Duranalysis: My Own Way

Am I really going to drum up a thousand words or so on Duran Duran’s “My Own Way” video? I am, aren’t I?


Not that there’s anything particularly wrong with “My Own Way,” which was the first single released off of the 1982 Rio album. It’s a fun, throwaway video for a fun, throwaway song. It’s a little surprising to discover that Russell Mulcahy, the man behind the epic mayhem of “Wild Boys” and the large-scale exotic spectacles of “Rio” and “Hungry Like the Wolf,” directed this agreeable trifle, which looks like it was shot in a couple hours in a high school auditorium on a shoestring budget (expenses: red and black paint, confetti, glitter, headbands…). Like “Careless Memories” and “Night Boat,” the video for “My Own Way” didn’t make it onto Duran Duran’s 2003 Greatest DVD collection. It’s neither a mild embarrassment like “Careless Memories,” nor an overlooked gem like “Night Boat.” It simply exists, in an inoffensive and modestly entertaining kind of way.

“My Own Way” is a straightforward performance video with a few extra frills thrown in for good measure. Frill #1: We open with a cape-twirling matador, who is played by Adrian Paul, the handsome star of Highlander: The Series. Apart from helming a buttload of Duran Duran videos (that’s a technical unit of measurement, I believe, buttload), Russell Mulcahy is still best known for directing the first couple of Highlander films; I don’t know anything about Mulcahy’s level of involvement in the subsequent television series or whether Paul’s presence here had any bearing on his future casting, but at the very least, it’s a fun coincidence.

Wow. Check out the amount of makeup on John! He’s tarted up like the Whore of Babylon, and I highly approve. While I have no proof, I somehow suspect this was Nick’s doing. Not long after this, when Rio broke through in a big way and the band became a worldwide phenomenon, most of the Durans, John included, backed off a bit from the whole pretty-boys-in-heavy-makeup image. Nick, of course, cheerfully started wearing even more makeup, just to compensate for his slacker bandmates. This is why Nick is now and ever shall be my favorite Duran.

John looks smoking-hot here. Kind of aloof and snooty, but smoking-hot nonetheless.

There’s a parakeet running amuck (is that a parakeet? It is, right? I don’t know my exotic birds). The parakeet settles on Roger’s drum kit. Roger, aware that small living creatures and wildly pounding drumsticks make poor bedfellows, regards it with due caution.

You don’t have to look far for reasons why Duran Duran captured the public’s attention so fiercely in the early 1980s: They were talented, they were beautiful, they were charismatic, they wrote catchy songs, they made dazzling videos… Not of least importance, they also had crisply-defined and very distinct public personas: You had Simon, the flirty daredevil; John, the sensitive dreamboat; Nick, the oddball diva; Andy, the feisty rebel; and Roger, the sensible wallflower. It made them more than just members of a famous pop band -- they were also characters in a glamorous and larger-than-life ongoing drama. So while Simon, John, Nick and Andy, all of whom seemed to have the common sense of coked-up chipmunks during this time, were probably all in favor of having parakeets flapping around the stage, it would fall to poor stalwart Roger to explain how none of them really needed feathers and bird crap all over their expensive instruments and equipment. And the others probably bobbed their pretty heads in feigned agreement while paying no attention whatsoever.

The parakeet next decides to pester Our Nick. Nick is totally chill about this. Bird hanging out on his synthesizers? Not a problem. It’s all good.

Then the bird tries to peck off his synth-playing fingers.

And Nick is charmed and delighted by this. Nick, who tends to be a moody little thing, doesn’t smile much in videos (for starters, smiling messes up his signature pout). A notable exception would be “Save a Prayer,” when he’s riding the elephant with John while having the time of his young life. Elephants, parakeets… Nick seems relatively indifferent to most humans, his bandmates included, but he sparkles around animals.

(Digression: This is only tangentially related to Nick’s love of animals, but it’s kind of cool, so bear with me. Nick’s glamazon ex-wife, Julie Anne Rhodes, has a website, and it’s fabulous. She’s now a personal chef in Los Angeles; her blog is a glorious mishmash of recipes and anecdotes about her glamorous life with her magical-pixie ex-husband during the peak of Duran Duran’s fame. For Duran fans or general 1980s pop-culture aficionados, it’s a must-read. Anyway, in her post about their legendarily extravagant nuptials, she mentions how Nick had to be talked out of having panthers at the reception (he eventually settled for pink flamingos instead). Words to live by: If you ever find yourself being talked out of having live panthers at your wedding, it’s a sign your lifestyle might be careening wildly -- but fabulously! -- out of control.)

Throughout the video, a cluster of pretty flamenco dancers strut and twirl around the stage. As if that’s not flashy and colorful enough by itself, it turns out their skirts are filled with copious amounts of glitter. A glitter battle ensues.

This video might be kind of cheap, but it sure does sparkle a lot.

Er… Andy’s hair isn’t really blue, is it? That’s just some weird trick of the stage lights, right? Sure, this was filmed back in the days when Andy was still being a good sport about letting the rest of the band (read: Nick) dictate what he wore and how he styled his hair, but I’m pretty sure he would’ve threatened to break some adorable pixie fingers if Nick had come charging after him, armed with rubber gloves and a box of Rit dye in Prussian Blue. It’s hard to picture Andy reacting any other way.

Then again, his hair does look mighty blue. Yessirree. No way around it. Blue.

While John and the others flirt with the pretty dancers, Simon wriggles around on his belly, snarling and gnashing his teeth in a rabid manner. When Simon decides to chew some scenery, he does it in an astonishingly literal way.

The pretty dancers flock around Roger and Nick, who are now clad in classic tuxes. The dancers plop in their laps and cheerfully molest the boys for a while. Roger seems mildly bemused by this.

A freshly-kissed Nick looks delighted. Aw, man, this is now officially the most Nick has ever smiled in a video. Set him loose with animals, or send in a pretty girl to smooch him. That’s how you make Nick happy.

Confetti fight! Simon skips around the stage and hurls confetti. Everybody dances up a storm.

And… yeah, that’s it. That’s the video. Confetti, glitter, pretty dancers, and a scene-stealing bird. It is what it is. It’s cute. Not every video aims to be “Wild Boys,” and that’s probably just as well. 


Ingrid Richter said…
Duran Duran, glitter bombs and the Highlander in a video?! What's not to love!
Cheryl Kraynak said…
Oh my goodness, what a sorry video! I don't think I've ever seen it, and I remember the song differently. The video version seems to have a faster tempo, with a notable Disco influence, so I wonder if there was another mix on one of my records. Maybe I have a live version on a 45 or something and I'm recalling that...

I'm just about through reading Andy's bio, and you're right--it's a great read. I noticed the part where Andy says Russell Mulcahy also did Elton's "I'm Still Standing" video (the one with DWTS's Bruno Tonioli in it). I always loved that video.

Glad to know about Julie Anne's blog. I'll be checking that out more. Andy sure didn't portray her as being very likable. I would have loved to see the stripper joke on Nick during that concert that Andy described!

I sure wish John or Simon would write a book. I think John would be the one most likely to do so, but it would be nice to hear the stories as they are remembered from "Le Bon Land."
Morgan Richter said…
Cheryl, yeah, the version of the song in the video is different than the one that appears on the US release of Rio -- faster and less polished. Apparently it's an earlier version in the video.

Andy sure didn't portray her as being very likable.

No, he didn't. Still, she seems quite fun and charming on her blog. I think it helps that they all have become, like, full-grown adults since those days (I adore Nick, obvs, but I don't doubt Andy's view that he could be a royal snot at times).

I sure wish John or Simon would write a book.

Me too. My sister and I brainstormed a while back about what their respective memoirs would be like. John's would be sweet and heartfelt and kind of hokey ("And as I stood on my hotel balcony, finally coming down off my epic four-day coke-fueled bender, I saw the morning sun rise over the Eiffel Tower, and it dawned on me that things were going to be all right"), whereas Simon's would be cheeky and hilarious and riddled with lies, and would probably result in countless libel suits ("As she climbed into the hot tub with another bottle of Cristal, Princess Diana said, 'Simon, I've never met anyone quite like you. Let's call Madonna and see if she can join us!'"). Both would be incredibly awesome.
Cheryl Kraynak said…
Yes, Julie Anne seems quite a nice lady on her web site. I love her posts about Andy Warhol and photographer Norman Parkinson.

You're too right about how John and Simon's books would read. Makes me think of Andy's story about Simon offending Victoria Beckham, telling her about his dreaming of her skirt in a more flamboyant way than he should have.

I pulled out my Live Aid DVD to see the Duran2 and Power Station performances and was totally miffed when I discovered they didn't put Power Station on the DVD (of course, it's not the same without Robert Palmer anyway) and they cut "A View to a Kill" out of Duran's set.

Thank heaven for YouTube. I noticed Simon's bum note isn't quite as described in the preface of Andy's book, but it's still cringeworthy.

It still cracks me up the story of how the guys had to convince the record company to release "The Reflex" after they feared it was "too black" !!! HAhaha!
Morgan Richter said…
I think Simon has described missing that note on "View to a Kill" as his most embarrassing moment ever, poor guy. Speaking of Live Aid, did you ever see the Classic Albums episode on Rio? It aired on VH1/VH1 Classics in the US, and it's also available from Netflix (both on DVD and instantly streaming). It's a pretty good production -- recentish (2008) interviews with all the guys minus Andy, plus interviews with their former managers, their representatives at EMI, etcetera. Anyway, they interview Bob Geldof, who, despite his surly reputation, seems like an absolute sweetheart and is a surprisingly fierce and loyal defender of Duran Duran. It's kind of fascinating.

Fun link: photographer Denis O'Regan, who traveled with the band on tour in the Eighties, has some of his fantastic photos of the boys on his site here. Poor Roger gets kind of overlooked, as usual, but O'Regan has some of the best shots of Andy I've ever seen (and Nick and John and Simon look great, as always).

(Okay, one more link: Aw, man, did you see John and Nick's sad, grim little YouTube video that they released today about the postponed UK tour due to Simon's laryngitis? They seem crushed, and so terribly apologetic. I wanted to send them a basket of adorable puppies or something, just to cheer them up.)
Cheryl Kraynak said…
I'll have to check out that Rio documentary. I've never disliked Bob Geldof except for the fact he's kind of squirrelly looking.

I can't get Denis O'Regan's site to work on my computer. Maybe I'll try at the library.

I *did* see John and Nick's announcement yesterday and I think they don't have to worry about what the fans think, except I agree that some fans' travel arrangements might really cost them.
I think the fans just want Simon to be better.
This same thing happened last year when a-ha was on their farewell tour. Morten lost his voice a couple times but the band decided they didn't want to cancel any dates and the shows went on, and Morten had the fans sing the parts he couldn't croak out himself.

I officially finished Andy's bio last night, and I do have a new respect for him, as he does come across as being quite sensible and forward-thinking. I found it very interesting how he questioned the direction "Red Carpet Massacre" was going, and now today when you see Simon doing interviews about "All You Need is Now" -- bringing Mark Ronson on board for that-- Simon mentions that using Timbaland/Timberlake on "Red Carpet M" wasn't the best idea and didn't go over well with the fans.
I hope Andy feels validated.

I feel badly that things ended so ridiculously screwy for him, but sometimes when you hang around too long the Universe has to push you out...with a bang. Makes you wonder if the work visa was truly overlooked...
Morgan Richter said…
I feel badly that things ended so ridiculously screwy for him, but sometimes when you hang around too long the Universe has to push you out

Yeah, it seems much healthier for Andy's overall mental state that he's no longer in the band, poor guy.

Denis O'Regan's site is Flash-heavy and very slow-loading -- I'm sorry you can't see the photos, because they're some of the best of the band I've ever seen. You probably won't have much more luck with this link, but if you can get it to work, it's his home page -- you can find his Duran photos under both the Archives and Portfolio categories. (I've been hunting around to see if they've been archived elsewhere, but no luck yet.)

I hope Simon gets his voice back soon. It seems to have thrown their big summer plans into chaos.
details-later said…
@Cheryl Kraynak: Andy's the best example of "He's got a great personality!" :) Especially in a band with striking beauties like John. Andy's only occasionally cute (and today he's anti-cute. He didn't age well!) Reading "Duran Duran: Their Story" (should I burn at this confession?) was the start of it all. His autobiography only deepened it. I know he had a rough childhood, but his tale of his marriage and starting a family only and the way he expresses himself made me a Devotee.

Ultimately, it's his contribution to the music though. It was the Andy-Nick yin/yang that made Duran music so great, to my mind. Just think of "Hungry Like The Wolf" — the trippy, loopy keyboard merged with the guitar power chord — that's Nick and Andy perfectly fitting with each other. Tip the balance one way or another, it no longer quite Duran. In the end, Duran Duran wasn't just about the music alone. For Nick anyway. Now I want to see the Classic Albums feature!

Re: My Own Way. I really liked the speeded-up version on the video. And it was nice to see just a straight up performance video from the guys.

Video that I wished existed: "New Religion"
Morgan Richter said…
Now I want to see the Classic Albums feature!

details-later, you'd probably get a lot out of it. The guys all sit down at a mixing board and go through all the songs on Rio, isolating the various elements. They cover the technical nuts and bolts of making the album, which is interspersed with anecdotes about making the videos and touring. It's done really well. Andy doesn't participate, but Nick and Roger cover his contributions pretty comprehensively (quiet, reclusive Roger has become quite the chatterbox as he's grown older).

Andy's only occasionally cute

Andy cleaned up well, as they say. With his hair brushed and his dark glasses off, yeah, he was capable of attaining cuteness. Being cute seemed to be relatively low on his list of priorities at the time, though...
Cheryl Kraynak said…
I concur with your remarks. I gained respect for Andy if not just for the fact that he seems to be quite sensible and forward thinking. I shuddered to read that the band could have lost everything if he and Nick hadn't wrestled to secure their rights early on, and it still wasn't enough in the end.

Simon would have been too in-the-moment to notice, John was too strung out and Roger was probably turning a blind eye to the whole lifestyle and a future with it.

How odd that the best combination (Nick/Andy) was the most explosive. Too bad Nick's fashion sense didn't rub off on Andy at all. When I was looking at Andy at Live Aid, I realized that Power Station hairdo had to have been his worst.

I got the Denis O'Regan portfolio to work,and you're right--they are quite good photos, some in a style we rarely saw. I did, actually,like the shot of Andy making that face. He is endearing...when you take a look back.
And YES! Don't you just love hearing Roger chatter?! He *does* have a voice!
Morgan Richter said…
I did, actually,like the shot of Andy making that face.

The one where he's sneering while wearing the tank top that says, in teeny tiny letters, "Nosey little fucker"? Oh, yeah. Best photo of Andy ever taken. He should've used that one for the dust jacket of his book.

Don't you just love hearing Roger chatter?! He *does* have a voice!

And he's charming and funny and personable! Who knew?
Meeker128 said…
That is a full blown Amazon Parrot and they bite REALLY HARD.

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