Archive for March, 2014

Is There Something I Should Know? Duran Duran 12″ Single

Posted: March 17, 2014 by generationgbooks in Music
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I think every post I’ve done for Hannibal Collector has been about albums in their entirety. Since nothing makes me more happy than to write about Duran Duran and my writing seems to be stuck in a stall somewhere with Sarah Jessica Parker, well, it’s time to write about Duran Duran. And a vinyl 12″ single, as they were called in the good old days of vinyl across the land. These days, they have this bastard called the Internet. More on that another time, another blog.

I should clarify right off the bat, despite my obsession with Duran Duran, that I can objectively say that there are songs in their catalog that I don’t care for, just as there are ones that I cannot do without listening to on a regular basis. “Is There Something I Should Know?” is one of those songs. It’s also another song that has an interesting history attached to it.

Duran Duran’s first album was released in 1981. This song was not on it. I know; I own the original on vinyl. The original 1981 release has a drudgy song called “To The Shore”. “To The Shore”, for those unfamiliar, is a song that even Simon LeBon cannot remember what or whom he was writing about. My confused 10-year old self hated it on first listen, second listen, third listen. As I got older and moodier, I liked it a tad bit more. However, it is definitely and should definitely be a B-side, not an album track.  I used to fast forward through it on cassette. My mom hated it as much as I did. Then came MV50. One morning before school, after my brother and I were grooving to Eddy Grant’s video for “Electric Avenue” and trying to figure out how he got his hair like that (we were 10 and 9, remember), I heard a drum beat and “Please Please Tell Me Now”. My first viewing of that video. Immediate. Love at first listen. Then…confusion. What album was this song on? I had the two that were out, and this excellent song was on neither. Time for some homework. 

MTV had immediately jumped on the video, as they had jumped on the videos for “Hungry Like The Wolf” and “Rio” the year before. Of course, I had no idea, as we did not have MTV. Several of my classmates did, however, and gave me the 411. The VJ’s were saying it was on their first album Duran Duran. I ran home from school at the end of the day and checked both the cassette and the record, and neither had that song. “To The Shore”, unfortunately, had not majestically vanished and been replaced with “Is There Something I Should Know?”. What the fuck was going on? My little scattered 10-year old brain could not figure out this puzzle. Even MV50 when they played the video, had “Duran Duran” listed as the album the song was on. My mom and I decided that a trip to K-Mart and Venture was in the cards. I had amazing luck with Venture and Duran Duran of any kind. We went over and I yelled. There it was–but it was a whole new cover! What sort of fresh hell was this?

For the record, the original 1981 release of Duran Duran (with “To The Shore”):

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The re-released 1983 Duran Duran (with “Is There Something I Should Know?):

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You can see why I was confused. I flipped it and looked at the song list- my prayers to the Duran gods had been answered- “To The Shore” had been replaced with “Is There Something I Should Know?”. I told my mom that the dumb song was gone and the one that was in the video was on there. That was enough. She bought it for me, allowance notwithstanding. We went home and I just kept playing it over and over. It is an infinitely better song, and it worked so much better with the context and flow of the album than “To The Shore”. I don’t think it would have fit well on “Rio” , and Capitol obviously agreed, so they tossed it on this album. Or maybe, maybe, maybe, they knew it would revive interest and sales in the first album, since Rio was a runaway smash. Who knows? I was just glad that the sludge song (I was doing parodies then. I had renamed it and re-wrote it as “To The Sludge”, as I was living in Willow Springs at the time, and sludge, unfortunately, was a consequence of living there) was gone. So I saved up my allowance and got the cassette of this reissue and then the 45 single of it. Why wasn’t I satisfied with just the one album? Die hard Duranies buy everything, format-wise if you can. Not to mention, prices back then- a steal. These days, it’ll set you back one or two utility bills, for most of us who are home owners and the breadwinners. That’s why I’m so glad I have so much vinyl from my glory days of childhood. It’s definitely an investment worth making.

Now that the history of what happened with the re-issue and the covers has been explained, onto the 12″ single. Heidi and I had been attending the Chicagoland Record Collectors show in Hillside for years, and I got ahold of a cassette titled “Duran Duran Rare Mixes”. There was, on this record, a mix of “Is There Something I Should Know?” called The Monster Mix. We popped it in the cassette player and cranked it. Love at first listen again. I love and hate mixes. I used to feel the original song had enough power that it should not be messed with. Then I started hearing mixes that churned out a whole new dynamic to so many of the songs that I did love, that I had to revise my earlier scorn of them. The same is true with Duran Duran. Some of them are fantastic (what Nile Rodgers did to “The Reflex” from the original on Seven and The Ragged Tiger, he should win the prize), and some are not (“The Violence Of Summer” mixes are a bit too much for me). This one was fantastic. It took another seven or eight trips, some with Heidi, some with Jennie, some with Disco Chuck, before I finally found the 12″ single. There was the original, the Monster Mix, and add to it the b-side of “Faith In This Colour”, both the slow and the fast versions. (Fast version is better, in my opinion), and you have a win all around. I remember paying more than I could afford, but sometimes its so worth it to spend the little extra to have something that gives you so much joy. In a moment of irony that could only shackle itself to me these days, the original release of the song was March 19, 1983- so we are two days away from the 31st anniversary of the release. I can’t think of a more fitting way to commemorate the occasion.

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Like the rest of the world, I was introduced to the Paul Thomas Anderson films through his second effort, Boogie Nights. I thought it was absolutely atrocious. What about these horrible irredeemable characters am I supposed to find fascinating or entertaining. Aside from topless Heather Graham (something I’d waited around ten years to see at that point, since License To Drive. Maybe not that long as I was only 9 when LTD came out and the concept of tits as eye magnets had not quite germinated), this movie held no intrigue.

I was 18 when Boogie was released and probably not in the proper or mature headspace to deal with the concepts introduced. I most certainly did not want to see Marky Mark’s dick either. My hatred of Mark Wahlberg stems from this movie (likely even further back to his awful music days). It also established PTA as a director I had zero interest in following. He was part of an indie filmmaker movement, following right behind the Kevin Smiths and Robert Rodriguezes of the world. I lumped him in with the Todd Solondzes (one sick little fuck) and Wes Andersons (yes, I really hate Wes Anderson) rather than the Darren Aronofskys.

Despite all the touting of Magnolia by a friend of mine, I stuck to my guns and refused to watch another PTA flick. It had Tom Cruise in it, along with that same pudgy creepy fucker from Boogie Nights. Fuck that. It just looked awful, no offense. Then again, this same friend said that she would watch the Firefly pilot if I watched The Royal Tenenbaums. She also tried to get me to watch I Heart Huckabees (from the then completely insufferable David O. Russell, more on him at another time maybe), which I actually just walked out on after 20 minutes. This was at least 7 years ago and I have no assurance that she has seen one minute of Firefly. This is a scenario where we both lose.

Do I even need to give a reason why I didn’t want to see Punch Drunk Love? I know that he of the Technicolor Shirt and Nightmare Beard loves it but he’s usually wrong, about everything.

With all this in mind, then, why did I bother to see There Will Be Blood. Other than the title, I couldn’t think of a reason initially. I have always been an admirer of those in film that are just good at their craft. I like to see them at the height of their powers. For all of his awards and acclaim, I had no real interest in the work of Daniel Day-Lewis. He made long, boring period pieces. Only Gangs Of New York really interested me and it was awesome. TWBB fell right into that oeuvre. I had been reading about his process of acting and the reviews all called this DD-L’s finest performance to-date. I threw my own misgivings out the window and gave it a shot.

What I saw was a mesmerizing achievement. Every moment carefully molded by a master craftsman. Granted, when you get the greatest acting performance in the history of film from DD-L, you’re starting from a position of strength. Add in a nearly equal effort from Paul Dano and all you really have to do is turn on the camera and sit back. That’s not what happens though. The whole world of the film is visceral, bleeding with life. The camera is every bit of a character, allowing us to bear witness to the magic. I’m not sure where TWBB falls in my all-time favorite movies list but if I were voting on best all-time films, I would be hard pressed to pick something else.

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All PTA had to do now was follow that up. Which he did, five years later, with The Master. With the weight of that enormous victory threatening to crash down on him, he managed to take the same approach with vastly different material. Every moment, every movement thoughtfully planned and executed. He once again gets the most out of his performers as Joaquin Phoenix and even the pudgy creepy fucker from Boogie Nights (who will now be referred to as the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) give the performances of their careers. The same cannot be said for Amy Adams, as she always so amazing that it’s impossible to quantify what her standout and subpar work actually look like.

I get the feeling while watching these two movies that this must have been how people watching Orson Welles movies in the 1940’s. There Will Be Blood and The Master are two perfect films when compared to others of their time, just as Citizen Kane was likely considered the greatest of its era as the least of its superlatives. Me, I think Citizen Kane is boring. But I’m also a child of the eighties and nineties. Just as I don’t expect people of two generations after me to feel that PTA’s films to be timeless. The fact is that in this time, with this technology, and this age of public awareness and accessibility. There is simply more stimuli to occupy the attention of people everywhere that a three hour epic about an oil tycoon or a cult leader aren’t on top of people’s to-do lists. In the forties, something like Citizen Kane was new and all the more majestic. Seventy years later, there’s just more competition. This is what makes these films all the more special. In an age of instant gratification, Anderson took the time to be meticulous and dare to reach perfection, uncompromising and fearless.

Talk about delayed gratification. It took 10 years for me to find the value in PTA’s work and now I don’t want a Hollywood where someone with his vision is written off by pigheaded fools like me. These movies are some of the greatest examples of how happy one can be to be wrong. I don’t think I’m mistaken about the other films but it was wrong to dismiss PTA as a filmmaker when he was only scratching the surface of his capability. When even a hack like David O. Russell can pull out a Silver Linings Playbook or The Fighter (sorry to say but American Hustle was just alright, though Amy Adams left me gobsmacked, and Flirting With Disaster is utter shite), maybe it’s fair to wonder what Todd Solondz has been up to. His last movie was 2011’s Dark Horse. The female lead is Selma Blair? Fuck that. That’s a hurdle to climb another time.