Eventually, I was going to have to write about my favorite band. I decided to quit screwing around and craft a blog this evening on this album. Notorious coincided with my first true heartbreak. It also helped me through through those events unfurling. It continues to be one of my favorite Duran Duran albums, not just for the material contained on it, but because of the overall presentation of the album.
Of the Duran Duran albums that were remastered and re-released in the last few years, this was the first I went out and purchased. When I have told other people this, I got many a concerned look. Notorious wasn’t a smash. It was the first Duran Duran album without Andy and Roger Taylor. Essentially, it was LeBon, Taylor, & Rhodes, along with a session guitarist by the name of Warren Cuccurullo, formerly of Frank Zappa’s band and later on, Missing Persons, known for Ms. Dale Bozzio’s wasting of Plastic Wrap over her mostly naked body in the 1980’s. It was released on November 18, 1986, my friend Nick M’s birthday.
At that time, I was going through some rough times with my grade school guy. I had realized that I was digging on him. I was, and still am, friends with this guy (since kindergarten). Something about him growing the hair out reminded me of John Taylor in the video for “Notorious”. The bastard even had a long black coat much like the one John wears in the video. I was doomed. Doomed. Months go by, and things got worse. I started high school the next summer, and there was definitely something going on. Things continued until sophomore year, then a new young lady appeared, and I lost him. Except I never really had him to begin with. I had so many feelings for this guy, and I just couldn’t act upon them. Until someone else came into the picture, and then it was too late. He was gone. What did I do to escape heartache? I got a work permit and started working at Phar-Mor. My friend Missy B. got me the job, and even helped my cause by humiliating the two of them when they came in looking for condoms one day (take that!) while I was there. Of course, they complained to my boss, and Missy and I got in trouble, but understand me- totally worth it! With the advent of a new job came a paycheck! I went hunting for the Notorious record.
I had heard the record company approved singles released the previous year. “Notorious”, the “funky” song, was a hit. “Skin Trade”, their next song and in my top 5 of Duran Duran songs of all time, was not (this is something that will puzzle me to my dying day.). And then-nothing. The radio quit playing the other single, “Meet El Presidente”. A damn shame for a damn fine song, but I should have known it just showed that radio was starting to suck it in the late 1980’s. I had to have the album. I finally found the vinyl copy at Venture in Countryside Plaza, and purchased it. I ran home and showed my mom. Of course, she came in to listen to it with me. She was an awesome mom with music appreciation, meaning she always listened to whatever shit I was playing, to give it a fair chance. I was, at the time, still heartbroken over what never was. The album perfectly mirrored that. For all of its poppy effervescence, there were dark songs of unrequited love, passion, and despair. Perfect! “American Science”, with the notes of longing and questions, was moody and made me delirious with unshed tears. “A Matter of Feeling”, about someone who can’t commit, rattled the bars on my emotional cage. “Hold Me” was a whirling dervish of unshed desires colliding with the unattainable. “Vertigo (Do The Demolition”) questioned everything you knew as truth or fiction. “So Misled” was a poppy little ditty, a break from the dirge-like curtain that was hanging over the mirror. “Winter Marches On”, about the season of bleakness matching the winter of the heart, shines hypnotic and thought provoking. It ends with the other shining star on the album, “Proposition”, a tale of someone trying to save the sinking ship, with the lightest of touches and unspoken love, despite the inevitability of doom.
All in all, the album destroyed me, and renewed me, on multiple levels. For as much as you want to lie down in a puddle of manure while the one you love is driving down the street with another girl in the car while your high school friends look at you with the old “WTF?” look, there is a heart still beating that deserves to have a chance on someone else’s horizon. The album artwork, black and white and not a smile cracked, fits the album so well it’s not even funny. I have called it “A Winter Album” since I became obsessed with it in 1987. The overall vibe is not sunshine and models, rather darkness and solitude. And there’s a very real side of that in me, so it still resonates with me. The album is one of the few that I own that is almost brand new, largely because I’m on my 5th or 6th copy of it. (Idiots scratching it while moving, or selling it to get that Playstation 2 that was so the rage in 1998, among other disasters). It’s one of those that if I see any sort of abnormality with the condition, I’m hunting for a new copy post haste. I’ll never tire of it, and I do my damndest to make sure that my copy stays in the plastic these days, as it’s harder and harder to search for a new one, when record stores are becoming less and less visible.