"Maybe you should have some newfound respect for Duran Duran"
March 11, 2017 8:21 AM   Subscribe


 
Gotdamn! I have some newfound respect for Duran Duran.... and a new way to waste a lot of time listening to every other episode of this show.
posted by wabbittwax at 9:03 AM on March 11 [6 favorites]


The "Classic Albums" documentary series does an episode on the Rio album, it's worth watching if you can find it online.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:20 AM on March 11 [3 favorites]


I kinda woulda liked a touch more musical/production analysis and a bit less joking about shagging models, but this was still pretty cool. Thanks for posting, hippybear.

(And yeah, DD got a lot of shit (at least in America) for being the good-looking guys who got wildly popular doing a version of what other bands (Ultravox, early Simple Minds, Visage) had (arguably) done first - enough so that a lot of people & critics just assumed they were basically a boy band with little actual talent or ability. Which of course was not the case.)
posted by soundguy99 at 9:24 AM on March 11


I still love that song.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:27 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


Their musical chops really are pretty amazing and tasteful. The lyrics never really held up under scrutiny as being on par with the musical technique for me, but this is great, because yeah, even fans don't really appreciate what a monster of a musical outfit Duran Duran can be at their best.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:34 AM on March 11


I miss saxophone in pop... (This was neat, thanks.)
posted by gemmy at 9:34 AM on March 11 [5 favorites]


I lost my shit when M83 brought a sax guy to their festival leg of the tour for the end of Midnight City. It just wasn't the same when a few weeks earlier they didn't have him.
posted by lmfsilva at 10:04 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


When we were kids, we were blaming Duran Duran for pushing out quality rock 'n' roll with their flashy substanceless MTV synthesizer crap.

A few years went by, and we realized rock on the radio had been showing its own way out, and Duran Duran were good musicians and songwriters.

There are 20 of these Studio Session sessions, and I'm probably going to listen to every single one. I love deep dives into songs like this.
posted by kurumi at 10:12 AM on March 11 [3 favorites]


So you know how everyone’s got that point growing up at which they suddenly cotton on to music as a thing? This album was that inflection point for me. Twelve years old and Rio hit me like a ton of bricks. I'd grown up with music around me, but something about this album, and that point in my life, matched up perfectly. Life was never the same after that; the world of music really opened up.

Never did pay much attention to bass or bass lines, but it was some time in the late nineties that I was listening to this album when the amazing bass work through the entire album suddenly sunk in. And that was the point I really began to reevaluate my impressions of them as musicians. What I had dismissed as simply my weak fondness for the group that woke me up to pop music, I had to rethink—because goddam but that is some amazing work hidden under their pop veneer. I'm so glad to see others taking note too, because it’s been a long time in the wilderness.

I will always have a tremendous fondness for this entire album. The weakest song on it, to me, is Hungry Like the Wolf, and if a perfect pop gem like that one is your weakest, well… With Rio being the-album-that-woke-me-up, I’ve never grown tired of it and likely never will. At one point that was a source of embarrassment considering their reputation as a pretty-boy band, but after noticing just how criminally underrated they are for their talent, that’s no longer true in the least. There are far worse choices to have as your one true album.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 10:24 AM on March 11 [11 favorites]


Who didn't think John Taylor was a good bass player? Most musicians I knew had some little amount of respect for Duran Duran, but everybody liked John Taylor (and the other Taylors to some degree).
posted by bongo_x at 10:32 AM on March 11 [8 favorites]


I'm a big DD appreciator, and this is a cool breakdown of Rio. : ) However, I'm gonna be that guy and sayyy... if the drummer played to a click initially, first, and it was not recorded along with the other instruments simultaneously, somebody, maybe, could have spliced the tape if there was an error. Tape splicing was/is a crazy painstaking art, but doable. That doesn't mean his drumming isn't super nice, just that editing was possible. No idea whether/where any was done on this record, tho.
posted by bitterkitten at 10:34 AM on March 11


They should do "The Reflex", because a whole exegesis can be made about the dialectic created when deciding against finding religion while under the influence of drugs can be problematic or not.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:05 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


Tape splicing was/is a crazy painstaking art, but doable.

people got crazy good at it
posted by thelonius at 11:44 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


if the drummer played to a click initially, first, and it was not recorded along with the other instruments simultaneously, somebody, maybe, could have spliced the tape if there was an error.

It almost certainly was edited like crazy, I'd bet money on it, but so was 95% of everything you've ever heard, at least since the 70's and especially in the last 20 years. That doesn't take anything away from it for me.
posted by bongo_x at 12:03 PM on March 11 [2 favorites]


What do you mean 'newfound' respect?
posted by signal at 12:08 PM on March 11 [4 favorites]


I was wondering why this guy's religion was important enough to mention in the OP.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:10 PM on March 11 [2 favorites]


Maybe you should have some newfound respect for Duran Duran

I used to find them mostly pointless but harmless, until back in 2011 when I for professional reasons found myself in the middle of the live stream of their 2011 online Unstaged show, just when this song started, and the combination of song structure and buildup, Simon Le Bon, Kelis, David Lynch, and (iirc) the late hour completely blew my mind. I got so excited that I even watched a long interview where they discussed music business and internet's impact on the industry, and made a lot of sense, so while I'm far from a regular fan, my respect for them isn't exactly newfound.
posted by effbot at 12:11 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


I got to see them play live on acid once just out of high school. That was the first time I really noticed how great their instrumentation was. I was a fan in middle school, but I hadn't started performing music yet by then and couldn't really appreciate musical technique; once I could and came back to them, mind blown a little.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:24 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


bongo_x: It almost certainly was edited like crazy, I'd bet money on it, but so was 95% of everything you've ever heard, at least since the 70's and especially in the last 20 years. That doesn't take anything away from it for me.

Is this really the case? I know first-hand that a lot of music is edited to various degrees, but I find this concept of "most everything has been edited" to be very weird. Is there any proof of this? I know a few drummers and bassists that can play similar (and more difficult) parts like what's in Rio for the same amount of time without the need for editing their parts. It's almost as if people forget that very talented musicians do exist, and there are still to this day albums recorded live with very little editing. I've recorded death metal bands that required their drums to be entirely quantized due to the fact that the drummer was trying to do things they couldn't pull off and we were on a time constraint, but I've also recorded bassists who could play more rhythmically complex lines without any editing whatsoever, so I totally understand both worlds. This especially comes to vocals, where someone has recorded a take that is 90% great, with only one flub that was then auto-tuned, and on the flip side had someone pull off a 100% vocal performance requiring no editing whatsoever.

I guess I just find it strange to assume that everything has been edited, although I understand why people think that.
posted by gucci mane at 12:26 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


I think it's more that most pop music has been heavily edited, or at least a lot of pop has. Someone like Ty Segall isn't necessarily who we're talking about if we say music has been heavily edited.

Anecdotally, I interned in a recording studio in LA when I was 19, and there was a tooooon of editing of every part in Pro Tools. The drum part, for example, would get chopped up beat by beat to eliminate ambient noise between drum/cymbal hits, and quantized. The vocals were heavily autotuned. Guitar and bass were recorded in short snippets, a few measures at a time, at most (and the producer would have them tune between every take). Sometimes they'd punch in just a short phrase if the timing was even slightly off.

It's not like they were bad musicians (well, the lead guitarist kind of sucked), it's just that part of the slickness of the sound was in making sure everything was absolutely perfect. And a big part of the music industry is built around having this very slick, polished sound. I remember when that guy from the Libertines, I forget his name, was recording a new album, they were making a big deal about how he wasn't going to just be snapping everything to the beat in Pro Tools. Like, it was a big artistic statement that he was just going to do things in long takes and let tiny mistakes slip in.

Obviously this is just one dude's anecdote from the mid-2000s, but the way this studio was run was far from extraordinary at the time. Also, one hard rock band turned out to be Christian rock: "well, we're not Christian rock, but we're a rock band that happens to be Christian." But that's a story for another time.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 12:48 PM on March 11 [5 favorites]


Did I read somewhere that Simon Le Bon was the weak link in the band, in that he often sang slightly flat, and they had to fix it in post?

Did I dream that?
posted by wittgenstein at 1:30 PM on March 11


He's a bit off key in spots in this video; I presume this is the best they could do (if something was done) - I suspect it is just hidden by vocal chorus fx and the harmony tracks in the final mix.
posted by bitterkitten at 1:43 PM on March 11


"Did I read somewhere that Simon Le Bon was the weak link in the band, in that he often sang slightly flat, and they had to fix it in post?"

He's often out of tune, but aside from he fact that they couldn't fix it in post (other than trying to mask the pitch issues by doubling the track — since this was WELL before autotune), they didn't fix it in post. He's clearly out of tune on a lot of songs.
posted by jonathanhughes at 1:57 PM on March 11


In jazz, they call those blue notes and claim they were done on purpose. Who is to know, really? He's still able to sing the same songs in their original key which is astonishing at his age now.
posted by hippybear at 2:09 PM on March 11 [3 favorites]


Now having doubts as to which Roger Taylor is the better drummer.
posted by mushhushshu at 2:13 PM on March 11


Blue notes are notes that aren't technically in the key, but still sound good (like a flatted third or fifth). Simon LeBon is just plain old singing out of tune.

Regardless, I'm a HUGE Duran Duran fan. John Taylor was one of my biggest influences as a bass player, and Nick Rhodes' keyboard work was and is some of the most creative stuff when it comes to background textures and interesting sounds.
posted by jonathanhughes at 2:15 PM on March 11


I should have newfound respect for Duran Duran? Well, after taking this in, I will admit that perhaps now I d-do... Sorry. I will admit that perhaps I d-d-do... Dammit, what I mean is I D-D-DO-DO-D-DOOO! D-D-DO-DOO-D-DOOO!
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:15 PM on March 11 [6 favorites]


Taylor's basslines are amazing. He has Bernard Edwards' bass and Edwards was a big influence on him.
posted by persona au gratin at 2:38 PM on March 11 [4 favorites]


Simon has far better pitch now since he had vocal problems and had to stop singing and speaking for a long period back in 2011.
posted by cherryflute at 3:12 PM on March 11 [2 favorites]


This reminds me of me and my friends sitting around and listening to songs we like. Of course we are always totally charming and funny and knowledgable and instead of annoyingly talking over the music the entire time... (just kidding.)

Also I too have to take issue with John Taylor being "the least applauded bass player of all time?" COME ON! I'm a bass player, I love him and consider him a big influence, and many of my contemporaries feel similarly, even if they're not huge DD fans...

One more thing: I am sure SOME of this stuff has been edited, but it was WAY WAY WAY more time consuming and expensive to edit stuff like drums back then. Being a good drum editor was a very specialized skill that many producers/engineers didn't have, you'd have to call in a "drum doctor" to do most anything beyond the completely trivial. It was just a totally different thing back then, I guess....
posted by capnsue at 4:03 PM on March 11 [3 favorites]


ALSO WHERE DO YOU GET THE ISOLATED TRACKS LIKE THIS AAAAAH I WANT THEM
posted by capnsue at 4:04 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


Hi from Detroit. The seminal techno radio show "Fast Forward" favored Duran Duran very early on.
posted by texorama at 4:44 PM on March 11


THIS IS SO GREAT I AM DOWNLOADING EVERY EPISODE OF THIS RIGHT NOW except the Alice In Chains one obviously a man has to have some standards.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:59 PM on March 11 [3 favorites]


Anecdotally, I interned in a recording studio in LA when I was 19, and there was a tooooon of editing of every part in Pro Tools.

it really does seem to be the standard way of doing things and it results in sterile perfectionism

i think people are underestimating what real good engineers could do back in the tape era - matt lange's perfectionism with def leppard in the 80s is legendary - drum hits processed to death, power chords punched in one by one, just crazy stuff

playing live and playing in the studio are absolutely different and many good musicians have trouble in the studio
posted by pyramid termite at 6:07 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


Love this. Thank you. Anyone have recommendations for similar breakdowns? Ill be through all 20 before end Sunday.
posted by batou_ at 6:15 PM on March 11


multi-tracks are available of a lot of songs out there
posted by pyramid termite at 6:18 PM on March 11


Sorry, I was not clear. I'm looking for the breakdown with some commentary/perspective.
posted by batou_ at 6:31 PM on March 11


"Sorry, I was not clear. I'm looking for the breakdown with some commentary/perspective."

The Classic Albums series is fantastic. There are bits on youtube, but you can find them on DVD on Netflix. Each episode is about a particular album, and the band goes into the studio with the master tapes and brings up individual tracks and talks about them. Here's a good example:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=waIBA6_0GQc
posted by jonathanhughes at 6:53 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


I am not a very knowledgeable aficionado or anything, but the reason I like stuff like Tom Waits' later catologue is that it is intentionally not like this, and the frailty of the broken effort is something special. Too slick and it loses the humanity.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:59 PM on March 11


Any band who could do something like Lonely In Your Nightmare? Yeah, total respect.
posted by droplet at 8:31 PM on March 11 [2 favorites]


Love this. Thank you. Anyone have recommendations for similar breakdowns?

Song Exploder!
posted by Jon Mitchell at 8:48 PM on March 11 [4 favorites]


So that's what cocaine sounds like.

Props to J Taylor, always cool with the Aria Pro in pre-headless glory. The rest . . . mmmm well it's definitely glorious excess.

Okay, and I'll take the sax. The rest on a gift certificate.
posted by petebest at 8:57 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


Did I read somewhere that Simon Le Bon was the weak link in the band, in that he often sang slightly flat, and they had to fix it in post?

You might be thinking of this Sound on Sound article written about the recording another Duran Duran track, "The Reflex". It's a great read.

According to the late Alex Sadkin, producer:
"There are some vocalists — including Ferry and, at the most extreme, Bob Dylan — whose voices aren't very tuneful but have plenty of character, and Simon falls somewhere between the two. He doesn't have a very characterful voice although it's certainly recognisable as him. It's a bit nasal and a bit forced, but I admire the way in which he stuck at it. He had to really work hard to develop a style, and eventually people grew used to him — he knew what he could and couldn't do. He is not a naturally gifted singer, and as I'm sure he himself would admit, he doesn't have great pitch. It's not unusual for him to sing out of tune, so when I worked with him we would use quite a lot of effects on his voice; mainly Eventide Harmonizer with a very small percentage pitch-shift up or down or both, in addition to the normal step delays and reverbs and possibly even some chorus. Remember, these were the days before Auto-Tune. By making the pitch ambiguous, the Harmonizer helped disguise the fact that his singing was flat.
So, in other words, LeBon's "dance on the eventide" was really a confession.
posted by JoeZydeco at 11:40 PM on March 11 [5 favorites]


Here is a link to the above-mentioned Classic Albums episode way on the recording of Rio.

And here are the band playing Rio live in 1982 - (presumably completely live) just to help you gauge how much of the sound the was a product of the studio.

Its really interesting to hear the song broken down like that and I like Christian James Hand's assertion that we could all be listening to hits comprising just Nick Rhodes parts some time in the future.
posted by rongorongo at 12:47 AM on March 12


This post is great and you should feel great for posting it
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:00 AM on March 12 [7 favorites]


The joke on Rhodes' name gets his real name wrong. It was Bates, not Masters.
posted by pracowity at 5:52 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]


John Taylor was one of my fave bass players on Rock School.
posted by Hutch at 6:13 AM on March 12


Switched on Pop also does great deep dives into songs. I tend to like it more than Song Exploder because there is more music theory and not just production.
posted by beisny at 7:22 AM on March 12 [2 favorites]


Simon LeBon is just plain old singing out of tune.

Doesn't stop Duran Duran fans from ranting about how it is the guests that are clearly autotuned, like in the comments to the Unstaged clip I posted earlier, where people are upset with the "autotuned RAP people" without for a second noticing the heavy processing and backing vocals on Le Bon's parts (both vocalists are processed in that clip, which works perfectly in context, but I somehow doubt Kelis needs autotune to hit the right notes...). And of course, only a few songs later, both Le Bon and Lynch come undone...
posted by effbot at 9:52 AM on March 12


how to sell tickets to oldies shows in the desert
posted by Fupped Duck at 12:28 PM on March 12


For those looking for more, apparently Christian Hand does a similar show with another station. Here's the podcast link.
posted by sourwookie at 2:27 PM on March 12


It occurs to me after listening to a handful of these that a lot of the tracks (esp vox and guitar) have effects on them. Effects are rarely put onto a track while tracking, but are usually added in the mix--meaning effects normally wouldn't be found in an original isolated track.

Perhaps these tracks were files taken from Rock Band or a similar video game? That would explain why they would have effects and also explain how an FM radio station (even if it is LA) would get their hands on them.
posted by sourwookie at 4:11 PM on March 12


That does seem to be how most "stems" or "stem tracks" get released into the wild, unless the artist has specifically released them for remix purposes. (Pretty sure NIN has done that at least a couple of times.)
posted by soundguy99 at 6:20 PM on March 12 [2 favorites]


"Rio" was featured on Band Hero, which it would not surprise me to learn these stems were obtained from somehow. I worked on some of the "Hero" titles, and it was often surprising how complex many pop songs I'd thought were simple were, and how hilarious isolated vocals could be.

Trying to play the drums from Rio was a humbling experience.
posted by Durhey at 1:13 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


Taylor's basslines are amazing. He has Bernard Edwards' bass and Edwards was a big influence on him.


the Music Man is of course the bass, but, iirc, wikipedia says that Edwards also played a B.C. Rich on occasion, which is not what I would have guessed for a second line bass for him, as I will forever associate it with half-assed high school metal bands in paneled dens.
posted by thelonius at 2:01 PM on March 13


I don't know how old you are, but I've blown a couple of people's minds by telling them B.C. Rich was originally a high end guitar maker played by many of the biggest stars in the 70's.
posted by bongo_x at 3:38 PM on March 13


well, they just sent me an AARP card in the mail.....I had been ignorant of their pre-80's existence. In fairness, naming a guitar brand the "Bich" was something they did, not me
posted by thelonius at 5:40 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


NIN's stem releases for fan remixes also had their effects pre-rendered. But they were hella fun to play with anyway.
posted by infinitewindow at 6:05 PM on March 13


Effects are rarely put onto a track while tracking, but are usually added in the mix--meaning effects normally wouldn't be found in an original isolated track.

that depends - in the us, people tend to wait to do the effects, but in the uk, it used to be pretty common to print with fx, at least some of them - and once you go back to the time period where they were tracking on 8 or even 4 track machines, they pretty much had to commit to a sound early

not really sure of what the set up was on led zeppelin ii, but the first album was recorded on 4 track and it's a masterpiece of audio engineering - the desk they used at olympic studios in 68 was 12 to 4 - by led zeppelin ii, they were up to 8 track, i think
posted by pyramid termite at 6:11 PM on March 13


Is there anywhere online to listen to the hour-long programs that are occasionally referenced? I haven't had any luck finding them on my own.
posted by Lucinda at 7:21 AM on March 21


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