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.