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