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Showing posts from December, 2015

Duranalysis: Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”

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On November 25, 1984, Bob Geldof, frontman of the Boomtown Rats, and Midge Ure, lead singer of Ultravox, assembled over thirty of Britain’s leading rock and pop music talents, including Sting, George Michael, and members of Duran Duran, Culture Club, and U2, at Sarn Studios in London to form a supergroup known as Band Aid and record a Christmas-themed single, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, the proceeds of which would be used to help relieve the crippling famine in Ethiopia.
Yep, you’re right: “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” is a terrible song (for what it’s worth,Geldof calls it one of the “worst songs in history”). The criticisms levied against it—that the lyrics are clunky, that the expressed sentiments are smug and condescending—are valid. You know what? It doesn’t matter. I love it to bits. Those involved with the project participated out of a genuine passion for it, and while the end result might be dreadful, it sure is sincere.
For the purposes of this holiday-themed Duranalysis,…

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Jingle Bells Affair”

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In the holiday spirit of giving, I bring you the crappiest Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode ever made.

Oh, sure, a case for that honor can be made in favor of a handful of other episodes, but for my money, this wan, schmaltzy, tedious, bizarre offering is as terrible as this (mostly wonderful) show ever gets. Yeah, I’ve seen the episode where Napoleon dances the Watusi with a gorilla, and yeah, it’s pretty awful. This is worse.
Fun historical tidbit: Back in early 1966, when U.N.C.L.E. was on the rise and teen girls everywhere were in the wild grip of Illya-mania, David McCallum was scheduled to sign autographs at the flagship Macy’s department store in Manhattan. The store could safely accommodate three thousand fans; fifteen thousand showed up. When the appearance was canceled due to security concerns, the fans stampeded, causing massive damage to the store and necessitating the arrival of the riot police. As it turns out, though, this would prove to be only the second-most catastrophic…

Duranalysis: The Devils

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In 2002, Nick Rhodes collaborated with Stephen Duffy, lead singer of The Lilac Time and one of the co-founders of Duran Duran, on an album, Dark Circles, which they released under the name The Devils. Dark Circles was mostly comprised of music Nick and Stephen had written together back in 1978 shortly after forming Duran Duran; for an added layer of authenticity, Nick used era-appropriate vintage analog synthesizers on the album to recreate Duran’s 1978 sound.
Dark Circles is pretty consistently great. Hell, “Big Store” probably makes my top ten list of favorite Duran songs, even though the band never actually recorded it (Stephen recorded a version in 1979 with his post-Duran band, The Subterranean Hawks). For the purposes of this Duranalysis, I’m focusing on The Devils’ half-hour electronic press kit, which was produced by Stephen and edited by Gary Oldknow, visual artist and frequent Duran Duran collaborator (Oldknow, you’ll recall, came up with the concept for the violent and awes…

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Gazebo in the Maze Affair”

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On the sidewalk outside the tailor shop that serves as the secret entrance to U.N.C.L.E. headquarters, a well-dressed elderly English gentleman (George Sanders) collides with Illya. The man drops his briefcase, scattering papers everywhere. Amid profuse apologies, Illya helps him gather up his things before the man rushes off to catch his bus.
Upon realizing the man left behind a book, Illya chases after the bus. He seems unaware it’s a classic London double-decker bus, which is not a typical sight in midtown Manhattan. Oh, Illya. Where are your spy instincts, babe? Didn’t U.N.C.L.E. train you to notice anomalies and proceed with caution? Anyway, Illya jumps on the bus and returns the book. The elderly man thanks him, then insists they’ve met before: “Don't you remember the trek out to the desert? All that mucky heat and the crawling insects boring into your skin? ... I wore a beard in those days.” As it starts to dawn on Illya that maybe, just maybe, he’s waltzed right into a t…

Duranalysis: The Power Station

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“…an album that was made by some guys once, and that’s it.”

I’ve been paying a lot of extra attention to Simon and Nick in recent Duranalyses. Since I don’t want Andy and John to feel neglected*, this week I’m taking a look at the Power Station, the supergroup John and Andy formed in 1984 with singer Robert Palmer and drummer Tony Thompson of Chic; Chic bassist Bernard Edwards produced the band’s self-titled 1985 album, which scored two monster hit singles with “Some Like It Hot” and a cover of T. Rex’s “Get It On (Bang a Gong)”.
*I’ve probably paid even less attention to Roger than to Andy and John, but I feel confident Roger prefers it that way, thank you very much.
I’d intended to focus on the videos for “Some Like It Hot” and “Get It On (Bang a Gong)”, both of which were directed by Peter Heath, but… well, the videos are fine, but there’s not much there to Duranalyze. Of the two major Duran Duran side projects, Arcadia clearly came up with the more interesting and visually strikin…

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Virtue Affair”

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Somewhere in the French countryside, Napoleon and Illya spy from the bushes as an arms dealer named Voegler (Frank Marth) delivers missile parts to Robespierre (Ronald Long), a politician who claims to be a direct descendent of his namesake, the famed revolutionary leader. Upon the conclusion of the transaction, Illya and Napoleon trail Voegler back to Robespierre’s lavish castle. They’re interrupted by Raoul Dubois, an elderly gentleman who approaches them in a panic and forces them at gunpoint to help him escape from Robespierre.
Armed thugs on motorcycles pursue them. At Raoul’s desperate urging, Ilya and Napoleon drive him to his home, where they’re greeted by his beautiful daughter, Albert (Mala Powers), who is named for Raoul’s idol, Albert Einstein.
Raoul, who has been missing for three months, claims he was kidnapped by Robespierre and, along with other captured scientists, forced to work on a guided missile system. Raoul escaped to warn France of a diabolical threat. Before…

Duranalysis: “The Making of Duran Duran’s Red Carpet Massacre”

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We’re so busted, done and dusted…

Let’s take a look at this forty-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, which was included with some deluxe editions of Duran Duran’s 2007 Red Carpet Massacre album. Misfortune plagued the album from the beginning; for starters, Andy left the band for the second (and presumably final) time under acrimonious circumstances during the recording sessions. The remaining band members were pushed by their label, Sony Music, to work with a slew of different producers, including Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, and Nate “Danja” Hills, to give the album a more contemporary R&B feel. Upon release, the album was a critical and commercial failure; shortly thereafter, Sony dropped Duran Duran from the label.
None of that glum backstory makes its way into this relentlessly cheery featurette, which shadows the band throughout the recording sessions, the filming of the “Falling Down” video, and all the pre-launch festivities. Andy does not appear anywhere in this, nor is…

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Gurnius Affair”

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I’ve put it off as long as I reasonably could, but I knew someday I’d have to address the grim wreckage of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’s dank and dismal fourth season. Today is that day.
Conventional wisdom would have it that U.N.C.L.E.’s third season, in which the sparkling whimsy that was the hallmark of earlier episodes often veered closer to goofy slapstick, represents the show’s nadir. The ratings took a dive, so the show’s fourth and final season was retooled to lose all the light-hearted charm. A new producer was brought in, and most of the staff writers were replaced by newcomers. The show tried to become darker and more serious, with catastrophic results. Season Three, while deeply flawed, still bursts at the seams with the gonzo energy that made the early seasons so delightful. By comparison, Season Four seems listless and sloppy. “The Gurnius Affair” is probably one of the season’s stronger offerings—at the least, it features a rip-roaring story idea at its core—and even still…