sang a snippet of it to a friend (who loathed Duran Duran) and received “never, never sing that song again” as a response.

Anyhow, this is one of three songs that I really wished Duran Duran had played in concert here in Honolulu last month.

26. My Own Way

1981 stand-along single, later added to Rio

Duran Duran on this track: Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Andy Taylor, Roger Taylor

You might like this song more than me, but we both like it more than Duran Duran.  It was a big hit for them and they consciously chose not to place it on their Greatest collection.   Nick Rhodes has expressed some dismay about the fact that this song was a bigger hit than “Skin Trade” (#60).  Artists aren’t always the ones in the best position to judge their own songs – Robert Smith of The Cure, for example, prefers “Mint Car” (43) to “Friday I’m In Love” (23).  Pour your heart and soul and sweat into a song and it doesn’t always matter because people like what they like.  The single (linked above) is different from the version eventually included on Rio – its a bit faster and includes “disco strings” (see the Wikipedia link above).  The single is superior to the album version, in my opinion.

25. All You Need Is Now

From 2010’s All You Need Is Now, First Single

Duran Duran on this track: Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Roger Taylor

I’m a sucker for counter melodies and, indeed, this track has a great vocal counter melody, particularly as it reaches its climax and Simon Le Bon goes a little off the rails.  You’ll know when it happens – he enters his upper range and leaves the actual fixed chorus to John Taylor.  “All You Need Is Now” is the best song from the album of the same name.  Its one of the catchiest later-day Duran Duran songs and features one of their best lyrics (and I don’t often praise their lyrics).  Simon Le Bon sings about an older person dancing like they did in their youth and one can’t help but think of both the band and their aging fan base (I am a member of that aging fan base).  Hot shot 21st century producer Mark Ronson helped the band update their sound in such a way that it both connects to their classic era and also sound current.  Really, one of their best tracks.

24. Falling Down (featuring Justin Timberlake)

From 2007’s Red Carpet Massacre, First Single

Duran Duran on this track: Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Roger Taylor

Justin Timberlake sings backing vocals and helped produce this song.  I just love Nick Rhodes’ whir whirs on the chorus so much.  The Taylor and Taylor rhythm section kind of own this song, but the whole thing is hella-catchy.  The song was not the hit they hoped it would be – maybe it was that Andy Taylor departed again before Red Carpet Massacre or maybe the world had just moved on again.  As I wrote earlier, people like what they like.

23. Do You Believe in Shame?

From 1988’s Big Thing, Third Single

Duran Duran on this track: Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor

Aw, man, ok, so there was this film called Tequila Sunrise .  I went to see it with my friend Holly.  The film was meh, but one of the better moments was when “Do You Believe In Shame” played over some maudlin sequence or other.  When I managed to get this song recorded onto a mix tape, I went to Holly and explained how much I liked the song and how I’d seen it in this movie called Tequila Sunrise and she had to stop me to remind me that I saw it with her.  Clearly, I don’t believe in shame.

Simon Le Bon wrote the lyrics of this song about his friend David Miles who had recently passed away.  I did not know this until this past month and the song makes infinite more sense now.  Its a sad, haunting song.  It also inspired a lawsuit due to the similarity between the chord structure of this song and that of Dale Hawkins’ “Susie Q.”  I hear the similarity but I also feel like these are such totally different songs that its tough for me to believe this was intentional.  It rarely is intentional.

22. Election Day

From 1985’s So Red The Rose, First Single

Duran Duran Arcadia on this track: Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, Roger Taylor

Grace Jones is a featured vocalist on this song.  That’s almost all I need to say about it.  The best Arcadia single was also their first and biggest hit.  I’m amazed that this song got any airplay at all – its almost anti-pop.  I love it for that.  I think it’s significant that Simon Le Bon felt this excellent album was “the most pretentious album ever made. ”  That’s something of a value statement that suggests that he Abe the band made a conscious choice to be less pretentious  (and thus more commercial) on their subsequent albums (Notorious,  Big Thing and Liberty all came next).

21. Night Boat

From 1981’s Duran Duran, Released in video form

Duran Duran on this track: Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Andy Taylor, Roger Taylor

In the early 80’s, there were some amazing English  synth – pop bands.  Soft Cell, Depeche Mode,  The Human League, and dozens of others.   They were influenced by Bowie,  Gary Human, Kraftwerk and (again) dozens of others.   Nick Rhodes’ distinctive keyboard work on the first three Duran Duran albums (and on the Arcadia album) is from this tradition.   Some of my favorite early songs by the band (including this one) are moody synthesizer pieces.   “Night Boat” is a kind of sinister piece the likes of which are rarely released as singles but this one was and hurray for that.

Coming Soon: Your top ten is probably not in my 11-20 range.

Duran Duran Singles Ranked: 61-6451-6041-5031-4021-3011-201-10

One comment

  1. I think I could’ve ignored everything before the top 30, because I was pretty meh with those. This was the first section that I really enjoyed listening to, even the songs I wasn’t already familiar with.

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